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Tuesday, August 30, 2005
MORE HOT AIR
A friend made a wisecrack about my “solipsistic” ways, and he was entitled and justified to do so. However, it gets one to thinking. Specifically, what was I on about in the last entry? Was I proposing that the deity had arranged events so that I could commune with Seamus during an idle viewing of some Hollywood picture? Well, no. It’s true that I felt my Dad’s presence during the events described, as I often have these recent times. But if there is a point to be made, it’s not about mysticism, it’s about tuning into a frequency. There are certain mindsets, over which we have a fair degree of control, that determine how we perceive and interact with our surroundings. For example, I’ve occasionally enjoyed a kind of “blank” mindset, where I view the world around me objectively. I am not “present” in it at these times; it’s all just going and going and I am only seeing, hearing and smelling it. This is refreshing.
One such moment was on New Year’s 2000. At midnight, after all the kisses and well-wishing with Shelley and my folks, I stepped outside the house. It was a clean, cold night and my folks’ neighborhood was oddly quiet, as if everybody was off at a party somewhere else. The ruckus of celebration surrounded me, as if the world was a vast doughnut of “whoop-de-doo” and this block was the hole. There were several discernible layers of sound: the quiet of our block, the distant cacaphony, and local noises from inside the house and nearby. I was able to separate them and tune in and out of each at will. None of it involved me at that moment, and any emotion or thought was supplanted by the odd pleasure of disassociation. It’s a very nice, calm feeling, like the deep quiet after a passing storm has caused a blackout. There is a very rare counterpart to this, which is a sublime state of connection with everything. In a spiel about an Ives concert, I described that kind of rushing sound and fury signifying who-knows-what. I guess some religious types often have these experiences through meditation or peyote or something. More often though, that ol’ devil solipsism intrudes, and then there are dark portents and grim signifiers everywhichway. The usual response to things is “yeah… figures.” Every cocksucking thing is more proof of the conspiracy.
What I described in the Mo Cuisle spiel was the counterpart to this. Ordinary things and events take on a numinous quality. In the incomprehensible web of things real, unreal, lost, invented, known, unknown, a-bornin’, ad infinitum, all these states of perception are correct. If there is a line between sanity and insanity, it is probably smack dab at the point where one is able to draw from them without attempting to influence them, become unduly influenced by them or imposing them upon others. Brian Wilson, making the music of Smile, tapped into the ecstatic state and put it on tape. This is called “artistic genius.” When he then concluded that his piece “Mrs O’Leary’s Cow” caused actual fires, he crossed over the line. (Being benign, he only harmed himself through this hallucinatory blip; had be been a bad guy he might have bypassed making the music and gone out lighting fires) Too commonly, we learn of people hearing the voice of god and perpetrating horrible acts. Even more commonly we learn of people obeying the voice of their own little Ids, calling it religious duty or political necessity or something else, and fucking over someone else’s life.
Everyone lives in a more or less pragmatically determined delusion. Wrong means your delusion led you to fuck up someone else’s shit and Right means it did not. Gradations of Wrong scale down to gradations of Evil and gradations of Right scale up to gradations of Good. More pragmatically determined gradations of Good/Right lead folks to acts of selflessness and heroism, and less “pragmatic” gradations lead to Art. Upwards awaits Genius or Sainthood, depending. Most of us, I hope, are down in the neighborhood of “talent” or “decent person.” Pragmatic Wrong/Evil examples are everywhere, but let’s agree that your Hitler/Grice/Ceausescu extreme is uncommon compared to your everyday prick driver/rock critic/phone solicitor standard. (Pragmatic Evil: taking from others for one’s own gain, as opposed to a pointlessly destructive “wings off flies” motivation). This is all sorta slapdash and semi-serious, but there is a point I’m making, I think.
I left AA many years ago after witnessing a room full of fellow recovering drunks, all going gaga over one woman’s photo of her kitchen, where she claimed to have captured the image of Jesus in a reflection over the sink. I couldn’t believe it: they all agreed this was Christ, rather than a coincidence of light and schmutz creating a vague likeness of Kenny Loggins. Then and now, I reckoned they’d all be better off getting a damn drink and arguing over the Mets than deciding that the King of Kings dropped by to inspect Betty M’s dirty dishes. So what’s the difference between that and me claiming that a bad lightbulb and a Clint Eastwood DVD got together to forward me a candygram from the dearly departed? Well, you figure it out. If that gal thought she saw Jesus, and this affected her in some positive way, hell, yeah. But when she hightailed it to Town Square to share the glad tidings and everyone there said “BEHOLD! IT IS TRULY HE WHO AM WHAT AM!” …well, that’s when the line got crossed. So I’d prefer anyone smiling about my tale and thinking me a crackpot over anyone saying “Whoah! That’s heavy!” But I’d REALLY welcome someone reading it and glimpsing the fact that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophies. As there had fucking better be; our philosophies are pretty weak tea.
Every philosophy I’ve ever “studied” (a kind work for the dilettante browsage that amounts to all I can stand of such dead-end labor) is wrong. Every religion I’ve ever examined is silly. People who embrace them are not necessarily silly, though, because usually people pick and choose. People decide for themselves what part is metaphor, what part is sound and what part is p-tuie. And that’s where my solipsism comes in. To use Judeo-Christianity as an example (because it’s familiar; not because the “eastern faiths” are any less ridiculous): Joan of Arc. Noah. God speaks, they act. Everyone says they’re nuts. But we know, via hindsight via dogma, that God DID speak to them. So they are Saints or Patriarchs or something. Real or invented, these people were fuckin’ nuts, and YOU would number among the nameless scoffers in their tales. Of course you would. Or maybe you and I would not figure in at all… we’d ignore them. We would be like the characters inhabiting unseen parts of films. Who dat?
The crowd hanging out at Martini’s bar the night BEFORE George Bailey stumbles in and begins his ordeal. Ordinary people living in Sweden during the events Cervantes covers in Don Quixote. Another deer in another wood far from Bambi. We have selected the particular story in that book/movie - or it has been selected for us – from an infinite number of possible others, and an infinite number of permutations of that choice of cast and setting. (This all gets very stoned-sophomore, and is not especially original or profound, I know. So eat shit: this is my blog, not fucking Spinoza. The pursuit of some mathematically precise ideology is the exact opposite of my… uh… belief) Joan of Arc and those who love her (as literal patron saint, as poetic metaphor, as sex fetish, as illustration of religious principles, as political figurehead) are choosing their story, its meaning, and all that. The more dogmatic one is, the further from that differentiation and the possibility of “god.” I personally view the “gift of faith” as a corral that comforts because it contains… swaddles. For that, it’s perfectly acceptable. But if your Mohammed or Jesus says “go tell it on the mountain” so others “know” the “truth” I’m not interested in listening (naturally, if you want me to die because I reject it, I want you dead first; zealotry is another whole story). People who are into this are OK, as are those who have no faith or need for any. But when they announce their specific convictions about God or Nothing they bore me as truly as all those insufferable political partisans who yell at one another on cable TV. I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe in Nothing.
That stuff is a roaring ocean I don’t belong in. I have a swimmin’ hole that suits me. I read old TV guides. I listen to airchecks of long-ago radio broadcasts. I live in a past of my own choice, to create a present of my own preference. I may be accused of retreat, avoidance, solipsism, etc. However, I make my music and art as a gesture of connection to the world and faith in the future; it’s how I impose meaning on this life. As badly as I’ve wanted to commune with my dead brother Bob or my dead nephew Pete, I could not contrive any self-persuasion that such contact ever happened. My Dad is another story, and I think that has something to do with the parental bond and the nature of our relationship in life. My Dad is literally with me. In and around me. And for all the “I, me” filling these entries, it is YOU I’m speaking to. These are travel snapshots… yours are just as interesting, I’m sure. I can only talk about the view from here. It changes all the time, and it never does, but with the seismic intensity of life and death around here these recent years, it’s (I hope) understandable that talk turns to this stuff. Such ponderations may or may not have any interest or value, but these matters matter to me. And answers, thank heaven, are few. I tell you all this because I love you in sickness and in health. Of course I'm full of shit. You're not? I only know I’m healthy when I can laugh, and alive when I can sing. So la-de-da-de-har-har-har.