Thursday, August 12, 2010
2:30 AM. Going to bed earlier merely results in getting back to this that much earlier, I see. Very well. Gentlemen?
We think you will find that working on the notes will prove rewarding. You barely started, but you did start.
I know, I hear the same subtext everybody else seems to be hearing — “but you must hurry.”
But you must move, at least. The times begin to move more swiftly; you must move if you are not to be left behind.
I just got a visual analogy — surfing a wave. If you lose the wave, you get left behind and cannot regain it.
An analogy, but not a bad one. Your friend established himself in Hawaii, and did it easily. It would not be so easy if he had waited beyond a certain time. What is easy if done in proper timing is impossible, if not attempted until too late. Note that this need not be seen as tied to a physical or even a societal disaster. It is just that some things become impossible. Try returning to 1935.
I get the point.
Work, then. Work happily and to your taste — but work.
This isn’t aimed solely at you.
Yes, I got that too.
[Pause] Ernest, a question. Carlos Baker, page 229:
“On the eve of his return to Key West after sixty-five days at sea, he hooked a large marlin and played it for over two hours, sweating mightily, only to have it throw the hook and escape just as he had brought it to gaff. He was so disappointed that he sat panting and cursing for half an hour while sudden squall of cold rain chilled his overheated body. His respiratory system responded as it had always done to such sudden changes of temperature. A day or two later he steered home across the straits with a temperature of 102, and went to bed in his house on Whitehead Street with what the doctor diagnosed as a touch of bronchial pneumonia.”
I put this together with your lifelong fear of respiratory illnesses, your habit of going to bed at the slightest touch of such things (or so it is reported) and my own imagined response from my lifelong history of asthma, and I wonder if this was not your Achilles’ heel and you knew it instinctively. At 33 and in the prime of life, to acquire pneumonia — even if only “a touch” must have left you feeling as helpless as any illness did — as we discussed at some point.
And so your question is?
I don’t know, precisely. I only sense that it’s an important topic. I noted it, and forgot to note just what made me note it.
Then I can’t help you, maybe. It can’t be about Hemingway’s famous fragility, after a two-hour battle at the end of two months at sea. So what aspect of it drew your attention?
The parallel between your lungs and mine, I suppose. It has always seemed strange to me that your lungs should be vulnerable — though come to think of it, as a Cancer that would be natural enough — but I don’t know why I should think so.
The flu epidemic of 1918-1919 made a big impression on me. Death in large numbers; no violence involved; not much defense against it.
There wouldn’t have been any Spanish flu — it just occurs to me — if not for the presence of a million Americans suddenly in Europe, would there? Somehow the presence of the AEF caused it.
I don’t know about that.
In any case, I don’t know where to go with it. Maybe I’ll just go back to bed and try this again later.
3:30 AM. It doesn’t seem to be a matter of sleep. So —
Well, maybe I should just spend the time working on making notes from what I have already. Maybe this long spurt of information is going to pause now.
No. But you must continue to prime the pump.
All right, then maybe I need to alter the process a bit.
Just work. You must put in the time, however uninspired your efforts or the results seem to you. Books don’t write themselves; pupils don’t learn without effort.
I was going to feed in questions derived from my reading of note cards and putting down themes.
No. Read Hemingway’s story one book at a time, one time-period at a time, as we advised, and you’ll go deeper.
All right. I feel like apologizing for that one — I did hear, yet did something different.
Your choice, always — but why ask for advice and decline to take it, without reason to decline and without quite noticing that you are doing so?
Stupidity, I suppose.
Just bad work habits. Develop better ones.
[Looking at my list of questions] Miss Rita, I see a note I’d made, to ask you about the nature of research in the physical. Should that have been, “in the non-physical”?
No, you remember it correctly. The idea was for you to get a little practical guidance in research techniques you will need. You know most of it already, but you think of yourself as a non-scholar, so you don’t habitually use what you learned in an academic context.
Research is the art of assembling many bits of information and drawing out the unsuspected common elements among them that illuminate more things than they themselves, unconnected, could. Therefore you can see that it has different phases.
Collection is not the first phase in order of sequence. First you form a hypothesis you want to test — or, more agreeable to your way of proceeding, first you engage in a course of explorations led by non-conscious factors, then you compile what you have experienced. Then you form some questions about what it all means. To this degree, your manner of proceeding somewhat reverses the usual order of research, but the difference is actually much less than you sometimes think, because after all any research project has had its attention called to some area of inquiry by some experience, direct or indirect.
At any rate, you collect experience in some form. You examine the experience, arranging the results in a logical pattern. You examine the pattern for holes of data or logic. You devise ways to fill those holes, and you proceed again. There is no beginning point, no end point, only places where you start and where you choose to — or have to — stop.
Your data is limited, by your choice, to your personal experience and that of trusted friends, and little of the latter. Therefore you risk reinventing the wheel, out of ignorance of what is common knowledge unknown to you. But this risk is also an advantage, in potential at least, because it leads you to examine things with eyes not already imprinted with other peoples viewpoints, opinions, and conclusions. If you don’t know that a given phenomenon has an accepted cause and nature, you may perhaps by seeing it afresh discover and then show others previously unsuspected aspect of it. Assuming that you are willing to risk wasting your time, this works well for you and after all, to do anything in any field by any method is to risk wasting your time. Nor is the risk very great. What may look like waste may be very productive in fact.
Was there a specific message about research you wanted to convey? (I have long since learned to suspect such unconnected bright ideas as “come to me.”)
I told you, I always liked doing the research and never liked doing the report. You found it hard to understand this at the time, oriented toward the word as you are. Perhaps now you can see that it is more of a problem than you allowed. My specific suggestion to you and to anyone who wishes to report on their personal experience (even if part of that experience is itself research — reading, etc.) is, limit your subject matter.
Limits are boundaries. They define shape. They form separations so that the inchoate can become shaped. Limits are the difference between TGU and Frank, or between our answers and any specific questions. If you are going to produce anything comprehensible to the reader (let alone feasible for the writer) it must have bounds, limits. So, at some point — repeatedly, in fact — you must interrupt your continual data-gathering and produce interim reports, just as you said in Muddy Tracks, or you will produce nothing. Until such interim reports are produced, the connections you have lived exist mainly in your own mind, and will not be able to have the larger effect you wish to have. This applies to everyone who wishes to tell their story as a means of sharing their meaningful experience and learning.
You might continue making notes, this morning, rather than immediately entering this into the computer and sending it out.
I understand. Donkey work should have a lower priority.
Yes — but higher than watching Star Trek videos!
Well, it’s still better than watching CNN.
Not after a point. Work first, if you want to work.
Well, I do, in fact. Okay, be well.
Here — as I finally did learn first-hand — all is well, all is always well.
Here too. Thanks.