Conversations May 14, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

7 AM. Papa, re-reading Babe In The Woods, the novel you helped me write a couple years ago, was fun! It had been long enough since I’d looked at it that it was new to me again. Now, obviously the level of technical skill I could bring to it was nowhere near what you could have brought to it, but for me it was a breakthrough. I well remember being so surprised first at how easily and well I put it together in a pretty short time and then — when Rita reminded me that a year and a half before, you’d promised to help me write a novel — that I could have forgotten and yet used the assistance. Not sure I have a question here, but thanks anyway. I suppose I might ask, “why me?”

“Why you” because you were interested in using the assistance. In physical life, people use non-physical assistance all the time, some deliberately and most unconsciously. Where you all differ among yourselves is in the interpretation of what you’re doing, what the relationship is, what the purpose and processes of life are. Other than that, as the joke is —

Yes, other than that, we’re all on the same page. Rita watched and then Nancy watched as my connection to you deepened and deepened until by last year I had bought and read and reread about everything you wrote that is easily accessible. Most of your journalism is missing, of course. I’d be interested in reading the rest of your Letters to Esquire, for instance. But this is primarily a legacy from my father-in-law Charles Lesh who was a fan of yours, and bought me Islands in the Stream in 1970. For years that was the only book of yours I owned, I think. I would reread it every so often and it always caught me, even though as time went on I kept finding more that I had missed previously. And now, if I had to I don’t know if I could retrace when the connection became more than “a favorite book” — not yet even a favorite author. Not that the “how” of it matters, perhaps. And I guess there is my question for the moment, isn’t it? What’s the “why” of it?

Isn’t it obvious? Several strands, and you’re aware of each one individually.

I guess I am. List them for me?

  • You wrote another novel. Just practicing the skill was fun and a good exercise.
  • You experienced and deepened an experience of working in the unconscious-made-conscious connection with someone else (on the other side) on a specific, definite, tangible project.
  • After the fact, the cooperation became evidence of a possibility for anyone who believes your testimony.
  • One thing led to another, and it merged with another strand in your life, which is easy fluid communication with others who match your resonance, whether you knew them in the body or knew them through their products such as books.
  • Unknown to you even yet, this demonstration has far-reaching effects downstream unless you choose to choke it off (but why would you). Teaching others the simple things you know — just as you taught how simple to contact guidance, after all — leads to another career for you.

Other than that, not much, though.

That’s right. Not much except more novels if you wish to write them, or a new genre to pioneer — inner biographies. And more than that — much more — inner conversations among non-contemporaries, just as you have been engaged in. You can see the possibilities. Lincoln and Jung, for instance.

Huh! Wow, I never cease to be surprised. I start what seems to be a simple exchange and whole new possibilities open up to me. I wouldn’t have — or anyway I hadn’t — thought of either the inner biography or the person to person inner biography.

Oh no? Why do you think that for 40 years you’ve been carrying around the idea of a book to be called “Thoreau and Mr. Emerson,” and kept little more than the title, but held firm to that? Why do you think you are so easily overwhelmed by volume of fact that you do little or nothing to organize it, beyond constructing the sequence — the inner understanding — in your mind? Your inner self, higher self, call it what you want, has kept the idea there, but kept you from prematurely writing what could only be an unprofessional retelling of the story not concentrated on by others, true, but not important to people in your day and after in the way a new way of living will be.

I have Jane Roberts’ After-death Journal (or whatever it is called) of William James, but I’ve never been able to make myself open it.

Again what you might call benign interference. It was always important that your confidence not be shaken, and that you not be impressed into imitation. Can you imagine any value in your writing an imitation-Hemingway story? Or me writing an imitation-DeMarco? What you have always known is that viewpoint is each person’s unique gift from the world and to the world. That sort of lets out imitation, doesn’t it? (Yes, someone’s unique mix could be to be an imitator, but that’s beside the point here.)

Well, it’ll be sort of interesting to see people’s response to this exchange.

You may be surprised. There are a lot of people out there who would like to learn to do what you do. If their conscious self doesn’t know it, their unconscious (more-conscious) self does, and will lead them to you in the usual ways.

I’ll have to figure out how to teach what has become so natural to me.

Big problem! You don’t have help figuring things out?

Sleepwalking, you mean. All right.

The next phase of your life will, or can, have a good deal of interpersonal relations to it, face-to-face teaching. You’ll enjoy that.

Time to come down off the mountain.

Tell me you haven’t been feeling it, more and more over the past few months.

Can’t, because I have been. I just haven’t felt why. And between Jim M__ encouraging me to do weekly sessions, and Jan McC___ and I doing the TMI chapter beginning tomorrow, and Joanne D___ and the A.R.E.  connection in Charlottesville, I can see, again, several strands working together.

It’s still your life. It’s still your decision. But your friend Michael visiting in July will be a valedictory to a phase of your life. A very productive phase, but a phase.

Leaving Paris for Key West?

For all you know, you’ll be exchanging Elba for St. Helena. But one way or another, phases in a life, like the life itself (which is just a phase in a larger life) have their natural term.

A lot to ponder. Thanks as always.

Friday, May 14, 2010

4:20 PM. Okay Papa, this may provide a test for us, a discussion on a subject we disagree about — or at least don’t start at from the same place. I’ve picked up Green Hills Of Africa and re-read nearly The first 100 pages. What is it with you (or anyone) and hunting? I don’t get it.

You want to make your case against hunting?

I don’t have a case against hunting; I just don’t see where the fun comes in, killing something. Tracking it, out-thinking it, sure. Seeing the game close up — with a camera, say — absolutely. It had to be a thrill. But why kill it? We are not talking about shooting for the table (I’m not, anyway). I wouldn’t enjoy it, but I’m willing to admit that if I eat meat, it is merely a luxury for me that I don’t have to kill it. In this, I’m like my father, perhaps, who couldn’t stand to kill the chicken that was going to be dinner. Two things I can’t get about you: the eagerness to kill for sport, and the competitiveness in everything.

We may need to agree to disagree.

Well, sure — but if you could explain how you saw it, I’d be glad to know.

Hunting and fishing are like bullfighting, in a way. They go back way before our civilization, so they put us into contact with parts of ourselves we might never know otherwise.

You mean in the same way that van der Post said that the campfire was one of our oldest archetypes?

I’d have never put it this way, but that’s the appeal of it. Civilization stifles; you must have felt that. Hunting, fishing, puts us back to the old days when it was us against the physical world, but does it in a modern way. The modern part can be overdone, and of course each year it’s a little more overdone, because each year you get a little softer, a little more used to things the same civilization you’re escaping provides. You want books, and liquor, and gaslight, and baths, and then you wind up wanting GPS and satellite uplinks and laptops and photos from Mount Everest. Still, the idea underneath it all is the same. It’s like they say about women, so you could say about civilization: You can’t live with it and you can’t live without it. Hunting and fishing provide that compromise that stops you from losing your last link with our earlier selves.

I suppose you could get something of the same thing hunting with a camera. Don’t know how fishing with the camera would go — it would have to be under water, and there wouldn’t be any question of a three-hour battle — or even a three-minute encounter, once the fish was spooked and took off from you. But, with hunting I suppose you could do it with a camera, except the danger to you wouldn’t amount to much. After all, if you miss a shot with your Nikon, or catch him out of focus or something, he isn’t going to charge you in a rage. Well, maybe if he was vain enough–

Joking aside, I don’t see where the danger would come in, or the drama. It seems to me it would be pretty tame.

Well, that touches on the second question, always shooting to best someone else (and your own record, of course).

If you don’t understand competition, you can’t understand me. I know that you’ve puzzled over my turning even my writing into a contest against the greats, and it seems silly to you. But what else do you have, but competition, to show you how you’re doing?

What if you don’t care how you’re doing?

Then you aren’t ever going to be champion. And if that doesn’t interest you or concern you, fine — but it does, you’re going to have to compete — against others, against your own best, against the record books, against the clock.

It seems to argue an insecurity, to me.

And an unwillingness to measure yourself against others seems to me to argue an insecurity, plus if you don’t compete, you’ll never know.

You couldn’t ever switch that competitive instinct off, could you?

It’s like my temper. I couldn’t ever switch that off — reliably — either. I didn’t pretend to be perfect. But I was what I was, and how do you like what I was in 1960, when they burned the competition out of me?

I see your point. And I don’t hear you saying that everybody else had to be like you. But you’d have thought less of Max Perkins if he couldn’t have hunted or fished.

No, more if he hadn’t been willing to. I knew his was mostly a city life; I made allowances. But when we did go hunting and fishing he liked it.

My parents and my aunt and uncle used to listen to the prize fights, and I couldn’t — and still can’t — see how anyone can enjoy a sport, no matter what level of skill it involves, where the object is to beat up the other guy and hopefully not get beat up yourself. Even if it weren’t usually crooked — I can’t understand the draw, and I know you liked it too; doing it, and watching it.

You just pay too much attention to people getting hurt, or the animal getting killed, or the fish getting caught and killed. You couldn’t enjoy a bullfight if you obsessed over the horses — and still less if you identified with the bull. You’re taking your eye off the ball, which is — the effort, the skill, the risk, the stakes. It is us in touch with the most primitive thing in us — and that primitive part of us has its rights! It can’t be denied without breaking out somewhere else, like it or not. Maybe more hunters and fewer commuters adds up to less neuroses and piled up tension that leads to crazy wars and senseless violence in the streets and against the helpless. It’s going to come out someplace.

Well, you always make interesting arguments from an unusual point of view. Thanks.

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