Blake under Pressure

Two twenty five. I ordered a new copy of Blake’s poetry, thinking I could give it to Pastor as a belated Christmas present. To me, Blake is the epitome of English Romanticism, and to know his poetry is to understand what drove progressive rock such as Yes— especially Yes.

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon Englands mountains green:

And was the holy Lamb of God,

On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:

Bring me my arrows of desire:

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem,

In Englands green & pleasant Land.

The edition by Erdman is still the definitive one. I’m not sure what more I can say. My faith is clouded by doubt of the efficacy of the imagination, our creative potential. There’s no doubt that Blake believed in the powers of the mind to create a meaningful reality, what he called the Poetic Genius. But I’m struggling to maintain such optimism. Rather than creative, I grow more analytical, no matter how I try to resist the change. Still I admire those who can keep that optimism going. Time will be the test of what is true. Perhaps the dreamers of big dreams will win the day? 

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… 

Il Pleuve

Eleven ten. Outside, it rains, and I just woke up from a nap. Suspense over the election gives me wild dreams. Life can be quite unfair to people, and the only way out of caring is by drunkenness or by Buddhism. To take things with equanimity is foreign to my nature, but then I have to remind myself of what I have no control over, like the weather and like politics. 

A song from the era of big bands presents itself: “Rhythm of the Rain,” but does the rainfall really have a pattern to it? It’s the same as listening to wind chimes in the outdoor breeze, or in Romantic times, a wind lyre. Only a bit more sophisticated is the I Ching, the ancient Chinese Book of Changes. You flip a coin and consult the corresponding hexagrams for your fortune. I once imagined setting the book open on a tree stump outside and letting the wind rustle the pages, thereby deciding the wisdom of nature. Is this randomness or is it intelligence? A passage from a Merlin novel by Mary Stewart has it that he, on horseback, lets the horse pick their path through a wood. I suppose this passivity is a variety of wisdom, as is the rhythm of the rain. Letting go and letting a nameless Something take control. Like the wind. Like the rain. And the pages of the Book of Changes. 

Child Is the Father

One fifty in the morning.

I had a round of bad dreams about my dad. Essentially I saw him as a sadist, one who derives pleasure from the suffering of other creatures, and as such, a terrible man. Expiation is the word Hugo uses for atonement, or rather his translator uses it. I feel as though my parents need such a thing, so maybe that’s my duty while I’m still alive. Or maybe it’s better to let them fade into obscurity. Better to help the living than the dead. But my dreams don’t let me forget them. When I was a toddler I had a lucid dream of my parents being judged by a wise old man who could be none other than Jesus. He shone as a star in the night sky, then he descended from heaven to persecute my mother and father. I ran into the house to try to warn them of their danger, pursued by the white bearded wizard. It’s so strange as a child to be alone with a dream. How do you explain it to someone when you lack the vocabulary to do so? And then, who listens to a three year old? 

Moonless

Upon a moonless night

In the streets of the old Paris

Pursued by Javert and three thugs

I must save little Cosette

Escape to the left cut off

We come to the convent wall

From a streetlight yet unlit

I take a length of rope

She asks what the trouble is

I tell her in a whisper,

“It’s the Thenardiess”

Because this she will understand

With a convict’s skill

I scale the face of the wall

And gaining the top

Haul the little girl up by the rope

Javert and his thugs baffled

We alight on the other side

In a forbidden garden

Where we are awed

By mysterious music. 

Carefree Tuesday

Ten twenty five.

My oak tree is about three quarters red now. I stopped to take a look at it a while ago. It’s nice not to be paranoid anymore because it used to damage relationships. Everyone at the store seemed glad to see me this morning. Cathy and Suk were unpacking a shipment of food items. In my head, the same concerto by Vivaldi runs exquisitely, poignantly. Wouldn’t it be cool if someday I had recall of my childhood again? Maybe, as in the case with Wordsworth, it would suggest preexistence, something like reincarnation. I sort of remember the celestial light he describes. It is like the memories of another person, trying to access the inner toddler. Montaigne wrote that perhaps wisdom lies with babes… I searched for that quote using Google and struck out, and I have no clue where I ran across it the first time. But Google doesn’t know everything. Then I dug around for my copies of Montaigne and Bacon and scored both. In school I was assigned to read these books in their entirety, but I’m sure I didn’t. We studied many belles lettres in Renaissance Thought, each one replete with pedagogic pearls. I’m half of a mind to flip through Montaigne’s essays, or maybe I’m only of half a mind.

Noon hour. The sun is out, the sky partly cloudy. Lately I’ve observed an incline in the avian life fluttering around outside. The sparrows have returned, and yesterday I saw two large hawks soaring low over the treetops and keening. Right now there’s a squirrel on my back patio. I keep reminding myself that I’m under no pressure today, and yet I feel a certain sense of duty. It may sink in that I’m free to relax and just breathe easily this afternoon. The Snapple tea is good. 

A to B…

One twenty five. I opened up The Magic Mountain and found approximately where I had left off. It may be more intellectual than I care to bother with. Yet I might learn something from it too. By a coincidence, the chapter I flipped to was set in October, or maybe subconsciously I remembered the fact and saw a relevance to life today… Roger has his garage door open while he tinkers with a little project. He’s been retired from the police force for many years and seems to struggle for activities. What do you do when you’ve been put out to pasture? The airplane he put together from a kit he flew a number of times and then sold. We don’t talk very much… I wasn’t very well over the summertime; rather crazy from the heat and non compos mentis. The fall season is a relief and a rejuvenation. Thankfully I have some money to work with. There’s a bit of a wind in the trees. In my head I keep hearing The Firebird ballet. I feel almost like going out someplace, but I have no destination. It’s Sunday and there’s nothing to do.

Two forty. The wind has picked up, invisible unmoved mover. You see and hear the shifting leaves, yet the primum mobile is imperceptible. It has no shape, color, or size and occupies no space. It is the engine of history, intangible spirit. Ezra Pound personifies history with the goddess Aphrodite, to suggest that desire makes events go. Love (not money) causes the world to go round. I chafe against the chains of an antipsychotic drug to produce beauty. An uphill battle with a molecule that cuts away the necessary angel— imagination. Which is worse, the illness or the treatment? Scylla and Charybdis, sea monster and the rocky maelstrom. Take my chances with the plesiosaur. Behind all outward show, the fourth dimension of Forms, a-causal catalysts: cookie cutters. The landscape is but a metaphorical face. To slash the screen and behold the other side of the known: and bring a moon rock back to humankind. Treasure behind the skirts of the witch, and traveling home rich to father. Unguessed wealth buried deep in the soul…

Quarter of four. And back again. 

Generations of Music

Two o’clock. I could indulge in a bass guitar practice, but my wiser self doesn’t see the point in entertainment anymore. The aesthetic things I used to love have lost their charm. Religion is just another plaything for my intellect. The only truth is scientific, and this is serious work. I lack the mathematical ability to be a good scientist, yet there must be something I can do to promote the discipline… Something is happening to me. I feel much different, and my attitudes are changing. If science is the truth, then I should act accordingly and do something to help scientists.

Five o’clock. I did end up playing my white Fender for around a half hour, and glad I did, because the sound was quite inspiring. Such a wonder sometimes to plug in, touch the strings, and be unaware that it’s me making the sounds; to ponder where the music is coming from, where within my soul. My grandmother was a consummate pianist, left handed, hence heavy on the bass clef. Her father sang contrabass with the Gleemen. So that now, the instrument in my hands could virtually melt away and what you hear would be the sound of Moore family genetics; indeed, the voice of my great grandfather bellowing down three generations, breathing music to my hands on the big four string electric bass, myself just a vessel. All I have to do is let go and be in the zone to give articulation to history that stretches back indefinitely…

Six o’clock. My portable air conditioner just arrived after two months of waiting. I won’t need it until next May, probably. At least I got what I paid for. 

What the Rain Said

The promised rain arrived tonight at last:
Rejoice and sing the rhythm of the rainfall,
Assuring us that everything’s all right,
Our trespasses forgiven as Nature sweet
Bathes all of us alike in equal grace.


If Nature of the godhead is the mask,
Then praise the Power invisible and true,
Sublime Supreme ineffable in prose,
Grand subject for the poet in the abstract.


The rain intensifies; the voice of God
Outside in blackest night is manifest
In simple feeling, nothing intricate
As logic splitting hairs, a blind man’s bluff.


And when the daylight dawns, I’ll go outside
And dust off my umbrella on the porch
Forgotten through the drought of longest summer
Now pierced, and pick my path into the day.


And as I walk, umbrella in my hand,
The drops of rain will beat a little cadence
Resolving in a mantra that will say
To always cultivate your intuition:
Imagination is the only way. 

Paradigms

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.