It’s a painful discovery to learn that innate gifts don’t necessarily translate into a career. Ayn Rand makes it sound like a possibility, or even something that ought to be. Maybe she was just a dreamer, not a realistic observer? I was spoiled by reading The Fountainhead in my youth. It gave me a lot of false hope and expectations for the future. It turns out to be just an American fairytale, not a statement of what is possible. I made the mistake of taking it literally. And then think of all the people who have not read the same book. Maybe it’s a beautiful book for a beautiful dream. But in the end it’s just an elaborate lie… This morning is overcast and cool. Already, though, I see a shaft of sunshine. Aesop is asking me when his breakfast is due, so I give him the countdown. It’s a thing he can depend on, getting his breakfast on time. What can human beings rely on from day to day? What can we safely infer about reality? We assume that the sun will come up tomorrow, but even this is not guaranteed. Future contingencies are unforeseen. Though it would be nice to have a rock to cling to, life offers us only wind and water instead. Existence is change. Even the truth changes, so there are no eternal verities. It feels good to hold a writer like Emerson in a book. It is good to fasten things down and analyze them. But the essence is still mutability, a river and not a stone.
Four ten. Bass practice went about the same as yesterday: mostly uninspired and aimless because the social aspects are so iffy. Nobody wants to play. So I did that, and then the mail carrier brought my Burt Bacharach disc. Aesop went nuts while I walked out to get it. Finally I opened the Coke and drank half of it. Of course it tastes good, but we’ll see how I respond to the caffeine. Suddenly I can hear an old recording I made when I was only twenty years old. It occurs to me what an impact the words of other people have on me, and always did. Especially the critical remarks. Also I perceive that I’m past my prime musically. I don’t see the point in making compositions anymore, because songs need an audience. Getting people’s attention is so hard to do.
It’s enough for me to play my bass with someone, and even this plan hasn’t worked out. Thus it’s just a matter of acceptance and going with the flow. If music ignores me, then find something else to do.
The circumstances of life have a melodic motion to them, like music without sound. Life has modulations, variations on themes, often transitioning to new songs— with no coda. Phrases may not repeat, but wander off in a different key and different meter. Who writes the score, or is it totally improvised by the performers? Like a musical version of Pirandello, say Six Characters in Search of an Author… I’d thought I was a control freak, but it turns out that the chorus is controlling me. We don’t know who arranges the sheet music. We just sing, play, and dance when our part comes.
I’m not feeling very intellectual today; no bright ideas. I’m frustrated for some reason. Loneliness, I reckon. Freedom is great, but in solitude it isn’t worth much. Except for the fridge noise, it’s very quiet in here. Add to that the looney music in my head and you get my interior theater… The theater suddenly reminds me of a scene out of Dawn Powell’s Dance Night, which I read in December three years ago. What a strange novel, improvised and out of the author’s control. I ought to finish Come Back to Sorrento and see what plot surprises come up. It’s interesting to observe an unstable writer doing an unstable book. Powell’s vision of reality will be rather eccentric and on the wild side.
Six o five. I just paid my CareCredit bill and now my balance is zero. It must have been 10 or 11 years ago when I opened an account with them. It was a lifesaver when I had no money for veterinary bills, and when Henry’s health was deteriorating with old age. And again I acknowledge that good things happen to those who stay sober. I feel much more in charge of my life since ceasing the alcohol. I don’t feel ashamed of my poverty at all; it’s still sufficient to live on comfortably. Nature has provided for me in ways I don’t always perceive. It takes perspective and a long glance backward to see what’s been done for me. The pattern behind my life suggests maybe that freedom is illusory, and there’s a bigger design at work than just my petty will. This bigger design is ever active and will provide for the future as well. Someday it’ll all be quite clear what nature intends. Hold on to the wave until then…
Even before I begin to write, my brain wants to shut down. It’s odd how we refuse responsibility for our perceptions, as if thoughts were inserted. But consciousness is very much an active thing, creating and constructing at will. The sky is overcast: to say this is a fact, but what it means is up to me. I choose to name it good because it suggests cooler weather today. This positive thought accordingly lifts my mood. Morally, we create our own reality. Why is this so easy to forget? Objective reality itself is a coloring book, but we provide the colors from our imagination. The colors are moods and meaning… The atmosphere appears bluish, giving a hint of rain. At times I ponder psychosis: just what is this separation from reality? Does it serve a purpose? It could be an indicator that something is not right… I listened to Aaron Copland in the wee hours and still enjoyed El Salon Mexico the most.
Eight twenty. Sometimes I wonder why I shop at a convenience store every day. Perhaps because it’s convenient? Or maybe part of me longs to be able to drink beer as in happier times. I know I won’t do it, and the self restraint feels kind of good because it is a form of control. It’s almost like a rebellion against myself, and of course I’d be into that. Being rebellious is often what motivates me. At the store a bit ago, I played mind games with myself, thinking of instances where I could feel paranoid, but don’t anymore. And it seems to me that a lot of people have paranoid schizophrenia. They go around blithering about “karma” and “angels” and other bs that they can’t prove yet “believe” anyway. I suppose it helps them cope with life. Then there are some who never stop to think about what they believe.
I was like that once, when I was on a working and drinking treadmill. Nothing else mattered but those two things. It must have been October 2007 when I had a car accident in a drive thru at 11pm. Sandy secretly gave me a black tarantula doll for Halloween. I had to drive a rental car until my truck was repaired. But my poor mind was all over the map in those days. Instead of working to live, I lived to work. Memories from that time are difficult to retrieve; I was such a different person. Money meant more to me then because I got bad advice. Finally my inner voice gained the upper hand and now I’m closer to being authentic. Moiling in survival mode is not for me. It seems like the things we need have a way of falling into our lap if we simply believe in ourselves. That’s the only faith we require.
Wee hours. I love El Salon Mexico! Hearing it in my head is pure bliss. Copland is one of the great composers, and so North American. Sometimes music comes my way like a coquette, and other times she gives me the cold shoulder. Such is the muse of inspiration when you are past your prime. In her absence you fill the gaps with reason and ordinariness until she comes again, a moonlit goddess, Diana herself. Why didn’t the Greeks make Artemis the goddess of music as well as the moon? Instead, Apollo was assigned the job of both sunshine and music. Perhaps like Midas I have donkey ears, being unable to judge between Apollo and Pan in a music contest. And what is wrong with the pipes of Pan?… My ad on Craigslist has attracted one bite so far. Very good news. And maybe my coy mistress, music, will visit me again and take me for a Jungian ride as she did in my thirties. Or will it be an Emersonian ride, something all American and proud of it?
Six twenty. I took a nap, feeling very uncomfortable, though I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was probably craving alcohol on some level. Maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself? Nobody’s perfect, no matter what the church expects of people. I got the impression there that having pornographic thoughts meant a person was evil. But if a person is honest, doesn’t everyone have sex thoughts? How can humans avoid this? And again I think that our Neo Victorian attitude will have consequences at all strata of society… Maybe I’m just tired of trying to be a Christian. I don’t think it’s for me anymore. It’s like stuffing your brain into a jar in so many ways.
Quarter after six (morning).
No one ever said I had to be a Christian… I just read ten pages of Bishop’s poetry from North & South. I really like “The Man-Moth” and “The Monument.” Also “The Weed.” These poems are quite personal, dealing with life as an individual. Really, our own experience is all we can know, and the best we can write about. I feel clumsy even trying to think like a religious person, so I’m ready to discard the whole thing. My romance with Christianity is done. Like Emerson, I shall have an “original relation to the universe.” Like Whitman, I will put aside the opinions of others and write what I know… Online worship is officially today, but I won’t be there. For me, Friday night was a disaster. I came away from it feeling unwell mentally. I still have a lot more to learn from the book of myself and not from the musty brown Bible we used as a prop at the lectern. The props and stilts of “culture” suffice for people who don’t want to think; and it seems to me that thinking is the entire issue. Today begins a new day and, for me, a new way of living.
Wee hours of the morning.
Just going with it. I’m up now, might as well write what I feel. Pitch blackness outside and nobody’s awake now. I wrote a poem. Turned out pretty good. I might change the title. It’s about the poet’s intuition, almost a statement of mysticism. The poet grasps truth directly and not from anything intermediate. This will be my new credo. Sure, it exalts the poet, but in a way, everyone is a poet. Everyone who dreams is a visionary. What is it about the sky, the sun, moon, and the stars? What can the heavens tell us about life? I guess everything we see is a mirror of ourselves, so that the truth is always interior. It is dream. I ought to read The Inner Reaches of Outer Space. Joseph Campbell is beautiful. His writing has a flow of eloquence to it similar to Emerson. I think it’s because both of them were steeped in the East, particularly Hinduism, that they were so articulate and poetic.
I don’t know what to do with this time. There’s a chimichanga in the freezer I could eat. To a certain extent I am still free. My parents ruled my life with an iron fist, and I’m rebelling against their ghosts. They weren’t very smart, and they weren’t very good at raising kids. At this moment I am resting potential. In another moment I may be eating or back in bed.
Quarter of eight. Well now I know of a real case of the coronavirus. My heart is penitent because it happened to a young poet. She says she is recovered, so I hope she feels better… Time to go to the store in a few minutes. Aesop needs dry food and treats. I’ll make an effort to be more serene and accepting of what I can’t control. Music may or may not come to fruition. This will have to be okay. It is out of my hands.
Quarter of nine. I lay down in bed with Aesop for a few hours and fell unconscious, hearing a church hymn in my head. I wonder how the food pantry went this morning? I missed seeing Sue and Catherine. But I think doing the worship was more important this time. It’s interesting how participating in church is more or less symbolic of participating in society, in the world here and now. So maybe the spirit of God really is the world Holy Ghost or whatever name you want to give it. As long as it is in the present, and observed together, the name doesn’t matter much. People feel it and express it and call it God, and for convenience that makes sense. What do I know? I’m just another meat puppet, an incarnate soul on a journey with everyone else. Emerson refers to a Power in one of his poems, a universal spirit, which is the same thing as the God that people worship today. Even when unfelt, God is not unseen by his effects. The spirit comes out particularly in the songs we sing, but also in everything that has movement and life. God is observable in human togetherness…
Quarter after one. I was going to ponder intuition as a method for gathering information, but I don’t know where to look for precedents except for Poe and Emerson, where my interest was first sparked. I could search engine for ideas, but I think I’d turn up a lot of scholarly articles, even some that are pay per view.
Three o’clock. I guess Jennifer did pass away. Lenore received two baskets of sympathy flowers. The delivery driver tried to leave them with me because Lenore was not home. Her boss at Kirkland Flowers said it was okay to leave them on her front porch in the shade. Is it only a coincidence that my sister used to work for Kirkland? It’s a beautiful June afternoon, like one I recall 18 years ago. At that time, my mind was not conditioned by evidence based therapy. It was more Jungian and traditional, and less filtered by logic. Dunno; it was just odd to hear the doorbell ring and see this young girl with flowers for Lenore. She drove all the way from Springfield, and my imagination supplied the rest, creating a synchronicity that may or may not be accurate. Ultimately, one chooses to believe or disbelieve, but for now I’m undecided…
Here I am in the dead of the wee hours, awake and keeping vigil. It’s always a shock to think of how I belong to a church. The people are very lovely, and their ideas no less so, yet my reason rejects Christ. If I must have a spiritual outlet, it is Plato and the tradition he started, visiting the figures of Emerson and Dickinson before culminating in Mallarme. There’s something about the use of metaphors that contains a lot of power. What is on the other side of Dickinson’s nature descriptions? You can feel it teasing your peripheral vision, the world of the Forms. For every particular tree in reality, a tree ideal in the spirit world. And only the ideal realm is true. Earthly life is but a mirror reflection of the sublime. If what we see is a pond, then the Ideal is the ocean. Similar to Plato is the Upanishad verse,
Lead me from the unreal to the real,
Lead me from darkness to light,
Lead me from death to immortality!
This is not a crude paradigm of a heaven above and a hell below. It is far more sophisticated and beautiful… As day begins to dawn, I consider going back to bed. I slept badly, and now there’s nothing to do.