Michelle wished me an awesome day today as I was on my way out the door. Every day has a different quality to it. I just feel lucky to be above ground sometimes. It’s cloudy now after raining all night off and on. It’d be so nice to get my pleasure thermometer on the positive side rather than just managing my pains, but it’s also about the pleasure of others. So I would urge people to enjoy life while they are still young and capable of having a good time. And don’t defer happiness to an afterlife that probably doesn’t exist. “This is not a dress rehearsal.” I have an appointment with my med prescriber this morning, a guy named Todd. It could be a fun trip if the taxi goes through town instead of on the highways. I try to get a little enthusiastic for Halloween, but today is not the day. I’m tired and feeling like a grumpy old man. I need a shot of the elixir of life, if there is such a thing, a draft from the Fountain of Youth. As it is, I can cheer on the young people who still have a chance at fulfilling their dreams.
Nine o’clock. If the truth be known, I’d rather stay home than go to the agency. I’m a walking contradiction between individualism and religion. Last night I thought of Mallarme but I didn’t look at his poetry. My life needs some beauty when all around are ugliness and pain, like the sidewalk of the Maxwell slum. Occasionally I lift my eyes to the skyline to note the shape of the clouds and their colors: an opportunity to transcend. And when the moon brights in the west it’s like a call from far away.
Quarter of nine.
It would be so nice to roll back time ten years, to when I had a great European friend. I was very privileged to be with the enlightened people. But you know, all during that time I couldn’t stop drinking, even though it was killing me. My will was to maximize pleasure for myself, and also it was like being in heaven. I thought, Why not give myself what I want? The authenticity of this was all the rationale I needed to drink to oblivion and bliss. Now, I don’t know what keeps me sober; I just do it. Perhaps there’s a satisfaction in meeting the challenge of life with a clear head. Or maybe I’ve wanted to be sane for the whole time. Today I’ve come into my own while the world goes down the tubes, like the events of “A Descent into the Maelstrom.”
Quarter of ten. Sole survivor of a shipwreck… Well the weather is quite beautiful this morning, clemently cool. It is only human beings that can mess it up, but I won’t let them get me down. Aesop’s mood is pretty good today. Someone just fired up a lawn mower on my street. If my body doesn’t cooperate with me, then I might have to give up playing the bass guitar… So many snafus in everyday life; we wish for escape to an ideal place on the prismatic wings of a dream. What keeps us from flying there? Maybe it’s the call of duty, a responsibility to the world as it is. Strapped to the chair, we watch the series of images on a big screen. Or like Odysseus, we are bound to the mast so we can listen to the Sirens’ song. Contemporary life is crazy.
Quarter of eleven. Is it worth it to throw those magic beans out the window and see the colossal beanstalk sprout up to the sky? What will Jack find above the clouds: a palace with rich giants living inside? And a hen that lays eggs of gold…
One o’clock. Suddenly I remember how I used to be my mother’s hero. I could do no wrong, and she spoiled me with professional quality music gear. Times were more prosperous than now for everybody. I miss my old friends in the music trade. I also miss seeing my brother for our notorious trips to the Oregon Coast, where we guzzled beer and watched the breakers roll in. I miss the old Safeway store next to the Bi Mart on River Road… But it couldn’t endure forever, because even our time in heaven is a lease that expires. What goes up must come down… unless it’s a bird to fly away.
My trip to Country Club Road went pretty painlessly and it’s a beautiful morning, sunny and cool. After eleven today I want to play my turquoise Fender bass. I’ve left it bagged up ever since the crappy practice I had with the band last month…
Noon hour. Now I don’t have a reason to write about poetic transcendence of the kind in Keats’s work. What do I really believe, then? I think I’m just a realist. Even psychology turns me off sometimes for being implausible and unscientific. I don’t need anything for getting my landing gear off the ground and I don’t want to live in a dream. Maybe I should quit blogging, or change my focus to something different. My options are wide open for new things and ideas.
I remember something from the fall of 2013. My life was going downhill. In September my furnace crashed and I started using space heaters for warmth. I got energy assistance through my local utility company in October and took a few quizzes for additional credit to my bills. I attended two classes in energy efficiency, held in a church downtown. The instructor didn’t like me because I was an alcoholic and a bit of a jerk at the time. But throughout that autumn I only wanted to drink beer and listen to the Herb Alpert CD I’d ripped to my computer; plus I wanted to keep emailing with my friend in Scotland every night. I think the fall of 2013 was when the wheels began to drop off my apple cart. Funny I should remember that now; so maybe I actually do need a little boost from poetry and spiritual stuff? To be lifted on angels’ wings from the prosaic?
I saw the sun as I walked outside, a big crimson coin in the gray east. Masks are required again at the store as of yesterday. They posted two signs in the glass of the door. I got my new book of Keats in the mail today, making a stark contrast to the dirty reality of the neighborhood streets I am prisoner of. I’m considering going to Barnes & Noble someday soon to hang out for an hour and try to meet some people. A much more refreshing atmosphere than psychiatric rehab or church, replete with the scent of new books and new ideas. It would be an oasis in the intellectual desert everywhere else, at least I hope. All I can find around here are the butt ends and debris of Christianity, the dust of the sidewalk. The world is ready for something better than the old trash— or is everything recycled and repeated endlessly?… The air outside is amber or umber, a glowing orange like the atmosphere of Mars. People don’t notice it much, or they don’t say anything. And now it’s time to feed my dog.
Quarter of nine. I opened the mailer with the book inside: a little shopworn, from the printing of 2003. The book is not immaculate, but the verse it contains is. I don’t know; maybe I’m just a fool for trying to transcend a world of ashes and old Snapple bottles. Can the old be young again? What was it that Ponce de Leon was looking for? It seems to me that the whole world needs rebirth and renewal; a reveille… a Renaissance.
Quarter after eleven.
I just caught the headline on Google: starting Wednesday, mandatory face masks again by order of the governor. There’s no end in sight to the bad news stories, so what the world could really use is a dose of poetry. A vehicle to lift us up to the Sublime, the beautiful and true; to transport us to the spiritual universe.
We may take an image like snowflakes and flowers and compare them to the stars in order to transcend the mundane. We can create a living homunculus like an immaculate conception to be our guide to antiquity: in search of Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the history of the world. The Ideal is ours for the claiming, for the shaping out of the clay of common day. Sandcastles in the air are waiting to be discovered by a new calculus; it only takes a little faith in human goodness. Put me atop the Tower of Babel to unzip the blue sky and see the fourth dimension. Amid the blast of voices in my ears, still nothing can impede my project of raising humanity to the celestial plane above the moon. Not only can it be done, it must.
Slept poorly again, but I thought of something quite important that I’d been missing: the experience of pleasure must outweigh my daily pain, or else life becomes onerous. At the store I need to get an anti inflammatory drug for my backache, which is worse now than ever before. And for fun I might buy a two liter of Coke to try to restore my spirits. Yesterday I longed to fly over the rainbow to escape from these unhappy times, this ride for which we’re all along. Everybody needs a diversion today, or as soon as possible. I might play my guitar later today, though it’s hard when nobody else wants to join me in having fun with music… There will be church tomorrow morning. I’m staying home because of the peer pressure and the denial of what the future will truly be. I guess I’ve grown a bit cynical of how organized religion operates, and I don’t want to make any more donations… I’m embarrassed to say that I had a hallucination last night. I heard the voice of a master of ceremonies somewhere nearby; I kept expecting a band to start playing. After twenty minutes the auditory illusion disappeared.
Eight forty. I bought the way overdue ibuprofen for my back pain and took one when I got home. The sun came out temporarily and now the sky is turning dark gray. The forecast calls for rain… Away from the clinical terminology, sometimes the experience of schizophrenia can be rather poetic. And to ponder the origins of the illusions is always baffling and mysterious. Even Descartes wondered if he could be deceived by an evil genius while writing his Meditations… Feeding the dog was difficult for me, and now the pain reliever makes me woozy. I want to escape with a good book for a while over the rainbow or through the looking glass to a better place than this. The trouble with escape is that you always have to come back. Often it’s with a hangover, depending on your method.
Another possibility: how do you tell the difference between real and fantasy?
Quarter of ten.
I felt pretty good on my trip to the store, though with a few dark thoughts about my future. No one likes to admit defeat by the whips and scorns of time, this item called aging, walking on three legs in the evening. As usual I met with very few people on the street. Just the old man in blue denim and two children at Darlene’s old house, with their chocolate dog. I bought a can of chili and a sandwich, two Snapples, and treats for Aesop. In my mail I found an advertisement for a cannabis retailer on River Road. I was a little curious, but not really enticed. It would only turn into a very expensive addiction that would screw up my whole life again. I’m not interested in artificial ways to get high anymore. The challenge of living sober is its own kind of high.
The sun came out in a gray sky, an odd contrast. Every day is something new. Memories are all behind me, the future unforeseeable, but coming nonetheless. New formations of clouds in heaven… Time, stars, wings of angels. Sea green sun luster, like emerald on the neighbor’s fence. Pensive, I must be dreaming someplace far away…
Quarter of eleven. Am I too old to rock and roll? But never too old to versify. Those bass guitars get heavier and heavier to hold up. Inevitably my dexterity will slow down. It’s important to be realistic. But the mind retains its versatility as long as you feed it on good things… Everything advances in the medium of time. Nothing travels backwards, and memory is distorted. And yet this twisting of ideas is the means to creativity. What goes in comes out of the process something original, properly yours and beautiful.
Predawn blackness outside, but I think I’m through with sleeping for the night…
Nine thirty. Now I have chronic back pain, getting worse when it rains. I’m going to need medication for it. I’ll go to the store when I feel hungry… The question is simple: is there a transcendent, and can it be reached by imagination? I also wonder if psychosis is merely an altered state of consciousness, no less valid than the ordinary. Does schizophrenia serve a purpose by being allowed to survive in the gene pool?
Ten thirty. I made it to the market where Brandi sold me a salad, a Hot Pocket, and two Snapples. My back ached the whole way. I didn’t stop at the salon for whatever reason. I get the feeling that my days are numbered in some sense. Something somewhere has to break. I just got one of those scam calls regarding my vehicle’s warranty. There’s no end to this stuff… I have a beautiful edition in English of Goethe’s writings that I could examine anytime. It’s just hard for me to concentrate for very long. For now, there’s a Beatles song looping in my head from Sgt Pepper. I feel doubtful about getting everything done this weekend. Perhaps church on Sunday is higher priority than band practice Saturday, though I don’t want to let those guys down. If I work up my enthusiasm it might go all right, but all in all I feel very tired of everything. Maybe I can transcend the mundane with an excursion into Goethe today sometime. I hear an unfamiliar bird call from the backyard, like a summons to Paradise, an Eden outside of time…
Last night I felt annoyed by the popular notion that God controls our lives if we just let go. I haven’t seen any evidence for this claim, so I find it very unscientific. When you step off the edge of a high cliff, you fall to your death. No big gust of wind will break your fall, no act of providence great or small, no guardian angel trying to earn his wings, no reason to believe any of those things. It used to make me sad to listen to the Yes song “To Be Over.” The songwriter was so complacent about the afterlife, but I could not share his confidence. It’s a wonderful song, as “Awaken” is too. Beautiful beyond your wildest dreams; but is it true?
Maybe we can do better as a race if we act as if religion were the truth, regardless of its factuality. And if we’re very fortunate, the dreams we work so hard to realize will by some grace be materialized. Maybe like Blake we can aspire to build Jerusalem on our green and pleasant land— if we do not cease from mental fight. The structure of “Awaken” is like a Keats poem. It begins on earth, then in a dream transports you to a celestial place nothing short of heaven. At last it places you back down on the ground to wake up from the awakening. If music and poetry can do this, then surely you and I can follow by just listening?
Midnight. Finding it hard to sleep tonight… without thinking about Jesus? Whose savior is he? Thirty two years ago I worshiped a different savior, an abstract entity by the name of reason, probably best represented by Immanuel Kant, the great transcendental idealist. With the help of reason, I could be anything I wanted to be. And I really believed this. The noumenal realm saw me through a classic case of chickenpox without even feeling the itching. The transcendent property of reason was for me what samadhi is for yogis. And for a while, Kantian idealism worked for me. I remember driving past the smoking mint fields of Harrisburg at night, going home from Ken’s house, in August. But an important difference back then was that I drank alcohol, which ultimately helps nobody… A possible objection to my transcendence, as it were, is how self absorbed I was; even solipsistic, cut off from the world and existing all alone in the ether. It was like narcissism. I failed to see the reality around me and lived incommunicado. I dwelt in bliss while other people suffered the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. Sweet reason, my personal samadhi, could not be shared with others— although I did record a lot of music while in that mental state. The electric guitar swam in oceans of ethereal reverb for a celestial effect. It was the style back in the late 1980s… It raises the question of how much we can share our subjective experience. If one person attains nirvana, then like a bodhisattva can she come back and assist you and me to the same enlightenment? Also, was my Kantian bliss the same experience as samadhi, the highest state of yogic awareness?