Conversations June 21, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

5:30 AM. Solstice today.

So, to work. Yesterday produced a couple of things I didn’t expect, not least that Carl Jung rather than Ernest Hemingway should start off. Perhaps someone could explain to me why it is that after I have written, and orally transcribed, and proofread, and sent out on the computer, and printed and put into a looseleaf binder the day’s take, I can remember none or sometimes almost none of what was said.

It’s just as well. It is in this way that you are kept with the mind empty of expectations that provides the least interference with what is offered.

So we’re still playing fill-in the dots in this way, too.

We’re playing don’t-fill-in-the-dots-prematurely, yes.

The analogy that comes to mind is that I get this in the way Hemingway got plots, whereas Jane Roberts, say, got it in the way C.S. Forester did.

Bad analogy. Really bad analogy, because not only misleading but actively misleading. The farther you were to pursue it, the more misleading it would be.

You have a better one?

Not necessary, and therefore not helpful.

Okay. So, what do we talk about today, and with whom?

Let’s just say an encouraging word. You will notice that your friends find it useful (to different degrees) to read this as it comes to them, daily. It is short enough that they can read it, and frequent enough that it can be a pleasant habit. So in that way they convoy you, they escort you, as you go.

Yes, but reading this on the computer screen is a far cry from reading it on the page.

You don’t know how they read it. Some one way, some another. Some read it carefully, some skim it. Some find it directly on point, some find it abstractly interesting — and which find it which varies day by day. Our only point is that you find it extremely helpful to be escorted, and it is well for you to realize it, because the habits of a lifetime’s mental  isolation are only slowly replaced by new perceptions. In other words, you have robots being reprogrammed so gently that you hardly notice, but the beneficial effect remains.

Now that you point it out, it’s obvious enough.

That could practically serve as the title of the work: “Now that you point it out, it’s obvious enough.”

Yeah, well that one pretty much cries out for a more explanatory subtitle.

Just use “the other side” in your subtitle and it will be clear enough.

I doubt that any publisher would agree, but I’ll keep it in mind. So — are we on today’s topic, or do we segue from here?

Hearing nothing, I vote for Papa.

It’s about time for you to begin to work on indexing these talks in some way so that you can put them together and get them out in printed form. Otherwise you will be overwhelmed by sheer bulk. You again have 120,000 words and more as raw material, just as you did when you put together Chasing Smallwood.

Take a tip from your friend Emerson: Spend a lot of time indexing and organizing so you’ll know what you have. That kind of work shows no immediate result, but pays dividends. Think of it like learning a language on your own. One way is to compile a notebook of words and phrases, one by one as you come across them. That isn’t systematic in acquisition, but it becomes systematic in the habit of retaining, and therefore of really retaining. At some point those notebooks aren’t needed anymore, but in the meantime they serve their purpose.

You are nowhere nearly ready to begin assembling this into the form it will finally take. You don’t even have the whole of it. But you are ready and more than ready — or maybe I should say the material itself is ready and more than ready — for you to begin to index and sort it in your mind. Do that as we go along and everything will become clearer and smoother.

I must say, the process of acquiring has become easy and smooth! Fun, too. Absorbing. I sort of dread the prospect of Wednesdays when I can’t (am not supposed to) continue my routine uninterrupted by a sabbath, or, I suppose I should call it a sabbatical of one day per week.

Your friends observed that, too — and perhaps your enjoyment of the process encourages them to make their own experiments with more confidence.

That would be all to the good. Okay let’s talk some more about your life — or anything you want to talk about.

My life in Cuba.

Okay. What aspect of it?

I was living in happy exile there. If you compare it to Paris, you can observe some instructive differences.

You lived in Paris for a few years after World War I while you were in your twenties and were working as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, and teaching yourself to write fiction. You were in Cuba, let’s see, after you lost Key West as a base, which means after you and Pauline split up, so I guess it means from the very late ‘30s until Castro’s anti-American campaign, though not aimed at you, forced you out, in the last couple of years of your life.

That’s true as background, but it doesn’t give the flavor of the differences. In Paris I was surrounded by genius and near-genius and maybe-who-knows genius. Picasso, Miro, Joyce, Fitzgerald when he was there — so many authors when they were there — and I was part of it, but only part of it. I wasn’t famous yet, but they could see that I had the talent and the drive, and so maybe would become famous. I was accepted, in other words. And I was a family man in the way only a young man with a young child is a family man. We were a unit and we thought of ourselves that way. And there were so many things to see, so many different things to do. Lincoln Steffens to talk politics and revolution to, the other correspondents from all over Europe and America, conferences to cover, skiing in Austria — all that. It was an active, varied, interesting life full of promise and I was working well among comrades even if they were rivals. And once I’d hooked up with Scribner’s, I had my publisher, and I pretty much knew it all the way down. You’d say, I knew it Upstairs and so Downstairs knew too. That time was all expansion and growth, a good time despite the troubles that always come at any time in our life.

Life in Cuba was very different, as life in your 40s and 50s is bound to be different from life in your 20s.

I had arrived, professionally and socially. I wasn’t just one among many. Havana was not a literary center! So the pressure and the stimulus of personal competition among peers was gone. I wasn’t a family man in the way I had been. My children were in the world and there wouldn’t be any more. I was on my third and then my fourth marriage, and I was no longer assuming that once was for all. I had a vigorous inner life, but a bit less of an active outer life despite exceptions. Or, put it this way, what had been pretty much part of my routine in my 20s had become exceptions in my 40s and 50s. And, biggest change of all, where do you go when you are on the top, but down? For Whom The Bell Tolls was a huge success. Going to match that, every time out of the box? Going to have to match it or be declared over the hill? It was a different kind of pressure, not an expansive one. And of course in the interim there were so many physical accidents, so much wear and tear.

And so much alcohol.

Yes, but maybe the effects that are so obvious to the observer of my life weren’t as obvious to me on the inside, and maybe the alcohol compensated to some extent for other things in my life. You had a statement from Elvis Presley a while ago, on that subject.

So I did. I put it on my blog, but I can’t expect that people will remember it, so if I can find it easily, maybe I’ll just pack it in here.

[Elvis on fame]

Friday March 10, 2006

Michael [Ventura] had said if I started channeling Elvis to be careful – but that made me think about it and I had a vivid sense of how imprisoned his life became. Hell. Elvis, if you’d like to me to pass a message to Michael I am willing.

Thank you very much. (That’s a joke.) We do hear when our name is called, or anyway it’s sort of that way. And what the connecting mind knows, we know. At least, I do, or that’s how it seems to me. So I know your conversations. It seems to me that communicating through email isn’t much different from talking between the worlds, as you say.

I do have this to say. You both made the right decision, avoiding fame. Prison describes it exactly. I used to look out at the room full of people, in Vegas, say, and they all liked me, they weren’t mean about it, but they envied me, and I thought how they were all going to go back to wherever it was they lived and they were going to do what they wanted and nobody would much care. And my world kept getting smaller. I had my little bunch of pals – but that wasn’t really healthy, for me or for them. Hangers-on aren’t really pals. And my wife and even my baby – how was I to have a normal family life when nothing in my life was normal? But there wasn’t any way to get back to normal, even by failure. And the funny thing is, I’d have been happy being just somebody normal who sang. I loved performing, and I’d have sung for myself if nobody had listened – but all that money, and everybody wanting a piece of me, and people looking at me with this craziness in their eyes, wanting something that God Himself couldn’t give them—

People criticize the uppers and downers and the booze, but they don‘t understand, that was what was real in my life after a while. That wasn’t the craziness, it was the escape from the craziness.

Yes, I was created to open up the doors and blow in some fresh air and I did that. But at the same time,  I had to live a life as a human being, and that proved to be too much to do. You two stop and think – you think of me as older than you because that’s how it started – but you’re much older now than I ever got. And you’re managing your lives.

I hope you don’t think I’m complaining about getting to be Elvis Presley! But part of that involved living in a box that just got smaller and smaller the longer I went on. It was good to squeeze out of it.

Thank you for listening to me – and Frank, if you’ll think on why your father liked me, it will tell you something about him.

Yes I get it already. Thank you.

[end of Elvis on fame]

You see how one conversation can be used to enhance another. In a very limited way, that’s a pretty good analogy to how we live over here. We interact, and so we are always learning, always digesting and changing and thus sending out new information which others absorb and digest and then have new information — new essence — to send out. It isn’t static.

This, in the absence of a limit to how much you can hold in your consciousness in the presence of passing through time.

That’s right.

Needing to quit soon, but do you have something to wrap up about the differences between your life in Paris and your life in Havana?

Only in that there are different experiences of exile, and each one produces different effects. When you’re running away from home to make your way in the world, that is one thing. When you have no home to return to, that’s another. Nothing tragic about it, just life. But it’s important to see what is, and sometimes people don’t see — or maybe don’t think about the importance of what is to be seen — how and why I lived my life mentally and spiritually at the heart of America, but physically only at the periphery. Like you, I was true to an earlier version that no longer existed, and maybe never did exist except in my mind, the way I had envisioned it.

That’s enough for now.

Thanks, Papa. And thanks, whoever that was initially today.

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