Encomium for Yes

Quarter of midnight.

It is best for me to take responsibility for my loss of faith rather than attribute it to the spirit of the age. I must pick up the pieces and go from there, reassembling them to a picture that pleases the eye and makes the most sense. Do we have to call it a fiction? But there’s a purpose for our imagination, an adaptive reason for being; perhaps it is the science of God, the fingers touching in the Sistine Chapel. Humankind has an instinct to reach for its creator and its own being, as I can remember hearing in an old song by Yes, about creating or recreating heaven by means of the heart’s dream. At the very end of the song, the dreamer is gently awakened to reality once again: like in a Keats poem, but made more powerful by the medium of music… It’s rather odd how we can forget the things that are the most important to human progress and perfection, such as music and Romantic poetry; and if it was only me, then my heart repents this thoughtless trespass. So now, it makes sense to take an hour and listen to Going for the One once again, a classic album of progressive rock, timeless and timely. You who have an ear, may you hear, and let the error of the times slide by. 

Details

Nine ten.

From everything I’ve read, it looks like the approach to transcendence is the same for the drug addict as it is for the poet or the priest. Getting high either way involves inebriation of a sort, a disengagement of the intellect in order to experience something beyond the known world. I’ve been stuck on the problem of reality and illusion for a long time, and still can’t come to a conclusion. My realism might be naive, yet most people can agree on what’s real. Just when I think I’m sick of Romanticism, something pulls me back to it like the undertow of the surf… 

The hike to the store was kind of nice today. There were two Mexican guys ahead of me in line, masked with bandannas. But again I observed that no women were in the market except for Michelle. The credit card reader beeped extremely loudly because the mute under it was removed. A customer had spilled a full 44 ounce Pepsi all over the countertop, drenching everything. There was a fresh supply of peanut butter treats for dogs, so I grabbed a couple. The sun through the front door blared right in Michelle’s eyes so she had to visor her face. I notice that I’m overdue for a haircut. And either today or tomorrow I have to run to Bi Mart to pick up my prescription. While I’m there I might as well buy a new pair of jeans. I have a hole in the heel of my right sock. If any of these details should prove to be significant, I’ll be the last person to know. But sometimes it’s better to leave the particulars alone, without induction. This being said, I needn’t have said it. 

Knowing and Feeling

Quarter after eight.

I made it to church all right this morning and kind of squirmed through the sermon that used Ephesians as its springboard. Usually Pastor doesn’t preach about the devil, but this service was full of spiritual warfare. But if I may psychologize his speech a bit, he seems to feel rather inadequate for his Christianity. He said Christians are looked down upon as being weird— and this is okay with him… His sister played the keyboard in place of Eduardo, who tested positive for Covid last week. His daughter read the lessons at the lectern. Everyone did the best they could to make the service happen. And in a way, it does feel as though our church were persecuted by something evil, something like the devil and all his angels. It feels like hell has broken loose on the world. So many times I’ve tried to finish reading Paradise Lost, so maybe soon I will do that. I have a spare copy of Milton I can give to Pastor as well.

Quarter of ten. As I was finishing up an email to Pastor, I looked up and the big full moon was staring me in the face. And though the moon is only a rock in space with a certain amount of gravitational pull on the earth, it still feels like a living thing or some spiritual presence; even like something a bit dark and wicked. So which is it, the stone I can understand or the spirit I can feel? And is intuition really just a fallacy, or is reality always this dual nature? 

Eternal Truth

Quarter after eleven.

The heat has an impact on me with or without air conditioning, but I’m very fortunate to be as comfortable as I am. The email scammer tried to get a response from me early this morning. I trashed his message without opening it. Skeptics of the virus think it’s cute not to wear a mask in public. They make jokes about getting away with it, as if the compliers were stupid. It’s an individual thing, though it would benefit us if everybody played by the same rules. Michelle the store clerk wears a mask because she has diabetes. I wear one because someone in my family was sick with Covid…

I was thinking again that people need more beauty in their lives. Are beauty and truth allied with each other or rather at odds? Reality is pretty ugly today, but reality and truth are different things. Truth is eternal, reality transitory. And if truth doesn’t exist then we’re screwed. My mind goes to the rock band Yes and their 1996 release Keys to Ascension. “How did heaven begin?” Evidently we created it in a manner like William Blake, by sheer mental fight and poetic language. In All Religions Are One he suggests that the True Man is the same as the Poetic Genius… But it’s hard to write about this when my Romantic faith is flimsy, my conviction shaky. Also it’s difficult to pull it off all alone. Is anybody else with me?

Noon hour. The air quality is bad today; they say it’s unhealthy to sensitive groups. Another intrusive fact… Now they’re saying it’s unhealthy for everyone… Obviously it’s from wildfire smoke. I just looked it up on the internet. I only hope it won’t be like the situation last September. 

Lenore’s Rooftop

Eight o’clock.

Already it feels like I was never at the store this morning, yet I know it was only an hour ago. Roger is firing up his old Ford; now he has chugged away to the south to get on Maxwell Road. By the time he’s on the bridge he’ll be cruising along at fifty miles an hour, a streak of burnt orange and chrome. I saw him doing this once and I marveled a bit at the old machine’s horsepower that left me in its dust. For different boys it’s different toys: I’d rather collect more bass guitars and books… I brought home a peanut butter bone for Aesop which he politely munched on till it was gone. Heidi told me in an email she was going to call me today to schedule us a visit if I was interested, so of course I’ll accept her offer— because of her, not because of Laurel Hill. After nine o’clock I have to call Bi Mart to renew a $1463 prescription that I know they won’t refuse. They love to see us coming. The weather is predictably sunny as it has been every day for a few weeks.

Last night the gibbous moon, waning, shone on my pillow. The light from it looked somewhat smoky, making orange of pale yellow. I felt inclined to endow the orb with feminine qualities, but all the time I knew the moon is just the moon. In other words I was caught between poet and anti-poet. Somewhere, Shelley writes that poetic language is vitally metaphorical, comparing one thing to another. But this poetry breaks down when you see reality as it is. Most poets are pessimistic that accurate perception is even possible. Sometimes I guess I’m not very romantic…

Quarter after nine. As I was returning home today I encountered two crows perched on Lenore’s rooftop, exchanging croaks as if in conversation. It made me think of Hekyll and Jekyll, the old cartoon series. Yet everybody knows that a crow is only a crow… and a raven is just a raven. 

Meditation

Eleven thirty 🕦. It’s been a good couple of days for me, very eye opening and illuminating. It feels so strange when the face of nature changes in accordance with the political scene, kind of like the sympathy of nature in a Shakespeare play, for instance Julius Caesar or King Lear. Human eyes project new meaning onto the world, and the result of this interplay of mind and matter is an effect we know as reality; so that perception is what Wordsworth described to us in The Prelude about two centuries ago. It’s funny, though; I feel rather lazy, as if I could go on sabbatical from my writing for a while and still feel like a worthwhile person. Today’s social climate seems to me like that of the 1990’s. It’s tempting not to take individual responsibility and rather say that every person is a passive mirror of the day— when the truth may be that human beings collectively create the spirit of the age from our own souls. The mysterious thing is whence these ideas of ours spring; so I suppose that Jungian theory has some applicability… but even Jung got the idea from his Romantic predecessors… Thus I look out on a June day in Oregon, making out the shapes and colors of the cloudy sky from the backseat of a taxi or through my bedroom window. The lemon lime filters into the kitchen and family room, yet the process is an operation of my own mind, which in turn participates in a greater reservoir of the human nous. So, it’s rather problematic whether what I see is external nature or a projection of my mind. But perception is likely not entirely passive as in Aristotle’s model of naive realism. Then again, realism can be a comfort, like the ordinary loveseat I’m sitting on. Does it make sense to call this a projection of my mind? And here I arrive at an impasse in my meditation, because I always have liked the simplicity of the immanent, the mundane and ordinary stuff that surrounds us. Are we such stuff that dreams are made on, or is it preferable to keep things simple? 

Morning of My Covid Shot

Seven twenty. It is a fact that emotional reasoning doesn’t work for determining what is true. We can feel all kinds of things to be true, but when we check the evidence we are often contradicted. Most people are not liars, so usually you can take them at face value when you ask them what they are thinking. Sometimes I need a tuneup of cognitive therapy, and today might be one of those times… I wish more people would learn to be realistic in their interactions with others, but it’s difficult to teach old dogs new tricks. It’s entertaining to play with Romantic ideas, though it doesn’t reveal the truth of situations. But I suppose that people of a Romantic persuasion will always rebel against reason, and this pendulum has been swinging in history since at least the 18th Century. The thing is, the Romantic perspective is no help to those who live with mental illness. For this reason, I never could agree with Twelve Step programs, which aggravate psychosis if anything. Most people still can’t figure that out. It also doesn’t work to fight fire with fire, or use homeopathic remedies such as religion to treat psychosis.

Eight twenty five. I just want to be at peace with myself and the world, but the world makes it very hard to be somebody. However, I know that my opinion is the one that counts in my life. How can others be right when their opinions disagree with each other? All of us are hunters in the dark. No one really knows anything, so the arbiter of truth might as well be you. 

Will to Believe

Ten forty. There’s something missing in my experience today, and I kind of think it’s religion, the church. But the reality of Christ was my doing, my participation in worship. It seems like so long ago. Jesus said the kingdom of God is within you, or among you. My faith has dwindled down to nothing, but I can remember vaguely how I used to believe it. And it was because I wanted to believe it… I guess that desire is gone now. Is it a sign of a deficiency to be faithless?

Eleven thirty five. Nothing is the same anymore, and the silence in this room is loud. I feel lonely and depressed. It’s a natural thing when you’re alone… I have the freedom to go down the hallway and play my new bass for a while, but I’d rather play it with other people. The sunshine is intense and completely unexpected. The paralysis I feel makes me tired.

Quarter of one. I was just playing my G&L bass and it sounded really awesome. I hope to use it for practice Saturday evening. And then Heidi called to reschedule for tomorrow morning. Ten o’clock. Now my afternoon is open. Why is it tempting to drown the present in old memories with the aid of alcohol or other substances? Last Wednesday, when my bass arrived, I went and bought a large Pepsi, thinking to revive my parents and old friends from the mid-90’s. Of course it didn’t work; they were still dead and gone. Even my mental state stayed the same.

But then yesterday I checked my voicemail on my other phone and found two messages from old musical friends. Probably the same wish for the past drove me to search my mailbox, yet how bizarre to find something. Also the moon was full as it rose in the evening, and a Romantic sentiment gripped me, as if the moon had arranged these coincidences in such a poetic fashion. Perhaps it’s all in what you want to believe… 

Unchurched

Nine twenty five.

Cloudy morning. I met with nothing extraordinary going to the market. Just another day. But later I received an email from the people who will help me find a personal care assistant. This will help me out a lot.

Ten ten at night.

It was kind of a mixed up day. I was still doing fine when I read and wrote about the Ideal and the Sublime, etc etc, but when I thought of Jane Austen unifying opposites I began to get a little lost. Why would I remember her novels in the springtime? Or maybe the season is irrelevant. Possibly the name of Austen stands for a real person I used to know.

Pastor argued with me that Jane Austen was a Romantic, while I said she was just the opposite, a realist, especially in her treatment of psychology. She was very cognitive two hundred years before the popularity of CBT. She also didn’t want to be associated with the Romantic period. I’m not sure why we were arguing about this, or what, subconsciously, we were really talking about. It now occurs to me that Pastor is unacquainted with the principles of cognitive therapy. He only understands C.G. Jung and the Romantic tradition that gave him rise. Even this is overstatement, because he doesn’t know Romantic poetry… I guess it doesn’t matter what he knows or doesn’t know. Then again, do I really want to sit through his sermons?

Eleven ten. I feel tired and my back aches, and my mood is rather grumpy. I feel like Childe Harold or Frankenstein’s monster, alienated from society and doomed to wander the earth in search of a mate who can sympathize with him. Somewhere among the Arctic ice floes, the monster still keeps a low profile. He drops in on the social world here and there, then vanishes again.

Midnight. In plain English, my relationship with the church is spotty and probably destined to dissolve altogether. 

Twelve Steps and Romanticism

Quarter after two. As I was just about to read my book, I got a call from Heidi. She made me an appointment to talk on the phone for next Tuesday at two. I look forward to this very eagerly. Then I settled down to read Goethe. It’s interesting that Faust, as Gretchen says, is not a Christian per se, but rather a Romantic. In turn, this distinction makes me think of certain people in Twelve Step programs, and how this situation must have come about. The AA’s I hung out with were the Romantic type, with a nebulous concept of God rather than strictly Christian. Their God contained a little of both light and dark, and there were no angels or demons or anything biblical… The first part of Faust was published in 1808, a little before the major poetry of Percy Shelley… Another word that comes to mind besides Romantic is “mystic” for what the AA’s I knew stood for. Mysticism is the direct experience of God, with no props like the church or even like Jesus Christ. God could be immediately apprehended by the devotee. The approach was intuitive, sort of like Zen Buddhism… Now I’m wondering if maybe AA would suit me better than the Lutheran church, and why didn’t I do that earlier? You don’t have to be a Christian to be an AA. I suppose it’s about time I made my peace with AA and the members I knew in the past. Usually AA is a great networking tool for sober musicians, as I discovered long ago. It’s worth considering.