Simplicity

Eleven twenty five.

I got a lot done this morning. Now Aesop has his flea medication; all I have to do is give it to him. It was overcast a while ago, but just now the sun is coming out and the sky is mostly clear. Nice to see the blue sky. In the old days I would drink it up and savor its beauty. Sometimes I wonder what Thomas Hardy would do with a problem like recovery. He was such a fatalist, but presented the idea brilliantly. I especially liked his writing because he challenged my position on free will so convincingly. It made me want to prove him wrong. I don’t know if that’s what I did or not. Recovery itself could be fated from a first cause, so Hardy would still be right. The Mayor of Casterbridge is one of the best books I ever read… It’s almost like magic how sobriety increases your fortunes. It used to be that I never had any money. My checking account was often overdrawn due to my alcoholism.

Three ten in the morning.

There isn’t much to say right now, but I happen to be up. I took my daily medications, thinking about my separation from the church. It seems to me that Pastor’s sermons messed with my mental health, and this went on for a long time. Finally I think I can just be myself. No ideologies are really needed to live by. I used to believe that Freud was my belief system, but now it’s not even that. I was right about Pastor being excessively political and sociological. This complicates the experience of life unnecessarily. I think I’m just a realist at this point. It’s like what happened to philosophy after the 19th Century: the decline and fall of the Absolute and the rise of the age of analysis. But even this is too cerebral. In the case of schizophrenia, all that is required is to take the medication. The rest is simply getting on with your life, and for me, music is all I want to do. 

Reality

Ten o’clock.

I think all of my morning business is out of the way. Sometimes I long to feel tipsy and euphoric from a good brand of beer, but I realize that alcohol is not the true vehicle to bliss. Still, the mile high buzz is a hard sacrifice, especially when the weather gets better like today and triggers flashbacks to that artificial heaven. I guess that’s where morality kicks in, reminding me of my responsibilities to other people and of course to my dog. I consider a Hoffmann tale like “The Golden Flowerpot:” the protagonist had a choice between a fantasy lover and a lover in reality— and picked the fantasy. Did he do the right thing? Did he have any regrets for getting lost in a pipe dream? What about the girl he jilted: wasn’t that unfortunate?

Two big white trucks drove by my front window. Wright Tree Service. Now I hear the workers sawing away, probably trimming the limbs back from the power lines. Their presence takes me back ten years, to my friendship with Kate, which likewise was rather illusory; just a stream of words batted over the Atlantic, with some pictures and a lot of music. Was it much different from the Hoffmann story?

Eleven o’clock. For wisdom there’s no substitute. I went to church yesterday morning because I felt lonely and impoverished for stimulation. I had a good time. It’s always good to meet with friends, whether old or new. Right now there’s a patch of sunlight on the backyard, the clouds opening somewhat. The garbage trucks are coming. Sometimes reality takes precedence over dreams. I suppose there’s an appropriate time for everything, all in its proper place. There’s also a time for macaroni salad… 

Common Sense

Ten thirty.

For the time being, the rain has stopped. I feel more relaxed this morning, more self possessed and confident. It makes little sense to ask where I see myself in five years or ten years. I doubt if anybody is that prescient of their own life… Yesterday I didn’t practice my bass individually, but instead scribbled a lot of drivel in my blank book. It was basic mind reading of people I know, which never works because there’s no such thing as telepathy. It is a truism that we can never know what another person is thinking unless we ask them what’s on their mind. Often the chasm is wide between what we imagine and the real truth. I may ask for a break from Friday service this week just to collect myself. I want to get back to evidence based thinking, as opposed to faith based. Empiricism is looking better to me all the time. The certainty of the chair I’m sitting on is more reassuring than the idea of salvation for my sins. Everyone can save themselves. Let the guilt roll off your back and enjoy your life.

Eleven thirty. The appeal of Romanticism is wearing off for me. It should feel rather liberating to look into logical positivism again, and the wholesale rejection of metaphysics and other slippery things that people dispute over. A rock band sang, “So we are told this is the Golden Age / And gold is the reason for the wars we wage.” I think this is debatable. At least for now, the world of sense experience seems inviting after a long detour into the indemonstrable. 

Time for Lunch

Five before eight.

I heard Roger’s truck leave when I was still in bed. There’s a fairly dense fog on the trees across the street. By nine o’clock I have to get both kinds of food for Aesop. Later this morning I should call DHS and renew my health plan. Part of me wants to accuse me of being a terrible person, but really it’s life today that is just awful. I will buy a couple of Snapples and drown my sorrows. I’m very tired of the people who say there’s going to be a civil war. They are the ones who actually wish for it to happen.

Ten thirty. Polly called me back and we chatted for an hour. That was kind of nice. Right now the sun is shining from a mostly clear sky. My spirits brighten a bit. After noon today I’ll probably play my Jazz Bass copy again. It doesn’t look like much, but it sounds great. A work in progress, a diamond in the rough. It’s good for knocking about. A piece of wood with strings on it and basic electronics to produce a signal: that’s all a bass guitar is, and the rest is what the musician brings to the instrument. I already look forward to our next practice this Saturday. I used to wax mystical on the subject of whence a musician gets his inspiration during a gig. Does it arise from some inner reservoir of the psyche, or is the explanation easier than that? I don’t know if I believe Carl Jung anymore, but I’m tempted to read Goethe. Music is more than the sum of the technology that creates it. The experience of it is ineffable in words, and this sublimity is its essence.

Quarter of noon. But it’s difficult to maintain a point of view of mysticism. This is what the conflict is partly about. Is the supernatural real or just a chimera? I only know that it’s time for lunch… 

Scope

The times at large are generally very dark. When is it going to end? Sometimes I wax a bit psychotic thinking about it, deluded that I’m directly responsible for the plight of the world, or that my experience is a microcosm of what’s happening everywhere. I guess the second part is true, but there’s nothing magical about it. And really, everybody is likewise a miniature of the soul of the world. You can’t be conscious without carrying around a world conscience, because we’re all social animals. How strange to think of getting drunk to make reality go away. Everyone has a role to play in this drama, and we all have a day to shine in the spotlight. Many thinkers acknowledge this same truth, from Shakespeare to Emerson to Sartre; Cervantes too.

Wee hours. At the same time, I get tired of the grandiosity of a Shakespeare or a Victor Hugo, or any Romantic voice, and want to go with the ordinary and everyday. It is only in the commonplace that people are human and alive. And we’ve seen the terrible consequences of excessive drama once again in this country. It’s time to change our focus from narcissism to the humble and normal. In my opinion, even the Church is guilty of loftiness and grandiloquence, evident in the puffed up sermons we hear all the time. Perhaps rhetoric does violence to human well-being? And if so, maybe we need to bring the scope down to specifics, to particulars once again, with an attitude of calm and common sense. Instead of Shakespeare then, we get Thornton Wilder: the daily paperboy and the clink of coffee spoons… 

A Human Mirror

Quarter after eight.

It was another red dawn today: “Red skies at morning, sailor take warning.” I hesitate to go out in the cold, would rather be comfortable indoors. Tomorrow there is church again at seven o’clock. I plan to go and participate. I hope Roxanne is feeling okay. During the wee hours a while ago I started reading The Gray Notebook by Josep Pla out of a nagging curiosity regarding the content and his attitudes in general. It had been a big mystery to me. Fifteen pages into the book, it appears to be simply a realistic diary of a person’s life, starting with his family background and the people he has known in his native Spain up to his 21st birthday in 1918. I think his project is to describe things with very little personal bias, being a human mirror of the life around him. This is sort of the contrary of Romanticism, full of ego and bombast. But I’m getting ahead of myself… It’s almost time to feed Aesop his breakfast. I count down the minutes to him while he gets increasingly excited and vocal.

Nine thirty. I bundled up and went over to the market. Saw nothing unusual. My neighbor Jeff passed by me in his burnt orange Mustang as I was coming home. I can never remember his wife’s name, but I think it’s Sara. He used to be a high school science teacher. He has a long white beard with a swarthy complexion and a little snub nose. Jeff doesn’t invite much conversation when I see him on the street. Outside of his house he flies a skull and crossbones pirate flag, and his mocha colored boat is called the Second Wind. Just across the street from him is Harry’s house, an old conservative guy who lost his wife over a year ago. He used to have two Doberman pinchers in his garage. His daughter Cherie lives on the cross street to the north. Occasionally I see her in his front yard, trimming rose bushes or whatever to help out… The clouds have burned off, showing the light blue winter sky. Yesterday at noon the sunshine was intense, or maybe I’d had too much caffeine. I hope for a serene day today, calm and quiet, except for the rock and roll noise from my bass guitar this afternoon. 

Great Figures

Four thirty in the morning.

I just listened to Rush’s Hemispheres after a long hiatus. It sounds as brilliant as it ever did, the product of very hard work. Yesterday I played the bass line to “Circumstances,” or rather the parts of it I could manage. There are some runs that are virtually impossible to copy… After spinning the CD, I began to meditate on the letter R. It is the initial for some important words, to my mind, such as Robert, Rush, reason, and Ayn Rand. In numerology, the letter R falls under the number 9, and resonates with that number’s energy. Maybe I’m thinking along these lines in anticipation of my birthday.

Eight forty. I’m off to a late start today, but that’s okay with me. In the days when I worked, I didn’t earn much PTO, but the day I took off was always my birthday. One time on January 4, I indulged in beer and in the afternoon, UPS delivered an edition of Milton that I still treasure. It is a big maroon hardcover tome published by Hackett. One of these days I’ll finish reading Paradise Lost.

Ten o’clock. It’s mostly cloudy, with a little bleed through of sunshine. Melissa said she hoped it wouldn’t rain, but the forecast calls for a lot of it next week. I stopped on the sidewalk to take a look at the dog rescue shelter across Maxwell on N. Park. I noticed a couple of buses parked outside the building, one orange and the other white. Karen and Kim talked about the local utility company, and how to save on our electric bills. The former was dressed in a royal blue blouse and vest. We also talked of kung pao chicken and shrimp. Just trivial things of no vast import to the nation. No great figures of speech. Roger was busy grinding down something metal, the sparks flying out behind him. I imagined he was vexed about politics. Maybe someday he’ll move to Montana as he’s been threatening to do. Someplace else to live the dream…

Sunday

Eight fifty.

There was a pause in the rain, and the temperature was above 45 degrees, so I went out without a jacket. A baseball cap covered my head, bearing the inscription, “Frodo failed: Bush has the Ring,” a relic from the Kerry campaign. I forded the puddle at Fremont without much trouble. In the parking lot I saw Melissa’s little blue car. I couldn’t expect to meet anybody on a Sunday at a quarter after eight. I lingered in front of the beverage cooler, undecided on the Coca-Cola. Finally I rejected it for being too sweet and bubbly. I bagged two Snapple teas and French bread pizzas, then ambled up to the register. Melissa was pleasant, but we didn’t really talk. I had noticed a front page headline concerning Covid casualties here locally. The Register Guard paper hasn’t been the same since a big syndicate bought it out. Returning home, I stopped on the sidewalk and took a look at the vista to the south. Behind the old Oregon Foods building, about six or seven green gray apartment complexes have sprung up, completely finished and tenanted now. Everything has gone mass production and rather ugly. Somewhere out of sight, an overgrown brain calculates the next move. 

“Empty as a Pocket…”

Eight twenty.

I imagine it’ll be Melissa at the market this morning. I will take my time. I still have to open the blinds in the living room. There’s $169 in food stamps available to me. My utility bill was a killer, so I’m keeping the room temperature lower than before. Funny how I remember old friends, when I’m quite certain they don’t think about me at all. Dave introduced me to the stories of Borges, even lent me his copy of Labyrinths, 17 years ago. I never got past the first two tales, but I liked them. I always resented Dave for his self righteous attitude regarding AA. For recovery, there weren’t many options in the last decade. He would have scorned me for taking a route that cost money, but in my case, CBT was the best choice. I also felt kind of bad for Dave, not having much and martyring himself for it. His younger brother was the spoiled one who got the advantages. My family situation was just the opposite of his. Maybe that’s why we didn’t get along.

Quarter of ten. A rare thing: I caught a mistake at the checkout counter and had to correct it. One of my burritos got scanned twice, just an accident. Usually I don’t consider money very much. I almost never carry cash and I don’t bother with arithmetic since I quit drinking. Numbers I associate with buying beer… I took note of the cloud formations on my pilgrimage to Maxwell Road: large white cumulus ones, and partly sunny. A neighbor on Fremont used to fly a gray blue MAGA flag in his front yard. Now it’s been replaced with the green State of Oregon. More than one house sports a flagpole out front. The remainder of the fallen leaves at the end of my street have been pulverized to a yellow purée, a bit perfidious to walk on. I feel a little silly as a pedestrian around the community, but I know the limits of my income. I could not afford to maintain a car. Besides, I don’t want the inconvenience… I saw Angela on my way back. She was setting up the ramp over the steps for the benefit of people with walkers and wheelchairs. Karen hadn’t arrived yet, so I just said hi and continued on home. Aesop sniffed my shopping bag, but this time there was nothing in it for him. 

The Picture

Ten thirty five. Some days make me wonder about the meaning of it all. After doing my daily shopping, I stopped by the salon and spoke with Angela, who was alone for a few minutes. I asked her how the homeschooling was going, and she said her fifth grader can’t read. Two of her kids have a learning disability. Also, Angela doesn’t understand the new method for teaching math. Then I asked her if anyone was helping her, but everyone she knows is too busy working. I felt like volunteering myself to help teach them to read, except children don’t take me seriously as a disciplinarian. They see me as just a playmate, and they can get away with murder. And then Karen arrived. The retirement home can’t let her in to do hair styling due to the coronavirus… This episode at the salon plus the phone conversation with my sister started me pondering the real utility of my cerebral life of books and music. There are very real practical problems that could use my help. The need is everywhere for help with survival skills such as reading and arithmetic. Meanwhile, I loaf around eating the lotus of philosophy and poetry. Is there something wrong with this picture?