Conversations June 14, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

5:45 AM. All right, Papa, now what? Do you have a “next item on the agenda” to provide you with topics?

[TGU] Seth worked that way, but Seth in working with his friend Jane Roberts was working with a blanked slate. She had deliberately vacated the premises so that he could enter without having to contend with the ripples and eddies of a functioning conscious mind as he dictated his books. That’s not our situation here. Here, your interaction is a part of the process, which adds complications that have both helpful and non-helpful effects.

We suggested, many years ago now in your time, that you call this process Intuitive Linked Communication or ILC because it gives a better sense of what is going on. This is the sharing of a temporary group consciousness, with the results shaped and defined a little on each side. Your sharper, relatively (not absolutely) one-pointed consciousness aids in the composition of the sentences, and the relative suppression of discursive expeditions as one thing leads naturally to another. Anent that, we suggest you feel less reticent about pulling and hauling us back to whatever subject we are intending to pursue. Oddly enough, though you on your side tend to give over control to us as if we were wiser, etc., it is your side that can assist or hamper the clarity of the communication according to how much you do or don’t hold to one continuing intent. You need not worry about shutting off the flow by interrupting our train of thought.

All right. The difficulty I see here is that I can keep us to the point only when I see ahead of time what the point is! Often I don’t; often we start one place and end up somewhere else, quite different. And I don’t have a clue what the overall drift of these communications is or should be — if the concept of “should be” is even appropriate here.

Your mind inclines toward this work because the work requires the very traits you possess. Big surprise, isn’t it? Given that this is one thing you came here to do?

The traits — and then we’ll hand you over to Ernest — the traits that work well with ILC —

tolerance for ambiguity

ease with written and spoken language

sensitivity to nuance

ability to translate content

delight in the communication for the sake of the process itself

Now when you add familiarity with the basics of a given subject matter, so much the better; it allows shortcuts because we don’t need to give you the background that allows you to correctly translate intent. So, wide experience virtual or otherwise helps too.

Yes, but I can feel the qualities that would help shape this process that I don’t have in sufficient intensity or quantity. Analytical ability, for one thing, so that I could absorb all this material and better see what I need to elicit.

You compensate by enhanced intuition. No combination is perfect, and no one combination is absolutely preferable.

I know, you’re always on Plan B.

As we have said, we count ourselves lucky when it’s only Plan B., and not Plan C112 and counting.

Any tips on how I can grasp and shape and guide these discussions? With Joseph, there was the thread of his life and his opinions. With Papa Hemingway there is that, to a degree, but I gather that he is being used more as an example than as an end to himself.

As was true of Joseph Smallwood. We can only say, proceed as you have been proceeding, and hold an intent to bring forth helpful information.

“Something of value to mankind,” as Bob Monroe used to say. Well, I can do that. Papa?

Don’t discount the value of so many conversations transcribed and sitting in the bank vault. You can see that people are responding to Chasing Smallwood as they learn of it, because it offers a helpful glimpse and example of just such matter-of-fact communication. You have the makings of many little books — easily digestible books —

I heard the analogy, — just like your vast unfinished manuscripts.

Let’s talk about that a little bit. This process is teaching you something about writing that you have always known in another context — which means, you’ve had the perception but have put a different interpretation on it.

What is writing but putting yourself into a very pleasant, very seductive in fact, altered state of mind? While you are living there, the work itself may be more an excuse to stay there than the main reason to do it. In other words, writing becomes its own reward.

You know this. Henry Thoreau left a couple of million words in his journal that went unpublished for 50 years after his death and probably he never expected it to be published. He kept it for himself.

Now — why?

Partly for the sake of preserving thoughts and memories. Partly for the sake of exercising his skill. Partly as a mine for future literary production. And mostly because for a writer, writing is how he gets into deepest contact with the other side.

That doesn’t mean the writer knows this. It only means that he knows that writing is the savor in his life, and life is a tedium without it. Can’t write all day and all night, of course, but then you can’t make a meal of just salt, either, but you have to have it.

Now typically a writer has two things going: He wants to write for the sake of the process itself, and he wants to communicate. The first he can do as long as he can maintain contact with his wellsprings. The second has always depended on finding a way to be published, or to get access to the lecture circuit. In your day the economic barriers to getting your word out are much lower, but of course your competition for people’s attention is correspondingly increased.

If you want to write a best-selling book, it means you have to beat some heavy odds. Either you’re going to try for some lowest-common-denominator formula, or you’re going to bring forth something of great originality that strikes people. The first doesn’t interest you and would not be within your range of abilities; the second cannot be predicted, as it depends upon too many things beyond your ken or control.

Now you will notice in my career that I was never complacent with whatever sales level any given book received, and in fact was usually sure it could have and should have sold more, if it had had more enthusiastic support from its publisher. Regardless of the truth of this feeling, I was always frantic to get the word out, because I knew the value of what I was doing, knew the work I put into it, and I was full of envy and fear of other authors’ success and I was paranoid about whether I was being sabotaged by lack of interest or effective promotion by those who were in my corner – Scribner’s editorial and advertising departments, mainly.

I didn’t know that I was being supported from the non-physical side. The closest I could have come to that concept is that I believed in my luck. (I also believed in my ability and in my habit of hard work.) When you think your life and your life’s success are all up to you, you can get pretty frantic. After all, you can never judge all the forces that are in play, you can’t tell what may be working against you without your knowledge, you’re likely to see conspiracies to kill your career among the critics because that’s the way you connect the dots. It’s a high-tension way to live, during the time you’re not doing the actual writing, when you’re in a different world.

But — then suppose you’re not seeing the wolf at the door. Suppose you have a lot of experience in the bank and no need to shape it into something salable in a certain time. Then your situation is like Thoreau’s, writing for himself, or yours. Or mine after I got back from Europe in 1945.

I left — even disregarding the material I accumulated in Africa in the 1950s — a huge amount of material in unfinished form, when I lost my ability to access the creative mind. But that didn’t mean what I had was unusable or discarded. When you think that Islands in the Stream and The Garden Of Eden were both shaped out of it, relatively finished, and many small pieces like the discarded chapters on Roger that couldn’t fit into Islands after I concentrated on Thomas Hudson —

Well, all the time that I was writing, I was doing two things, as you well know. I was working toward producing some finished product, but I was also — at the same time, and emotionally perhaps primarily — living in that altered state that any artist knows.

I always said I wrote with great difficulty. What I meant was that it wasn’t easy for me to express myself exactly. First I had a general idea of what I wanted to convey. Then I had a better idea of it, and tried to say it. Then I picked apart that attempt and kept trying to say it better, and maybe this would go on all day and at the end of the day I’d have only a few paragraphs and I wasn’t even satisfied with them, but would have to go after them again the next day. The writing was hard work. What wasn’t hard work, what was joy in the same way fishing was joy, was the exercise of the skill and where that put me while I was doing it.

A connection that isn’t obvious. You read Pirsig’s book Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. You know his point: The axis of the world is Quality, which you can’t ever define but which you know when you see it. That whole book, whether or not he knew it, was about living in both worlds at the same time, which is what an artist is doing when he’s being an artist — that is, when working at his art is holding him there. He doesn’t have to know why, to have the experience. And there was never a true artist in any medium who didn’t live that connection.

Of course, if you’ve spent the morning there, you’re apt to be a little flat, a little directionless, when you descend to what people call the real world. And you’re going to think you’re just tired from working, because after all it’s how you always feel when you quit work for the day. And the temptation to regain that feeling of intensity, of savor, without being able to work, is what leads so many to drink or drugs. Especially since not one artist in a hundred understands what is going on when he is in that special state.

So, I’d come out of a morning’s work and I’d count how many words I’d wrestled out of the void, and I’d go on with my day. And when I could recapture the feeling by fishing or hunting, that would keep me fresh, and would exercise the animal, as well. But I’d still be charging up for my next morning’s excursion.

This will have to do it for now. I do recognize what’s between the lines: what you lost when they destroyed your access to the other side.

Yes, but more. The shock treatments came because of my mental state. I know that now. I was in the end-game anyway. But yes, I’d lost everything. It didn’t have a thing to do with being published, really. It had to do with being able to be in that state that had produced so much publishable work.

I do see it. Thank you, Papa.


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