Jarring

Quarter after nine.

It’s very cold out this morning, but the trip around the corner is short; maybe a quarter of a mile or less. I went outside without much self consciousness, sort of in a state of nature. I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. What happens on January 20? Seems like it should be something special for some reason. No doubt it’s someone’s birthday somewhere in the world… I felt rather happy when I got up, fed the dog, and walked to the market, but began to feel more serious when I sat down to think. In fact, nobody seems very happy with life right now, as if nothing was worth writing about or commenting on. It’s a situation like the ennui in Baudelaire. People just do their perfunctory work and don’t get excited for anything: there’s no romance in our experience; no passion and no love. In this sense, everybody is dead, and the anesthetic snow falls generally on the world. We seem to turn inward and ignore others, and pass up opportunities for good things to happen. All around me the world has gotten ugly with selfishness and apathy for anything other than making money to survive. Every individual is so isolated, looking at life with tunnel vision, blind to the potential for beauty and joy. It takes two people to turn it around before everyone is dancing in the streets. But first there must be music that everyone hears and agrees on. As it is, the tunes are all discrepant and jar with each other. The result is mayhem; and who said anything about beauty in the dissonance? 

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Go Tell It

Eight fifty.

Before I even got to the parking lot I could see that Lisa’s car was absent. When I went inside the store, Doug was behind the counter and the ambiance was kind of quiet and somber. I asked him about her and he said he didn’t know; he just got the call to come in this morning. The streets were treacherous with icy spots. Mentally, I feel myself deteriorating, unless it’s just my imagination. My mailbox contained some good news about my future income. Tomorrow I’ll have Gloria’s company: we planned to have breakfast at Carl’s Jr., and then I’d like to go to Bi Mart. Nothing very exciting. Today is one of those gray days, not much color or feeling, and a bag of mixed blessings. I hope Lisa is all right.

Eleven o’clock.

Her absence today started my day off wrong. If there was something I wanted to buy this afternoon, I’d go back and hope to see Kathy or Deb. It’s the story of my lonely life. I really couldn’t accept what Pastor was saying about the insignificance of personal happiness, and prioritizing the rights of society. It’s just backwards from what I learned in school. I feel that it is life denying rather than affirmative. It also gives him power over his flock because he’s the voice of society, the authority they have to obey. Now, I flex my mental muscle while I still can. Someday we might not be able to anymore. The Enlightenment is also called The Age of Criticism, which is far from our culture or what I’ve experienced of it. People don’t judge for themselves and aren’t encouraged to do so: they tend to parrot the things they hear without question. And philosophy now is just the memory of a dream I had long ago. What would I say if I could climb a high mountain with a megaphone? 

Aliens

Who is my neighbor?

It sounds like a cliché, but I ask anyway, where’s the love? My neighbors around here ignore my presence as insignificantly as if I were a crow or squirrel; something beneath contempt. Two or three times I have stood in my driveway, in plain sight of everybody, when Victoria came out for her afternoon jog and very deliberately avoided looking at me or saying anything to me. I just get the idea that I’m in the wrong place. But I might get the same treatment everywhere I go. I don’t know; is it just me or does everyone feel so invisible with other people? What on earth is wrong with everybody? 

What’s Toxic?

Sometimes it feels like life is nothing achieving. I mean, life in our society today. I read an article on NPR about the problems men are having, according to this guy and his book. Though I agree with it, he is such a minority voice, really on the margin of culture as it is right now. Oh well. But still it leaves me feeling frustrated for being a guy and having very little to say about it. I think it really sucks. It raises the question of how free are individuals in society. It seems to me again like my life has gotten out of my control. Above all I feel emasculated.

The author of this book observed about people in psychology fields. In the Eighties, 40 percent of psychologists were male, whereas now it’s one in ten. He said that often men need a male therapist, but the field is dominated by female therapists. From my own experience, I know I miss my psychiatrist and kind of regret that I left him.

I even forget that I’m a guy sometimes.

I wonder where it’s all coming from, this demonization of masculinity. I have some ideas on this, but probably they’re not very pc or acceptable by most people.

How can it be a white overcast and be so dark outside? It hasn’t been raining today, though the sky is a solid sheet of cloud. I haven’t done much all day. I restrung my new bass but unfortunately the strings expose the limitations of the instrument. Maybe I’m just having a bad day.

Frustrated

If I can’t change the world…

I’ve been very tempted to drink because my life feels like a no win situation, and I would get wasted to blot it out. I can’t change society by myself, and alcoholism is suicide, so the only alternative is to escape with my memories and my books.

All I can say about how our culture is messed up is that it’s no place for men and masculinity. And in case you didn’t notice, I happen to be a guy.

So I won’t drink. Instead, I’ll maintain faith in the power of the written word and hope for the best. 

Cherish

Nine twenty.

Another day, another worry. I used to listen to music to soothe myself but now I don’t know what happened to that. It’s been forever since I heard piano music by Erik Satie, just to sit and listen by myself. Some of the best things in life are going by the wayside, though I don’t know who or what is responsible unless it’s only me. However, something good came my way at the store, kind of. She was tall and quite pretty, and I let her in ahead of me at checkout. I don’t see much of that anymore. These are such unromantic times when nobody gives a damn for what’s really important. We clutch our wallets and say it’s all about me; but you can’t marry your money and you can’t take it with you past the grave. I stopped with Karen at her salon: she’s fussing over a valuable ring she had modified by a jeweler’s but they ruined it. Now she’s seen her lawyer and is taking her case to the top of the management, demanding that they fix the ring properly. I think it’s a sign of what people care about these days. We cherish dead matter instead of live human beings, and it’s all for ourselves… For some reason I keep writing on morality, but I’ll just go with it. It’s a dirty job that somebody has to do, so why not me? 

Equity

Nine fifty PM.

I just got done watching the official video for “Pride” by U2. I guess there’s something to be said for icons after all, but I feel that there must be a reason for my de emphasis on pomp and grandeur. Now I think of the former president with a shudder of dread for his egomania, but it’s really a symptom of an American disease. We always want things larger than life to feel entertained and satisfied. But why aren’t we happy with the little things? The media amplifies everything out of proportion without a thought to its impact on the public. We need to be more responsible for what we say.

My dog Aesop is so intelligent that his feelings can be hurt if I say the wrong thing. I told him that he was overweight yesterday, and today he pouted for most of the day and refused the carrot sticks I offered him as snacks. He’s self conscious about his weight! It makes me wonder about his interior monologues: what does he think in his canine tongue? Sometimes I wish I was Dr Doolittle so we could understand each other. Or, like Sigurd in Viking mythology, I could drink the dragon’s blood and be given comprehension of animal speech.

Every living creature deserves to be heard.

The Homeless for Mayor

Noon hour.

I’m sitting down by the fountain in Fifth Street Public Market. I’m alone, but it’s still nice and the weather is clear and sunny. Actually, there are other people around, shopping and just hanging out. I mind my own business just watching people and chilling out (quite literally; it’s rather chilly outside). I feel comfortable enough. At Smith Family I bought an old copy of Kierkegaard in hardcover for $20. The truth is that anything is better than staying home, being housebound all day. Some philosophers cloistered themselves in an attic and never saw anybody. Not that I’m a real philosopher. A wise person ought to be experienced in social stuff, and that’s not really me… It’s beginning to get too cold in this spot, so I’ll get up and wander around a little more. Life is very strange and alienating for a few people.

Quarter of two. Home again. On the ride back, we stopped at the big hospital to drop off two passengers. This meant a detour to Springfield before I could go home, but for $7 you can’t ask much more. What really struck me on my outing was how cold and impersonal most people were. At the bookstore, the women clerks were nicer than the guys, one of whom was almost rude to me. I browsed the shelves of the “modern classics” when a woman came in, boasting that she would be Mayor in a short time, and asked the manager for a donation. She also said she’d been homeless recently. And you know, that’s just how it is. Everybody’s invisible and fighting to be seen and heard; just to be acknowledged by others as human and alive and worthy of love. All of this goes on in broad daylight on a sunny day in Eugene Oregon. The sun, 93 million miles away from us, is friendlier than people are to each other. This is what I’ve seen. 

Country Mouse

Noon hour.

My therapist is concerned that I’ve been too withdrawn lately, so I think I’ll plan another trip to the bookstore, although I wouldn’t know what I was doing there. I could go to Smith Family for the sake of nostalgia, to remember my dad when we liked to knock about town in the mid nineties. I could go to Tsunami on Willamette to visit with Scott, if he even remembers me now. I used to sell him my books when I didn’t have any money. In those days I was more mobile than today, having my own vehicle and a different situation in life. It makes me feel nervous to consider going there because I’m a Highlander and Tsunami is in the rich south part of town where my psychiatrist still has his practice. I’m completely out of the habit of visiting the south hills of Eugene; it’s an intimidating prospect to me, plus it might trigger me to drink beer. The difference is like the Country Mouse and the City Mouse; like a person from Drain Oregon going to New York City and being totally outclassed and mortified by the culture shock. I’d be tempted to stay in North Eugene and embrace the place, even though it’s homely and plain, with values of meat and potatoes: basically, survivalism. But it’s where I live, judge it how you may. If Tsunami is a little too swanky then the happy medium is probably Smith Family on Fifth and Willamette, where Downtown Eugene starts. 

55

Six o’clock in the morning.

It is a morning kind of like yesterday morning, with the difference that today is my birthday. It’s raining out in the jet blackness. I don’t remember when my appointment with Rebecca is, but it’s supposed to be this morning. It interests me how individual behavior gets channeled according with social pressures, even if you are self aware. You can only fight the trends for so long, then you surrender and say okay, whatever. Or perhaps I’m wrong about that. If the world told me that I couldn’t write human interest stuff anymore, then I would probably rebel. We seem to be getting farther away from humanity and closer to money and machinery: anything quantitative over qualitative, and I feel there’s something unnatural about that. Is it an American thing? Now more than ever we need to be humanized and made to feel like unique individuals. I hate to see the demise of philosophy and everything that makes life worth living, because when there’s nothing to live for, existence has no meaning, and the universe might as well vanish away.

I was just looking at the A— News headlines, and trashed the email before I could get halfway through it. Funny, a song by Ralphe Armstrong of Mahavishnu Orchestra comes to mind: “Planetary Citizen.” And I’m thinking that there are multiple ways a person can be a member of society. Sometimes it’s a fight to carve yourself a niche, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Which reminds me of the poem “Root Cellar” by Theodore Roethke, where life is shown to be irrepressible (“Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath”).