Conversations June 4, 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

6:30 AM, and a little groggy. I ate too much, stayed up a little too late, and I can see that I would feel better if sometime I had taken a little walk. Plus my right knee hurts and is stiff for no discernible reason. (Papa’s knee?) But — onward!

Good morning. Although you don’t always listen when it’s a matter of your own best interests (exercise, for instance, and eating) you do listen pretty consistently to prompts that are aimed at this work. You finished Reynolds’ The Final Years, you proceeded to his Paris Years. All of this gives you a sense of Hemingway in a certain time of your life close to what he’s saying, so as to help you make connections.

[Re-reading this, it isn’t as clear as the sense of it I had as it was coming through. What I got was that it was important that I read certain things at certain times, so that the juxtaposition would suggest connections to me.]

Having been told about wagon-trains and dissociation and all that, you are led right to illustrations in his life. Illustrations that explain things in his life. And you are led to them because you had followed previous promptings that had led you to start the books at a certain time, for no reason that you knew. It’s easy when you go with it.

Who’s talking?

Doesn’t matter. Here is a deficiency in your way of perception, and the brilliance of the way you get around it. You don’t know a name to assign to it — you can’t identify me by books of mine you’ve read, or books about me that you recognize, so, in the absence of data you treat me as one of the undefined “guys upstairs” that you nevertheless are accustomed to living with and working with. A “misunderstanding” of somebody else’s shorthand term for her well-defined cast of characters “Upstairs” has served you well. It is a halfway-point, you see, between defined identified individuals on the one hand and an amorphous mass of information out of the blue without human characteristics, on the other.

So for the moment I am one of the Guys Upstairs, and that will do. In the past twenty years, you’ve seen more than one person emerge out of the mist and become identifiable.

Have seen them become friends.

Have seen your recognition grow to the point that you finally remembered them as friends.

Yes, that too. Or are you saying, “that, more precisely”?

More the latter.

All right. So where do we go today?

You see? Perfect attitude. It could be loosely paraphrased, “I still don’t know where we are or where we’re going or why or what we’re going to do when we get there, if there is a there, but it’s okay with me.” And that “it’s okay with me” will help you segue to Hemingway, via Wolfie.

Yes, I understand the reference, if my readers will not. I’ll copy it in.

[In a poem to Mary Welch written in London in 1944, Hemingway mentioned his crew chasing a German submarine, somewhat suicidally (though I’m not sure Hemingway saw it that way; certainly he knew the odds they were bucking) trying to close with it, and his friend Wolfie standing beside him, muscles in his cheeks jumping, repeating that it was okay with him.]

Good morning, papa.

You see the rewards and satisfactions of regular work at a regular time of day, with regularly scheduled time off?

I sure do. And I know your next line — but what kind of “something different”? What kind of exercise?

You can’t expect the other side to do more than suggest. We can’t strap you to the bicycle. But I can give you a hint. For exercise (and I think bike riding will work well for you) give yourself a time minimum. Half an hour would do it, and it doesn’t matter if you spend that half-hour peddling back and forth down the same few hundred feet. How different is it from swimming laps in the pool for the same reason? Do it with your mind on putting in the time rather than on getting somewhere, and you’ll get the benefit of it, and quicker than you think now.

Well, I seem to remember you talking a long time ago about being in training. Me, I mean — that I should live like that if I wanted to write. Was that when we wrote Babe In The Woods? I can’t recall at the moment, and it doesn’t matter. I thank you for your assistance in any case, and I am listening (for however long I remember).

Now — to plunge in — you have been reading my biography as reconstructed by Reynolds, who did a careful thorough job and paid perhaps a little more attention to me as a person than to me as an author, as opposed to Baker, for instance. Obviously since I was an author, the two are more than intertwined, they are two aspects of the one thing, and can only be understood as such — but it’s one thing to see a person as the source of his

No, that’s going about it the wrong way. Let’s just say that Reynolds is showing you what I looked like, acted like, how I looked and acted to others, on the evidence. And you in your reading are finding it disturbing because you are wanting me to be better than the evidence shows. You can see that I always talked about despising phonies — and yet I did so much pretending. Sneered at imitators and thieves, and did both. Had rigid standards, and lived a life that often didn’t have anything to do with them.

And the cruelty, papa! The viciousness, the backbiting, the out-of-control crudity and grossness, the sexual innuendo and bragging that sounds to me like people with sexual problems who can’t keep their minds or tongues off the subject. It makes me cringe to read of it all, not least because Reynolds like the other biographers I have read — Baker, Hotchner, Meyers, Mary — admires you, likes you, sympathizes with you, but has to tell some ugly truths.

Yes, and it makes you worry because what you’re bringing through doesn’t match all that — so you wonder if you’re creating a portrait that isn’t real and doesn’t have anything to do with anything.

Well, I am, a little, sometimes. Wondering, I mean. Yet oddly enough — not much. I guess the reality of something we’re doing is a lot greater than my doubts as to what its exact nature may be.

Yes, good attitude. When I wrote, I brought forth whatever would come that day. I didn’t always know where I was going or how it was going to happen, or what it was going to look like. How could anybody go someplace new if they had roadmaps, even roadmaps printed the day before?

Everything you’re reading is true. Well, some of the detail or the reconstruction may be skewed a little, the way you might not remember something quite right and even the details you’re sure of might not be right. But the picture my biographers paint is accurate enough. It just isn’t the underlying story, and now we’re close enough to bringing in the connection, you can feel what it is.

Yes, I can see that the discussions of individuals as really communities is intended to tie in with your life — which is so much on the record — by way of mutual illustration.

To understand my life from the inside as I saw it (or your own life from the inside as you saw it, or anyone’s) isn’t nearly as simple as you might think. No, I mean it isn’t as simple, to understand things, as looking at them from the inside view. You’ve got to have a third view, which is what we’re working on now.

I’ll show you. Say we were talking about some party where I blow up, or where I do some crude sexual talk that embarrasses everybody. And, as you see, the older I got, the more it happened. What’s really happening there?

Who’s in control? Is it the writer, looking for copy? Hardly. The host, trying to make it a good experience for his guests? Clearly not. The war veteran — for I was a veteran even if I was never in the army in any formal way — or the careful craftsman or the loving husband or the thousand other roles I fit into? No, for the moment I was the borracho, the drunk.

It’s worthwhile to treat these different aspects of our lives as if they were different persons, because, basically they are. We are more like ringmasters, or teamsters, then anything else. The “we” that we think of as us.

It all makes dull reading, and puts you to sleep, if it’s just left as theory. It’s only when you put it together with real life — when you put flesh on the bones — that it means something, as opposed to being just an abstract idea. Distrust all abstract ideas until you see them with a human face. Communism looked good until they tried to put it into practice. But then, so did capitalism.

Who was “I”? And if “I” was only one thing, how did “I” show so many sides, and if not, where did “I” go when different sides emerged? More to the point, if I was one “I” — why did “I” do things “I” disapproved of? It’s like St. Paul said, I did the things I didn’t want to do, and I didn’t do the things I wanted to do. I did what I wanted, too, and didn’t do what I didn’t want to do, too — but that doesn’t invalidate the statement.

You’ve read all this in Gurdjieff. Now you can make it real to yourself. Our job in the physical is, starting with a group of what you could call smaller “I”s, coordinating them and leading them to act as a team instead of a scrum. The better we do that, the more satisfactory a higher-level “I” we wind up with.

You’ve heard this too: It’s why nobody ought to be judging (that is, condemning) anybody. You don’t know what they are trying to coordinate, or juggle, or even survive.

So, to look at my life as an example. I had one very clear, very important, very precious strain that was cold, clear, lucent idealism. It ran like a stream from my earliest boyhood, admiring and identifying with the same thing in Teddy Roosevelt. That boyish quality in me didn’t disappear — wasn’t submerged among other traits — for a very long time, but even when it was out of sight, it didn’t cease to exist.

If you cease to look at it as a “trait” — whatever that word is supposed to mean in substance rather than in its effect which is clear enough — and look at it as one sub-assembly of me, or as one of the lesser “I”s that I was juggling, or teamstering, you’ll begin to see my life a little differently. That “I” didn’t cease to exist temporarily when I did something like double-bill for dispatches sent. Neither did it approve. Neither could stop the clever, worldly-wise hard-bitten “I” that worked off some resentments by doing it. (Neither could Hadley, for that matter, whose idealism flowed with, reinforced, that particular “I”.) So when that particular “I” — the clear idealistic “I” — came back to the surface at some point, it knew that “I” hadn’t done that, and if the body (so to speak) had, it could react only with guilt (and confusion) or with denial.

Ever seen those reactions?

Understand, now – I’m not excusing anything; I’m not using explanation to show that I was right all the time. I’m illustrating. There’s a difference.

I see it clearly, and I know better than to suspect you of white-washing. But in the body you would have.

In the body it wouldn’t have seemed like white-washing, as I’m trying to show. And we’ll get there, but are you watching the time closely enough?

I still “am loath to close,” as Mr. Lincoln put it. But I guess, for the moment, we must. My continued thanks for this wonderful material.

And our thanks — on behalf of “the guys” — for your part in bringing it through. Our thanks too to others doing the same thing.

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