Conversations July 20, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

4:30 AM. I’m not quite sure of how to proceed. Ernest?

Remember, in all this we are proceeding along more than one track. There is the correction of The Hemingway Myth for the sake of providing a model of completeness that the world misunderstood — not for the sake of doing me justice, although there is that, so much as for the sake of providing the model. The model is needed! And to correct the myth, it is necessary to understand; therefore it can’t be a whitewash job, and it can’t be superficial. But it isn’t a matter of research for new facts (though you should contact Terry Mort [author of The Hemingway Patrols] and ask about my official records, my reports to the Navy) — mostly it is a matter of interpreting what is known. That’s one strand.

A second is to provide a model of possibilities, showing how communication proceeds and showing what can be done, and how easily. This could be a great encouragement to people. And just as correcting the myth can’t be a whitewash if it is to do any good, so explaining the process can’t overlook the difficulties and pitfalls, which involves your giving the process a certain amount of thought so as to be useful.

Then, most important of the three but depending on the other two, this will provide people with a new model of the physical/non-physical interaction, hence the true function of 3-D existence, and by implication we will show that the non-physical exists — that is, that the afterlife is not only not a fantasy but is a necessary part of life, without which life wouldn’t have meaning or make any sense. And it will do so in a way that shows that religious belief was tapping into the same reality.

Well, that would be a good trick. But come to think of it, I suppose you can tap me in to whomever I need when the time comes.

You already have who you need. The next step will be for you to do some directed reading. Think of it as a seminar.

All right. Well, it’s an ambitious program, but I’d rather have an ambitious one than a boringly small one.

That’s just as well. And of course you are redefining your own life in the process, and have been doing so for years, only half aware of it, as we reminded you the other day.

Well, it’s very satisfying.

All right. So do we talk about you and your mother? Your father? Your various women? Or what?

When you go back over the past few sessions you will accumulate a few questions to be answered, and we can deal with them then. Meanwhile let’s go off on another trail.

Okay, what about you “shooting up the town” that summer of 1919 when you and your friends were up at the lake region in Michigan. The way you would tell the story later in life, you and your friends “shot up the town” for fun. In reality, apparently you all started to shoot out streetlights as you drove through the town in the middle of the night, and after five or six of them, realized that this might not be such a great idea, and got out of town, lying your way out of it when a timid cop questioned the car full of rough-looking kids that you were. Reading about that in Reynolds, it struck me that later in life it was important for you to think of yourself — or any way to talk of yourself, but I think to think of yourself — as having been tough and a little bit wild. It implies that the real life you experienced was too tame for you, and you wanted to redefine it as wilder, tougher, more reckless, closer to the edge. Accurate? And if so, what’s the underlying meaning of it?

Accurate and perceptive, and this is what you bring to this, linked to my mind, for most people couldn’t see beyond the bragging.

Yes, that’s exactly it. Within myself, I thought my life was tame, and I always wanted it to be wilder, more dangerous, and since it wasn’t, I was pushed in two directions, or I mean it expressed in two ways. One, I re-invented. I was a writer of fiction, after all — which means an imaginative re-fashioner of ideas to create an illusion that would reflect truth more clearly when done right, and would at any rate create and reflect a different world whether true or not. Two, I moved to engage in activities that would tap me into that wilder, freer, more vital existence — warfare, hunting, deep-sea fishing, competition of any kind.

Both directions met limits, and both imposed penalties. You can’t invent and invent and invent about your life without at some point risking that you will lose touch with what really happened, the material you’re inventing out of. If you do, you get captured in a feedback-loop, you’d call it. You lie, or you invent, or you tell tall tales — they’re the same thing, sometimes, or near enough — and then you start to believe those stories because you don’t do the rigorous self-examination that would be needed to get back to the bedrock fact, and increasingly you don’t do it merely because the story is a better story but because you can scarcely bear the truth. If you develop a bias toward seeing your life a certain way, and it is an emotionally-based bias — that is, if the emotional need a strong enough — after a while it will require more strength of mind and active consciousness to move out of the accustomed mental routine channels than you can give it. Something extraordinary can do it — someone you love, holding you to the truth, or some thing you love doing the same thing — a higher loyalty in some way or other, overriding your self-preservation, in a way. You can see how this started to play out, in ways innocuous and not so innocuous, as I began to lose the physical energy needed to keep my consciousness honed. Even before shock treatments, I wasn’t exactly losing my memory, I was losing access to the channels that would’ve given me access to them, because the accustomed channels had been so much deepened by years of use. So, truly, in effect I no longer remembered or could remember my life as it was, but as I had preferred to reinvent it after the fact. And of course losing access to the real memory is deadly serious to a writer, and to a person. Once you lose touch with the original, you have only the invented, and the invented has a bias that will self-reinforce as you go along. So that by the 50th repetition, all your emotional conclusions (call them that; I don’t know how else to put it) are exaggerated, systematically warped. And if you’ve spent your life brooding over wrongs, or worrying about being stabbed in the back by malice or neglect, or haunted by feelings of guilt and sin that you tried to keep repressed, they’re all going to be exaggerated into false guidelines about how life works and how far you can trust people and what hidden dangers are lurking on every side, and when you aren’t actively or even frantically denying them, these feelings are going to overwhelm you, and maybe you wind up in paranoia, unable to weigh fears or suspicions because the life-experience that would have provided you with a corrective has been overlaid by an increasingly falsified narrative that only increases those story-lines.

Like that film I saw about the guy who lost the ability to form short-term memories, I can’t remember its name. He wound up relying on his own moment-to-moment notes, and when he deliberately falsified one, he later acted on it as truth.

Yes. It is a good description of the process, and helps you understand what I just said.

Somewhere in my journal I have the name of that movie. Maybe it will surface. [The movie was titled “Memento.”] Meanwhile, action?

Just as reinterpreting memories can get you into a wilderness of false evidence, so trying to live an ever-wilder life has its disadvantages, especially if your guides to conduct are unreliable. It can get you wounded without warning or glory or meaning before you’re 19. It can get you into politics in ways that don’t serve you or what you believe in. It can get you somewhat off your path, so you wind up in your fifties hunting with a spear because you’re searching for a more primitive part of yourself.

But you’re out of energy for this, if you haven’t noticed.

I just had, in fact. Our usual 70 minutes. Very interesting, and I thank you as always.

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