One twenty five in the morning.
“Consider yourself one of the family… it’s clear we’re going to get along…”
To use plainer English, I relate to the misfits in Shakespeare because I feel that an outsider cannot buy, beg, borrow, or steal his way into a religious organization, like me trying to find a place in the Lutheran church. A person must have a pedigree in order to fit into the big Christian universe, but I was brought into this world out of wedlock, fathered by a man who had been adopted after being abandoned by his biological parents… It is all well and fine for the human race to organize into Christendom or a Shakespearean aristocracy, yet my heart bleeds for others like myself, the outcast renegades and rebels with all odds against them. A small thing like alcoholism is a drop in the bucket next to the spiritual alienation that people like me experience. Surely the “redeemer” for the elect is different from that for the reprobate? I reckon time will tell. We may not have long to wait.
Seven thirty five at night.
I really didn’t want to be sick, but there’s no bargaining with this circumstance anymore; a fact is a fact. I tried to reason it away as just a mouth infection, but it’s acting like a typical head cold, from the sore throat stage to nasal congestion, etc. Okay, so I was an idiot. Now I just hope I won’t be too wretched the next few days.
How easy it is to blame everyone and everything, including the stars, but yourself for bad luck. Putting responsibility off of yourself is the excellent foppery of the world. And yet Shakespeare puts these words in the mouth of Edmund, the illegitimate son of Gloucester, and the misbegotten miscreant with no place in God’s orderly world. I don’t know whether to agree with the Bard’s opinion or subvert it with his own created character. As the centuries rolled on, dramatists turned the focus away from nobility and towards ordinary individuals: indeed the individual, rather than the group, became the point of interest. So then, heroes like John Proctor of The Crucible were made possible, and even before that, Nora Helmer of A Doll’s House. Still I’m stuck on what to do with Edmund the bastard: perhaps he should have written Shakespeare into existence rather than the reverse. Maybe nobody would’ve known the difference anyhow. Which would be the more foppish today, the cosmic dance or Machiavellian plotting? Maybe we made a wrong turn after Shakespeare…
The Drowning Mouse
This is an experiment that scientists have actually done with white mice. They trap the mouse in a jar of liquid oxygen. He resists drowning, fighting desperately to stay alive until he can fight no longer. Then his lungs fill with the fluid and he finds he can breathe, so he lives in this strange new element.
I feel a lot like the white mouse in the experiment. And the scientists are the powers that be, whether god, government, or society more generally.
“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.”
Quarter after six.
There’s nothing really on my plate for today except the daily trip to get food for Aesop and me. Daylight will not dawn for another hour, yet sleeping any longer was out of the question. I dug out my beautiful Arden copy of The Winter’s Tale and considered it again; finally I went on Amazon to order The Tempest to read this spring. WT made me think of the church, a little community of Christians kind of like a Shakespeare reality, while my existence there was as a minor character, for example Autolycus, the peddler of bawdy songs and all around reprobate interested only in himself. Or anyway, that’s how a Christian sees me, which may be rather unfair and inaccurate about me. It’s hard to say. The breaking point for me was to realize that my parents were sinners according to church, when I knew I couldn’t condemn them for anything. A very difficult decision for me. Since a year ago I’ve written huge volumes of notes on my feelings about the situation, but I think the conclusion was quite foregone… It was last summer when I read WT the third time and applied it to my life somewhat unwisely. Shakespeare also says that the truth will out. In the end, I’m not “like” Autolycus or any other fictional character, as no one is really like anybody else. Life never imitates art but in our imaginations. So it makes you ponder the role of the half world of art and music and poetry. All in all it’s a didactic thing and something to please the senses… Just now I see the first gray light of day. It’s looking pretty overcast, maybe with some sprinkles, which doesn’t break my heart at all.
I feel a little sad so far this morning, I’m not sure why. I was lightheaded walking to the store a bit ago in the rain, maybe worried about having Gloria over. Also, my dog is getting older and shows less vitality as time goes by. We only age towards the future and not the past. And yet some things can rejuvenate and restore us. I thought of the poetry of Wallace Stevens yesterday; I like his “Study of Two Pears” very much. His concept of nature is totally different from that of someone like Shakespeare three centuries before him. For Stevens, religion is just another man made thing while reality is very broad and round rather than flat. And for Shakespeare, the Word of God was logically prior to the natural world…
Gloria will be here at nine o’clock. Soon I have to put the dog in the room down the hallway. I’m feeling under the weather but I hope to pull through.
Noon hour. The best part of Gloria’s visit was our trip to Bi Mart and St Vinnie’s on Division Avenue. Especially I thought it was great to see Sherri, Kirsten, and Ann at the first place. Sherri was laid off when the pharmacy closed in November, but obviously got rehired on the floor as a cashier… Gloria said she would like my help with her computer when we can set it up at my house, so of course I’ll do what I’m able to do. I let her borrow a book and gave her two movies on dvd; also some old blue jeans for making patchwork quilts. The book was Josh Halliwick’s Madness, a self published account of a person’s battle with schizophrenia. Gloria said she’d love to read it because she really liked A Beautiful Mind, the mostly true story of John Nash, winner of a Nobel Prize for his economic theory and a person living with schizophrenia… As sometimes happens in March, it just hailed this afternoon. And now I owe Aesop his crunch bar snack for being good while we were working today.
Feeling pretty tired after Gloria was here for two and a half hours. But it looks like we got something done today. There’s actually some free floor space in my family room again, and most of my CDs are shelved and off the ground. I don’t know what causes the disorder of schizophrenia or why my functioning went downhill after I left my job 14 years ago. It’s a thing you can see objectively, just something that happens. I seriously doubt that psychotherapy can do much good for a case of severe mental illness. You take the medication and hope for the best.
Today it’s raining lightly at intervals from a white sky. Sometimes I want to really milk the pleasure out of my life; go on a spree of bohemian activities like drinking and making music, and I wish for a world where it’s okay to be a fool in a Queen song. The only dangers of decadence are that it shortens your lifespan and does damage to others who care about being responsible, like Odysseus trying to go home to Penelope in the iconic old story. It’s the old conflict of passion versus prudence, as ancient as the Greeks and still pertinent today. It’s the substance of civilization, with the mainstream and the counterculture. I wonder which one I’m more partial to now. To straddle both is difficult, like Henry IV before he finally rebuffs Falstaff to be a proper king. “I know you not.” Life is hard for everyone the same way…
I read and skimmed the chapter on Sartre in my new book by William Barrett, and I came away from it feeling inspired and rejuvenated. I wrote some notes in my journal, arriving at the conclusion that human freedom has no limits, at least from certain perspectives. I know it probably sounds too optimistic, or “idealistic” in a naive sense of the term, yet what else is philosophy for if it can’t exaggerate a little? And now I’ll finish reading Native Son to see what ideas the story bears out.
I bet I sound like a kook to you with my talk of freedom and so forth, but it’s still important to me. Maybe there’s something kind of Peter Pan about libertarian ideas. However, the implications of liberty in the abstract are far reaching, and it’s a serious philosophical issue with a lot of relevance to our lives. Someday there’s a couple of books I want to read in their entirety: one is Being and Nothingness and the other is Don Quixote. In my experience with Cervantes and Shakespeare, the former is about individual freedom, the latter is deterministic and fixed, more like Freudian psychology. It’s interesting that the two writers were contemporaries and died on the same day in 1616. For me, it’s kind of either/or, one or the other, and I think I pick Cervantes.
I remember when in college I was sort of forced to accept Shakespeare and Freud, the unconscious, the idea of nature, and all that, after I’d been exposed to Sartre and other philosophers, plus Don Quixote. There’s a world of difference between these two angles. It might be said that the idealistic side has no common sense, hence the meaning of “quixotic.” And then you have to consider the role of Sancho Panza, the one who has sanity and a clear head. Sancho is realistic.
I don’t know about all of this, but I’m just getting started with my exploration of the possibilities, and the Barrett book fueled the fire for me today.
I feel nervous about a couple of things today, but everything passes and all shall be well. The sky is dark gray again, making it dubious that we’ll ever see the sun. January 17 is MLK Day, a good thing to be reminded of. I used to know someone who shared his birthday, and now I notice that King was another famous Capricorn…
Quarter of nine. Thanks to the holiday, the road workers had a day off so I could get to the store okay. I saw a driver taking a terrible chance crossing Maxwell Road. If he had misjudged by only a second then he would have been T boned in the middle of the intersection. I’m actually glad that I don’t drive a car anymore. It’s just too dangerous, and people in their cars are so impersonal with others; so selfish and competitive… It seems like forever since we’ve seen the sun in the sky. Cathy said it’s taking a break. I do see a band of peach on the east horizon. Does the human world assimilate to the landscape or the other way around? Shakespeare believed that nature is sympathetic to affairs in the social world; for instance the thunderstorm in King Lear the night Cordelia dies. The Renaissance was an amazing phenomenon. Even more amazing if we could revive it and be reborn as before.
Another hot one is predicted for today. Think I’ll stay home from church yet again. The reading I did of Shakespeare during the night got me reflecting on collectivism in a new way. Autolycus as a character in The Winter’s Tale is a fly in the ointment, and by nature he is unlikable with his dishonest purse cutting and bawdy songs. It makes me compare his role in the play to my own place in the church and the community. And seeing myself in this light, I don’t really like my image. Funny how reading a good book can make you self aware.
Seven thirty. The store was supposed to be open at seven, but when I arrived, no one was there and the doors were locked up. I’ve never seen this happen before at Community Market, a total failure to show up. So I crossed the street to the espresso hut and bought a raspberry tea from the pretty girl and came home. I can’t speculate what happened to Heather this morning. I only know she didn’t show up to open the store today… I’m still contemplating going to Our Redeemer for Sunday worship. It’s a very long walk there, and Aesop won’t be happy about my absence. I’ll leave it to the last minute to decide… Band practice was such a disaster yesterday that I won’t make an Orpheus post this time. My mates were too stoned and drunk to be able to play their instruments, let alone think and make sense in speech. I was terribly embarrassed. Maybe in this case it’s two strikes and you’re out. I wasted my time yesterday with these bozos. I just want to make music, while the others make music secondary to the drugs… Church is looking better and better as I think about it…
Quarter of six.
The store will open shortly. I need my morning tea for a pick me up. I feel tired and sore from what I did yesterday. Think I’ll just go ahead and go now…
Quarter of seven. Michelle and the guy from the dairy were tallying items ordered against those received when I walked in. I headed straight for the dog treats, then got the usual stuff for me. Even as I write, Aesop has fallen back to sleep. It’s been an oddball week for us both, but on the other hand there’s no normal anymore. If we practice tomorrow, it’ll be earlier in the day due to the expected heat. The times today are very hard for everybody. Ron said a couple of times that he anticipates a revival of Roman decadence and hedonism to compensate for the pandemic. I wouldn’t mind that, actually. The world doesn’t get enough of the joy of living. Seize the day before the day seizes us. Somewhere, unpublished, a few people are probably doing audacious things, like having dangerous liaisons, staking everything and going for broke. According to smart writers like James Joyce, pursuing passion is the right thing to do. Right now, the world is in a state of paralysis little different from his Dublin a century ago… I think that people nowadays have spiritualized themselves out of living a fulfilling life in the here and now. What will it take to shake us awake?
Eight o’clock. So I hope Ron is right about the Roman revival. I didn’t read Edward Gibbon, but I know his thrust. Decadent morals brought about the collapse of the Roman Empire, therefore any civilization needs a measure of rational restraint to ensure its longevity. However, Shakespeare suggested that order is restored after people take a good holiday…