Hemingway’s reaction

Speaking to “dead” people involves a lot of guesswork even after the fact. This morning I went fishing to see what Papa Hemingway thought about a book, and — more to the point, for me — how certain aspects of communication between this side and the other side work. Or, sometimes, don’t work.

Monday, September 7, 2009, Labor Day

Okay, I’ve put off asking. Papa, when you were talking to me about your wartime service, it seems to me you should have known that Terry Mort was researching The Hemingway Patrols. When that thought occurred to me, I thought I heard – that is, another, responsive, thought came to me – that you knew but I didn’t, and therefore it affected the transmission. True? And in any case please comment on the questions you know I have in mind.

Your mental thrust is usually pretty strong.

Try that again? I am drifting, maybe. Let’s start with the question – did you know?

Like most questions asked from your side to this one, it sounds more clear-cut than it is. Your guys always say “yes, but no,” and that’s what I’m going to do too.

It’s a question of focus, from either end. In other words, the more you on your side intend to contact us, the easier to get our attention (in a manner of speaking). The more we on our side intend to get your attention, the better chance we have. Common sense, after all.

 But there are all sorts of intending, and all sorts of hearing. For instance, if you, yourself, were to try to write a book about me, it would be a different process, with different levels of available intuition, because you’d expect to be able to contact me or at least hear from me. I’m not “dead” to you. But someone who researches my life, no matter how much he may like me or my work, is going to have a different experience if he thinks I’m dead.

 You remember that Colin Wilson biography of Bernard Shaw where at the end Wilson said he felt Shaw’s approving presence. Well – that was unfashionable but accurate.

 Some people are stronger flashlights than others. Your intensity of purpose affects how strongly we feel your presence.

 I know that doesn’t sound very likely to you, but think of it this way. It’s the difference between someone thinking of a song in his mind, or humming it, or singing it full-throat. And distance factors in, because not everybody is at the same level of resonance. Some are connected in many ways, others only peripherally or – so to speak – accidentally, meaning tangentially because of some other interest.

And, not everybody persists in a given line of preoccupation. Not everybody thinks of the same person year after year, as you do of so many people – the Kennedy brothers, Churchill, Lindbergh, Thoreau, Lincoln – you know. They become themes, well-worn grooves. It is natural that with time your connection becomes deeper, more natural. Think how ours has developed – speaking only of present life connections – since your father-in-law gave you Islands in the Stream in 1970!

And since I began rereading parts of it every so often, being deeply moved.

All right. Well?

So, to go on. You were aware of Terry Mort’s research?

How could I not be? He and I connect on a different wavelength than you and I do, of course. Though he is also a writer, he is much more a sportsman, and understands that sort of thing intuitively. Similarly, war and soldiering.

Not so much into talking to dead people, though, eh?

Well – not deliberately and in public!

So when I was talking to you and you were saying you wanted your wartime service revealed – when I was considering (though I couldn’t do it) the research etc. that would have had to be done – couldn’t you have said, it’s being done?

In the first place, it isn’t and wasn’t being done. This is one small piece, more or less disregarding the Crook Factory except as background to the patrols, and, of course, not extending to France at all. (By the way, notice how he got my attitude to the war exactly right, though he didn’t factor in my disgust with the French and British governments. He saw that it was going from being a participant on my own to being a spectator within the big machine. Who else has ever seen that?)

In the second place, the writing of the blog entry was itself worth something. It made people think who maybe never did. Now, I know that to you it looks like dropping a pebble into a stream, and it disappears, but what you can’t ever see while you’re functioning within time is the eventual impact of things. If Henry Thoreau getting thrown into jail for one night helped liberate India from the English – how can you tell what affects what, unless you’re on this side where a given moment of time (“the present”) doesn’t have the same exaggerated importance.

In the third place, though in a way it ought to be “in the first place” for you – you are very stubborn and very little inclined to hear things that don’t make sense to your present moment. So, if you have an assumption – and assumptions are pretty much always unconscious at base – it is hard to move you. You’re easy enough to convince if you can be led to consider something, but leading you there can be a trick! So – you assumed that because nobody was doing all of it, nobody was doing any of it.

But do you see evidence that he examined the reports I filed? Were you disappointed not to have lengthy excerpts from the log, and the FBI reports, and the reports to the Navy via the ambassador? What Terry Mort did very well was to put it into focus within my life and within the war effort. That has now been done, and will have its effect. But the job isn’t finished (assuming anyone will care, but, actually, they will).

So, there you are. I didn’t mislead you, you didn’t, quite, mislead yourself, and the work you did do, even though only a couple of blog entries, will have its effect.

Now, meet Terry Mort, if only electronically, and see what happens.

He’ll assume I’m a nut.

If not for his own inner counselors, he might. But –

Interesting. Well, we’ll see.

2 thoughts on “Hemingway’s reaction

  1. You’re good at this Frank. Hemingway’s words have the resonance of authenticity, but of course you already know that.

    I had a thought. Why not ask him to toss you a story… one that he never told, one that he might tell now.

    Just a thought.

  2. Thanks, Hank. I appreciate the comment and the suggestion.

    Oddly, Hemingway already did something better than give me a story he had worked out himself. Back in late 2007, after I finished the first draft of my novel Babe In the Woods, I remarked to my friend Rita Warren on how easily it had come. She replied, more or less, “well, he said he’d help you, didn’t he?” I had forgotten that about 18 months earlier, Hemingway had said he’d help me write a novel if I wished. Once enough time had passed for me to forget the comment, he did just that.

    Kind of makes me wonder how much help we get at other times when we’re not particularly paying attention, and think it’s all our own idea — sort of like you communicating with Nainoa and winding up with the Spiritwalker trilogy.

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