A Bradbury Scenario

You asked me if it’s difficult to sell a musical instrument for a fair price and the answer is yes usually. As soon as you walk out the door with a new instrument the value drops by half.

Right now I’m not so concerned with my musical future. Frankly I don’t think it’s going to happen again. There’s no end in sight to the pandemic. Also I can’t afford the cost of a vehicle to get me to rehearsals and gigs— and I don’t want to drive a car anymore anyway. I like the feeling of being a pedestrian, I guess; and when I don’t drive I don’t contribute to greenhouse gases quite as directly. The expense of a car is more than I want to pay. Either way is inconvenient, with or without a car, from a different perspective. Society has to figure out how it wants to solve the problem of transportation with regard to the ecology over the next ten or twenty years— if it even happens. Probably we won’t be hauling around a lot of stuff from place to place anymore, and the internet will make rock and roll obsolete along with the same old rock instruments. The people who make rap music and post it to SoundCloud or whatever are the wave of the future, no matter how I kick at it and how untalented they seem to me to be. I’m just being realistic and honest with myself. You only have to look around to see where things are going. The Age of Dinosaurs is really over with. There will be no more stadium rock in this world except as a memory, a thing of history that few people will recall. Rock is irrevocably dead. And rock instruments will be found only in a museum someday soon. This is the wave of the mainstream; although, I can imagine a scenario like Fahrenheit 451 coming to pass, where a small band of intelligent people break away from a culture headed for World War 3 and preserve what is good for the human spirit, namely music and books. It could be like a New Romanticism, people living in the woods and committing wise words and beautiful things to memory for posterity: it’ll be a culture of Poetry.

L’hiver banal

Two forty.

I played the bass for about an hour. In the process, I stumbled over the chords to “Walkabout” by The Fixx, an old New Wave band, and I began to detect a thought pattern behind my creativity. The thrust of the song is self examination to determine your personal beliefs. It kind of goes along with my observations of Baudelaire’s poetry last weekend, regarding the discovery of novelty, innovation— invention, whether it comes from heaven or hell. My only disagreement with him is that he never thinks outside the Christian mythos.

Meanwhile, my brain keeps returning to a scene from Bartok’s Mandarin, where the chorus starts to sing, low at first and then swelling to a scream, and finally decaying in a weird wail… 

I still don’t feel one hundred percent. The virus I had seems to linger, affecting me physically and mentally. The weather this afternoon is as insipid as it was yesterday, gray and breathless like a cadaver, while the funereal fog creeps in to make specters of the trees across the street. All in all, macabre and surreal, complementing the mood of the Bartok ballet. And in some degree, the echo of Baudelaire. 

Sunday Poetry

Quarter of eleven.

Though I skipped church today, in my mailbox I found a note from Lisa attached to a more general letter to everyone in the parish. This makes my day. I slept lousy last night, still worried about my therapy sessions: will they go the way they have in the past? But I know the bottom line is what makes a person happy, not distressed and traumatized. Positive thoughts are what they are, and negative is negative. This is all you need to know to keep yourself on an even keel. When you feel unhappy, then you know something is wrong with your situation… It’s very cold out this morning, and shrouded by haze (why don’t they call it fog anymore?). The trip to the market was unremarkable. I’m in the mood for anything French: maybe Baudelaire, without too much pressure on myself to get the language perfect. It’s hit and miss from day to day; my comprehension varies. I’d like to understand what he means by the Ideal. And why does he talk about the “gulf” in his poetry?

Quarter after one.

I still have a little virus the symptoms of which come and go. Yesterday I felt fine all day, but now I feel weird: dizzy and a bit congested in the head. I sampled some poetry of Baudelaire in French and was struck by its darkness and despair; it also evokes substance abuse and glorifies it with poetic imagery like eating the lotus. The poet praises novelty and discovery, regardless if it’s divine or infernal. It was good stuff, but I’d appreciate it better if I were not in recovery. Maybe good poetry is good no matter what the message? T.S. Eliot thought Baudelaire was very great, even though Eliot was a Christian. He was objective enough to recognize the quality of the poetry and the genuine suffering of the poet. But no doubt his French was far better than mine. People worked harder at literary craft a hundred years ago. Also at music. 

Nameless

Nine twenty five.

It is strange to be standing on the bridge between two contrary ways of processing information, the realistic and the romantic. Usually I’m dedicated to the first mode, but then something can happen to plunge me into the primitive, a place of considerable power if not light, like the plunge into Arthurian murk and legend. I had a friend once who gifted me a book that took a serious perspective on the island of Avalon where Arthur was supposedly buried. I remember feeling a bit embarrassed about that: how could anybody confuse a myth with factual history? It was similar to the efforts of some people to search for the remains of Noah’s Ark, the locus of something miraculous that happened. Conveniently, the miracles we hear about took place remotely in time or in place or both. It’s convenient because it makes the truth impossible to verify, to either prove or disprove, so our imagination is free to float in the haze. This condition is anathema to the logical positivists, who subject statements to logical analysis. If a statement refers to nothing empirical and realistic, it is empty of meaning and not worth consideration… When I was younger and more susceptible, I imagined that what the ancient Greeks believed was true: that poetry and music were inspired by the Muses, which in modern thought meant the Jungian unconscious, or for the Romantics, a nameless Power of creativity. Sometimes I still get a glimpse of that old style of thinking, though it makes me uncomfortable to go there anymore. It means surrendering control and letting myself be possessed— but by what? 

Poem





Clothed in Heavenly Light,

Neil Peart appeared to me

In a half waking dream

And taught me the meaning

Of his song “Heresy”

On the Rush disc of thirty years ago.

It was important to me

Not only because of the Berlin Wall

But it was the year I fell ill

With this dreaded disease

That changed the whole course

Of my life,

Giving it a purpose 

Unguessed by the living,

But to Mr Peart

It makes perfect sense

In the unfathomed ways

Of the Other Side. 

Angel Wings

Ten thirty.

My trip to Country Club Road went pretty painlessly and it’s a beautiful morning, sunny and cool. After eleven today I want to play my turquoise Fender bass. I’ve left it bagged up ever since the crappy practice I had with the band last month…

Noon hour. Now I don’t have a reason to write about poetic transcendence of the kind in Keats’s work. What do I really believe, then? I think I’m just a realist. Even psychology turns me off sometimes for being implausible and unscientific. I don’t need anything for getting my landing gear off the ground and I don’t want to live in a dream. Maybe I should quit blogging, or change my focus to something different. My options are wide open for new things and ideas. 

I remember something from the fall of 2013. My life was going downhill. In September my furnace crashed and I started using space heaters for warmth. I got energy assistance through my local utility company in October and took a few quizzes for additional credit to my bills. I attended two classes in energy efficiency, held in a church downtown. The instructor didn’t like me because I was an alcoholic and a bit of a jerk at the time. But throughout that autumn I only wanted to drink beer and listen to the Herb Alpert CD I’d ripped to my computer; plus I wanted to keep emailing with my friend in Scotland every night. I think the fall of 2013 was when the wheels began to drop off my apple cart. Funny I should remember that now; so maybe I actually do need a little boost from poetry and spiritual stuff? To be lifted on angels’ wings from the prosaic? 

Lift Us Up!

Quarter after eleven.

I just caught the headline on Google: starting Wednesday, mandatory face masks again by order of the governor. There’s no end in sight to the bad news stories, so what the world could really use is a dose of poetry. A vehicle to lift us up to the Sublime, the beautiful and true; to transport us to the spiritual universe. 

We may take an image like snowflakes and flowers and compare them to the stars in order to transcend the mundane. We can create a living homunculus like an immaculate conception to be our guide to antiquity: in search of Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the history of the world. The Ideal is ours for the claiming, for the shaping out of the clay of common day. Sandcastles in the air are waiting to be discovered by a new calculus; it only takes a little faith in human goodness. Put me atop the Tower of Babel to unzip the blue sky and see the fourth dimension. Amid the blast of voices in my ears, still nothing can impede my project of raising humanity to the celestial plane above the moon. Not only can it be done, it must. 

Trump of Doom

Seven twenty.

The sky was quite pretty when I went out to the store, with a myriad small gray clouds on the blue. Children on my street had made drawings in colored chalk on the asphalt. And I think, let them dream and pretend. Michelle, the store clerk, told me about a customer who was rude to her yesterday. She seems to be on the receiving end of a lot of bad exchanges with people and with life itself. It would be nice if she could turn this around and take control of her circumstances. See herself as an agent instead of a victim to make her life more authentic. But it’s always easier to describe a problem than to prescribe a solution… I believe I was on N. Park when I stopped dead and looked at the panorama of the sky, thinking something inarticulate about time and eternity. Has the same firmament been here forever, or have we fouled it up beyond repair?

Eight twenty five. Heidi called in sick this morning, so my appointment was canceled. Immediately I had to call Ridesource and cancel my trips for today. But it’s okay; I wasn’t feeling so great anyway… How nice if things could be simplified, reduced to one perspective. Yet this wouldn’t be reality, which is rather encyclopedic. For six years I kept a worldview of logical positivism, a kind of empiricism: only our senses can tell us about reality. This method rules out metaphysics, the supernatural, and focuses on tangible things. It might be good to go back to Carnap’s take on life, but then I couldn’t mix with church very well. The beauty of empiricism is its simplicity. “No ideas but in things.” And you only have to understand determinism, or cause and effect, in a material and physical way… My dog, Aesop, senses that something is wrong with the world, or anyway, it’s wrong with me. Again I think of the benefit to us of paring down all perspectives to one. We can subject it to logical analysis to determine what makes sense and what doesn’t. But the problem with positivism is its utter rejection of poetic language as empty nonsense. It doesn’t refer to anything concrete, therefore it is invalid. As a consequence, the angels in heaven come crashing down to earth with a mighty thunder.