On the Horns

Eight forty.

Having a lousy day so far. I called up D— and canceled my dental appointment for next Tuesday, kind of wincing when I did it. I feel badly about it but I didn’t want to get sick again, just in case it came from the cleaning. The phone call was very awkward but I got it done. Gloria is coming in about 15 minutes. My finances look pretty shaky right now and I hope I can pull through long enough for something good to happen. Poor Aesop knows something is wrong at home. I’d feel a lot better with a little money in my account so I’m not living above my means.

Ten o’clock at night.

A while ago I wrote down my feelings in my journal, particularly about what happened early this morning on the phone with D—. Now I simply chalk it up to doing the prudent thing, never mind that it’s in my own best interest. Any normal and smart person would do what I did by dropping out of that dental service. Maybe the charitable thing to do is to suffer at the hands of incompetence, and maybe this agrees with the Golden Rule also; but the clever person avoids trouble. My brother used to say that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. I’m less cynical than he is, yet sometimes a little skepticism is healthy. And then again, I ponder my need to justify my behavior today. I broke the Golden Rule! Another way of seeing it is to call it a teleological suspension of the ethical… Will the ends justify the means? Perhaps I’m Machiavellian for doing my deed. Still I doubt if the stars in the night sky would communicate the answer. No absolute is forthcoming.

What would you have done?

The Absolute

Quarter after nine.

If I don’t play the bass with the church for Christmas Eve then I have no other gift to give them, or nothing else as valuable. My situation is like that of the Little Drummer Boy: “I have no gift to bring / Pa rum pa pum pum.” Vaguely my mind ponders the idea of the Word made flesh, the nativity scene with the Lord as a newborn baby, and the whole mystery of Christ. Four years ago I went for Christmas Eve worship and the turnout was very big. A beautiful young Croatian lady with glittering dark eyes and two boys almost as big as she was sat down in the pew behind me. Pastor was really in his element that night, very confident and officious, but also enjoying the moment. At the time, it was a new experience for me, so I didn’t criticize it so harshly, and moreover it was before I started the Vraylar medication. 

If the desire to believe is strong enough, can a group of people “drag the dream into existence?” Will reality yield to human fiction and make our wildest dreams come true? And then I remember the poem by Robert Frost, “Love and a Question”: the bridegroom wishes he knew the absolutely right thing to do; and this is the revelation that everyone craves. Because, human beings are a moral species and we seek the truth like characters in a drama in search of an author. Perhaps religion is itself a science of morals, which would be the supreme knowledge of nature; we want to know, like the bridegroom, what we ought to do. So we turn to the night sky, where the “stars expound our conscience,” in the words of the old Yes song. 

Defogged

Six twenty.

Imagine no limits. There’s band practice today at three, and the weather is supposed to be nice. I dreamed last night that my mother was trying to stay sober. It made her a basket case, and she had to tell everyone about it. Thinking of it now, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with her anymore. She never would admit that she needed help with her mental health. I guess that’s kind of like a person I know in my life today, and it’s sad the way he’s come to cope with his problems. Like everyone, he’s a very nice guy underneath it all, and just needs some guidance. Maybe I can be the one to do that for him. On the other hand, perhaps I’m trying to shoulder too many burdens and be an emotional caretaker for other people. I could just say screw it and mind my own business.

Nine o’clock. It’s foggy outside, rather dense, and later it’ll be partly cloudy. I may be at a point where I can be peer support for other people with mental illness. Wait and see how things go. This afternoon will be a test for me. I want to do the right things, but knowing what is right is never easy. I keep thinking of “Love and a Question” by Robert Frost: does nature prescribe moral absolutes, and are they knowable to us? Frost was skeptical of that, while Emerson was more optimistic on the whole issue. I don’t mean to prejudge my day ahead, but I anticipate that it’ll be quite difficult. I hate worrying about stuff. Maybe treat the future like a throw of the dice and deal with the aftermath as it comes. Every decision has unpredictable consequences. But it’s better not to just flip a coin. We have to use our best judgment.

Ten ten. I just took an ibuprofen and simultaneously the sun is coming out. As the fog lifts, my head clears a little and my mood improves. All is not lost, and I can trust myself to judge rightly and fairly. “The sun will lead us, our reason to be here.” 

Above the Fog Cover

Five o’clock.

The same old Pink Floyd song keeps coming up: “Wish You Were Here.” I don’t know why. Pastor returned my phone call yesterday evening with some information about AA groups that meet at our church. And then I’ll probably go back to church service this Sunday just to be around healthy influences. The phone visit with Heidi was very nice, and it will be a regular thing on Tuesdays from now on… I didn’t sleep well. There’s this bit of unfinished business I have to take care of. Also I have to make a decision on the band: to stay or to go. Polly said that their habits were not going to change, and I agreed with her.

Six o’clock. At the first light of day I’m going to the store. I need help with the photocopier, I think. Aesop is begging me for a treat. The sun will come up in a half hour, but it’s cloudy outside.

Quarter after nine. I’ve put my letter in the mailbox for the carrier to pick up. I was having paranoid dreams about getting it done. Finally I think I can relax again. It’s very foggy out this morning, and it’s supposed to clear up this afternoon and be another beautiful day. I believe I understand better what Impressionism was partly about. It’s a kind of missing link between Romanticism and the decline of the Absolute in the 20th Century. Probably many of us would like to return to the 19th Century for its beauty and optimism about spiritual things. And I suppose no one denies us the right to embrace the beautiful and true, however much technology conquers nature. My copy of Mallarme traveled all the way here from France, taking a month for delivery. The language of another country far away was brought to my door, something like a brush with the sublime, and rekindling some old knowledge that had lain dormant a long time in my brain. And some new ideas clicked for me that I hadn’t known before. Do you believe in eternity? Is there a fourth dimension behind the veil of the natural world? Maybe it’s an issue of wanting to believe it, because all the speculation in the world cannot unveil the truth. Maybe again I’d have nothing to write about without this problem of knowledge… Aesop has been fed his breakfast and the house is nice and warm. When the fog and the clouds lift, it should be a warm and sunny afternoon like yesterday. 

The Sunny Day

One thirty. I took advantage of the powerful sunshine to make another run for soft drinks. Bought a Snapple and a SoBe strawberry daiquiri. But even with the ideal weather, I saw almost nobody outside. Only one other pedestrian passed me on Maxwell Road. Hank cashiered at the store, shooting the bull with his buddies who frequently visit him on the job. I was hoping to see Deb this afternoon, but no luck. I hovered in front of the cooler for sodas and light beverages a few minutes, trying to make up my mind. One drink seemed as good as another; it didn’t really matter. Then I realized that I could just as well have stayed home. I came to the market merely to prove that I could. I wondered what I was doing there. Certainly not to see Hank. I guess I’d bargained for a better adventure than the one I got. As it happened, there was nothing to see except the glorious sun in the blue sky. 

Back on my own street, I paused to look up at the azure: the same heaven that Mallarme gazed on a century and a half ago, when the Absolute was still taken seriously by mainstream thinkers who employed poetic language to expose it and adore it. So maybe this was the reason I went outside.