Conversations 5-29-2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010

6:30 AM. Papa, now that I have reread what came yesterday (had to, to remember what we had been talking about, and where we left off), do you want to give your reaction to Dr. Jung’s analysis of the effect on you of that 1934 safari — or rather, the effects on you of the results of it?

Prodded by an uneasy feeling, I just checked Carlos Baker, and I see it was in 1933 that the safari started. November. Not that it matters, but that 1934 date was bothering me.

Communication takes place in many different ways, as you ought to know by now. Many times, all we can do is nudge; it isn’t every day you get to hear “the name is Claire.”

No. I’ll add the explanation when I type this in. [During the writing of my novel Babe In The Woods, I realized that I would have to change the name of the main female protagonist, and while looking in various places for an appropriate name, actually heard in my mind that sentence: “The name is Claire.”] Okay, I’m ready when you are.

You know, it’s one thing to react to a new idea, and another thing to think about it. The first is instant and usually emotionally charged, because emotionally driven. The second is slower, because it involves a long chemical process of analysis; weighing this against that, looking at this in light of that, readjusting the balance — in fact, that’s a better analogy. First you have to weigh the new elements, then you have to shift the cargo to keep your boat trimmed. Okay, that’s two analogies, and they don’t work very well together. The point is, when you actually consider a new way of looking at something — especially if it’s something close to you, so that every aspect of it is connected to many other strands of yourself and your interests — it is going to take you some time to readjust things. That’s a bit of work, too, sometimes — so it’s one reason why people usually don’t do the work it takes, but just shrug off the new viewpoint as wrong or not relevant.

When you get someone like Carl Jung looking at your life and talking to you about it, you’ve got to listen. You’d be crazy not to — especially here, where it’s so hard to change. So — I’ve been thinking about it.

That sounds sort of funny, since it only came up yesterday morning.

Your time. I sure wish somebody would come up with a way to make it clear to you, and believable, the differences in time between the two sides. But we aren’t going to do that today, that’s for sure, so let’s just leave it that I’ve been giving Jung’s words some serious thought. And, of course, he and I are in direct communication now.

“Of course”?

Links are established by way of the physical world; that doesn’t mean they then rely on a physical link to stay established. It depends on how much the two on this side have in common. Besides, he had read Hemingway; that makes a difference. And it would have been easier if I had read Jung.

All right. It’s a funny thing to look back on your life — in this particular version of my life, anyway — and realize that it can be seen differently in a way that makes sense of things I hadn’t ever considered in connection to each other. That doesn’t mean the way I always saw it was wrong — what would wrong mean in the circumstances? — but that it gives another insight into it.

To me, the difference between deep-sea fishing and the safari was mainly that I could do the first any time, and without a lot of planning and preparation, and with just a few friends or a hired crew if need be, and it was on the sea, and although there is always more to learn about the sea, still, by now it was familiar enough ground. Well, not ground; but it was familiar. Africa of course and all that would have to go into making a safari was all new, and intricate and exciting. The other factors didn’t occur to me, even afterwards. I was used to living my life for my own reasons, in my own way, by whatever rules I accepted, which amounts to saying “by my own rules” almost. So I never thought to think about how it would look to others, or what it might do.

Now, I realize that Carl didn’t mean, “the safari changed your image,” as much as “the safari changed your life, which gradually changed your image.” And even that is too simplified a version of what he said and meant, but after all, it is right there, you can always re-read it. I think he’s right, but at the time it was too subtle for me to see it.

You have to realize, I was used to the rich, and although I wasn’t in awe of them, I did envy them their command of things. In those days I thought that having enough money meant you could buy whatever you needed and wanted badly enough, and the idea of “useless money” hadn’t yet occurred to me. I knew that I had talent, and maybe genius, and had the discipline and energy enough to develop it. So, if I got rich I didn’t figure that it would ruin me as long as I held tight to writing as my center — my vocation, you might say. Because, it is lack of something you have to do by your nature, as much as anything else, that guts you if you have too much money. And it isn’t just, too much money, I suppose. It’s more like, no external reason to exert yourself. You’ve got a nation full of people who retired too early because they didn’t have jobs that meant anything to them, or because they thought that money without work was a good thing in itself. Well, it’s better than no work and no money, that’s for sure, but it isn’t enough.

Anyway, it isn’t that the safari got me used to living among the rich, or living like the rich. And it isn’t anything like my feeling like a poor relation to Uncle Gus. I like him and he liked me (while I was still married to his niece, anyway). There wasn’t any flavor of dependency in the relationship.

You will remember, we started this by asking what effect the pressure of my reputation had on me and has on me. And we haven’t even begun to talk about that, but all this preamble is necessary. If you can understand one example, it will give you the model you need to understand things more in general. And if you can understand somebody who is famous, it helps because there are so many data points out there, as you’d say. And it helps that it’s somebody at my level of fame and not Abraham Lincoln’s, for example, because the level of stuff projected onto him would be overwhelming. And, it helps that I left my life in writing for you to latch onto and work your way toward me.

In other words, it was a set-up. I say it with a smile, but I knew it. I had the sense of you, or something, or someone, choosing me. There was no obvious reason why I should start buying and reading everything you’d written and then start communicating with you. And of course it goes back to my father-in-law buying me Islands In The Stream when it first came out. That was 40 years ago — quite a long fuse.

Not so long on this side! And besides, you and I have had dealings before, as you’ll find out one day. You were willing to do the work, I was willing, Carl and others were willing — do you think it could all come together by accident?

I don’t believe in accidents.

Well, that may be carrying things too far, but mostly it’s a matter of definition. There are plans, and then there are all those free-wills in action, and then what you draw is what you get.

Yes. The guys — the other guys? — always say, “we’re always on Plan B.”

The thing to remember is that this isn’t just about me and not just about you and not even just about the process. It’s about everybody who ever reads this, early or late. We aren’t going to the trouble of having these conversations just because there’s nothing to read over here, and nothing on the radio.

I figured that much. Shall we go on?

You tell me. Are you good to continue?

I think so.

For a while, anyway. All right, let’s try to finish this one topic. And you might ask yourself, what is important about whether Hemingway’s life went off in the wrong direction? We’re going to ignore the alternative realities, and stick to the one you know because you’re living it. Why should you care what happened so long ago?

Well, the impression I had was that it concerned the interaction between this side and your side.

You could look at it more like this: Your lives are not divorced from this side. Not now, not ever. That may be easy enough for you to accept, but the converse is equally true: When you get onto this side (not that you aren’t here already, but I’m keeping things simple) you are still not divorced from the other side, which at that point is the physical.

It’s a dicho, one of your reversible statements.

It isn’t even that. Wherever you are, you are intimately connected to the other side. Always were, always are, always will be, like it or not, believe it or not. Suppose you don’t believe in the air, since you can’t see it or taste it or feel it. Doesn’t matter, you’re still living in it and can’t help living in it, because there isn’t any other place to live. It’s the same here. We talk about the physical and nonphysical as though they were separate, but that’s just the effect of language. The two sides are like two sides of a coin. Can you have a coin with only one side?

That’s enough for now.

Yes, I sensed it too. Thanks as always.

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