31 January, 2004

A Day in the Life with a little Philosophy thrown in

It is 2 am on a Friday night. As a break from reading, I just came in from giving the punching bag a flurry in the garage. Last Call. Outside in the lot across the street everyone is getting into their cars and heading home from the bars. For me, this is the start of the peaceful time of night. I could go to bed; I could light a candle, meditate for a few minutes, lie down and let the dreams come on. But somehow I feel so vitally alive at this time, more in tune and less distracted.

Earlier, I went to a pot luck dinner to get a bite to eat and to simply get away from the books. I read most of the day, bought some groceries, took Widge on a couple walks. It snowed; it rained, and the wind was more impressive than usual. I don’t really remember the day in any detail now. I read Dante; I read the first chapter of Joyce. Ah, the flute—my flute came in the mail today—a new temptation, my own Pandora’s Box of curiosity. I fingered it, cursed it mostly. The high “do” and low “do” are so hard to hit right—they crack terribly and I felt bad for Widgeon. I try to make a smile, to pretend that I am spitting a watermelon seed at Wendy.(that’s what the instructions said to do) I learned “Amazing Grace” and “Happy Birthday,” but don’t ask me to play them for you if you see me, not for a while, I’ll scare you. I must have played for an hour and a half.

Everything I have been reading is so entwined and connected with music: Dr. Faustus and the Glass Bead Game in particular. Ulysses will be too, I’m sure. Mann, Hesse, and Joyce were all fanatical about music. Joyce’s wife encouraged him to give up literature for music. Everyday it is something that I want more badly. I want to play, to feel rhythm and cadence flow through my body. I feel I am somehow dense, like rubber impervious to the vibrations of energy, like a dampener or a sponge; where I want to be a vessel, like fine crystal that rings to circular touch, like a tuning-fork, where every hit is an intonation.

There is something akin in my difficulties with music and meditation. They are my great hurdles, and they are somehow linked: both sublimations of the self. Is my ego to great? Am I too present, so present that I can’t annihilate myself, I can’t surrender to that non-corporal being that is at once ourselves and otherness, the “I” and the “thou.” I believe in this oneness, but somehow I fail to surrender to it. Why? I am patient. I relax and offer myself almost nightly. (I sound like Donne in “Batter My Heart”)—

“I, like an usurper town, to another due,
Labor to admit You, but O to no end;”

I have such embarrassing mental control. My thoughts wander by their own whim. For now they do me justice, but soon it will be my great mission to strike a balance, to both enjoy a rebellious mind but harness it. “Reason is the outward bound of energy.”—W. Blake.

Let me take a moment to describe my present life by more practical terms: work load. On my desk are an abundance of novels, all necessary, all large, and to be finished as quickly as possible. I have read half of Dr Faustus, 550pgs; about 100pgs of Dante’s Divine Comedy, 550pgs; the first chapter of Joyce’s Ulysses, 600pgs; 80pgs of Hesse’s Glass Bead Game (one of all-time favorites) 600pgs.; I haven’t even started Joyce’s Dubliners, 300pgs, or Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, 260pgs. I won’t list the Nietzsche I am supposed to read, Steppenwolf and Narziss and Goldman can wait. Oh and this is only three of my classes. Forget Heidegger and Sartre and Kierkegaard—Existentialism is a pass/fail class.

I swear I am not complaining—to the contrary I am a bit excited. None of it really matters—I read what I read. This is what I am here for, and this is the end, my last go. My classes are amazing. What great stuff to read, Dante and Joyce at last! I hope I can read some of the philosophy—Did I mention Camus? The Odyssey too. I am certainly loaded down like never before. I will have to trim the fat—no more hanging out, no more chasing girls about, not much skiing, phone calls are right out, cooking will have to be kept to an unfortunate minimum, climbing and exercise must be maintained, sleep will be maintained (I sleep almost 10 hours a night—it is now proved that sleep and creativity are linked). I will take a virtual week off when Ellie comes to visit—she’s worth it. I won’t make it home for Mary Locke’s wedding I don’t suppose, maybe the party afterwards if I read like mad on the plane. Time shall tell.

Still I want to start learning the flute, actually, it is a pennywhistle—a man must start somewhere. I must get my website up and running—I must continue pursuing the stray threads of my dreams. I must write and give the writing precedence. Hence what I am doing now. Now it is 2:45 am. Perhaps it is time to read Dante.

Let me end with a cheerful revelation I had this late evening: I realized, to some meager degree, that I feel I cannot fail. If my dreams collapse somehow, I will try to become a professor—and I will be happy. If somehow that also fails me, then I will simply become a monk—and I will be happy. How can that fail me? How can I not become a monk? Maybe a weak attempt at a confidence booster, but it brought a smile to my face. Life’s not so bad if you don’t need too much from it.

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