I lowered the boom on my band mates regarding alcohol and weed use in an email just now. It may be a while before they get the message. Aesop didn’t sleep last night, and I had trouble sleeping too… It is still very early in the day. In my blank book I wrote something about D.H. Lawrence again, and the polarization of the sacred and the profane since the Victorian Age. During Shakespeare’s time, there wasn’t such a big divide between Church and State, or between religious and simply human. It’s unfortunate how this split occurred. Ideally, life should be more like Shakespeare.
Nine o’clock. I would say that the weather is beautiful, but it’s so redundantly sunny with hardly a cloud in sight this summer. I bought Aesop some original Milk-bones today. My sister told me some bad news yesterday about her family: her middle son has caught the coronavirus and is very sick. I see a lot of catastrophes happening around me since the weekend. And through it all, the sun keeps smiling indifferently every day. Last night my mind wandered into religious territory and I thought the predictions of Revelation were coming true; that this is the Great Tribulation. Things are falling apart at a rapider rate all the time. It really makes you wonder if behind the veil of the natural world there’s a spiritual dimension. Or maybe I’m merely deluded. Sometimes I have to stop and mutter to myself, “This is reality.” My experience is so surreal that I doubt my senses. Perhaps everything could tumble down like four walls and leave me faced with divine wrath. How can you tell the difference between reality and dream? “If we share this nightmare / We can dream Spiritus Mundi.”
Well I gave my French book of Mallarme a cursory flap and found much of it unreadable, like pure nonsense, the drivel of a lunatic: psychobabble in a word. This discovery is a sign that I’m recovering from the illness more and more with time. I ought to be much more coherent now than last winter, not to mention years ago as a churchgoer. I may wish there were an Ideal dimension to the universe, but unveiling it is beyond all method… It is emotional reasoning to posit the spiritual universe; saying I feel it, therefore it must be true, but after this comes the burden of proof. It’s a difficult call to make. Is it right to categorically reject everything arrived at by intuition? And here I’ve opened up the same old can of worms as last winter. If my intuition is blind, it doesn’t make everyone else blind. I remember gifting Pastor that volume of William Blake six months ago, thinking of a particular passage in the Europe prophecy. Isaac Newton blows the last trumpet of doom, after which the angels fall from heaven and crash to the earth. In other words, scientific discovery knocks religion down. It is neither a good or bad situation; it simply is. Or maybe Blake thinks the blow to religion is regrettable… By the way, Blake is another one of those unintelligible poets, like James Joyce toward the end. Word salad. Psychosis… I don’t even know by what means I’ve been thinking since the end of springtime. Things either make sense to me or they don’t. Spirituality still is very hard for me to swallow.
Quarter after nine. However, there’s an image Mallarme uses more than once in his published poetry: something like a “snowfall of perfumed stars.” It makes me want to translate the poem myself to English. And perhaps in doing so, thereby lose my identity in his, or leave the poem extant without an author. Only the words and the reader remain, in a condition of dubious being.
Quarter of noon.
The sun has come out, and the sky is half full of puffy white clouds. I’m trying to eliminate the layers of negative thoughts in my mind to promote confidence and happiness. Aesop is upset because he heard another dog barking outside. There are some other little noises around the neighborhood. I think Lenore is doing gardening next door, or just something in her backyard. I could criticize myself as a very disorganized person, lazy, hedonistic, and so on, but what’s the point in being depressed? Applying moral labels to experience doesn’t help me. I used to be good at defusing the bomb of guilt and just accepting myself as I am. Eventually things do get done, but for me they happen slowly. Now I will go down the hallway to play the bass for a bit while the sunshine increases, brightening the day.
Quarter after one. So I did that, while my mind speculated on the inner spiritual life as opposed to external nature. I found that I couldn’t rule out introverted experience. The sunlight comes and goes indifferently to the invisible world within, which is permanent. I feel the way maybe Goethe would, yet I still can’t write about it with conviction today. There’s too much pressure from the majority of people to believe in spooks, so of course I fight what is popular and trendy. Should I really take the spirit world literally? It has at least subsistence in the medium of language, but actual existence would be difficult to show. Feelings are one thing, and facts are another.
Some weird things happened to me after I worked at the agency, however. In September of 2009, my brother and I were watching college football together and drinking beer. The sports commentator said the Arizona State quarterback hadn’t thrown an interception all day. I told my brother that he was jinxing him. About three plays later he threw an interception. Jeff nodded credulously and said, “Jinx.”
Three thirty in the morning.
Occasionally I am haunted by what happened early in my recovery, when my mental health was quite poor. I’d be awake 24 hours a day, and during December 2017 I read a raunchy little novel by Dawn Powell titled Dance Night. Those memories are miserable, yet sometimes they are necessary to my continued sobriety. I guess the worst part of it was desertion by my family, although at first I had my brother’s support. You always lose someone by the personal choices you make— and gain a few others. In this sense, every one of us ultimately lives their life alone with their freedom and responsibility. A grim thought, but probably the truth. I keep intending to read my Nietzsche or something else existential— even Dostoevsky would be interesting. On the other hand, I do pretty well at just winging the philosophy.
Every decision I make cuts away something, but also certain people in my life. I could be putting myself in danger with the rock band because of the A&D factor; additionally with their ideology of rock and roll rebellion. I don’t know what I’m getting into. Supposedly music expresses no opinion, and yet it’s a language of its own, saying something spiritual that may be either good or perhaps not so good. The virtue of the music is only observable by its effects on the hearers for better or worse. All the time I feel myself slipping away from the church the more involved I get with the band. In a world unseen, there’s a struggle of light and darkness for supremacy, and the choice again is up to me. To begin with, it’s good to be aware of the situation. From there, I can make an informed decision.
Three forty in the morning.
I have insomnia tonight from the Snapple teas I drank. But they also gave me the motivation to do some housework. The new reading glasses arrived in yesterday’s mail. I suppose they’re functional enough. Meanwhile the old ones broke. Blogging is not very rewarding right now in terms of getting likes from followers, but it doesn’t mean they’re not reading every post. Obtaining likes can become an addiction for some people. So, I will just keep posting stuff for my own benefit…
It sucks to be up in the middle of the night, when no one else is awake and it’s dark outside. I know a few people who operate on the assumption that “money makes the world go round.” Their worldview is strictly materialistic, and they see nothing wrong with this. The only power they know of is the dollar sign. Something called to my mind the spiritualism of 19th Century novelists like Dostoevsky, and their mental battle against materialism rising in their culture. How important is it for people to acknowledge some kind of spiritual life? How blind are the ones who don’t? “Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy.” Sometimes the wonder goes completely out of my life, and then I know there’s trouble. Karamazov is a brilliant book, so I think I’ll go back and revisit the opening sections. Or, I can keep struggling with Victor Hugo… Another thought is that the university I went to was really geared towards materialism, with some exceptions. This was the indoctrination I received. But you can always get another indoctrination.
Quarter of nine. I lay down in bed with Aesop for a few hours and fell unconscious, hearing a church hymn in my head. I wonder how the food pantry went this morning? I missed seeing Sue and Catherine. But I think doing the worship was more important this time. It’s interesting how participating in church is more or less symbolic of participating in society, in the world here and now. So maybe the spirit of God really is the world Holy Ghost or whatever name you want to give it. As long as it is in the present, and observed together, the name doesn’t matter much. People feel it and express it and call it God, and for convenience that makes sense. What do I know? I’m just another meat puppet, an incarnate soul on a journey with everyone else. Emerson refers to a Power in one of his poems, a universal spirit, which is the same thing as the God that people worship today. Even when unfelt, God is not unseen by his effects. The spirit comes out particularly in the songs we sing, but also in everything that has movement and life. God is observable in human togetherness…
Quarter of eight.
I’m not sure if the social distancing was a mandate or a suggestion, but people are taking it to heart. They avoid each other even on the internet, which is too extreme. My email friend hasn’t written me yet this morning. My feeling is frustration, with some irritation. Now I imagine how my parents might have responded to this eschatological situation. My mom would be a bundle of jangling nerves. But my dad would be a pillar of stability for the rest of us… It’s more cloudy than sunny today. Aesop wanted to get up, though he’s only lolling on the floor right now. I don’t remember what dreams I had last night. I’m thinking I was right to end the sessions with Sheryl, who might’ve been clueless on sexual stuff. She was merely a social worker, not a high power psychologist… I hear the sounds of traffic on the highway outside. I keep thinking of my brother. It’s like an obsession. He won’t stop popping into my mind. Still I refuse to call him as long as he drinks. It’s possible that he can’t help being a hopeless alcoholic. And the rationalization defense with him is impenetrable. He hasn’t yet seen the light. It hasn’t dawned on him how everything can be different and better. For me, there was a lucid moment when I said that everything was different now. Perhaps Jeff still has a reason for drinking. Until he has no reasons to drink, he will continue to do it. I just wish he could figure it out and be happy with his life.
Nine o’clock. The sun is coming through a bit to the accompaniment of a song in my head by Larry Tuttle. He is a Stick player from Van Nuys, California. His compositions are so fresh and often cheerful. The moods come out without the taint of addiction to substances. The music sounds and feels light and very healthy. I need to find my copy of Through the Gates. It’ll make me think of Mom, but in a good way. I heard a lot of great music before she passed away, and even made some nice recordings of my own. Maybe today I’ll pick up my Stratocaster and play it in the spirit of good times. I’d love to believe that Mom could hear it from beyond the grave, in the spirit world. But where she is, the music is so much better than what I can offer. So that her presence would benefit me more than the reverse…
Maybe I’ll stop by Karen’s today. I thought about it yesterday, then walked on by. I peeked in the window and saw her at her desk, doing business. I reflected that she doesn’t charge enough for her services. A men’s haircut is only twelve dollars from her. I won’t know how Darlene is doing until I ask Karen. Fridays are different now without going to the salon in the morning… I notice how slow I am to get anything done. I have the motivation of a tortoise, and that’s why I don’t think I can work like other people. Music happens to be easy for me. And no one’s life depends on a gig, unlike brain surgery. The world demands high speed in everything. People want things fast, fast, fast. In my case, the world just has to wait a while… It’s another partly sunny day. Yesterday morning I learned from Victoria that she graduated from the University of Oregon in psychology. She wants to get a Masters degree and be a therapist. I wished her luck… If I were the traveling type, it might be interesting to go to India, from where I have quite a few followers to my blog. There seems to be an affinity of my concerns with theirs, something hard to put my finger on. I think it is some spiritual and human quality. I imagine that going there would help me identify this elusive quality. It could be very important. What seems like nonsense to one part of the world might be coherence to another.
Eight thirty five. It might be ok to sort of relax control and let life happen. Take it slow. Accept things as they are, including myself. Not judge or criticize anything. Go with the flow. I’d kind of like a big two liter of Coca Cola today. Treat myself just for hanging in there.
Ten o’clock. I went to see Karen. Darlene is not doing well. Also, L– has a friend with pneumonia who might not make it. She’s in a funk over it and won’t talk to anybody. I believed I had problems, but it can always be worse. Karen asked me to pray for L– and her friend, and I just nodded. When life is out of control, what can we do to try to make it better? In our powerlessness, we appeal to whatever forces govern events. We tend to think that there is something invisible behind the scenes, like a God and a devil. But what if the visible is all there is? And then I think of my music, which seems to be a radio to the spiritual. Even if it’s merely a human connection, it’s still significant. I lose sight of it often because I’m on Vraylar, yet for most people it still operates… I once sucked a lot of pleasure out of life, but now I question whether that was ok. Emerson condemns sensuality as selfish. He could be right, and my parents’ lifestyle was wrong. I’m in the middle of a change. Hearing Bartok again was a kind of shock. His music is so sensuous, so lush and voluptuous. It’s beautiful, but rather self indulgent, and far from austere. What difference does it make? Perhaps a big one. How do we want to teach our children?
I dreamed I went back in search of four bass guitars I once owned that were my favorites. All but one were black, the other red. I was moving north on River Road, with Grocery Outlet on my left, searching for and recovering lost instruments and lost time. N—— from church was in the dream. It’s interesting how people we underestimate in daily life appear in our dreams, as fresh and vibrant as if holy and heroic. River Road itself appeared green with life and sunshine. The scene at the intersection of that and Silver Lane was nimbused or haloed with spiritual energy, like the circle around the full moon, except more like the sun’s corona. There was a glowing aura about everything, all green and yellow like a sunlit lawn in the summer. And there was I, trying to recollect the pieces of my broken life, when maybe the here and now is good as it stands. So many things gone, yet so much still here and on the horizon. Who was I to ask for more than this perfect light? And who was I period?
Looking forward to playing Sunday, though I’m concerned about the element of alcohol on the premises. I hope no one gets too tipsy. I remember how alcohol used to ruin band rehearsals when I was younger. We made jokes about it. The fact is that alcohol destroys everything you undertake to do. It has a nasty way of usurping the role of what is important, whether the business is music or making glasses for low income individuals. It’s the ultimate sabotage. So yes I am nervous about the drinking during practice. Alcoholism is intimacy with some great reptile you pretend you can control. Unfortunately, music is a profession that people use as an excuse to drink or use drugs. Serious musicians don’t use substances. I can’t imagine Chick Corea getting wasted before a gig live or in the studio…
But I know that people who listen to music want to feel good. The performance of music aims at the pleasure of the audience. It makes me wonder about the role of pleasure in human life. Musicians are the merchants of dreams and beautiful things. Alcohol is part of the dream for many people. I also wonder what I’m getting out of the experience of making music. It’s a talent and a skill to be able to play, and that’s all I know. What is the cultural role of music? Is it about more than feeling good? Can it also be didactic; can it teach you anything? Perhaps it stimulates more than the heart? One would like to believe that music is a spiritual release, an exercise in being fully human. So that music is on a par with the best poetry. Hopefully it offers something for everyone.