“You imagined yourself into your future”
I haven’t forgotten that the over-arching question here is, “What is the meaning of life?” Although it may seem as if this is merely of personal interest, I suggest that it applies to us all, at one level or another. Exposing my own shortcomings may be a way to make real what otherwise might remain only abstraction. Consider it my gift to you. This particular entry was written while I was visiting England, having just bought and read Michael Reynolds’ The Young Hemingway, which detailed how extensively Hemingway made up his past as he went along.
July 30, 2007
All right. My thoughts on Hemingway.
You were not particularly opposed to deceit, papa, and to making up your past as you went along. Didn’t that leave you frightfully insecure?
You don’t mean insecure, you mean un-foundation-ed. I would say ungrounded if that did not have so many connotations I don’t mean. Yes, knowing the difference between the truth as it was and the truth I wished had been true, of course I was wondering who I was. After years I brought my character and my achievements and skills to match who I was pretending to be – but how could I forget that it had been pretending? Lying, to put it crudely.
You were quite put off van der Post when you learned that he had made up his life. Why doesn’t my story affect you the same way? Is it not because you and I are more similar yet crucially different? Is it not because van der Post promised to be spiritually alive and wise, and I did not?
Say some more, then, about our similarity and difference.
You wanted to be a writer but you did none of the things I did. You were married too early but you did not free yourself. You wished to be more and have done more than you had been and had done, but you did not conceal what had happened, and did not invent what had not happened.
And the net result is that you lived and prospered and created and became famous and I did not.
Things come at a price, and anyway you know that gifts differ.
Yes. Well, what I read in your work speaks of certain values – just as your biographer says. It tells of a wider experience with the world, and a ready grasp of how to deal with that world. All of that I envy, not having at it.
But you are alive now. You have your strength, your clarity and your gifts to use. Your life is not over, and mine is.
I admit, it was striking,
Hmm. Went daydreaming and lost the thread.
As Hemingway was saying –
As you were saying to him. Pretense comes in many forms, and mostly in different levels of seriousness and awareness. It is less harmful perhaps to pretend actively than to pretend to oneself and not quite let oneself know it.
Hmm. Well it is true I have felt very much myself here. Wandering on my own, tramping with my pack on my back and another being carried over my neck or in one hand – walking seemingly endlessly and pretty tirelessly – feeling comfortable being silent and comfortable chatting.
The difference – a difference – between Hemingway and you, or van der Post and you, is that you imagined yourself into your future by following a lead from another part of yourself, not from a conscious plan, or from any form of manipulation. Therefore you needn’t wait uneasily for possible exposures of posturings. Your fears would be exposure of who you are inside; there are few externals surprises that would interest anyone.
But here I am at 61 – as at every year for half a century, nearly – asking when I am going to write what I want to have written. At 61, one is hardly justified in expecting to inaugurate a new career. The world belongs to the young. Hemingway was in his twenties still when his first book was published – and more to the point he worked all the time he was supposed to work.
If you want to write, write. How many times have you been told that? But you aren’t necessarily here to write, either way. The work you are doing is not meaningless. Now – do that work when you return home. Set it out without notes, just write. The only planning you need to do concerns what you want to say. In other words, set out your topics one by one and set out to write them. After you do what your friend Michael calls a brain dump, then is the time for looking at documents, notes, incidents, etc. to fill-in or buttress.
I can see it in principle, and how many times have I laid out a list of things to write. But at home I dry up.
It isn’t harder to depend upon inspiration for topics than for words. You set out to write about healing and you did that. You set out to write about guidance and you did not do that, at least not yet. Another topic surely is how to contact the other side, which has a whole list of sub topics:
The structure of minds in the afterlife
The need for physical cooperation with the other side
Integration of layers of yourself
Connections with others as a means of creating structure
Difficulties and perplexities of the process and of the questions of meaning
All that would be plenty to be getting on with.
Yes it would. Perhaps I can do it.
You can do it. The question is whether you will do it.