Conversations June 13, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

6 AM. All right, boys and girls, here we go again. At least, I’m here if you’re here. Papa, I sort of miss talking to you specifically, but I get that this information is following rules of its own, sort of like a lesson-plan. So, whomever.

One of the difficulties, as you perceive it, is that although the information will be read in easy succession, so that what took you a week to bring forth may be read in one setting, you as you bring it forth cannot remember even the previous day’s information, let alone a week’s worth or the entire picture. But after all, this is only your usual situation in life, living in time-slices, concentrating on each successive stone in the mosaic, unable to sit far enough away to see it in an over-all view. There’s nothing wrong with it; this is how it should be. You do the detail work, we guide the pattern, and at the end you can read the final product (or, in the case of a writer, read and reshape) and perhaps for the first time see what you have been doing as it relates to itself, one piece to another, and as it relates to life.

This actually works to your advantage in bringing forth something new, as it removes the necessity of your knowing ahead of time what you cannot very well know. How can you set out to draw a map before you know the territory?

Besides, we have noted before, and you have noted, that our method is to do a little of this, a little of that, so that your world expands in more than one direction at the same time. It is our way of countering lopsidedness.

All right, noted. So what shall we talk about today?

[EH] we can talk about my China trip, if you’d like.

Yes, I very much would, or anything about your life that is relevant. And, for the record, the change in “voice” between TGU as undefined, and you just now, was as definite and perceptible as if I were hearing you on the phone. More definite, maybe because of the past few days’ different voice?

Continual practice at any skill is going to provide sudden leaps in comprehension, in technique.

Good. So, Papa, what specifically shall we talk about, or do you want me to pose questions?

You might sketch the situation in a couple of sentences, for your readers.

All right. I’ll do that when I enter this into the computer.

[In 1941 Martha Gellhorn persuaded him to accompany her on a reporting trip to China for Colliers. It turned out to be a grueling trip, and one with long-lasting repercussions, because Hemingway agreed to do intelligence work for the Treasury Department to see how well our money was or wasn’t being spent in the Chinese war effort.]

You can see the germs of many things in that China trip. And perhaps in your Upstairs sense of things you could say that Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway were to get together for a few years, spur each other to do certain things neither would have done in the absence of the other’s influence, and then go off their own way. But there are other ways to look at it that shed more light not on the situation of two individuals so much as on two representatives of the human condition. I mean, she and I are well enough known that our experience can provide a context, for those interested, but this wouldn’t justify any full-scale investigation into our biographies for those who weren’t interested for other reasons.

All right, I see that. I am interested in it all, of course, but it has been only in the past couple of years that you have grown so close in my mind, suspiciously enough.

Yes, well, don’t go in building in Hemingway-esque paranoia!

I joke, I recognize — but — you mean more than that.

Sure. When you start see the suspicious footprints all over your life’s pattern, and you have no concept of guidance or an overall sense of purpose beyond whatever is physically obvious, you don’t know who is influencing things in your life, but you start to see that somebody’s doing it — and in the absence of any way of finding out who or why, it can set up thought patterns that lead to “They’re out to get me. They’re in the shadows, but I can sense them, and the people around me who say there’s nobody there are either blind or they’re part of it.” And since there may be nothing on the physical level to pin down, and since at the same time there may be real forces at work that are similar in the way they show up in your life, you can lose your bearings pretty easily.

For instance, suppose you’re like me as I was in the 1930s. I had a certain measure of fame as a writer. Then the Spanish Civil War comes on and I go over to report on it. Would I have done it in Marty’s absence? I mean, if I hadn’t met her, and if she hadn’t been urging me to put my shoulder to the wheel? Since I did go, and since that shaped the rest of my life, you find it hard to realize that I might not have gone, but, after all, I was writing, I was writing of revolution and of things I knew that no one else had ever written about — Key West life — so if Marty hadn’t walked into the bar, or if she hadn’t had those magnificent legs, or if I’d had more sense as an individual and if I hadn’t been being prodded by my own Upstairs component, to use your jargon, I might very well have stayed in Florida, rooting for the Spanish Republic, detesting the forces of reaction, but not getting particularly involved, telling myself I’d already gone off on one war to save democracy and it had cost me a knee and a lot of pain and fear and hadn’t even made the world safe for anything.

Now, think about that. Really consider it. Because certain threads in my life led me to go to Spain, and because that and what followed that were so vivid, and so shaped my life and art, there is the temptation to think I never could have done anything any differently and still be Ernest Hemingway. But it isn’t true. I might never have picked up certain threads if I hadn’t met Marty, and my life would still look like it was the only way it could have gone.

Let me sketch it out.

I went to Spain and of course I got more involved because I went. Being involved, I expressed more of my political side, which involved setting aside some of my skepticism — some of my clarity of perception! — in the service of the cause, as always happens. Cost me my friendship with Dos Passos, because he kept individual ties paramount, and I let myself be blinded or anyway dulled by partisanship and the cynicism that always masks itself as clear-sighted realism.

And, of course, like anybody who fought for the Republic or sympathized with them, this brought me to the attention of the FBI as a possible communist sympathizer, mainly because the stupid bastards couldn’t be bothered to see that the left had all sorts of degrees all fighting each other. If anything I was an anarchist by temperament, and who do Communists hate worse than them? And who have more reason to fear and hate communists in power?

And if I hadn’t been on the FBI’s list, certain activities wouldn’t have come to my attention.

And if I hadn’t broken up with Pauline and taken up with Marty, maybe I still would have gone to live in Cuba for tax reasons and maybe I wouldn’t, but the reasons would have been different and maybe I wouldn’t have gotten sucked into what followed.

Now, you might say that For Whom The Bell Tolls was worth a certain amount of disruption in my life, and I won’t say it wasn’t. But who knows what I might have written instead, and who knows what I might have written beyond it, had I not gone to Spain. In some versions of my life I wrote the great revolution novel that To Have And Have Not should have been, and then wrote other things based on my life of course but not necessarily based on being a participant or a camp-follower in the war that followed.

Without the China trip, compounding exhaustion with involvement in government or semi-government duties as a spy; without The Crook Factory; without the sub-hunting activity for more than a year; without feeling obliged to report the war from the ground; without new concussions and combat-fatigue (for that’s what it was) after Hurtgen Forest; without meeting Mary in London, and in fact perhaps without breaking up my life with Pauline in the first place, for it is still only a few years since Marty walked into the bar — can you see that my life would still have been my life? But it would have been a different version.

Yes, and I sense — I can almost grasp — something of the difference between our reality and the forsworn other realities that might have been. I have been saying they all exist and they’re all equally real from inside, but it hasn’t ever come quite clear, and I know there is something wrong with the model, but I can’t quite see what.

Well, this is the way to get to it. Don’t grab for it. It will emerge.

All right. So, to continue —

Marty changed the course of my life but of course she didn’t move it to anywhere that wasn’t a possibility for me, how could she? But she did change its focus. On the one hand we botched To Have And Have Not and got For Whom The Bell Tolls. We broke up my life with Pauline and Patrick and Gregory, and lost Key West and a very satisfactory satisfying life. I moved into an intensely political orbit for a while that perhaps wasn’t really my true focus, and I moved into a sort of half-hearted Ernie Pyle existence.

Look, I knew better than to think that Britain and France were noble causes. Look what they’d done to Spain! They were run by the same bunch of government bastards that always run things. It doesn’t change. And I didn’t hate Germans even if I despised fascism — but Communism wasn’t much of an improvement. The only thing is, when you’ve gotten into a war, the only thing is to win it. I told people this war was coming as far back as 1935 when nobody wanted to hear it — and I said then we ought to stay out of it. Well, you read in Carl Jung that he said the only thing for America to do was to stay out as long as possible because it was vital for the world that America not go down. How different is that from my own attitude?

I remember the statement. It’s in C.G. Jung Speaking somewhere. If I can find it easily, I’ll insert it.

Now, we’re getting toward the end of your time today, but let me wrap this up. My life should show you that what looks like an inevitable course isn’t inevitable at all, it’s just what you saw and what then looked inevitable after the fact. In fact, your life can go different ways depending on your decisions — depending on the threads you pick up and the ones you put down. There are only so many main branches to your life’s possibilities, probably, but there are always more than you will be able to explore, because of course some choices make other choices impossible. You can’t step twice into the same river. Try to envision Hemingway still in Key West, still married to Pauline, not going off to cover the wars, not getting diverted into leftist politics for a time, and you can perhaps see that, although you can’t see what might have followed, something would have. Free will is not merely theoretical, and is not an illusion.

That’s enough for now.

Okay. Thanks, Papa.

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