Like a typical Sunday, it’s quiet and rather lifeless, especially outdoors. Suddenly Roger throws open his garage door across the street, getting ready to tinker with his truck project. Aesop, my dog, is in a good mood today so far, which makes a difference to us both. I’ve got music in my brain from Genesis a long time ago, an album titled Duke. I miss sharing music with my old friend ten years ago; she was very literate and intelligent with it, and her brother was a big fan of Genesis and Steve Hackett. But now I just have to muddle along until a new friend comes into my life with the same brilliance. I believe that appearance is not reality in many cases and you can’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve learned how to be platonic and to love rationally as Boethius prescribes, as well as Chaucer and Shakespeare (the marriage of true minds). And even so, it seems that nothing lasts forever and most relationships fall apart when circumstances change. We had a cool transatlantic friendship for six years. Maybe it was coincidence that the complexion of American politics changed when I lost contact with her. It still feels pretty messed up, with two visions of what America should be grappling for supremacy. Life hasn’t been very fun for a long time. Any message in a bottle on the stormy sea is a godsend.
Let us be lovers
We’ll marry our fortunes together
I’ve got some real estate here in my bag
So we bought a pack of cigarettes
And Mrs Wagner’s pies
And walked off to look for America…
It was a great Simon & Garfunkel song, but made even greater when Yes covered it in 1972. And then the band in large part came to the United States to learn what it was all about.
Counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America…
And I believe that not only Americans but the world is still looking for America.
The morning with Gloria was really very pleasant. A few times the sun has come out but not for long. After she left, it started raining. This afternoon I’ve been sitting with A Princess of Mars and got up to the fourth chapter. It’s a strange kind of book, and doubtless I liked the cover art at the time more than the story. The comic book illustrators did a fantastic job with the strange creatures as well. But as far as things like social justice are concerned, Burroughs had some rather incorrect attitudes. Now it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable and maybe embarrassed to see it for what it is. And did I tell you that I come from a white working class family? My sister carries the same torch onward— or she did, and the family she calls her own still perpetuates those values. Maybe this is what I’m embarrassed about when I look back and see my similarities to my racist family.
It’s hard to judge whether they’re responsible for their ignorance. I really don’t know. But I think their attitude of anti intellectualism is willful and stubborn, and comfortable for them because blood is thicker than water. By the way, I don’t agree with this old phrase anyway. An individual can choose his friends but he’s stuck with his family.
It’s pretty weird to remember back to the seventies, being in grade school and going on trips with my parents up and down the West Coast, only as far east as the Snake River. And all along the trip to California, picking up a comic book here and there. I also looked at National Geographic magazines and World for kids. There’s a lot I remember but choose not to think about usually. Maybe it’s just too painful for me.
Times were definitely different forty years ago, or fifty and on back.
Also we see some politicians who want to flip the calendar back that many years. It’s hard to watch as our country cracks up like a great ship before it sinks.
I guess that’s what I was trying to say.
One o’clock in the afternoon.
A conversation I had made me think about flat earthers and cheese mooners, and the ones who deny that astronauts ever landed on the moon. I guess I need more information about this before I can defend the facts of science intelligently from a tide of misinformation that too many people are willing to believe; before I speculate on why this is happening in this country, and what can be done to turn it around. I may consider it a project to do myself, until I lose interest or I sufficiently prove my point. Maybe it’s not worth the hassle. But it’s very frustrating to stand by and watch what we’re doing to ourselves. The actual dumbing down of America is not about our religious values but instead the loss of our knowledge. We accept quackery sooner than legitimate science and we can’t discriminate the difference. It’s as if our food supply was poisoned and everyone suffered a pandemic of psychosis.
Ten thirty PM.
Today I read a little from a retelling of myths from the Mahabharata and let it digest, with just a smattering of information about Krishna. It occurred to me that Krishna is a face of the godhead or a manifestation of Brahman in a way similar to Christ’s being the embodiment of God: the Word made flesh. But it doesn’t stop there. I was thinking, what if the scientific certainty of my old psychiatrist was somehow wrong for its ethnocentrism and exclusion of other cultures? As long ago as Emerson, Eastern thought was incorporated into the Romantic tradition in the West; in fact, it was Schopenhauer who opened the door for future thinkers by his reverence for Indian scripture. Then in the last century we had Jung and Joseph Campbell to expand on Eastern and Western unification, plus the efforts of Yogananda and Tagore to do the same.
We hit a snag at the beginning of the new century, as far as I can tell. Does anyone remember who Milarepa was? The Tibetan yogi was well known thirty years ago. I maintain hope that things will get better regarding progress with diversity of culture, and seeing the underlying unity of them all.
Another question I pondered was whether humankind is vain or simply noble and dignified. Newton’s rule applies the same physics to the earth and human beings as to other bodies in space. Ultimately, this paved the way for Darwin to link people with animals in The Descent of Man. But to this day, many Americans reject evolution or make people exempt from it: they may reject science wholesale and embrace religion instead. In Europe, Creationism is not even taught in schools. They’ve gone with evolution totally and it’s an accepted fact in their culture. Why do Americans resist Darwin’s discoveries? What is at stake if we give up old prejudices? Is it just the ethic of altruism that we fear will be lost? We seem to believe that moral behavior hinges on God and the diviner part of ourselves. We take spiritual things literally. We don’t trust the evidence right in front of us. That’s why I ask if people are vain or just noble when we keep humankind separate from the natural world. Is there a reason for keeping our self image divine— sort of like what Edith Hamilton said of Greek culture? Should we despair if we see ourselves as animal and ugly?
I really don’t like the beliefs and attitudes of my sister, but something gives me strength to fight her. Her own particular god used to scare me. For this reason I chose the Lutherans to start my recovery, because her faith was Baptist… If rock and roll is dead, then why do I still hear old Yes music in my brain? Or perhaps it’s better that rock music go away. Culture is still trying to understand itself. Right now is not a bad time to be alive. The worst that can happen is to be robbed of your right to free speech: to see the fall of democracy and representation. This just can’t happen in America.
I had a dream that monarch butterflies were clustered into a wall outlet of my house, fluttering to find their way inside. For the Greeks, the butterfly symbolized the soul. This dream was very brief, like a vision rather than an episode.
I’m just up out of bed, and as I gain consciousness, the old kookaburra song comes to mind. It’s something my third grade class used to sing in rounds, led by Miss Otzby the cafeteria coach, way back in 1975. It was the first school year that I felt more or less human after a bad experience up until then. A teacher can make or break you, and Mrs Baggerman was the dawn after a very dark night. She was a Texas sexagenarian, very strict and not popular with the rowdy boys in class, but she liked me because I was quiet. I remember staying in from recess by choice to do SRA readings. My comprehension grew exponentially as I became rather introverted but not unhappy that way. Of course, one of the high points of that year was the Bicentennial, and we took a field trip to see the Freedom Train when it came through. It was just a mobile museum of Americana. I had a little crush on a Native girl a year older than I, named Robin. And I also remember how nice to me Stephanie was. And Karen, whose family was Jewish, so she stayed home for our Christmas party. And the popularity of Freddie, a Black kid, and Fritz. Everyone was so diverse yet we got along fine together. It makes you wonder why adults do not.
My journal is a cool place for figuring things out. This past evening I wrote an idea dealing with my solution to alcoholism using the church. Basically I said that the ritual of worship, repeated again and again, was a form of self hypnosis, and it worked to stop my addiction. As such, it was a psychological thing and not necessarily theological in a literal way. The details of course are debatable, but even Jung couldn’t make the jump from psychology to metaphysics per se. Then towards the end, when Pastor talked of demonic possession as the cause of mental illness, I knew it was hyperbolic and I had to get out of there. I found his attitude offensive and really not very kind to people with schizophrenia; in fact he was ignorant of the truth about psychiatry.
Oh well, my explanation usually falls on deaf ears, and I’m getting sick of it. Suffice it that the agency is a much safer place for me now than the church, and that poor Pastor is full of beans, with his head buried in the nineteenth century, totally disregarding advances made after the end of World War 2.
Americans always subordinate science to religious visions that make no sense, so I think a good question to ask is, Why? If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it, but the Jesus thing doesn’t function for us anymore. We have decades to go to catch up to Europe, although the case has been the same even when Henry James lived and wrote at the turn of the twentieth century. It’s a very sad situation for the United States, yet not even a writer like James could remedy it, so why do I bother?
Quarter of noon.
I feel quite out of place and disoriented since Sunday. Today it rains and shines by turns, as moody as I am and just as indecisive. I guess the word for the way I feel is “homeless,” but in a spiritual sense. Somehow it feels kind of good to be rootless for a while, like taking a motorcycle tour of North America, only inside myself. Suddenly I remember the scene in Easy Rider where Fonda and Hopper ride their choppers into the Deep South to the tune of “If 6 Was 9.” I saw that film during the Bush era, when I was working. It happened to be in March. The world had lost its mind, I always thought, and it got worse with a holy war on multiple fronts. Finding rational friends was very hard to do in a world steeped in superstition. I heard a true story of a family whose car ran out of gas. To make the car run, they actually prayed over the empty gas tank. Needless to say, it didn’t work… And yet people reiterate that we need a spiritual release, maybe just for our mental wellness. I admit I don’t have the answers, but too much of anything is bad for you. Perhaps “home” is located in between science and theology. Aesop wants his doggie pepperoni, and that’s all he needs to know.
Quarter after one. The day’s adventure is done. I rode to Springfield for a lab and then went to the market like every morning. I’m inclined to make a little beauty to please somebody; it’s been some time since I gave back to the community. If I could manage a poem or something else good, and give to the church. Maybe volunteer this Friday.