Two twenty five. I forget why I started reading the Sartre play yesterday. It isn’t very life affirming or romantic. The situations are extreme and no fun at all. People are popping each other off right and left. I don’t think I’ll finish it. Too grim, like Norman Mailer or something. I might take a nap now. I didn’t sleep very much last night.
Four thirty. Until I was about 24 years old, I never had any Romantic thoughts. That was when I was introduced to Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous, and the effect of those doctrines was not healthy for me. But once I had discovered his theories, I was stuck with Jung for another 20 years. Finally I took cognitive therapy seriously and began to apply it to my life. My mind had been in the habit of “splitting” everything into dichotomies, or pairs of contraries, like Aristotle with the law of excluded middle, only much worse. I was 39 years old when this was happening. After I turned 40 I began looking for the shades of gray. I learned that predicting the future was impossible, and how to avoid magnification and personalization. Eventually I mastered all of the cognitive distortions. Now it seems I’m sort of waiting around for the next movement in psychology. Something will doubtless come along. Hopefully it’ll be more accurate than the previous two trends. I heard some talk of phenomenology being absorbed into psychology two years ago, something along the lines of Sartre and existential psychoanalysis. There are no new ideas, just new terminology for the old ones. I guess I’ll finish that Sartre play now.
Quarter of seven.
I must be crazy, because I just ordered myself a Dell laptop for under $400. Do I deserve to have a laptop? No, I think I’ve just gone off the deep end. But then I remind myself of the pandemic and crazy times, and how everything is in turmoil. Indeed, life has been nutty since my refrigerator burst into flame a year ago last March. Meanwhile, I haven’t been hurting for money in all this time. I see many blessings in disguise, ambiguities with benefits. I don’t understand this fairytale existence. It is so much like something from the Brothers Grimm, for example “The Star Money.” Rather than try to make rational sense of it, I ought to give in to this Romantic mystery. Let the waves take me for a ride. Make peace with Carl Jung and roll with it… The caffeine from the Coke gave me a sleepless night, so I won’t do that again today.
Eight thirty. I catch myself trying to be perfect again, as if a mistake meant sudden death. I need to relax. I don’t know what’s bothering me. I feel like the stakes are very high.
Nine fifty. I figured out what’s been bugging me: it’s Vicki. Thursday she will find out if her tumor is malignant. I have a lot of feelings about her, both good and bad. But either way, she’s been a part of my daily life for about 12 years. Even casual acquaintances get under your skin after 12 years… I did my errand at the bank: people were friendly and it went smoothly. Next I stopped at Grocery Outlet and bought three items. The cashier was very nice. I sweated like a pig on my way home. The entire trip took me about 55 minutes. Now, Aesop’s been fed and we’re relaxing for a while. I’m glad I was able to do some thinking on my walk and get to the bottom of my feelings.
Another observation: Emerson’s exaltation of poets is similar to Nietzsche and Ayn Rand making creators the elite. In turn, Emerson resembles Blake when Blake says, “Would to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets.” In all four, we see elitism, the glorification of creative people, or maybe the poet that every individual has the potential to be. Wordsworth suggests that all people are in a sense poets by creating their perceptions of reality. However, Nietzsche does say that people are not all equal. I’m not sure how he means this… The day is dawning kind of green again. When the hour is decent I think I’ll play my favorite bass today, the turquoise Fender. Rock and roll fantasy, rock and roll dream, informed with a bit of classical music.
Six o’clock. I’m inclined to agree with my old history professor on the topic of elitism. What was it, then, that I used to love about Emerson’s essays? Now I think it’s absurd to claim that poets are inspired by the oversoul, by the spirit of nature, etc etc. Jung asserted that inspiration comes from the unconscious, which is the same thing as Emerson’s oversoul. Is the unconscious real? The test of this is to read Shakespeare, to plunge into the Green World of his comedies. And then to see how Goethe modifies the vision of Shakespeare. Also, it would help to revisit the Ion of Plato, which discusses poetic inspiration.
Quarter of eleven. My package with the book got handed to the wrong carrier at the hotel, so I ended up requesting a new copy from the publisher. All’s well that ends well, and I will see my Elizabeth Bishop. In the meantime I looked through my CDs and found the piano works of Claude Debussy and also Erik Satie. These are indeed good listening for summertime. I will love hearing Children’s Corner again. The music reminds me of my working days in the summer of 2007. On Friday evenings I would drink beer and escape with some exquisite music, something to transcend my redneck workweek. Little Henry the pug lounged with me on the loveseat while I lost myself in the headphones. Bliss! Now, the summer sun alone is sufficient to intoxicate a person… I guess we’ll be recording the worship again this Friday, and every Friday from now on. It is good to do a little public service.
One o’clock. The freedom idea of Sartre’s philosophy is losing its significance for me. I don’t know what I believe right now. Abstractions don’t have much meaning anymore, yet I’m not a scientist either. I’m simply myself. I thought briefly of Sheryl again this morning: her assessment of me was absurd, and I despised her belief in masochism. So leaving her care was the right thing to do two years ago. I’ve learned more about myself just knocking about the community than from talk therapy. The sidewalk is a good teacher, for the beliefs of a neighborhood imbue the very pavement. And the values that emerge always are Christian in some form. It is the great code inherent in everything, and the revealed religion that existed prior to the prophets. Or maybe not, but it’s interesting to consider the Word to be out of our hands. The Hindu tradition likewise erased the footprints of its history, leaving the mists of legend. It makes it appear that the religion was given to humanity by God alone, and not just invented by us. As if scripture were prior to the natural world itself— and how do we know otherwise? The Old Testament dates back to the 1300s before Christ, long before the birth of science. All texts in the present are equally alive, so maybe the fossil record is the hoax of natural history? I’ve had this thought especially when feeling psychotic, but does that disqualify its veracity? I don’t think anybody knows for sure. The sun is shining in the blue sky dotted with little clouds. Imagination can mold clouds into humanly meaningful shapes. It can do the same thing with texts. What matters is the reader’s mind, and the reality that results from interpretation. Wordsworth suggests that people half perceive, half create their experience. I ought to finish reading The Prelude. We hold the right to build castles in the air. Sometimes life depends on the strength of a story.
Quarter after one. This is another day when I feel quite strange and rather alien to myself. I don’t know what to expect next. There may be revelations. I read a little bit of Roethke and thought it was very good. Also from a box I recovered my copy of Unamuno, which I had believed to be lost, plus a novel by Iris Murdoch. I even found my old astrology book by Ronald Davison, one of the best on the subject. Sometimes older books are closer to the kernel of the truth than more recent writing. Equally fascinating is The Dictionary of Symbols, compiled by Jean Chevalier, full of rich mythology and folklore and information from astrology.
Quarter after ten. The rain and thunder caught me dreaming about some haunted hospital or twisted old house as in a tale by Lovecraft. It was a different kind of day, poking through boxes concealing mystery and imagination, unlocking the secrets of the soul, teaching them to speak like the Raven. Mostly I was inarticulate during the day, but now the night and the lightning loosen my tongue. And why not expose the gems and precious metals held inside these boxes, these compartments of the mind? Allow them to breathe in the light of day, smuggling them out piece by piece? The thunder answers something muffled and nonverbal. If it could talk, what would it say? Perhaps I could build a machine for translating the language of nature. Like in a Nordic tale of Sigurd, half forgotten, where he eats the white snake and lo, he comprehends animal speech. The same story reappears in The Brothers Grimm, an oral tradition passed down eight or ten centuries. Why shouldn’t these old stories teach us about nature from within our subconscious? How could the beautiful be other than true?
Last night I felt annoyed by the popular notion that God controls our lives if we just let go. I haven’t seen any evidence for this claim, so I find it very unscientific. When you step off the edge of a high cliff, you fall to your death. No big gust of wind will break your fall, no act of providence great or small, no guardian angel trying to earn his wings, no reason to believe any of those things. It used to make me sad to listen to the Yes song “To Be Over.” The songwriter was so complacent about the afterlife, but I could not share his confidence. It’s a wonderful song, as “Awaken” is too. Beautiful beyond your wildest dreams; but is it true?
Maybe we can do better as a race if we act as if religion were the truth, regardless of its factuality. And if we’re very fortunate, the dreams we work so hard to realize will by some grace be materialized. Maybe like Blake we can aspire to build Jerusalem on our green and pleasant land— if we do not cease from mental fight. The structure of “Awaken” is like a Keats poem. It begins on earth, then in a dream transports you to a celestial place nothing short of heaven. At last it places you back down on the ground to wake up from the awakening. If music and poetry can do this, then surely you and I can follow by just listening?
Four o’clock. I took out three bags of trash, to Aesop’s distress. But I got him to sit and stay on my command. He can be very good when he understands the necessity for it… I can’t think of anything brilliant to say, but I’ll plod on anyway with my genuine thoughts. Gabapentin is restoring my nerves to better health. Even my sense of hearing is improved. What shall be my next reading project? Another Virginia Woolf might be good. I have a book of Hilda Doolittle that I’ve never read. There’s Faust, Part Two. Rousseau’s Confessions. Blake’s Milton.
Six o’clock. I found my copy of La Nouvelle Heloise by Rousseau in a box and read the introduction. As I guessed, the novel is about the glorification of sentiment and wild nature, which ran contrary to the cultivated gardens and rational restraint of neoclassicism. This seems to me, along with Goethe’s Werther, to be the iconic wellspring of what became the mentality of the Romantic Period. But of course I’m oversimplifying what really happened. No great work of literature exists in a vacuum. It would be convenient to lump an entire movement in one place, slap it between the covers of a book and call it a bible. And to take one or two authors and make them an institution. For reasons like these I make a superhero out of Jean Jacques Rousseau, calling him the grandfather of Romanticism. Then again, what if he was? Can a public figure of great eloquence and influence singlehandedly alter the course of history? The intellectual mainstream? Is it tempting to believe so? Or maybe historians are even now going back and rewriting what happened in the 18th and 19th Centuries. What was once very simple becomes more complex, as the books that were foregrounded fall back to an equal footing with their contemporaries. The old canon dissolves and it’s dubious whether we can even say that there was a period called Romanticism.
Ten o’clock. It was April when I started my first recovery, in 2003. Some of my memories of the time are positive. I was 36 years old, so I felt a lot younger and more resilient. On Labor Day of that year, I loaded my 83 Fender P Bass in the back of my truck and headed out to meet JP and Dave for the first time. It was a beautiful afternoon. We hit it off pretty well right away. Dave played guitar and JP was on drums while I plugged in my bass and did my best. I still have the cassette tapes of our jams. They were quite good, actually. JP kept my want ad from a few months before and called me out of the blue. I don’t know that it was an act of God or anything like that, but it worked out well for a while. Looking back, I can see how my paranoia was a problem. I would have benefited from cognitive therapy at the time. As it was, my sensations were very raw and in the prime of youth. A good feeling was a good feeling, period. I felt before I thought. I trusted intuition, like any Romantic. And really, there were many of us Jungians running around town in 2003. What was wrong with that? I lived that way for the whole decade. Everything felt so much fresher that way. Colors were more vivid and vital, and I could really smell the seasons year by year. Smell the sunshine, smell the rain. It makes me want to throw off the yoke of cognitive therapy and regress to the way I used to know. If only it could be so. This afternoon I’m going to play my new Fender bass and listen for echoes of how it used to be— tomorrow…
Noon hour. I like the idea of freedom. It’s hard to do anything without this belief. And contrary to what people say, we’re always free anyway. Free to run a red light. Free to steal a loaf of bread. And free to pick up my bass guitar and rock this town… from the comfort of my own home. What is everybody doing today? An airliner is flying overhead, surprisingly.
One forty. I jammed on my white bass and the cops did not shut me down. I almost wish they would have. It would’ve been acknowledging that I’d made a sound… Still no message from Suzanne, so I hope she’s okay. If my brain weren’t so scattered, I’d pick a great novel and read it. But my attention wanders after a few chapters. I’ve never read anything by Victor Hugo, one of the giants of French Romanticism.
Three ten. I found my copy of Les Miserables, and my sense of freedom and justice bids me to start reading it. We’ll see how far I progress. It’s over 1400 pages, but there will probably be time to finish it. I’m thinking that the book will fortify my courage for the unforeseeable days ahead. Human behavior is rather experimental currently. Take it day by day and expect the unexpected.
I had a terrible dream sequence of persecution by my parents for something sexual. They were bent on kicking me out of their house. Then I woke up and remembered they are dead. I got up and took my medication and let Aesop outside. He saw the possum again and tore off after it… Percy Shelley believed in what he called sympathy, or what we might call human community. It wasn’t enough for people to enjoy life singly, but rather we should do it together. This is kind of what I’m thinking now during the pandemic. We need to find a way to communicate in spite of the situation. There’s no sense in shivering in fear and dread. Which is the worse fate, to die of the virus, or to die spiritually as the human race?