D.H. Luddite

Midnight.

I’m wondering why the music has died. With the rise of the internet and electronic devices, people have become less human and social, which means they don’t make music together anymore. My iPad is so smart that it anticipates everything I’m going to say before I say it. D.H. Lawrence could’ve foreseen a world like ours, with the machines out of control and human beings subordinate to them. He’d be disgusted that we let this happen… Now we depend on the machines and keep using them for our convenience. I think live music is a casualty of the machine dependent age. It brings out the Luddite in me, though The Buggles saw the same thing in 1979 when they made The Age of Plastic.

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

In my mind and in my car

We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far

Short of some cataclysm, it’s impossible to go back. But if I had a Time Machine, you know I’d go backwards like a shot.

I am the backwards traveler

Ancient wool unraveler

Singing songs, wailing on the moon…

We’ll be wailing on the moon 

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Hyperbole

Nine ten.

I got off to a late start today, but so did Gloria, and she’s coming to work at ten. It rained here overnight after a long wait. Colin told me it might thunder and lightning for the football game this afternoon: the Ducks and the Bruins play in Eugene. I have music in my head by Steve Khan, very pretty jazz fusion, like they don’t make anymore. We have all this technology for creating wonderful things but the inspiration isn’t there. We serve the machines rather than the reverse. I read the devotions email from Pastor a while ago and got the sense that he feels isolated with his beliefs on God and religion. Everything is kind of falling apart like the moral paralysis in Joyce’s Dubliners. Maybe it will thunder down on the Duck game today as a sign from the gods that we have alienated ourselves from nature, strayed too far away from the heart of things. We have also subordinated ourselves to a big machine that neither thinks nor feels in anything like human fashion. The thought of the gods recalls Shinto kami and the worship of nature, a thing we don’t understand anymore with our focus on cell phones and devices. I feel bad for Pastor, alone with his Christian God in a time that has forgotten what’s important. And the Steve Khan goes on playing… 

Speech Therapy

Quarter after seven.

Sundown. There’s probably a nice view of the red sunset somewhere, but here it’s blocked off by houses and trees. Two hours ago I saw a huge bird of prey lift off from a tree limb with the wingspan of a vulture, right in my backyard. The blue sky fades to gray in the east behind my head. A moment ago, Aesop saw a cat fight across the street from us. The smaller, lighter colored cat chased off the bigger one while my dog barked in a frenzy. But hardly a person could be seen all day on my street.

Again it’s this insularity I’ve observed among modern humans: people are islands to each other, preferring intimacy with devices to others of flesh and blood. The consequence of this is fragmentation and a loss of communication among people: ultimately, we can’t call ourselves a community when we don’t speak to one another. Occasionally the Old School has good insights to offer to the younger generation. This is one such observation.

Kittyhawk

Quarter of seven.

First I canceled with Gloria this morning and started out for the store, but then I remembered that they don’t open until seven on weekends. So now I’m waiting to make my official trip. A mourning dove hoots emphatically what morons we are. I believe the dove really is the Holy Spirit as it descended upon Jesus when He came of age. But my brain has been baking in the heat for a week, so anything’s possible. Any mirage in the desert looks good.

Everyone is talking about the heat. And my backyard is like an aviary this morning. I don’t put out bird feed, either, yet still they come. Also the squirrels: they hoard acorns from the oak tree. Often I forget that it’s all life, all of the wild species around us, as valid as humans are. The Canada goose flies alone over the neighborhood. Aristotle said that human beings are political animals, but why aren’t animals allowed to vote? Socrates said that the countryside had nothing to teach him of philosophy. Maybe philosophy is overrated.

Eight ten.

Though I’m not watching them, I know I hear a family of house sparrows on my back porch. That old birdhouse is a wreck, yet they keep returning there to lay eggs and raise nestlings. Most of the noise is from the babies clamoring to be fed. It seems late for mating season but everything is kind of messed up. The little prop plane over my head aspires to be a bird, and almost succeeds. Some dreams need revision as they hit the wall of reality.

My dog is hungry.

Progress

Everyone has to make their own mistakes and learn from them, and I doubt if there’s a perfect way through life. All of the warnings from others in the world are wasted breath. And I think that to a great extent individuals live out their genetic blueprint, and this is the basis for the force we know as Fate. Wow, when I consider the tragedies of the Ancient Greeks, so religious with the Chorus and the characters interacting on the stage, having a primitive yet civilized understanding of natural forces completely out of their control: it’s an awesome thing. I guess all traditions in the world have the same natural conditions to reckon with, plus the peculiarities of their region. Like if you lived in Hawaii with an active volcano, a power of nature beyond human comprehension, this thing becomes your god by its very mystery to a primitive intellect. So it makes me appreciate the state of modern science and the wonderful achievements of human reason over the centuries, and what a pitiful sacrifice if we ever lost all that knowledge and wisdom. Perhaps the existence of religion really depends on humble ignorance of how nature works, as you can even read in Job, where God hurls down challenges to the state of Job’s knowledge. But what if Job had possessed that knowledge of nature? What would’ve happened to God?

I think that religion depends on mysteries, the information that people simply don’t know. We invent gods to explain the phenomena we don’t understand, just as the Greeks did before they dispensed with their pantheon and philosophy replaced religion.

Is there anything really so heretical about knowledge and wisdom? I tend to think that God is a boogeyman for the things we can’t explain rationally. Edith Hamilton wrote that mythology is a primitive kind of science: people make up stories to explain what they don’t understand.

This is the kind of stuff I learned in high school, before I started drinking alcohol and going astray. Now I’m thinking that there’s no substitute for knowledge, especially scientific knowledge. And even Mark Twain was a real optimist about technology and progress. Merlin and his magical tower are no match for modern sophistication in A Connecticut Yankee… I should go back and read that book again. The attitudes are very cocky and irreverent and yet very hilarious.

The Road to Our Redeemer

Nine twenty.

Some days my shots miss the target wide by a mile, and yet my misses are part of the overall journey of discovery. I believe the dartboard is movable depending on public opinion, so really it’s of no consequence to me… Owing to loneliness, I had a rather crap day. Is it a case of self pity when you admit how lousy you feel? But I was never a stoic kind of person. Band practice was canceled as I anticipated, so that means I’ll spend the weekend by myself unless I go to church Sunday. I guess I’ll write a check to God and make an appearance with the assembly. It just seems like pounding money down a rathole, because I think I’m basically an atheist— but for the human spirit, the human community. Only in my earliest memories do I feel any connection with the Jungian God, an evocation difficult to reproduce today with all my factual clutter. The connection Wordsworth had with Nature was simplistic; he had to clear his mind totally to feel the presence of the divine from the countryside. So, is it really possible to commune with a God in a cityscape of harsh angles, ugly power and telephone lines crisscrossing the sky, whizzing motorcars sending up pollution to the moon, and amid the loud hum of everything electrical? I think it was Thoreau in Walden who wrote a grotesque description of the railroad with the black beastly locomotive intruding on the natural scene. And some people argue that nature and artifice are a false dichotomy! I wonder how they can maintain that point of view after reading a book like Walden?… And so I’ll go to church on Sunday, walking the backstreets to unromantic Maxwell Road, where I might find the graffiti of the prophets written on the sidewalk. 

Changes

Eleven o’clock.

It’s hard to admit that I’m getting older. The root beer from yesterday disagreed with my gut, so I guess I can’t tolerate soda anymore. My brain can think one thing, while my body has quite a different opinion of what’s healthy… My drinking days are definitely over, even though I still remember when getting tipsy felt great. And that’s why I keep reminiscing on my old friends, long since gone away… I really love my Kiloton bass, and I rue the death of rock and roll. It would be such a devastating loss if people couldn’t enjoy live music anymore… Any minute now I’m going to pick up Henry James and spend some quiet time reading.

Two o’clock in the morning.

I think reading James will make anyone a better writer, although I put down The Ambassadors yesterday morning, declaring it quite boring. I have to be in the right mood for it. Here it is the limbo time before Friday. No one said anything about having a band rehearsal this weekend, so I assume it won’t happen… I understand that cyber friendships are becoming more and more common in our culture, thus I guess there’s nothing wrong with accepting the changes wrought by technology. Two different therapists I had seemed to believe that internet relationships were invalid due to being somehow unreal, hence they were unhealthy. But these people were older and resistant to change. One of them insisted that body language was over fifty percent of communication between people, an opinion that I contested on the spot… Sometimes I used to summon the vision of D.H. Lawrence to decry the computer age, saying how unnatural it was, how it perverted our instincts, and so on. However, hardly anybody reads Lawrence anymore, as if he’d been a relic of the 1980’s curriculum. A month ago even I tried to read his poetry and was shocked by the pornography on every page. So I reckon that in the end, everyone must go with the flow and roll with the changes, or else get left behind. 

The Neon God We Made

Nine ten.

Life is strange. If you don’t drink, it’s even stranger. Apparently someone stole a letter from my mailbox a few months ago and used my identity to try to get a refund from the IRS. I don’t know how long it will take to sort the whole thing out, but there’s only so much I can do each day. The days when people were honest and trustworthy seem to be over. I know I sound like an old fogy saying this. A couple of factors are involved in our decline: the failure of the education system and our dependence on machines. Nobody knows anything anymore off the top of their head, and people can’t think their way out of a paper bag. It’s as though we externalized our minds to cyberspace and then forgot how to use our heads. But in doing this, we’ve sacrificed our own souls, given ourselves over to an alien power and left our fates up to it. As if the machines could be more intelligent than humankind; but this will prove to be a fatal fallacy for us. It tempts me to go throw my iPad in the Willamette River. Short of this, there must be something we can do to correct the course we’re on. Crack a book, maybe, preferably something by D.H. Lawrence, or anything organic and healthy. 

Industry

Seven o’clock.

Recently I’ve been doing more writing in my blank book and getting away from electronica. I said somewhere that I don’t care if I never type on another PC keyboard, because it reminds me of the office job I had 15 years ago. It was data entry and very bad for the soul. I got addicted to alcohol and also to typing, and became a kind of machine hooked to a machine. And I externalized the contents of my mind to my computer in order to preserve them, like a sort of cloning process. In essence, the activity was quite sick and unnatural, the type of thing D.H. Lawrence would despise. It was like a mental blood transfusion, a vampiric exchange from me to the computer. It sucked the soul right out of me. So I’ve been trying to get away from that old habit to be able to live naturally and happily… Speaking of Lawrence, I still haven’t read his stuff in a long time. It doesn’t mean I don’t think about it. He had a healthy horror of industry that I could resonate with. I regret to see his work going neglected nowadays. He could inspire us all to be more human and alive… The sun is beginning to clear the roofline across the street from me. Yesterday it was beautiful all day. Today there’s Heidi at two o’clock. I guess I’d better get over to the store to buy my food and Snapples.

Quarter of nine. I just got back. The sky is cloudless and azure. Michelle wasn’t working today, but I didn’t ask any questions. Cathy checked out my purchases. No one in the store was particularly smiley this morning. A big shipment of food had been delivered in gray plastic crates, so Suk and Cathy were sort of preoccupied with inventory and getting ready to unpack. Then I ran into Derek on the way back home. Wade had hired him for his HVAC company. I tend to judge those guys for their politics. Wade used to fly a big MAGA flag at the top of his pole in the front yard. It’s just a rather sad situation with the neighbors. Way out east on Maxwell Road, my church makes an oasis in this political desert. The demographics are very interesting, the way people are zoned to different places. When it isn’t interesting, it can be a little disturbing. 

Crying in the Wilderness

Four thirty. There’s just a light rain or drizzle right now. I’m not having a great day, but it’s not bad either. It’s better when I have people to see; being alone sucks. I get tired of the Internet and social media; it isn’t quite real. You’re only being intimate with your computer or device if you look at it a certain way. Except for going to the store every morning, each entire day is spent alone. My pen pal is a person I’ve never met and likely never will. What kind of life is this, subsistence in cyberspace? It’s totally unnatural, but we do it because it’s easier than dealing with each other in the flesh. The world is already so depersonalized from the one I grew up with, back when people answered their phones, and phones were rotary dial. For a long time I didn’t trust where technology was taking us; I’d read a lot of Lawrence and taken his warning seriously. Evidently most people missed his novels and stories. Now his voice is lost in the crowd of voices, like a whisper in a hurricane, ineffectual and tragic. But this doesn’t change the fact that he was probably right about our future; indeed we’ve fulfilled his prophecy and continue to do so. Someday nothing will be left of our humanity or of the natural world— and least of all the unheeded words of D.H. Lawrence.