Conversations May 28, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

4:50 AM. Yesterday Dr. Jung started to say that Hemingway’s image skewed his life — well, let me quote the statement where we left off, and Dr. Jung and Papa Hemingway, if you are both here, let’s proceed.

Dr. Jung said, “Hemingway is an example of wholeness, of gusto. The image, however, became increasingly skewed and skewed his life accordingly. And continues to do so 50 years after his death.”

Papa, you heard that, presumably. Do you understand what Dr. Jung means here, and do you agree?

I brought up the subject, remember.

So — either of you — how does an image reduce someone’s options, or, as it was put, skew his life, after he’s no longer in a body to have his life skewed?

[EH] You might as well ask how mind control works, or if somebody can be hypnotized, or if you can call spirits from the vasty deep. It’s all the same thing. You are treating people as if they were unconnected, or as if death disconnected them. You know better in another part of your mind. Apply what you know.

In other words, we are all one thing, so of course we affect each other.

Even the grammar of the language makes it nearly impossible to make a clear statement in that direction, doesn’t it?

Well — I’m getting the idea, I think. But I never thought that the pressure of people’s expectations continues after we’re gone.

Well, think about it a little. What is the pressure of people’s expectations, except psychic pressure? It isn’t like anybody is physically pressuring you. (Of course they might — putting on economic pressure, or threats to your safety or your family’s, but these are just means by which to exert the real pressure, which is psychic pressure.) It’s actually easier to resist such pressure, if you are aware that it exists, when you have a body and a physical set of surroundings and circumstances to help you do it. “The body and its stupidity,” as Yeats said. Once you’re out of that particular buffer, the pressure exists and your means of resistance to it are greatly lessened. Fortunately, as soon as you’re dead, most people don’t realize there’s more they can do [to you] than write obituaries and biographies and lying articles, so they leave you alone more. But those who do know don’t let up, unless it costs them than it gains them.

Now don’t go getting the idea that we are defenseless on the side, exactly, and of course don’t get the idea that influence is a one-way street. But that’s the question you asked: How can we still be affected 50 years later.

Not sure I’ve got the answer yet. I’m getting an idea of it.

[Interruption]

5:40 AM. Dr. Jung, what would have been a path less skewed for Hemingway?

As I said, his life was a pattern of wholeness, of gusto. In many ways he showed how “modern life” might be lived in a satisfactory, fulfilling way. But the access to too much money led him into things that somewhat disconnected him from the source of his strength, which was his connection to the people. His second wife’s Uncle Gus, although generous and well-intentioned, in this way provided irresistible temptation.

Financing the 1934 safari.

Deep-sea fishing is one thing, and game hunting with it. Those were out of the reach of the wage-earning man, but not impossibly out of sight. But a safari was a different order of magnitude.

[I am] Wandering, here. Okay, try again?

A safari was too different from ordinary people’s life. And here we enter a complicated discussion that we must take slowly, must plod through, if you will, if we are to disentangle several interwoven threads. You will bear with me, as I am a German by language and heredity, if I am ponderous.

Not sure if that’s the first joke I’ve heard you tell, but anyway I have the patience if you do.

Do you? It’s not an obvious characteristic at all times.

And there’s one on me.

Yes. Now, let us look at various aspects of things which may look similar or identical. You will remember that I was part of an expedition to East Africa not that many years before Hemingway’s safari. Not many people could have done that either, and I had a physician’s income and my wife’s family’s resources to draw on. What were the differences between my expedition and Hemingway’s safari?

First, his was centered on animals and mine on humans. In both cases we shot for the pot, but in my case it wasn’t about trophy heads or personal danger or exhibition of, trial of, skill. That was first.

Second, although neither expedition was publicized in advance, and both were written about later, in my case it was to illustrate what I learned of internal differences in people at different levels of development, and in Ernest’s it was to produce and sell another book — a somewhat daring and original book — in the course of building his public reputation.

A third point of comparison — I was 50, and unaccompanied by my wife. He was in his 30s, accompanied by his wife and her reminders of another life.

Fourth, he brought all those books! That is, he was careful to immerse himself only so far; he never lost sight of land. Not that this wasn’t wise of him, but it was a point of difference. It wasn’t Ernest who was in danger of going native!

Remember, in all this we are to explore how the Hemingway myth began to obscure a better version of the myth that gradually became overlaid, then lost sight of.

A safari was a step too far.

This doesn’t mean it was “right” or “wrong” for him to follow so strong an urge, but an urge may be followed in a productive, organic way, or in a forced, artificial way, and the difference is not trivial.

When he wanted a deep-sea-fishing boat, he paid for it by writing for a magazine. That was an imaginative way to obtain what he wanted without going impossibly into debt for it. Because it wasn’t a gift from Uncle Gus, it was his in a way that the safari was not. This showed, in his writing and in its effect on his career and more on his public persona. Everyman could imagine himself, with a little financial change of circumstances, deep-sea fishing at least for a week or two. He could see himself as a novice aficionado at bullfights in Spain — for if travel to Europe was mostly for the well-off, it was not nearly as prohibitively expensive as a safari. He could not imagine himself on a safari, could not imagine himself caring about hunting trophy heads in quite the way Hemingway did, and could not help feeling somewhat cast off, like a poor relation watching a brother get rich and move to a better neighborhood.

Not that any of this was conscious, either on Ernest’s end or on that of the public. They were still interested in him, but they now began to be interested in him as a different species of being, not as one of them.

The intellectuals, meanwhile, who were already critical of the mystical elements in him, and his seeming indifference to politics and social injustice and ideology (which I must say was mostly a distrust in panaceas and in government) now became convinced that he was merely one of the idle rich. Yes, Hemingway, idle! Or perhaps they regarded him as, you would say, a wanna-be. In any case, as an irrelevance or perhaps an obstacle to their self-defined mission of social elevation.

I can see all this, though I’d never thought it through.

Well, if you see this much, then you see the germ of all his problems later. Is it merely coincidence — do you believe in the word — that his attempt to repeat the safari 20 years later ended so disastrously? That it physically damaged him to a degree from which he never recovered? He was trying to go back — to retrace his steps and find the right path that he had missed, perhaps — and what he found was only confirmation that he had lost the way.

Papa, do you agree with all that?

Like you, I hadn’t put it together in that way. I know that surprises you: You still assume that as soon as your body starts cooling, you suddenly know everything and you can do anything, but life on this side isn’t any simpler or more straightforward than on your side; it’s just that the rules are different. You could put it, gravity functions differently here, but we still have to figure out which end is up.

I suppose this is why you read both versions of my second African journal. [Under Kilimanjaro and True At First Light] It showed you where I was, in a way that even my sons didn’t get the sense of.

If I hadn’t gone on that safari –. Well, I was in Key West, and liking it. I was learning the lay of the land, — and the feel of the sea. There was something in me that responded to the sea. It wasn’t a bad life. But Africa!

I know, shades of The Last Good Country.

Yes, there was some of that. And we would be experiencing it, not settling there and changing it and ruining it.

I got the impression that you got bored at Key West. I was struck by Reynolds’ statement that after you left Paris, you would never again live in a big city.

Think of your own experience. Cities are for the young and for those who need a city’s resources.

But — should you perhaps have lived sometimes in big cities?

No, you have to have your center of gravity in one world or the other. If you are mainly in cities, the world of nature is going to become more and more foreign to you, no matter how many times you go to it. If you live mainly close in nature, you will lose the rhythm and pace of the city. They don’t go together.

And if you’d have been doing your writing in the city, it would have disturbed the balance in your life!

Exactly. I had heavy reading, disciplined writing, extensive correspondence. That was a very vigorous life of the mind. If I had lived in the city, I would have had to exercise in some artificial way, some city way, like boxing or even exercise machines and treadmills. What would be the advantage of trading the Gulf Stream for somebody gym?

So it was Pauline — not being Hadley, I mean — that was the problem?

Life isn’t that simple, and I wasn’t that simple. But I can see where you are going with that, and we can explore it if you wish.

But another time.

Yes. You can see that you’ve been at this a while.

It’s a little after 6:30. Long enough, I guess. All right, thank you both.


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