Midnight Mass

Midnight.

I woke from dreams of my garage just now, mingled with the image of my dad’s ghost. I felt violently towards him and I would’ve attacked him in reality. So much of what he did when I was a child was heinous that he deserved retribution. I grew to just hate him and didn’t make peace with him until after his retirement, which coincided with my dx of schizophrenia. Now I wonder why my mother had such a positive talent for picking losers to marry. My dad took the cake for all time assholes. But at his core he was a complete coward and weenie, like all bullies or men without balls. Incongruously, the music in my background is “Strike Up the Band,” an old disco tune by Chic. Whatever was happening with my life, or however dire it was, the music would keep playing obliviously, in benign indifference. It almost seems to say that life for the unconscious goes on no matter what the external circumstances. The soul has its own agenda and it operates in Dreamtime. Where this and reality intersect is something like a peak experience, perhaps a sublime deja vu. We have all been here before. Likely we’ll be there again.

Pound’s Panther

Quarter of four in the morning.

I’m still thinking about the irrational. It’s possible that the unconscious still exists, but due to the medication I take, I’ve been blinded to its activity in my own affairs. I know that off of the drug I would be perceptive of Jamesian subtexts in ordinary speech that point to a subconscious will. But I’m kind of uncomfortable with this theory because of my sobriety. They say that “the beer jumps in your hand” in circles of addiction counseling. If there is a beast that lives within us and ultimately controls our actions, then what can we do to tame it? Like a black panther pacing in its cage and saying, Nothing you could do, as in Ezra Pound, the unconscious is discontent with its prison. So we take the antipsychotic med and forget about it. But even in so doing, does the panther forget about us? 

“The Irrational”

Eight forty at night.

There are strong elements of the irrational in the two stories I read by Paul Bowles this afternoon. I think “Tea on the Mountain” is mostly about the conflict of two wills in the same individual woman’s mind, about saying one thing and doing quite the opposite. And for some reason, the irrational will gets its way in this story. I guess it depends on the model of psychology a person learns. Even the idea of “the irrational” is something rather dated and old school, though it can still be entertaining in the context of a horror story. It is a bit horrifying to think of human behavior being out of our conscious control, and subject to the caprices of the Freudian Id, similar to the symbol of the whale in Moby Dick. Or more abstractly still, like the forces of good and evil battling each other for supremacy within the human soul. It is chilling and entertaining if you don’t take it seriously, and sad and pitiful if you do.

More and more, I think psychodynamic theory is on its way out. The words “rational” and “emotive” come to mean something entirely different from the old school of psychology. Nowadays, “irrational” means thinking in black and white, whereas this used to describe rational thinking: as in Aristotelian logic, with the middle excluded… More and more, it becomes apparent that our concepts are made real or unreal by the language we use. So that we can talk ourselves right out of old ideas of irrationalism… and what use have we for Aristotle or Freud anymore? 

Maya

Seven o’clock. In certain lights I have visual hallucinations; colors are wrong and I see shapes that aren’t there. My dog’s coat looks olive green to me instead of navy blue and white, with green and gold floral patterns or cross shapes. It’s very bizarre to see this way in the middle of the night, and I wonder what it means. Of course it isn’t a property of my dog, but a problem in my perception. If I were absolutely crazy then this hallucination would fool me. It also calls other things into question, like the for sale sign I saw in Kat’s front yard on a recent Saturday morning. And the next day it was gone. Soon reality turns into something ephemeral and recombinant, like the vanishing city of the book by Samuel R Delaney or even the sinking island of Avalon in Arthurian legend. “Row, row, row your boat… life is but a dream.” A dream within a dream. What do we do when reality is unreliable? I guess we just get on with it anyway. Still we might wonder if the Hindus are right about the concept of maya, or the illusion of a tangible world. Perhaps the sensible world is a projection by the unconscious, and the unconscious knows everything? The realtor’s sign outside of Kat’s place was so realistic; it even had a name and phone number. Another time I saw a big white pickup truck with Confederate flag license plates. My conscious mind wasn’t sure what the flag was supposed to look like, but evidently my unconscious had that information… Now it kind of gives me the creeps. What is the unconscious and where does it come from? And maybe our historical lives are the unraveling of the will of this unknown power… 

Lost Illusions

Eleven forty.

I used to be better at perceiving subtexts in everyday speech than I am now, for a couple of reasons. One is that I take a good medication for weeding out nonsense. Secondly, I realize that most people don’t employ Freud’s techniques of dream analysis anymore, because truly they get things out of context like a person with schizophrenia. Nor does anyone read the fiction of Henry James these days, which was from the same Victorian era of innuendo and suggestion… I get so tired of my uphill fight every day. I’d much rather make myself disappear in a state of drunkenness… and for some reason I just remembered a tale from the Arabian Nights: “The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad.” Thirty years ago when I first fell ill, the idea of The 1001 Nights represented to my mind a kind of secret knowledge encrypted in symbolism.

Quarter after seven. In a way, I was actually kind of right about that. Much of the Nights is fairytales and folklore that can be analyzed in a psychological way. But if I were to read something like “The Ebony Horse” again, the unconscious content would probably be lost to me. Just out of curiosity I should try it. It’s possible that the thing we call the “unconscious” is really just a fiction and a sort of swindle created by people like Freud and Jung in the past century. I’m not usually a cynical thinker, however… Well it’s the next morning and I should go to the store before my appointment with Rebecca.

Eight thirty. Right now I miss my mode of thought from working days about 15 years ago. I met with my coworker Alice a few times at a Mexican restaurant called Mucho Gusto in the Oakway Center and we’d talk about my job and my future. Those late mornings were often beautiful, and once we walked over to Borders Books and Music for a look around… My mentality then was more Jungian, but now I see that it wasn’t well suited to reality and social interaction. Kind of like going around in a perpetual dream state, which though pleasant was not realistic or practical. I think it’s better to be able to communicate with other people and be understood. If the unconscious is indeed a fact, then right now the truth of it is unavailable to me, perhaps sadly. So I might verse myself again in Arabian tales and the Brothers Grimm to enrich my experience of life and feel something larger than my ego; to feel something period. It’s another nice day in July, a day to be enjoyed. 

Sirens’ Song: a Letter

All in all I didn’t do much today. While I was playing the bass, the UPS carrier brought my new book of Plato. The one before it was delivered to the wrong address, so Amazon replaced it for free. Then I opened it up and looked through it. There are two schematics in the book that I would have to figure out to know their purpose, and also there’s an illustration of the Spindle of Necessity. I love the way this book is organized and translated from the Greek. The Republic, to me, is a perfect handbook of self discipline, by teaching the primacy of reason in the soul, both individually and collectively, then going on to describe the character of the philosopher. A tyrant, according to Plato, is someone whose reason has been overthrown by his impulses. One might argue that alcoholism is this kind of situation, a sort of gluttony gone out of control by the rational component of the personality. And indeed, the reason becomes overturned by the irrational desire to drink alcohol, and therefore the person has become unjust and tyrannical.

At around two thirty I walked over to the store for a bucket of coffee ice cream, speaking of impulses. I was feeling pretty good today and wanted to celebrate a little. Caffeine is my way of splurging a bit without actually drinking alcohol. I also had a Coke this morning. I think I prefer the raspberry tea Snapple, but it’s all good. The drinks are cold, wet, sweet, and have caffeine in them. It’s easy to overdo it, so I have to employ my reason and be judicious. I wonder at what point the rational faculty gets overwhelmed by what’s below the neck, ie the subconscious and its lunacies? It’d make a great topic for a college paper in English or philosophy.

If you’ve never read Republic, then you might find it interesting, even helpful for everyday living. If nothing else, it’s a great classic of world literature that it benefits you to know. And it’s quite reader friendly, written in dialogue form that’s easy to follow.

Now I’m going to ponder what I just inquired about reason and the subconscious. Is it better to keep those things under rational lock and key, or maybe let them out a little to see the light of day? Plato and Goethe would argue over this point.

Suddenly I think again of Odysseus strapped to the mast of his ship, listening to the song of the Sirens out of sheer curiosity to know the lunatic fringe of human experience. I wonder if he gained anything by his rash behavior? But isn’t that a great image from The Odyssey?

Wednesday Thoughts

Wee hours.

Another observation: Emerson’s exaltation of poets is similar to Nietzsche and Ayn Rand making creators the elite. In turn, Emerson resembles Blake when Blake says, “Would to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets.” In all four, we see elitism, the glorification of creative people, or maybe the poet that every individual has the potential to be. Wordsworth suggests that all people are in a sense poets by creating their perceptions of reality. However, Nietzsche does say that people are not all equal. I’m not sure how he means this… The day is dawning kind of green again. When the hour is decent I think I’ll play my favorite bass today, the turquoise Fender. Rock and roll fantasy, rock and roll dream, informed with a bit of classical music.

Six o’clock. I’m inclined to agree with my old history professor on the topic of elitism. What was it, then, that I used to love about Emerson’s essays? Now I think it’s absurd to claim that poets are inspired by the oversoul, by the spirit of nature, etc etc. Jung asserted that inspiration comes from the unconscious, which is the same thing as Emerson’s oversoul. Is the unconscious real? The test of this is to read Shakespeare, to plunge into the Green World of his comedies. And then to see how Goethe modifies the vision of Shakespeare. Also, it would help to revisit the Ion of Plato, which discusses poetic inspiration.

Quarter of eleven. My package with the book got handed to the wrong carrier at the hotel, so I ended up requesting a new copy from the publisher. All’s well that ends well, and I will see my Elizabeth Bishop. In the meantime I looked through my CDs and found the piano works of Claude Debussy and also Erik Satie. These are indeed good listening for summertime. I will love hearing Children’s Corner again. The music reminds me of my working days in the summer of 2007. On Friday evenings I would drink beer and escape with some exquisite music, something to transcend my redneck workweek. Little Henry the pug lounged with me on the loveseat while I lost myself in the headphones. Bliss! Now, the summer sun alone is sufficient to intoxicate a person… I guess we’ll be recording the worship again this Friday, and every Friday from now on. It is good to do a little public service.

Boxes Yet to Open

Quarter after one. This is another day when I feel quite strange and rather alien to myself. I don’t know what to expect next. There may be revelations. I read a little bit of Roethke and thought it was very good. Also from a box I recovered my copy of Unamuno, which I had believed to be lost, plus a novel by Iris Murdoch. I even found my old astrology book by Ronald Davison, one of the best on the subject. Sometimes older books are closer to the kernel of the truth than more recent writing. Equally fascinating is The Dictionary of Symbols, compiled by Jean Chevalier, full of rich mythology and folklore and information from astrology.

Quarter after ten. The rain and thunder caught me dreaming about some haunted hospital or twisted old house as in a tale by Lovecraft. It was a different kind of day, poking through boxes concealing mystery and imagination, unlocking the secrets of the soul, teaching them to speak like the Raven. Mostly I was inarticulate during the day, but now the night and the lightning loosen my tongue. And why not expose the gems and precious metals held inside these boxes, these compartments of the mind? Allow them to breathe in the light of day, smuggling them out piece by piece? The thunder answers something muffled and nonverbal. If it could talk, what would it say? Perhaps I could build a machine for translating the language of nature. Like in a Nordic tale of Sigurd, half forgotten, where he eats the white snake and lo, he comprehends animal speech. The same story reappears in The Brothers Grimm, an oral tradition passed down eight or ten centuries. Why shouldn’t these old stories teach us about nature from within our subconscious? How could the beautiful be other than true?