One fifty in the morning.
I had a round of bad dreams about my dad. Essentially I saw him as a sadist, one who derives pleasure from the suffering of other creatures, and as such, a terrible man. Expiation is the word Hugo uses for atonement, or rather his translator uses it. I feel as though my parents need such a thing, so maybe that’s my duty while I’m still alive. Or maybe it’s better to let them fade into obscurity. Better to help the living than the dead. But my dreams don’t let me forget them. When I was a toddler I had a lucid dream of my parents being judged by a wise old man who could be none other than Jesus. He shone as a star in the night sky, then he descended from heaven to persecute my mother and father. I ran into the house to try to warn them of their danger, pursued by the white bearded wizard. It’s so strange as a child to be alone with a dream. How do you explain it to someone when you lack the vocabulary to do so? And then, who listens to a three year old?
Well I had an interesting day. It was sort of interwoven with old and new for my interior experience, and there was definite interplay between mind and reality, creating one person’s impression. I began to notice this in the waiting room of the physical therapy office: although no Halloween decorations existed, my mind imparted this essence to the colors I saw around me, giving them the luster of October 2002 from my memory. Doubtless this was the influence of having read Wordsworth recently. And yet our minds probably create this way all the time, making a fiction of fact, therefore who knows what is real? My appointment went well enough. Christina knows her business and was able to help me quite a bit today. The weather started with a high fog that burned off and gave way to beautiful sunshine before it was noon. The excursion took me up north a mile on River Road to the Santa Clara Square, where there’s a big Albertsons supermarket and a strip mall with a lot of small shops. Axis Physical Therapy is housed in the lower level of the medical building stuck in the middle of the parking lot. There is also a Shari’s Restaurant that’s been there forever. And across Division Avenue is the big Fred Meyer shopping center, where my sister goes for groceries at least once a week. In our petty disagreement with each other, Polly has staked out the territory north of the highway for herself, and south of it is my domain. I suppose a lot of this is my imagination, but I think Polly sees the same political division of north and south up and down River Road. The farther south you go on this street, the more it takes you into the heart of the city. It actually merges with Chambers Street at the bridge, and down underneath it is the Eugene Mission. It begins to get interesting for me around Fifth Street. Downtown Eugene starts more or less here, and Sixth and Seventh are arteries for heavy traffic; also 11th, 13th, and 18th Streets. I love Downtown! I don’t get to go there often enough. From the top of Skinner Butte you can see the layout of the whole city of Eugene. But my absolute favorite place is probably Fifth Street, especially the corner of Fifth and Pearl, where Musique Gourmet used to be. And I believe Smith Family Bookstore is on Fifth and Willamette… I get a bit emotional describing these places because my dad used to drive me there in the years when I wasn’t well. I guess I really miss my dad. He seemed to be better adjusted than my mother…
The dense fog through my bedroom window was rather pretty to see just minutes ago. Aesop, my cattle dog, looked at me with love in his eyes. My mind still plays “Blue Motel Room” for some obscure reason; sometimes it morphs to “Cotton Avenue.” Right now is a lull time before Aesop’s breakfast. I slept well and my mind is clear. Yesterday the sun came out in mid afternoon, cheering the scene a bit. My red oak has been dropping leaves already, some of which are gold. Nature is a little confused, but she’s trying to repair herself and continue as usual. The hot east wind we had last month, fanning the wildfires, was like something released from hell… The Wordsworth I read yesterday was good but a bit heavy on the abstracts. Essentially he was saying he lived through the French Revolution and Robespierre had died. He faulted him with being an atheist, whereas those who supported the monarchy were religious and conservative. There’s one more section on France before The Prelude winds down and concludes. Then I may range through his other poems again… Hopefully my brain can synthesize some of this information into poetry of my own. But it takes more of an effort now than it used to. If life itself is an epic poem, then there are elements of sound and fury and complete hurly burly. Maybe an overall order presides in our lives, though often hard to see. Aesop doesn’t care, just so he gets his breakfast on time.
Quarter after ten. Karen fed me a double chocolate donut, but otherwise nothing special happened. She said Jean has come down with shingles. But life just goes on as normal, mostly. I feel lucky to be so comfortable at home, with a dog who’s mellowing over time. I content myself with little, and the little is enough.
Quarter of nine.
Outside it’s gray and gloomy. Aesop needs canned food, so at nine o’clock I’ll go get some. I had a few awful nightmares, paranoid and alcoholic, and Mom was in them. I have to shake the dreams somehow.
Nine thirty five. I thought of freedom on my way to the store, and this lifted my mood. A sanitation truck was parked in front of the blue house on Fremont. Later I saw it outside of the espresso shack. The market was not very busy. I found slim pickings for dog food, so it’s probably time for another run to Grocery Outlet. Vicki’s headache still persists, going on two years. Maybe she doesn’t ask the right questions of her doctor… The songs in my head are a jumble I won’t describe. I’m of half a mind to finish reading The Prelude— finally. I don’t know if I agree with Wordsworth that reality is what we create by the activity of our minds. Naive realists say that this is just backwards; perception is passive, not active. But if Wordsworth is right, then are we able to build Jerusalem on our green and pleasant land? How strong are the imagination and the words we use?
Ten forty. I feel somewhat under the weather. I feel an impulse to transcend the mundane and touch heaven. This would be thinking with my heart, not my head. So that the garbage truck that just went by is really a blue and gray behemoth…
Wee hours. I threaded my way through some boxes in the family room in order to get to my big Wordsworth. But now I wonder if reading The Prelude is really beneficial. Maybe the stuff about epistemology is merely self delusion? Is naive realism truly naive? These questions are as difficult as the human mind itself. And again they bring up the conflict between psychology and science. Neither side yields an inch in their struggle against each other. I would argue that science is superior because it has calculus for a method, even though my mathematical ability is poor. Can verbal language ever be as precise as math? The one is qualitative, the other quantitative. Perhaps these two approaches will battle with each other until doomsday. Sure, I can open my Wordsworth to The Prelude for inspiration and enjoy the poetic language, but it may not be constructive in the ordinary sense. It tempts me to write a defense of poetry all over again, as Sidney and Shelley felt compelled to do hundreds of years ago. How does poetry benefit humankind? What is the role of the poet in human life? And, how many poets could I petition to contribute to such a Defense of Poetry? Maybe everyone on WordPress could write a paragraph.
One o’clock. The freedom idea of Sartre’s philosophy is losing its significance for me. I don’t know what I believe right now. Abstractions don’t have much meaning anymore, yet I’m not a scientist either. I’m simply myself. I thought briefly of Sheryl again this morning: her assessment of me was absurd, and I despised her belief in masochism. So leaving her care was the right thing to do two years ago. I’ve learned more about myself just knocking about the community than from talk therapy. The sidewalk is a good teacher, for the beliefs of a neighborhood imbue the very pavement. And the values that emerge always are Christian in some form. It is the great code inherent in everything, and the revealed religion that existed prior to the prophets. Or maybe not, but it’s interesting to consider the Word to be out of our hands. The Hindu tradition likewise erased the footprints of its history, leaving the mists of legend. It makes it appear that the religion was given to humanity by God alone, and not just invented by us. As if scripture were prior to the natural world itself— and how do we know otherwise? The Old Testament dates back to the 1300s before Christ, long before the birth of science. All texts in the present are equally alive, so maybe the fossil record is the hoax of natural history? I’ve had this thought especially when feeling psychotic, but does that disqualify its veracity? I don’t think anybody knows for sure. The sun is shining in the blue sky dotted with little clouds. Imagination can mold clouds into humanly meaningful shapes. It can do the same thing with texts. What matters is the reader’s mind, and the reality that results from interpretation. Wordsworth suggests that people half perceive, half create their experience. I ought to finish reading The Prelude. We hold the right to build castles in the air. Sometimes life depends on the strength of a story.
Quarter of two. It feels more like the present again. Aesop and me alone. But it really is uncanny how the change of seasons seems to have puppet mastered me with Laurel Hill and the return of my family. The coincidence is in my mind, but also in the mind of nature: just like in a Wordsworth poem. It’s a phenomenon of the collective consciousness the way things have come together, reuniting everyone in the name of All Hallows’ Eve. It could be good or bad, but it’s inevitable if it occurs by the spirit of nature. It is willed from somewhere, whether it is called God or even the devil. Memories long buried are exhumed and inspired with new life. My feelings are resurrected in the sun-glare off the golden maple leaves, like magic. Is this psychosis— or metempsychosis? The communion of souls conspiring: “breathing together” the breath of heaven and hell. It wafts from the sun and rain on the turning trees in October with a deadline of Halloween. It brings anxiety and fear, maybe panic; stomach in knots. But the anxiety is a symptom of life. How alone are we? I envision being in the lobby of Laurel Hill, talking with Jeannie about those who have gone up to heaven since I worked there. She remembers me and what went before. Meanwhile the leaves turn yellow and red and fall to earth…
I feel inclined to go back and finish The Prelude. I love Wordsworth’s poetic voice, so pompous and commanding— majestic— in his eloquence, as if truly inspired by an invisible spirit. The breath of heaven, as he calls it. And this literally is the meaning of “inspiration,” a being breathed into. So that, almost, Wordsworth is not the author of his poems, but rather God is, or some lesser angel. In Jungian language, it comes from the collective unconscious, the most impersonal and objective component of the psyche, common to all human beings. Greeks called it the nous, Emerson the oversoul, but these are multiple names for the same thing. One may choose the term they like best.
A moment ago I pondered the stars, considering that there are two approaches to knowing them. One is astronomy, a hard science. The other is to name the constellations the way people have created them, mapping out the human soul on the heavens and worshiping it. My brother scorned the zodiac as stupid, but you know, I can judge that for myself now. It may be my brother who regrets his ignorance of the soul as time ticks down. Eternity is always there, existing outside of time. I pray for my brother to see beyond the physics one day and find the bliss he has missed.
Quarter of five. I just read the fourth and fifth books of The Prelude: gorgeous and inspirational where Wordsworth waxes eloquent on the literary canon and his dream of the Don Quixote who rode a camel in the desert holding in one hand a stone and the other a conch, seeking to bury both before the end of the world. He further suggests how books and nature are indispensable to a child’s education, with the words of poets and the vistas of nature being effusions of God. So then I put the book down and knew I’d been privy to something majestic. Nor is it a vision that can’t be communicated to others, as I attempt in a paltry post. Wordsworth is a very great poet and wasn’t the English Poet Laureate for nothing prior to his passing in 1850. He makes claims regarding perception, the creativity of language, that are still useful to modern theory critics. In a couple of passages he brings up little doubts of his own sanity, hence I wonder if his poetic experiences in solitude with nature were similar to my own “psychosis” that snowy day at the cemetery. If so, then I was able to share in an activity quintessentially human and poetic. Either Wordsworth was a madman or a genius, or a little of both. The line dividing the two is a thin one. It now occurs to me that, unconsciously, I’ve been praising not William Wordsworth but my mother who was a big fan. Thus that whole February afternoon at Rest Haven beckons me to again pay my respects, to honor my father and mother. I must make a pilgrimage there after the house is done…
Two thirty. I read the second book of The Prelude and then had my sandwich. The workers were done after twelve and now have gone. My back hurts from sitting in this seat, so I might lie down soon. Wordsworth says something critical of science that I like. To him it’s preferable to apprehend nature as a single whole with what he calls the heart, to dicing her up into different quantitative sciences. He assumes that Coleridge his friend would agree. And again W alludes to the plasticity and active quality of the mind, projecting as he says its own kind of light onto natural objects, thereby transforming them. Perception for W is a creative process, with the mind wrapping itself around things— like the “Anecdote of the Jar” by Wallace Stevens, but W had the idea a century earlier. So that: my experience with psychosis the day of my cemetery errand would be quite normal for Wordsworth, but nobody calls him psychotic for having those perceptions. What if “psychosis” really is just another way of sensing reality? Could we then abolish the DSM?
But I’ve seen some low functioning cases of schizophrenia that were very pathetic, peppered with religious delusions and odd speech. Some people have delusions of the FBI or CIA or other government agencies. One person with OCD I overheard obsessing about the future of the species. Another always wanted to use the fax machine to communicate something to the authorities. Still another believed that someone had sabotaged her TV and VCR with electromagnetic energy.
Thus there is a marked difference between delusions and Wordsworth’s active perception. It’s just difficult knowing where to draw the line. I think it would be terribly rash to eliminate the DSM on a whim, but again I am hung on the horns between two schools of thought…