It Dwells within Us

I feel okay now. It’s funny; the fall season hit me hard at first but now I can remember many other years besides the crazy ones around twenty years ago. I went through a very long period as a Romantic and mystic but probably in fall of 2009 I started to move away from that. Around that time I bought The Illustrated Jane Austen in six volumes and began thinking like a common sense realist… Reading Whitman again makes me sensitive to the mystical stuff as before. Maybe I’ll stop it and read something else.

The sun went down a half hour ago. The experience of the living godhead is a very strange thing to me. I don’t know if it’s even real or just imaginary, some ventriloquy of the human mind. When you get into a zone of energy, especially with a group of people doing an activity like music or sports or something, then it seems magical and quite powerful. It’s been a long time since I felt anything like that with people. I think the mystical power is a human power that we can give off and share together— or contain and withhold it from each other. I believe that’s what is happening right now: people are very self absorbed so that the experience of spirit doesn’t happen currently.

Even John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath writes of the human spirit in an Emersonian way. It’s a power that originates with us, with humanity. We kind of project it outside of ourselves and then we depend on it; but this gives us more confidence in ourselves, our decisions, our enterprises. I’m paraphrasing what he said in East of Eden.

I guess it’s up to us whether we want to awaken the spirit of God again. William Blake said that the Poetic Genius and man are the same thing. The Romantics saw it all along. Jon Anderson of Yes sings the same ideas. He suggests that heaven is something that human beings create by the power of imagination; but heaven is no less real for this reason.

We are responsible for the future of our spiritual life because it dwells within ourselves in the first place. So that what Jesus said is true: the kingdom of God is within you.

“Under My Thumb”

Seven thirty.

The streets are dark with wet but I didn’t get rained on for my little pilgrimage to buy groceries. When I was reading from Walt Whitman I began to think of my baptism five years ago on a rainy October Sunday. Specifically I wondered why I converted to religion; and probably I considered the benefit to me and not to others. Or more likely I didn’t think anything at all and my feet got in front of my head. Now I ask myself, If I could undo the baptism, would I do it? As it is, I’m just a lapsed Lutheran caught in a tug of war between the church and my independence. An old song by the Stones has been playing in my mind: “Under My Thumb,” the one with the little marimba melody. Whitman suggests that books (and traditions) are not men. I believe he’s saying that nature is logically prior to the fictions people create, including religion. But it’s easy to get this backwards and subordinate nature to the Bible.

I can’t tell if it’s raining right now. Aesop is patient about getting his breakfast. I feel better today than yesterday: maybe I should kick the gabapentin habit to avoid the crashes in my mood. Through it all runs the music in my brain. 

Ancestor Worship / Pleasure

Quarter of six.

My dog Aesop went back down the hallway to jump in bed again. He didn’t use to be so independent, so this is a new habit for him. His birthday was earlier this month: ten years old now. I was done sleeping at three o’clock, after dreaming about my dad, and then I wrote a description and analysis of it in my journal. Dad’s birthday would be this Thursday if he had lived. I think it’s good that I have his genetics to put strength into my recovery. The Japanese have been known to worship their ancestors, so I think maybe my dad is something like a Higher Power to me. My first recovery, twenty years ago, involved him to some extent as well. Yet I don’t know exactly what pushed me to relapse, unless it was simply trying to work a job with the stress that attends it. I found myself in a situation where my choices were inauthentic and it seemed I had no way out, so the only escape was to drink great quantities of beer. Several people bullied and shamed me to do things I really didn’t want to do. And again, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks because it’s down to just you and your life alone. My family can judge away if they disapprove of me: it won’t make any difference because after all I am sober and taking care of myself the best I can. I used to be a people pleaser but I don’t play that game anymore; it’s not worth the grief.

Seven thirty.

Rain is expected at eight o’clock this morning. Even now it looks pretty dark outdoors. I wore my rain jacket with a hood when I made my trip to market. I got Aesop some chicken strips, reasoning that he deserves a little pleasure from life, like everybody. In fact, I’ve denied myself fun and pleasure for a very long time. Meanwhile, the church is losing its grip on people, possibly for the same reason I just mentioned. In my journal I suggested that maybe the Bible is a work of epic poetry and written for the aesthetic pleasure of it. This would be the most skeptical thing I ever said of scripture. As a religion, it has lost its force for many people. Now the forecast says cloudy, so the rain either came and went or it never happened. Pastor’s daily email was very short today. I wonder what’s up with that.

Thoughts of a Dry Brain

Quarter of eight.

The rising sun is muted by what is probably wildfire smoke. Yesterday’s high temperature was 97 degrees… My informal research into Tolkien on one hand and Edgar Rice Burroughs on the other concerning attitudes towards “power” led me back to Machiavelli and his condemnation by the Church. The things I found kind of overran my circuits and pitched me into psychosis, though they had a valid basis in the history of ideas. It’s just that no one wants to know the theological nuts and bolts of these old notions of power and self-will. And the truth is rather ugly. But my brain has been baking too long in the summer heat and a respite is called for. I think I’ll stay away from every church of Christianity. I’ve heard enough sermons. We are after all merely human beings and biological organisms, and the religious stuff is secondary. It isn’t true that in the beginning was the word, or else everything is upside down. The Age of Reptiles is older than the time of Moses, but we get this backwards and make the Bible logically prior to natural history.

Here we go again. I’d better leave off while I still can.

Family Affair

Quarter of seven.

Late last night I dug out an old CD of King Crimson and listened to “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Pt 3” a couple of times. Recently I’d been playing some phrases from it on my own bass, so I wanted to hear it again to verify that I got it right. Just this morning the gibbous moon was high in the blue heavens while a few wisps of cirrus clouds hugged the horizon east. I thought about my family, specifically my sister’s beliefs versus those of my brother, and how her fundamentalism makes a difficult problem seem way too simple: a matter of heaven and hell. I really have to keep her ideas at arms’ length, though she means well enough. There should be a happy medium, a middle ground between her religion and my brother’s science, to blend black and white to gray. I don’t like being stuck in the middle of these extremes, though I consider myself the humanist of us three, if I play any role at all. I had a strange dream last night. My dad was driving us along an old country road on our way someplace beyond the woods. At a point he thought he missed our turnoff, so he did a 180 and brought us to a different road that was almost a sheer drop. I said, “Whoops!” When I woke up I thought the road was the descent to hell— and it’s so weird how my dreams often assume fundamentalist Christian notions like heaven and hell. Like the dreams of a child. Other times I’ve dreamt of the devil and things where good and evil are clearly defined and not like reality’s complexities. It makes me wonder why dreams are moral in this way. The world can change and become more and more complicated, while my inner dream life remains much the same as ever. Maybe it’s a family affair. Maybe it’s something you never outgrow— that stays with you no matter how much you change on the outside. And maybe my sister’s beliefs are a knee jerk of pure instinct. Everything else is a thin veneer. 

Ecstasy

Five o’clock.

What do you do when satisfaction is a long time coming? I guess you settle for less than what you really want. And maybe life has a project for you, as in an Emerson essay: we don’t use nature, nature uses us. Perhaps in hindsight it all makes sense to the individual. There was a plan all along, and your ego didn’t form it. I tend to forget this perspective. “But if all this should have a reason / We would be the last to know.” It’s a more religious way of looking at the puzzle. High school taught us to go out and conquer happiness, but it seldom works that way, and I think it’s backwards. Once I was assigned to lead class discussion on “Barter,” a poem by Sara Teasdale, but I had no clue how to interpret it. Many years later, it seemed like a big joke at my expense. What did I know of ecstasy? I was very shy, quiet, and withdrawn. I was more cut out to be a priest than a Don Juan… If Robert Burns is right about the best laid schemes, I try to remember that the real Schemer is not you or me.

Clouds

Five thirty.

Day comes up cloudy and overcast, keeping it cool for the morning. I’m getting cold feet regarding church this Sunday but I’ll still go. I made some pretty weird notes in my journal last night about my epicurean parents. Some people like pleasure. And some people condemn pleasure like it’s something wicked and unchristian. The first book I finished reading after my mother died was Typee by Herman Melville, which my remaining family wouldn’t have understood due to their religiosity. But pleasure is not a barbarian; just the opposite, it’s very sophisticated if done moderately. Some people are just plain absurd with their accusations of others. The biggest accusers are the worst hypocrites… The indoctrination I received in treatment long ago still interferes with my thinking. For once I wish it would leave me alone and stop scandalizing my parents. And yet if it did, then would I be more likely to drink again? Aesop scratches for a flea and I scratch my head. Maybe the afternoon sun will bring clarity.

Dream about Job

Quarter of seven AM.

I’ll probably go back to my reading of Henry James, whose name was big where I went to college long ago. The father of Modern fiction, we were taught. It’s also been a long time since I read Yeats, though his taste for spooks was never for me. The Golden Dawn group and all that. I don’t see much evidence for the paranormal, but once in a while I’ll have a deja vu, the feeling that I was there before. There’s a song by K.D. Lang dealing with this, and thinking of it calls my mother to mind, and the idea of making music in that final year we had. 

I owned a very nice Stingray Bass with a teal finish, and the color seemed to follow me everywhere and bring me good luck. I bought it with my earnings from the disco band at Musician’s Depot on Centennial Loop. But after my mother died, I did a lot of crazy things, so I no longer have the Stingray. Easy come, easy go. In fact, before she died I did crazy stuff. And yet it seems that life has a way of forgiving you and restoring to you what you have lost, if you play by the rules. It’s like what happened to Job, sort of. He got everything back. Lately I’ve been dreaming of the Book of Job, and it’s probably significant. God and the devil strike a bargain to test Job’s faith, like it’s all a big game. But what’s interesting is how evil is just an instructional tool, and all part of the same plan. I finally let the dream play out to its conclusion the other night, and that’s what I found. 

Crushing Grapes

Seven thirty AM.

On my walk for groceries this morning, I paused at the intersection of Fremont and N Park to watch an airline jet fly over my head. And the words came, “Where would you rather be / Anywhere but here.” Then I continued to Maxwell Road, where I had the whole place to myself— except for one man walking his beagle towards me. He said nothing, and frowned and seemed rather surly. Only the dog acknowledged my presence, straining on his leash to get at me. This experience was not like the afternoon yesterday at the little market, when it was packed and bubbly with people gabbing almost merrily. Perhaps it was “beer thirty” for some people, and the market and the deli comprised something like a pub, a place to get loose a little and enjoy life. Even though I’m sober, I’m still with them in spirit. The Dionysian tradition is about more than the wine, or rather the wine becomes symbolic of a mental state. Is it overstatement to say that intoxication gave birth to our notions of heaven…? The cult of Dionysus preceded Plato, who came before Christianity. “How did heaven begin?” Historically, it probably grew on the vine.

Pedigree

One twenty five in the morning.

“Consider yourself one of the family… it’s clear we’re going to get along…”

To use plainer English, I relate to the misfits in Shakespeare because I feel that an outsider cannot buy, beg, borrow, or steal his way into a religious organization, like me trying to find a place in the Lutheran church. A person must have a pedigree in order to fit into the big Christian universe, but I was brought into this world out of wedlock, fathered by a man who had been adopted after being abandoned by his biological parents… It is all well and fine for the human race to organize into Christendom or a Shakespearean aristocracy, yet my heart bleeds for others like myself, the outcast renegades and rebels with all odds against them. A small thing like alcoholism is a drop in the bucket next to the spiritual alienation that people like me experience. Surely the “redeemer” for the elect is different from that for the reprobate? I reckon time will tell. We may not have long to wait.