Seven o’clock at night.
My energy level is pretty low right now. I just had a nap in the sunshine from the window. I remembered having delusions of people looking like apes, as with Darwin, when I had my initial episode of the illness. A strange experience. It makes you consider what about humanity gives it its particular distinction. This question goes back as far as human history. Aristotle: man is a rational animal, also a political animal. But by the time you get to Rousseau in the eighteenth century, it is rather the feelings of the heart that define humankind apart from other animals. Somewhere I have a copy of his novel La Nouvelle Heloise. It wasn’t so much raw emotion that Rousseau praised as very fine sentimentality, as I recall from the introduction… But then I consider my dog Aesop, who obviously has intellect as well as feeling. It seems to me that humans are only different from animals in quantities of the same attributes, and not by virtue of some magical essence like logic or sentiment— or a moral thing like altruism or generosity. Yet it seems Loren Eiseley says the opposite of this. To be sure, I should read the whole book and then give my thoughts on it.
Five o’clock in the morning.
I woke up an hour ago and it seemed I was done sleeping for the night. It’s about time again to call my sister on the phone. Still I have this feeling of my privacy being invaded, my heart ripped out of my chest and diced to pieces. It feels cold in the house: suitable for a martyr… Finally I see the sun rising in the colorless east. I hear the calls of a few birds. In ten minutes, Michelle will open the store on another business day and obediently I will go buy some things. “Man is born free and he is everywhere in chains.”
Six thirty five. Of course, since it’s so early, there was no one out on the street. Only two other customers at the market. My pen pal hasn’t written me yet. It’s weird to have a cold day in July, but then I look forward to the fall. Hopefully the music venues will be open and my band can gig. The thought of society weighs heavy on my mind, and not as a desirable thing. I’m not like Pastor Dan, who argues for the rights of the collective whole; for me, it’s the individual that matters. It’s okay with me to be the black sheep of the fold, or better yet, consider me gone. The world seems slow to wake up this morning. If I said I want to go home, would anybody understand my meaning? It’s kind of like looking for Mercy Street in a dream: not there. Seeking high and low for Eldorado. Arcadia, the lost and last remains of the Golden Age. Life after the lapse isn’t much fun, and the freedom I believed I had was an illusion… But life goes on anyway. Maybe the stoic solution is all right for me. Whatever gets you out of bed in the morning. It’s not that people are bad. I just can’t grasp how the monster of civilization got out of human hands, assuming a life of its own.
Seven thirty. The furnace turned on for a minute. Still no word from my correspondent in Texas. And a new thought presents itself to me:
Perhaps the cage is really a cocoon.
To read Rousseau partakes in history
A personal and public insurrection
Gives society a new direction
And everything is better than it was
When sensibility’s allowed to rule
No one is left behind to play the fool
One soul so sensitive began the movement
A boomerang for everyone’s improvement
A long time reason reigned and overbore
The will of nature beauteous and bold
Wild impulse of a passion never told
Revolts against the head till many rolled
The bloody revolution made us pause
How worthy was the insurrection’s cause
Can headless bodies navigate our fate
Or heads without a body guide us straight?
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.
No likes on the strophe about Ron yet. People really don’t like queers. It hits me as so sad, and further I feel so powerless to change public opinion. If one person could do it and that person was me, then hell yes I would. If only my words had such magic power! “What kind of difference can one person make? Cut to the chase…” “If I could wave my magic wand, I’d make everything all right…” “I’m young, I’m wild, and I’m free, I get the magic power of the music from me…” and so on. Just what if one person’s words started a whole new movement, as the writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau grandfathered the Romantic Period before the nineteenth century? What then? Who would be the wiser or the more foolish? “Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts…” “We were just bubbling up from the slime…” “Deep inside the day’s controlling you and me…” I could argue either way, ie change is imposed from the top down or from the bottom up. Perhaps poets are not the unacknowledged legislators of the world? Which way does the wind blow…?