It was already daylight at six, though the streetlights were still lit. I looked in my mailbox and found nothing. There was just a hint of rain. In front of Dell’s house, I heard an electronic beep as I passed by: some kind of sensor like a theft alarm. At that hour, I couldn’t expect to see anyone else about the streets. Then I gained the parking lot of the store where Lisa’s Jeep Liberty was backed into its usual spot. The only thing that distinguishes today so far is Cinco de Mayo: Mexican Independence Day, but for a lot of people, an excuse to get hammered. Lisa said she was glad she didn’t have to work at night, particularly tonight with all the drunk and rowdy people making trouble… I bought three items this morning. I’m not really sure what I was thinking while I walked there and back. I felt fairly relaxed and easy. In my journal yesterday I wrote a lot of retrospective stuff on the past three decades, maybe with the object of absolving myself. I wasn’t to blame for a couple of situations where I was involved: a workplace and a church. The wheels were in motion with or without me, yet it makes you wonder what kind of difference one person can effect. It’s similar to the words that compose a sentence: every word counts towards its meaning, and adding or removing a single word alters the whole sense. Therefore each person is like a word in a vast book of words…
Well, tomorrow is another Gloria day, and we said she would take me to Bi Mart for the fun of it. I guess I can make a little list of items to get while we’re there. Things for hygiene, maybe. I’ll think of something. But the real reason I want to go is to see some familiar faces at the store and kind of take a stroll down memory lane. Bi Mart is like a time capsule, a place that resists change if it can help it. The same staff has been working there for years and years. Many senior citizens go there to shop, or anyway they used to. My parents and I moved here in 71, and the Bi Mart was already a business. When you think about it, old people are quite amazing because they have such a long memory and have seen so much in their lifetime. This morning I looked back 40 years to when Rush was still on the radio. I was on the sidewalk of Maxwell Road trying to visualize the old days of being a teenager, but it wasn’t easy to do. Changes come and they are incontrovertible. Reality is implacable and doesn’t give an inch before an individual’s imagination, his dream of happier times. Then again, long ago Carly Simon sang that these are the good old days. We could use some of her optimism today.
The same thing is happening today on WordPress: just no enthusiasm to read stuff whatsoever. So, naturally my mind wanders back to when I actually had fun with my life. The last time wasn’t so long ago; it was when Aesop and I lived in the trailer after the fire, and in the fall I’d go to church with my heart full of hope and optimism, and not an ounce of cynicism. I had trust and faith that everything would be all right for me. Also it was before covid came along, and then a series of disasters. And Pastor’s mood grew a lot darker, and the wheels came off of everything after that.
The question is how to restore that old optimism and faith that sustained most of us up until the time of the pandemic. I can remember some of Pastor’s sermons from before the dark times, and they were really pretty good. Once he talked about the “glad game” of Pollyanna, which was like Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide: everything that happens is for a greater good down the line, and events are always for a purpose. Another expression for this is “teleological,” a belief that Aristotle held, and also Hegel much later. Leibniz argued that “this is the best of all possible worlds,” and God always chooses it for us from his infinite goodness.
So I wonder what happened to all of that in only three years’ time? And I think it’s a case where remembering the past can be quite useful in picking us back up again…
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.
I was at the store looking over the frozen foods when I heard “Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat & Tears come on the radio. I listened along and then I realized it was the album version with the incredible trumpet solo by Lew Soloff. I mentioned it to Michelle, but she didn’t know how to respond. But for me it was a kind of inspiration, and in spite of everything else that goes badly, I feel that my life still has cosmic meaning and purpose, as guided by the “stars.” It is difficult having Saturn for my ruling planet, yet it motivates me in my perambulations east and west along Maxwell Road and elsewhere in the city. I shuffle on the sidewalks like an old bum, hearing music in my head and muttering things to myself, though I’m an intelligent old bum.
The BS&T song this morning makes me rethink my music projects, even if the issue of alcohol is one that will never go away. I just hope I’ll have the wisdom and strength to resist the temptation in the future to drink. It’s a gray and overcast day so far today, so maybe it won’t get as warm, and I can make my trip over to Bi Mart without any trouble.
Quarter after one in the morning.
I got a little bit of sleep since nine o’clock tonight, and kept dreaming of a book by Erasmus called The Praise of Folly. I may never learn the significance of this book to me. It was part of the old literary canon, now all but obsolete, making me feel like an anachronism. In fact, the book somewhere describes the silliness of mistimed wisdom, which my life seems to epitomize. But even the existence of an anachronism must have some kind of a purpose, or else I could just stop writing, get a mindless job, dissipate my brain away, and perish into obscurity. Would any sort of God be pleased if I spit in my own face and just gave up my projects? I’ve got 583 followers on WordPress, acquired over four and a half years. Some bloggers have more than ten thousand followers. I don’t know how they do it. I’m only a tiny blip on the website’s radar, yet I still persist to chuck up nuggets of misplaced wisdom. It’s almost as if I were a mummy brought back to life to explain the ways of antiquity. Maybe that’s my task in life: to be an archivist of old stuff, bringing up the rear of the process of history, crystallizing life’s events to perfection for all posterity.
And to do it with beauty and style.
Two o’clock in the morning.
Due to drug issues, practice with the band was mostly a disaster yesterday. However, I’ve decided to forgive my friends and give them another chance. We did manage to do a little Led Zeppelin, namely “Four Sticks.” I just sort of played by instinct, covering both the bass line and the synth part in a kind of musical Impressionism, hoping someone would follow. The original of the song is so beautiful, with John Paul Jones on bass and synthesizer, so elegantly gliding along. We also played around with “The Mincer” again, an old King Crimson classic… It’s good to play a Jazz style bass again after a long time with Precision Basses. But they all sound majestic… When I have doubts about my involvement in music, I sometimes take recourse to the zodiac for support of my self image. The real events of my life don’t make much coherent sense. I’m aware of how my sister thinks about rock and roll: it’s just impertinent rebellion against God and mainstream culture. She and my mother disagreed on this point, and it always puts me in a difficult position.
Quarter after six. So I resolve the conflict by appealing to my horoscope, according to which my ruling planet is Saturn, another name for Cronus, the father of Zeus in Greek mythology. I don’t know how music got to be related to Saturn, nor literature, but it’s true… A half hour ago I listened to “Four Sticks” on YouTube. It was just as I remembered it, except I’d never paid attention to the words before. The cumulative effect is quite breathtaking, music and lyric. Like a Keats poem or something. It transports you to another dimension.
Seven o’clock. Dawn breaks outside. I want to stay home from church today and read my Goethe; maybe listen to some music and play my bass. I feel rather rejuvenated, knowing that I’m sober and how this really benefits me. My life feels purposeful: I am an instrument of the planets, not just a biological organism.
Six thirty five. At last, some time to myself. A time for a little sadness, having realized that I was taken advantage of, much like Charlie at the beginning of Flowers for Algernon. When he has his surgery to make him smart, he no longer hangs around his tormentors, but meets other intelligent people. Also I’ve lost my illusion that my remodeled house would be great. The quality of the work turns out to be inferior and hacked rather than done skillfully. For months last spring and summer I imagined that my new house would be a beautiful reward from God for my sobriety. And my time in the trailer was a metamorphosis from the old to the new. It was all very Romantic and dramatic, a thing willed by God. Now it all looks like I was deluded, and the fire was not purposeful or psychological at all. My sister was the first one to be critical of the construction work. And then it gradually dawned on me that she was right… or was she?
I had been satisfied before she said anything. I was still idealistic for a while, but now I perceive myself as someone falling for fool’s gold. My big psychologized and Romantic notions that sustained me through trailer time have all but evaporated. What was that about providence and teleology, about grand designs and purpose in my life? God has disappeared to leave only a world of people who don’t give a damn. I could wring my sister’s neck for being so realistic— this supposed Christian. I’m determined to hang onto my idealism, my dreams, my happiness, because these are all I’ve got. Polly is just as cynical as my brother, and likewise materialistic. She’ll never agree that intellectual beauty is better than home improvement. I can refer her to a book and she will sneer in scorn. It is imperative to me to fight for my vision, my dreams, and to hell with my sister’s pragmatism. She believes I got screwed, but in the end, she’s the one missing the boat. I won’t be misguided by dollar signs, which apparently are all she can see. And that constitutes a kind of blindness.
Three thirty. I haven’t been sleeping well. I keep hallucinating a raucous noise. It wakes me up, and then I wonder if it really happened. It feels cold in here. A couple of people from church have suggested how human beings must create meaning in their lives, after the ideas of Albert Camus. I added that William Faulkner had the same thought. That’s what The Sound and the Fury is all about. It comes to the reader in fragmented form, reminding us that we need stories to make sense of existence. Perhaps Stephane Mallarme expressed the idea first in his poem “A Dice Throw.” He suggests it at least formally… It doesn’t matter if Jesus is a reality or not. What counts is what we do with the information available. We can virtually will God into being by acting together in a group. I’ve seen it happen before at my old workplace. I’ve witnessed it playing in a rock band. In a group of five, the sixth presence was the spirit created by all. Humanity is magical in its potential to create and make a difference. And every interdependent individual counts, no matter how small. I learned that from revisiting Madeleine L’Engle a week ago. Everything relies on everything else, and one thing out of place makes a disturbance. A raucous noise in the night…
The song in my head is by Carly Simon: “Summer’s Coming around Again.” The chorus is amazing, the last syllable being raised a half step. It comes totally unexpectedly, a surprise chord change. It sounds bizarre and yet it works. I love music that takes risks like that. It’s a mark of modern music to be a little idiosyncratic, daring and original, unique and different. If the innovation makes sense it’s especially great. Kind of like Howard Roark’s buildings in The Fountainhead, each one designed for a specific purpose, irrespective of bygone traditions. So that when Carly Simon’s song elides up a half step, you can almost feel the sun rising— and that’s Impressionism or even imagism, translating a visual impression into a musical one. The effect is stunning. She definitely had a purpose in mind when writing the chorus. The song was released on the album Anticipation in 1971. The whole thing is very well done, and “The Garden” is another great track. I haven’t listened to the Cd in many years, and it was just a chance thought that brought the summer song to my awareness.
A superstition makes me stop and think of how I have suffered for my sanity. Was it pride that caused me to fall? Whom am I to thank for the development of Vraylar? With my addiction and my psychosis for many years, I was at an all time low. Today I have been raised up to optimal mental health. Perhaps life is just a series of ups and downs without moral cause and effect, but the superstition believes something different. It says that the penalty for hubris is taking a fall, even a very great one. The religious instinct demands a moral rationale for everything that happens to us. The tragedies that befall us must have a reason for being. We are not satisfied with physical causation, but must have moral purpose. So we believe in karma and retribution, in reward and punishment for our deeds and misdeeds. Life makes no sense to us without the moral order. Then again I think of Kate, my positivist friend. I don’t know what she would say to these arguments. According to Carnap, morality cannot be empirically verified. It doesn’t stand to logical analysis. I wish I could remember our conversations by email so long ago. My interest in positivism was only in order to justify more drinking. But since my church attendance, I absolutely have a moral interpretation of life and events. To deny the existence of moral rules is to thwart one’s conscience.