Quarter of ten.
Did I detect something pagan about Wordsworth’s poetry which I read this afternoon? It seems to me that being “nature’s priest” is a bit different from the conventional clergyman of Christianity. And I think the “natural piety” idea is exactly what makes me feel good when I absorb his verses. There’s something akin to Goethe here, the exhortation to leave behind the books and everything flat and two dimensional and come outdoors to experience real life that breathes the free air. I believe this is the true spirit of Romantic poetry, the one that rolls through the natural scenery and meets the human eye and ear, where a person perceives and half creates reality, as in “Tintern Abbey.” I keep meaning to read his series The River Duddon, so perhaps I’ll dig it out and pore over it to observe Wordsworth’s grounded style. His writing gives a new understanding of what we call religion or piety, someplace away from the dusty study or monastery. The other book on my list to read again is The Sorrows of Young Werther…
I feel like some kind of alien; as if my head resembled an elephant’s. I’m not feeling understood by many folks, and this gives me a sense of my loneliness. Does everyone maybe feel the way I do?
I’ve finished reading the little Whitman volume. Next, it might be interesting to dip into Montaigne or Camus, if I can get onto his style of aphorism. Each of Camus’ phrases seems disjointed and apart from the others, so it’s difficult to follow his argument as a whole… My memory of past psychotic episodes has become hazy, though I know it involved ideas of hell and Satan a lot, and the experience felt very real to me. The more I verse myself in Western culture, the better I can grapple with those ideas. Probably the fear of an infernal afterlife keeps most people from doing what they might otherwise do. Years ago I saw Camus’ remarks on Tirso de Molina, so I actually read The Seducer of Seville, the drama of Don Juan and his fate of going to hell for his amatory crimes. What a strange story. It was the year following my mother’s death, and I read whatever I wanted when I wasn’t busy drinking… At this stage, I’d like to put the psychosis out of its misery for good and live without fear. Life on earth is hellish enough without expecting a hell in the hereafter. Perhaps it’s all just a dream, and all dreams are by definition unreal.
Why does Bowles play cat and mouse with his characters so much? It’s a strange use of authorship. A way of being a godlike creator I guess. So then you pity his characters as not having a chance. I don’t know now if Bowles is such a good writer. It finally occurs to me that the “delicate prey” are indeed his brainchildren, he being their predatory and omnipotent author. It’s his right as a writer of fiction— but this calls attention to his artifice, demystifying the whole thing. No doubt it’s what Bowles wanted.
Did it take me a year to make these observations? I must’ve been very sleepy last winter. But I was never a fiction writer myself— not seriously. I’ve been a naïve realist reading Bowles; everything is what it is in the narrative, or was to me. But to him it is ever a creative activity, having the almighty pencil and eraser with his stories. The ink and the snow opaque. And I was just his fool and victim. Another prey.
Quarter of ten at night.
Again I’ll observe that you are what you read: a lot of life is a matter of learning, like behaviorism. Maybe even instinct doesn’t exist, so that John Locke’s tabula rasa was always right. As a consequence, individuals must take responsibility for programming themselves like a delicate computer. What goes in determines what comes out. If we have instincts and impulses, they can be modified by experience.
In my early thirties, I read mostly Melville, Emerson, Henry James, and Paul Bowles, and had very little acquaintance with Christianity. I told a friend in 1999 that I couldn’t be a Christian. But only two years later my parents were both gone and then the world undertook to convert me. I didn’t really read much for a long time while I worked and afterwards battled with addiction. I joined a church finally five years ago because I’d been told that spirituality was the only way to overcome it. I don’t know if that’s true or not: I’m still an agnostic. And maybe that’s how I’ll stay.
Just when my world is crashing down around me, I can expect some kind of rejuvenation like the myth of the phoenix that rises from the ashes of the old. I don’t listen to music much anymore. Instead, my life has become music.
I thought I would jot some words and see where they go. I woke up with Pat Metheny jamming in my head in the middle of the night, when I’d been dreaming of Shakespeare’s plays. Now it seems that I’d love to read The Tempest once again, if I never read anything else in my life. It would make me think of the crucial mistakes I made in love with somebody at a young and foolish age and try in my mind to rearrange history. On the other hand, it’s better to make errors and learn from them than to dwell on the past and repeat the things we did wrong. Another book on my list is still The Ambassadors, though this also would express a regret in my unconscious mind. I might be better off to open up The Octopus or something I’ve never thought of reading before. Or instead of reading anything, I could go take Aesop for a walk around the hood and have ourselves a little adventure. But not at two forty in the dead of night. There must be a way to go beyond what I learned in school thirty years ago, a way past bibliomania into a wider reality; but the real world offers nothing as exciting as the ideas found on a college campus: ultimately, in books and music, the theater and art exhibits. All the world’s a stage, but it is illuminated by genius.
I purchased one Snapple tea this morning. The air felt very cold to me outside and the fog is hanging around longer than usual. Otherwise I saw nothing extraordinary on my walk. Though I rack my brains, I can’t remember what I was doing a year ago this month. I only know I played bass with Ron and Mike at Mike’s place in the neighborhood. But as far as what I was thinking at the time, I have no clue today. I think my Vraylar works maybe a little bit too well.
I love my little community in the environs of Maxwell and N Park because of my old school on Howard Avenue, where I attended when I heard my first Rush albums and began taking advanced English classes. I was a dunce at math and barely passed the competency test in the spring trimester with a score of 80. I remember the smile on Mrs Vaughn’s face when she said it to the whole class. She read the scores off to everyone one by one. For entertainment I still read Conan books as a ninth grader, plus Doc Savage and during the summer, some Ian Fleming novels. Purely masculine fantasies good for a 15 year old boy. The next year my taste grew more realistic, admitting some human weakness to my reality, though it wasn’t as fun as Edgar Rice Burroughs. In the end it all got left behind with the Kelly Bombers: no more innocence, for life was not a fantasy of control, strength, and courage; or if it was, it became more abstract and mental than an action hero like Tarzan. Gradually there was a better match between reality and my reading habits. Still I miss when the stories were graphic and very exciting, kind of like Nietzsche’s superman rendered in pictures…
Eight thirty at night.
Where is it written that the truth shall set you free? Whether it does or not, the best policy seems to be honesty, though it’s not a law of nature. I remember a couple of Melville plots where the protagonist was damned no matter what he did or said. I guess it’s better to write your own plot as a free author and show some backbone. Courage is often rewarded by whatever powers be, while shrinking away and sniveling achieves nothing. It even takes being intrepid to open a book like Being and Nothingness and interpret it. All paper trails lead me to this book; even Cervantes points to Sartre, depending on the translation you read of the Quixote. If I say I’m not smart enough to tackle the task, then my philosophy professor from 34 years ago would say something about the intrinsic reward of learning. I can forecast the wages of doing nothing; without effort there’s no gain, and Being and Nothingness remains in its place gathering dust. Just another object, the being in itself. I need just a little push to motivate me. But would it really change my life to give it a read? Existence precedes essence: individual human beings create their own identity from a baseline of utter freedom. If that’s true, then you can’t go wrong with Sartre. And psychology has to move over to accommodate philosophy— which has always expressed the possibilities of human freedom, just by putting ink to paper.
Quarter after eleven.
I was able to relax and fall asleep for about four hours this evening. I had some more driving dreams, and this time I didn’t get lost or separated from the car. It seems that I had a job as a volunteer to help people, kind of like what I did for the cancer society when I was 26 years old. Before dropping off to sleep, I thought about the tone of the times. Everything would be peachy if I didn’t have to deal with my sister on the phone every weekend. Somehow, hearing from her does violence to my peace of mind. The difference between her and my mother, again, is night and day, or perhaps religion and rock and roll.
But the problem is not the Bible itself; it’s only a book, which without a reader just sits there on the shelf. The problem resides with the interpreter.
I don’t know much about the career of Martin Luther, but one thing he did was to publish the Bible in German to be available for everyone to read for themselves. The historical significance of this is huge, for it liberated individuals to interpret the Word of God away from the Church. So now, looking at my sister and myself, my understanding of Jesus ought to be equally true with her own reading. Is this a form of relativism, and do some Christians see it as a bad thing; or instead does it restore the Bible to its original integrity, speaking different truths to different people?
Luckily I am no theologian.