Conversations July 24, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Maybe too early to be doing this, but I seem to be awake. So. 3 AM. Again, Ernest, anything you’d care to say about life on the newspapers?

It was a fast education, something I could learn to do, writing rules I could absorb immediately. A once in a lifetime opportunity for a kid, and if I’d stayed with the K.C. Star instead of going off to war, maybe I’d have kept my job when all the vets came home, and maybe I’d have been afraid to lose it, and maybe that would have been the end of my career as writer.

Hard to imagine, now — but I know what it can be like, being afraid to lose a job even when you don’t want it. And just now I realize that there was some maneuvering that got me out of the only such job I might have gotten trapped in, and I see that it was the result of my own actions, so I guess I dynamited myself out of that job, and a good thing, too.

Let my life show you what it is like to believe too strongly in certain illusions. We got into World War I for economic reasons, more than anything else, but we went in with nearly everybody thinking it was for reasons of honor and right, and in a way that wasn’t so far wrong. But our participation was based on so many lies that any underpinning of truth was ultimately discredited and disbelieved in. So people who got wounded, or whose friends or family members got killed, had reason to believe it had all been for nothing.

I get the sense that you really don’t want to talk about the newspaper year. Why is that?

Maybe there’s nothing to say that will contribute to the purpose of redirecting The Hemingway Myth, and maybe it isn’t important for any reason. Not everything you will ask will meet response.

Fair enough. Is it also a question of “better questions –“?

You can always try. No guarantees.

It’s just that I have this image of you now, since yesterday’s comparison with my cousin Charlie, and I can see you (metaphorically), I can vividly feel your presence, all eagerness and aliveness, anxious to ride to the next fire or patrol with the cops or get in on the next bit of gossip. It’s like your job isn’t a job at all, but a great amusement park, and a ticket to the show, and your entry into the grown-up world and your escape from the safe and boring and cloistered world you had grown up in.

See? You don’t need me at all. What can I add to that? That’s it exactly.

Well, the Montréal Weekly Star, then, where you’d haunted your way onto the staff as a stringer at space rates.

Not exactly a stringer. More like a free-lance feature writer, but tied to the one organization. It was the post-war [sic], it was my only chance and I was lucky to have it and I knew it. It was still a license to snoop into people’s lives, and a way to practice my trade of writing and observing, and even though I was a decorated veteran, it was still an entry into the grown-up world. I was still younger than you when you got out of college.

Meyers says — nope, wasn’t Meyers. Wasn’t Baker either. Somebody said your friend at the Star was a five-foot-high reporter whose name I can’t recall. Gregory Clark — it was in Meyers. Ex-Major Clark, who started out skeptical of you and became a friend. But I guess really, I don’t have a question. It’s more that I’m fishing for things about your life, which isn’t really what we’re doing here. Maybe I’ll nap for a bit.

5:20 AM. Try, try again. I guess I was barking up the wrong tree, earlier. Or maybe I got from that question about the newspaper what I needed, which was living sense of young Hemingway.

Let’s revert to what I usually do when stuck, which is, throw myself on the mercy of strangers and say, what should I be asking, if I had the sense to know?

Always a good plan. Why have resources if you don’t use them when needed?

Who’s this? [Pause]

All right, let me rephrase that. What do you think I should be asking? [Pause]

Nothing. Maybe you guys are asleep now. Well, I’d hate to miss the opportunity but I could, I suppose. Could spend the time doing a little more organizing, little though that appeals to me.

Just so you were working, it wouldn’t matter much which kind of work you were doing. But work.

Could thinking together about how to organize all this be considered work?

It could — if it is not used as a substitute for work. It’s always easier for a writer to talk about writing.

I have been doing that, a bit. It makes an easy answer when people ask how I’m doing.

You might more profitably make a habit of asking what kind of questions they’d like an answer to, if they were doing the same work.

That’s a thought. Get them thinking about their own process, too?

The world is full of all kinds of people with all kinds of enthusiasms, as we just mentioned to you a moment ago in a stray thought about people whose passion is putting on plays.

Meaning — don’t expect everybody to share my enthusiasm.

Meaning, too, that every different facet of the world refracts light uniquely, and there’s never any telling what is to be learned where.

All right. Tell me, this slight depression?

Health, as much as anything. And perhaps some doubts about what you are doing.

Those doubts must be connected somehow to speaking enthusiastically about what I’m doing. I’ve noticed it before.

Follow your own insight.

Well — let’s see. Somehow, talking of it — no, you know that self-reflection isn’t my best thing. You tell me. Or give me a hint, anyway.

We’ll do worse than that, we’ll give you a continuing chore. You do need to increase your ability and habit of self-reflection to match your new level of insight into others. It is the contrary equivalent to someone who knows himself very well and has no insight into others.

I used to think that described me.

No, you used to have insight into neither, but you had lots of opinions which served you as stopgap but also prevented progress. Opinions are sometimes illusions.

Consider yourself, again, as a person-group, a container (your consciousness and your body) for a community of elements that may or may not be coherent or even mutually tolerant or even — new thought! — mutually aware of all of the other elements. As you bring any element into your consciousness, it participates in a new way; your consciousness becomes that much more complete; your ability to choose becomes that much greater, and correspondingly, your subservience to impulse and compulsions becomes that much less.

Well, suppose that you begin your life unconscious. Guess what, you do. Some few do not, but nearly all do. You emerge in a few years as from out of a fog into sunlight, though the emergence is a gradual process, patches of sunlight amid fog at first, then more sunlight and less fog until (as far as you know!) you are living in the light of common day.

In effect, the consciousness associated with that body and that common-denominator-mind, call it, is created by repetitive experience. Those elements, operating together long enough, begin to consider themselves an “I.” You’ve all experienced this; this is no revelation, it’s just life, seen slightly differently.

Now, that emerging consciousness may or may not be aware of any given element contained in its community. If it has strong resonances to another life — a “past life” — it may even be able to revisit that life’s surroundings, like the children in India you have read of, or the Leininger boy. But obviously — or it ought to be obvious, anyway — every container has resonances to other lives, some stronger than others. But most of anybody’s constituent parts are invisible to the container unless and until something in what seems to be the external world evokes them. Then they may come forward, looking like resource or problem or talent or obsession or nearly anything else you experience in your lives. That is, they may appear to come to you, rather than coming out of you.

Some resonances provide insight into the nature and actions of others, as your memories of your cousin suddenly connected with what you had read of the young reporter Hemingway, and suddenly you knew something you hadn’t known. And it wasn’t Psychic’s Disease, but a true knowing. The consciousness of the memory connected to the consciousness of the concept (derived from reading) and suddenly the current flowed and each shed light on the other, and each made the other thereby more alive, more interactive. Thus does every experience, every memory, add to the individual container’s library, and dictionary, and essence-detection mechanism.

Any new element you integrate into consciousness plants you more solidly,

Went wandering; lost the thread. We were talking of insight into self and others, I think, originally.

We never left the topic. In increasingly integrating your consciousness, you widen the potential scope of your awareness outside and inside (for that is how it must appear to you while you are in the body). Your self-reflection brings insight into the nature and actions of others, and vice versa. Such new insight, pursued and developed, brings corresponding increases in integration of previously unconscious parts of yourself, and so it can be a self-reinforcing process, and is all to the good.

However, any process that continues unevenly, in a lopsided manner, necessarily becomes distorted. (That sentence may be read backwards no less. One of Hemingway’s dichos.) If you apply your new insights only to others, or only to yourself, after some point you will run out of fuel for further advance. Examples from the world would be the manipulator of others — ultimately, the psychopath, who has no idea of his own slavery to internal compulsion (or rather, considers it normal) — or the narcissist who is fascinated by tracing inner influences but cannot attend to others because he thinks (or rather assumes) that one would detract from the other. Most people are somewhere between these extremes, as usual.

Balance is better, for growth.

Not everyone is here for growth, remember. And everything in the world adds to its variety and diversity, and thus to its viability (for in diversity, remember, is survival, ultimately).

Nonetheless, your audience is interested in growth, or you would not be the mirror from which they were obtaining their reflections via this material. And, for growth, seek balance.

It ought to be obvious — but, we know well, is not — that balance does not mean compromise or careful weighing of alternatives or even an avoidance of extremes (for how can you know what any extreme may be balancing?).

Balance if it is anything is the ability to move. That is, it is freedom from being locked into any one position.

That’s enough for now.

That’s pretty abrupt. I thought you were going to continue for a while. I’m doing all right.

We’d rather stop right there. That’s the point we wish to emphasize, for the moment, by leaving off. We will see you next time.

Okay. I think this is a first, you’re stopping mostly for the sake of underlining something. But — okay.

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