The Stuff of Dreams

Two thirty in the morning.

I was thinking again about the nature of psychosis. Like dreams, it is the fulfillment of a wish. It’s the attempt to make reality conform to your desires. It shifts shapes into what they essentially are not, but what the deluded person thinks they ought to be. Desires and wishes play a major role in the religious life as well. How is prayer any different from a dream? You’re merely trying to influence natural events to go your way. The ancient religious practice of the fire sacrifice had the same motivation as prayer: to sway nature to accord with human wishes. But such endeavors are vain and useless. The only way to change reality is by practical action, and that means work. No purely mental effort can solve a problem. I can sit here and wish with all my might that my house was clean and tidy, but only a physical effort will make it happen. I don’t believe that anybody can move a pencil with their mind, or start a fire, or communicate by telepathy. Psychosis can shift shapes in the mind of the observer, but objectively, reality doesn’t budge. 

Real life is not like a Jorge Luis Borges story in which nature yields to the will of humankind… and yet a beautiful song by Yes occurs to me. In “That, that Is,” there’s an interlude where Jon Anderson sings, “How did heaven begin?” And of course, there’s the irrepressible memory of what a baby sees… 

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? 

Since the Birds

Quarter after seven.

I ran my little errand to the book share, placing the Austen volumes plus one of Ibsen. I thought, if I were going to teach something, what would I want people to know? I added A Doll’s House for the message of personal freedom and feminism. From there I marched off to the store and bought food and a one liter of Coke. It only cost me $9.04, and I still have $53 in food stamps. The sun had cleared the rim of the land as I executed my task… The email from my friend was nice this morning. The next event is Aesop’s breakfast, followed by my cottage cheese and then bass guitar practice. I hear Roger’s Ford idling across the street, revving here and there. There he goes. My brain is playing an old song by Yes, from their commercial phase with Trevor Rabin. “I’m Running” is one of my favorites. I wonder where they got the idea for the Jacaranda Room? A species of tropical tree. Saddening to remember that Chris Squire passed away a few years ago. For a lot of fans, he embodied the essence of Yes. His old Rickenbacker ought to be in a museum. I read that the instrument was an American export called the 1999 bass, not the 4001 or the 4002. Paul McCartney had the same model. The common practice was to refinish those guitars with a maple color. They came with no binding and no shell inlays on the neck.

Eight thirty. It is a blessing not to be paranoid. People are calling the tenets of cognitive therapy “classic” now, so does that mean that they are dated? I know some people who are still unfamiliar with CBT. If something new became available, Oregonians would be the last to know… The first therapist I had was a mean sort of person. I fired her because I didn’t like her, and I was within my rights as a client. My favorite primer on cognitive therapy is still Feeling Good by David D. Burns. A lot more are available, however. You don’t have to go to a therapist to learn about cognitive therapy, but it helps to have someone to practice with.

Reply to Mr Brewster

Based on your concluding sentence, your precepts are something like John Calvin, who said that our salvation or perdition is preordained by God, and nothing you can do will ever change your fate. All the good works you do won’t make a bit of difference.

If any part of you is still interested in happiness, then you might want to change or rearrange your basic assumptions. Off the top of my head I can only recommend listening to a Yes song titled “I’m Running.” If nothing else, just read the lyric. Even if you can’t be happy, remember that the future is about our children’s lives.

Wotan’s Day

Nine thirty five.

The sky is leaden with blue and pale sunlight caresses the ground. Roger is tapping on something, making a sound like timbales out of rhythm. There’s a wicked red spider on the back doorway. Finally I called Library of America and learned the fate of Elizabeth Bishop: it got sent to the Residence Inn by my mistake. So I called the hotel and Shelley located the package, which she will attempt to forward to me. Aesop and I then returned to bed, but I still didn’t sleep much. Just now I left a message for Shasta at my insurance office. At around two in the morning I listened to Close to the Edge, which made me ponder evangelicalism.

Quarter after eleven. I made my run to the store, stopping by the salon for a donut. Angela is engaged to be married, but she’s known the guy for 11 years. The salon has a new floor now, sort of a beige wood grain color. On my way back from the store, I stopped and had a conversation with Derek outside his house. He has sold his fifth wheeler in favor of tent camping. I noticed its absence because I walk past it every day. He has two little daughters, Claire and Natalie, who are always outdoors playing. We chatted for maybe 20 minutes, as it was 11 o’clock when I got home. People are talking about the heat wave coming next week. I hope it doesn’t get too much above 90 degrees. Today is partly sunny and cool. I asked Roger about help finishing my J Bass and he declined, saying my best bet was to call a professional luthier for an estimate. It might not be worth it, for the kit cost less than the luthier would… For some reason the old Yes song “Survival” is playing in my head. I could go to Bi Mart today or tomorrow, but I have no purpose for going except to get out for a while. Aesop is resting at my feet. I hope Shelley is able to forward the book to my address. I’ll just keep an eye on the mail every day for it.

Globalism: a Letter

I made a post about “God” before going to bed earlier tonight. It was unorthodox but honest, and a few people liked it. Another thought, rather new for me, is to realize that the world still acknowledges America as the greatest country on Earth. For many years I have espoused quite a reverse patriotism. Indeed I rejected the whole thing called nationalism and refused to watch the Olympics and such that fosters pride in your country. Neil Peart: “Better the pride that resides in a citizen of the world / Than the pride that divides when a colorful rag is unfurled.” I don’t know when I started feeling this way. Perhaps as early as junior high school, when Mom introduced me to The Beatles and helped me write a paper on the United Kingdom. And then in high school there was a musical phenomenon called New Wave, a second British Invasion. I grew totally enthused with Yes and a lot of other music that was not American. However, I remember now that even my old friend Kate had idealistic notions about America. But what really gives me a lump in my throat is to hear Yes do the song “America” by Simon and Garfunkel! And to think that the band came from across the Atlantic to live in California. “We’ve all come to look for America.” I’m crying right now because it’s only right for America to be reunited with the motherland. I’m not talking about burning American flags and that kind of immaturity, but something much more profound and all embracing. It begins with Europe and America, then expands outward to the rest of the world, this spirit of globalism. This is my big political dream, to see world peace and harmony with no patriotism and no nationalism, no divisions, no borders. Yes performs “America”
…as I say, brilliantly.
So I think I’m still back where I started from. I’m not a xenophobe, a person who hates foreign people and things. To me, there is nothing foreign. And I wish for a day when the world comes together as one.

“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?

Ode on a Sanyo

Midnight hour. The same song, “The Remembering,” transports me back to winter 1983, when my parents took me with them on a holiday to the Driftwood Shores in Florence Oregon. They booked a suite with an adjoining room for me. While they drank, watched television, and gazed at the breakers on the ocean, I read The Swords Trilogy by Michael Moorcock. I had taken along my Sanyo cassette player with the Yes music copied from the vinyl to tape. It was something everybody in my high school did, and this way we could share music with each other. The little Sanyo was metallic gray with blue trim around the door, and was encased in imitation leather. Each earphone had a spongy orange cover. It ran on AA batteries. I carried my Walkman clone everywhere with me, including on the Band Tour to California that year, and on to summer Band Camp at the University. Just a few years ago I found this museum piece in a cabinet and examined it: it was ruined by battery leakage. Otherwise I would’ve tried to play with it and restore the past to the present— and thereby resurrect my parents, if only in my sottish state of mind. Something about “love’s bitter mystery.” It would’ve been like holding a seashell to my ear and hearing the ocean all those years ago…

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.


Quarter of three o’clock 🕒. Dreams not far from reality, of construction on the house, the bass I built, the dumpster in the front yard, and the trailer in the driveway. Dreams of growing pains like the mallet blow to my ring finger, which turned to plum but soon healed. My soul grinds the problem of transformation waking and asleep. My dog looks depressed, so I take him out walking a little. I tell him in words how we’ll get our house back in a matter of time. I don’t know if he comprehends. Meanwhile I don’t want to hear from anyone who is faithless or hopeless, because too much of that could drive me over the edge. “Rejoice rejoice, we have no choice but to carry on… Love is coming, love is coming to us all.” Whatever happened to songs like this? Graham Nash’s voice so high that he actually overshot the notes into sharpness. That’s how strongly they felt about reforming the human condition. It was a creative impulse I can trace back to Shelley’s poetry, this booming voice proclaiming that humanity is perfectible. And why not? If we can imagine perfection, surely we can realize it? What will it take for all of humanity to take this step together? “Hear this voice now and forever, it’s time, brothers in time, is it hard to take this choice, as it kicks so hard… There in the heart of millions, seen as a godsend to us, there stands our future. There can be no denying, simple as ABCD, there stands our children’s lives.” This song by Yes is about the best that rock music has to offer, and its utopian message is timeless and simple: there’s no reason why we can’t live in perfect harmony with each other and with nature. People can dismiss it as poetic sentiments, which would be very sad when poets have always known best.