Notes on Canvas

Eight thirty.

It’s very foggy out there; the treetops are lost in the mist. It helped me yesterday to play my bass guitar in the afternoon. This took my mind off of other worries, like being in musical limbo for a while. Music does give a reprieve from everyday life, as Schopenhauer observed in his philosophy long ago. I don’t play as well as I used to; it often sounds like a person with schizophrenia tossing notes out there, paint thrown on a canvas. Random and dissonant but still cathartic for me. The amplifier I bought almost a year ago for $300 sounds like, well, $300. You get what you pay for. When I was in a band last summer I couldn’t understand why the other guys didn’t invest more in their music gear. It was their code of ethics as working class people not to show off with their instruments. I broke this rule with them several times; not showing off, but just trying to be professional. Anyway, the new amp isn’t so great, and I could’ve saved my money for something else.

Quarter after nine. Everything passes, and nothing is ever permanent. I’ve heard good things about Ursula Le Guin but I don’t know which novel to start with. Doubtless her feminist perspective will be different from the male authors I’m used to, even from the Christian tradition and everything plunked down by men over the ages. I don’t remember when I read The Farthest Shore; if it was last spring or the year before. I thought it was good, the way it treated death as a natural part of life, and the greed for more than this was a kind of evil. She was an Oregonian, living in Portland, I think. 


Raising Consciousness: a Letter

Also this afternoon I started reading the Theodore Sturgeon novel. It begins right away with content about insanity and terrible violence, so I don’t know if I’ll read further. It upset me because of its ignorance of mental illness and autism. To Sturgeon, psychopathology is just a blanket field for insanity and idiocy. The story was written in the fifties, when I suppose very little was known about mental health problems, especially among the general public. It was people like him who were guilty of spreading misinformation about “insane” people, and who made it something to be afraid of. My mind went from there to thinking about my brother, who still believes everything he sees on television, having grown up during the tv generation. Frankly I can’t stand people who believe television before they accept reality that is right in front of their noses. My brother’s attitude totally sucks, but no amount of talking to him can change his mind. For him, Alfred Hitchcock is reality, and he’s scared to death of mental illness; which means he’s also afraid of me.

I believe that people should unplug not only their tv but also avoid the movies, or at least watch them with a discriminating eye. Trust experience of immediate reality rather than a lying media.

So that was my little stint with “light reading” today. And the rest of the day I spent mostly napping.

I do think that consciousness is slowly being raised for the phenomenon of mental illness, but the progress is painful and laborious because of the myths we have to bust. Our worst enemy, as in everything, is fear of the unknown. People generally fear what they don’t understand, and misunderstand what they fear.

Decisions & Dreams

Noon hour.

I wish I felt better than I do today. I’ve been reading a sci-fi short novel by Pohl and Kornbluth, full of wild action and adventure. It gives me interesting dreams at night sometimes of being kidnapped or shanghaied and left for dead by some enemies. Maybe I can finish it today or tomorrow. The novel is part of a set of volumes I bought last September for my sobriety birthday. The next birthday is just next month: four years clean and sober. I think I’m anticipating it… Mike is bringing my stuff back at one o’clock, and then the business is pretty much finished.

Four twenty five. I did a lot of reading in The Space Merchants. When I put the book down, it suddenly hit me: I quit the band! That’s a huge move for me, not without regrets. But then I remember that last practice that was such a disaster because of substance abuse. It wasn’t my fault; they sabotaged themselves and wasted my time a week ago.

Quarter of ten.

I slept or slumbered about four hours. It was an interesting kind of day today, and Sunday night is usually rather dead. One of the most memorable books I ever read was Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny when I was fifteen and a high school sophomore. My parents didn’t care what I read, and besides, I was old enough to choose my own reading material. It was weird how out of touch with reality my parents were; just thoughtlessly marking time with whiskey and cigarettes and apathetic about everything. I guess they weren’t very smart; but I can say one thing good for them. They bought this house and paid it off before dying so I wouldn’t have to worry about having shelter. And so I could go on dreaming little dreams and big dreams of faraway places and things like the perfect realm of Amber in the Zelazny book. And who’s to say who is out of touch with reality? We all need a good escape now and then: a dream to implement, which is the meaning of Blake’s Poetic Genius. Whatever proceeds from this is right. It builds Jerusalem on England’s green and pleasant land. It takes you on the long road trip with Corwin and Random to the forest where Julian hunts you down on the way to the palace of Amber. The perfect realm is a place inside your head.