Eternal Truth

Quarter after eleven.

The heat has an impact on me with or without air conditioning, but I’m very fortunate to be as comfortable as I am. The email scammer tried to get a response from me early this morning. I trashed his message without opening it. Skeptics of the virus think it’s cute not to wear a mask in public. They make jokes about getting away with it, as if the compliers were stupid. It’s an individual thing, though it would benefit us if everybody played by the same rules. Michelle the store clerk wears a mask because she has diabetes. I wear one because someone in my family was sick with Covid…

I was thinking again that people need more beauty in their lives. Are beauty and truth allied with each other or rather at odds? Reality is pretty ugly today, but reality and truth are different things. Truth is eternal, reality transitory. And if truth doesn’t exist then we’re screwed. My mind goes to the rock band Yes and their 1996 release Keys to Ascension. “How did heaven begin?” Evidently we created it in a manner like William Blake, by sheer mental fight and poetic language. In All Religions Are One he suggests that the True Man is the same as the Poetic Genius… But it’s hard to write about this when my Romantic faith is flimsy, my conviction shaky. Also it’s difficult to pull it off all alone. Is anybody else with me?

Noon hour. The air quality is bad today; they say it’s unhealthy to sensitive groups. Another intrusive fact… Now they’re saying it’s unhealthy for everyone… Obviously it’s from wildfire smoke. I just looked it up on the internet. I only hope it won’t be like the situation last September. 

Snowmelt

Two thirty.

Well I gave my French book of Mallarme a cursory flap and found much of it unreadable, like pure nonsense, the drivel of a lunatic: psychobabble in a word. This discovery is a sign that I’m recovering from the illness more and more with time. I ought to be much more coherent now than last winter, not to mention years ago as a churchgoer. I may wish there were an Ideal dimension to the universe, but unveiling it is beyond all method… It is emotional reasoning to posit the spiritual universe; saying I feel it, therefore it must be true, but after this comes the burden of proof. It’s a difficult call to make. Is it right to categorically reject everything arrived at by intuition? And here I’ve opened up the same old can of worms as last winter. If my intuition is blind, it doesn’t make everyone else blind. I remember gifting Pastor that volume of William Blake six months ago, thinking of a particular passage in the Europe prophecy. Isaac Newton blows the last trumpet of doom, after which the angels fall from heaven and crash to the earth. In other words, scientific discovery knocks religion down. It is neither a good or bad situation; it simply is. Or maybe Blake thinks the blow to religion is regrettable… By the way, Blake is another one of those unintelligible poets, like James Joyce toward the end. Word salad. Psychosis… I don’t even know by what means I’ve been thinking since the end of springtime. Things either make sense to me or they don’t. Spirituality still is very hard for me to swallow.

Quarter after nine. However, there’s an image Mallarme uses more than once in his published poetry: something like a “snowfall of perfumed stars.” It makes me want to translate the poem myself to English. And perhaps in doing so, thereby lose my identity in his, or leave the poem extant without an author. Only the words and the reader remain, in a condition of dubious being. 

Blake under Pressure

Two twenty five. I ordered a new copy of Blake’s poetry, thinking I could give it to Pastor as a belated Christmas present. To me, Blake is the epitome of English Romanticism, and to know his poetry is to understand what drove progressive rock such as Yes— especially Yes.

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon Englands mountains green:

And was the holy Lamb of God,

On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:

Bring me my arrows of desire:

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem,

In Englands green & pleasant Land.

The edition by Erdman is still the definitive one. I’m not sure what more I can say. My faith is clouded by doubt of the efficacy of the imagination, our creative potential. There’s no doubt that Blake believed in the powers of the mind to create a meaningful reality, what he called the Poetic Genius. But I’m struggling to maintain such optimism. Rather than creative, I grow more analytical, no matter how I try to resist the change. Still I admire those who can keep that optimism going. Time will be the test of what is true. Perhaps the dreamers of big dreams will win the day? 

Torn

Eight fifty.

It’s almost time to feed Aesop. He doesn’t care that Joe Biden is being sworn in this morning. And maybe it isn’t such a big deal after all. I got another scam call regarding the warranty on my car, when I don’t own one. In the mail last night I received the Sandburg book. I’m very pleased with it. I read twelve pages early this morning… Now I have to go to the store. Hopefully they’ll have some of those sandwiches.

Ten o five. I came upon my neighbor Willie and his small dog Rosie on the return trip from the store. He saw me coming down Fremont and stopped and waited up for me. Willie has long white hair and a goatee. He’s always pleasant to talk with. His street is the one parallel to mine to the east. Once when I was out walking in the summertime I took his picture with my Kodak PixPro. It was my new toy and I shot everything for a while. Right now it’s quiet and peaceful in the neighborhood. Things seem to be settling down and people can breathe again. Perhaps now we can move on with the new year. First thing this morning I found another good book of analytic philosophy in my stuff. It’s about time for unfounded metaphysics to be put in its place, at least for me. Church is all right with me if it’s just about the people, but I’m not into the supernatural. I think my dog believes in ghosts and things he can’t explain, but human beings ought to know better. I just remembered a passage from Blake. Newton blows the trumpet of doom and consequently the angels in heaven crash down to earth. This is to say that science kills the religious imagination. Possibly I should think on this a little more. It’s hard to know what’s right. 

Saturday Morning

Six thirty. I feel drained and tired from yesterday’s heat and activity. I don’t have to do the food pantry today. This morning is overcast and cool. I’m curious about William Blake again, and would like to read his epic Milton. I don’t really remember his shorter books either, except the image of Newton blasting the last trump of doom, whereupon the angels fall from heaven and crash to earth like meteorites. This occurs in Europe: a Prophecy. Blake didn’t like the empiricist philosophers either. He reacted against Hume with “There Is No Natural Religion.” I love his idea of building Jerusalem on England’s green and pleasant land. For him, God is very much alive, and the time of the prophets is not over with. Through the Poetic Genius, people make God a reality. It’s similar to the creative storytelling of Yes music. “And I heard a million voices singing / Acting to the story that they had heard about.”

Ten o’clock. I did some digging and found my Penguin copy of Blake, the one my dad bought me for my birthday at the university bookstore after I graduated. It includes all the poetry. Also I ran across my biography of Joyce in another box. It was my first purchase from Barnes and Noble when they opened in Eugene in November 1993. A beautiful book… I just got home from those places around the corner that I frequent. Aesop needed canned food, and I added his favorite bacon strips. I stopped at the salon and made an appointment for a haircut: Tuesday at eleven o’clock. Karen asked me if I was good at moving furniture and I said no, my back is bad. I had a chocolate filled donut and took off. A lot of people were outside this morning. Roger was buffing the hood of his truck with an electric drill. It’s good to have something you really like. Now Aesop is ready for breakfast.

“Here We Can Be”

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?

Microcosms

Five forty. I checked out Pastor’s movie recommendation and I guess my assumption was wrong. I was trying too hard to analyze what he had said. The one who was irrational was only me… My burrito is cooling down before I eat it. I could go for ice cream tonight. Maybe tomorrow. No worries now about drinking again. It was the thing with Pastor that had bothered me… He may only want to be better friends with me, guessing from the plot of the movie. This is consistent with the time he called me at home on the phone. Easter was the next day and he didn’t even mention it. We just talked about music and literature like ordinary guys. Perhaps the one who needs a friend is him? He has a wife and grown up daughter, and a brother that I know of; but he hasn’t referred to any good friends. Well, having a friend is never a bad thing, so I ought to send him an email.

One forty. I’ve woken up with a stomach cramp. Been dreaming about volunteering with the church, but with frustration. Silly of me, really. Hours ago I sent a link for a King Crimson song to Pastor. No reply yet. I know I’m magnifying things out of proportion. Life is only human after all. I try to mold events into a Henry James novel just for the beauty of it, but life is often rather inconsequential. Or maybe it’s the insignificance that is so poetic? Seeing eternity in a grain of sand. Carlos Williams found the most trivial things worthy subjects for poetry. An old woman eating prunes from a bag: they taste good to her. A pastoral of junk items and furniture gone wrong. A red wheelbarrow beside the white chickens. Fire trucks and great figures in gold. Or the black ants that keep turning up in my kitchen. And a blue heeler dog growing obsessed with bacon strips. All of these snapshots are in themselves the stuff of dreams, of an art that extends to universals. Particulars to generals, or the latter in the former. It’s an idea made famous in a poem by William Blake… So that exaggeration is not really exaggerating, and the smallest things can be the greatest and grandest.

Day in Review

This could be a good day, despite the inscrutable gray sky. Inside, it’s nice and warm by the grace of electricity if nothing else. I hope for no intrusions by construction workers. I’d like to pick a day and go buy Aesop the tennis balls I promised him. I regret that he’s so bored every day. After Tuesday I should have WiFi again, hence I’ll be able to use my tablet and any computer I choose to set up. It’ll feel good to be so connected once more. There’s a song by Yes in my head, “The Remembering: High the Memory.” It’s on the Topographic Oceans album, which I heard two weeks ago. The words seem unintelligible at first, yet in a poetic way they make sense, and moreover sound beautiful. They say things like, “The strength regains us in between our time,” and, “Stand on hills of long forgotten yesterdays,” and, “We walk around the story.” The influence on Yes is definitely Romanticism, probably Blake in particular. When I first listened to Topographic Oceans, I had no idea where such lyrics came from. I didn’t have access to poetry of any quality. The bookstores in Eugene didn’t stock much poetry, except for the University one. My date with poetry was to come years later… The silence now is loud. Enter a few Canada geese overhead. A passing car. Aesop listens. My sister said she would call me this afternoon regarding a possible lunch tomorrow. I told her I was through with adapting my life to the contractors’ schedules; let’s go ahead and have lunch.

Knowledge

I got four more hours of sleep, and then I got Aesop to go outside and come back without his lead. He got a reward of four Milk Bones. One thing he has down is potty training. He hates to mess that up. It is only four thirty in the morning, thus obviously the sky is still black as ink. When I think of the books I’m getting back today, the first one that comes to mind is my big orange William Blake. There have been passages I wanted to review, particularly the opening lines of Europe: A Prophecy. Newton sounds the trumpet of doom and then the angels crash to earth, as if to say that science is the death of religion. When I scanned Job a bit ago, I was aware of the issue of possessing knowledge. Some Christians believe that it’s a sin to compete with God in knowledge. And indeed it’s biblical the way God punishes people who aspire to know about his Creation. This belief is at the root of why the Church throughout history has retarded scientific progress. The Creation is sacred to Christians and not to be tampered with. But scientists figure that nature has no Creator, or anyway not like the Old Testament God. Jehovah is a jealous God, and his jealousy extends to his Creation as well. Anyone who dares to know is castigated in the direst way, like Adam and Eve, like the builders of the Tower of Babel, and like Job until Job admits he knows nothing of nature’s secrets. This jealous God, Creator of heaven and earth, wishes to keep his people in ignorance. So then comes Newton and blasts the trumpet of the last doom in the Blake prophecy, abolishing the angels. Abolishing the promise of life everlasting. So that the price of knowledge is the sacrifice of eternal life. Very interesting stuff…