Conversations September 21, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

5 AM. Yesterday my friend Jim lent me The Lost Book Of Enki by Zechariah Sitchin, and I spent much of the rest of the day reading it. A few dozen pages yet to go, but I was surprised to get into it as easily as I did, having read a couple of the other books of his and having found him not entirely believable. That is, I believe him to be a sincere thoughtful man, but I had thought him to be taking at too literal a level a description that might not have been meant to be read that way. This book, though, assuming it is an accurate translation, is clearly not an allegory or a description of psychological process, but a straightforward narrative.

I have been reluctant to commit myself on this, as on so many ground-shaking re-castings of our human history, because it is so easy to get carried away and so hard to get carried back! There is a long list of such influences in my life, starting perhaps with Immanuel Velikovsky’s Worlds In Collision.

My friend Chris e-mailed me yesterday that our discussion of how we can know what’s true struck a chord with him. Well, I felt it was said as much for someone else — more than one, probably — as for me.

What a lot of influences in a life! At the same time I read Sitchin, I am still reading Cabot’s life of Emerson, and Thomas Hart Benton’s Thirty Years’ View, and Max Freedom Long’s The Secret Science Behind Miracles, with excursions for the fun of it to Raymond Chandler’s essay “The Simple Art Of Murder,” and then there were all those Star Trek TV episodes. Like Emerson, I’m still “sinfully strolling from book to book,” and, like Emerson, quite happily.

The virtue of all this — and the corollary defect of the virtue of it — is that I open myself to so many influences, of so many kinds, committing myself fully but temporarily, or I should say provisionally, ready to strike my tent whenever I change my mind. Great flexibility, great instability. Hard to build a house on continually shifting sands.

And yet, I don’t feel it only as a weakness. There’s a place for what I’m doing. In this perhaps I am representative of so many people who live a nomadic life, following the light wherever they catch a glimpse of it. You can wind up following a lot of will-o’-the-wisps that way! And you can look back and feel pretty foolish that you lent belief for however long to this or that alluring bubble. On the other hand, you’re less likely to find yourself dismayed that your irretrievable oath of allegiance was given to a bad cause.

I woke up thinking of Emerson, thinking what a quietly sane life he led, how he incorporated all the best of what our time has called New Age thought, with none of the accompanying enthusiastic lack of balance. This scion of generations of ministers and pillars of respectability — Boston respectability, too, of which there can be no more rigid and self-critical specimen — gave up the ministry, give up respectability, cut his moorings with established thought and went his own way, and did it so quietly that he made few ripples personally, and changed the whole tenor of a generation and of course therefore, all who followed, whether or not they recognized the fact.

Let a man plant himself upon his instincts and there abide, he said in more or less these words, and the whole world will come around to him. [Emerson’s exact words (God bless the Internet!) were: “… if the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him.”] We, seeing his life backwards, coming to him because he has been famous and influential, forget or never learn that he stayed true to inner thought that had no particular sanction in accepted thought of the day, and even seemed (but, he was convinced, only seemed) contradictory to the Scriptures by which his day thought it shaped its life. He cut his own trail through the backwoods and found to surprise that he had surveyed (or rather, had advertised) the right-of-way for a highway that hundreds, then thousands, followed. When the Transcendental ‘40s came along, a time much like the 1960s, he was lumped in the public mind with all manner of enthusiasts and crackpots, and the crackpots and enthusiasts and what Thoreau called “one-idea men” assumed that Emerson was one with them, or would be if only he understood them, or if he had the courage of his (meaning, of course, their) convictions. They didn’t always forgive him for having a house and a family and careful investments and — mostly — for being true to his convictions or even his lack of convictions. They wanted him to see their light, to follow their star, when his whole life said precisely the opposite.

Now, I have been half an hour writing this, for reasons that escape me. I trust that you gentlemen don’t feel imposed upon by being made to wait? And I trust that you aren’t going to claim paternity over this little effusion, either.

No need. It is, in fact, a nice demonstration of how work gets done. You remember that Peter Wimsey said people were always saying they should sit down and write a book, and he gathered that the hard part was sitting down. In a sense that jest was true. The habit of a thing is powerful. You set yourself at your table with journal and coffee and silently ticking clock, and all your person-group expects to engage in conversation. Since it is in the form of handwriting in a journal, that very external assists you to keep them in line; more or less removes the necessity, in fact. And the difference between talking to us and talking to yourself is more conceptual than actual, for when you look closely enough at “yourself” you find less a unit than a society — as we may have mentioned.

The demonstration isn’t for the sake of keeping you out of trouble. And it isn’t strictly for whoever reads this. It is valuable in itself.

In what way?

Surely you can see that your thread this morning continued yesterday’s, and proceeded not upon the question-and-answer format but in a natural following of the thoughts that had come to you as you slept or tried to sleep or as you awoke.

Yes. So?

This powerful habit will carry you forward to express what you know and what you don’t yet know. Emerson didn’t engage in question and answer, and would in fact have found the procedure as droll as his satirical friend Henry would have. But he would have recognized the process of uniting inspiration and perspiration. Ask him.

Well, that’s a thought. I always forget how deep our pool of resources is. Mr. Emerson? Waldo?

The chief difference between my age and yours is the superficies of language.

I have thought it often. Your language casts back and the antiquated words are somewhat off-putting to our eyes.

Even expressions like “Tis” may go out of fashion. You prefer “it’s,” and would hear “tis” as an affectation, which in my day it was not. But perhaps you habitually underestimate how little ready my age was to understand me, relative to yours. The social implications of self-reliance, the young men of my day and after saw well enough. But the more profound spiritual implications they saw only as an extravagance of language or fancy. My initial impact was considerable, but strictly limited. It required time to broaden it by removing its immediate applicability and demonstrating its ease of application.

Somebody said the 19th century was yours, the 20th, Thoreau’s, and the 21st would be [Bronson] Alcott’s.

There are peculiar modes of thought for each age. Just as Emerson seems stuffy and respectable to your age — which I cannot but find amusing, though I understand its reasons well enough — so Alcott still seems ungrounded. Actually, that deserves a more careful expression.

You know that I have said that Alcott was in his speech and thought absolutely clear and penetrating. His written speech was halting and clotted, disfigured by the poor examples he had read in his self-educated youth.

Lost it, trying to shape your words, sorry.

He was not appreciated in our day partly because he had not the power of clear expository prose and partly because he had not the words for what he saw. Henry saw every knot in the pine tree, and could describe them all in proper relation. I saw forests and landscapes and could suggest relations between ourselves and the world. Alcott saw clouds, and mists, and saw them in half-light, and had to express pastels in the vocabulary of primary colors.

But you in your day can go to his Orphic Sayings, for instance, and find the half expressed sense in them. It is a matter of connecting dots wherein the spaces are greater than the extent of the dots, but it could be done. Your age is not as ours was. Different laws govern it, as ours were governed by different laws than had governed the youth of Adams or Jefferson, say.

Each age is receptive to different kinds of influences.

No prophet has ever fitted smoothly into his own times. What kind of prophet would he be? But no prophet has ever been without a message that some in his unsympathetic age could hear and be stirred by.

Looking back I see that it was suggested that you say a word about inspiration and perspiration.

I need say nothing more than I said 150 years ago and more. If you do not work several hours a day, reading, writing, thinking, receiving, pondering — you are not working as you should. You understand, this was addressed to the student of the world. The businessmen on High Street lives another kind of life, but you may be sure that he devotes his time to his business. Nothing in this world gets done without work, even if the work consists mostly of non-doing. What we refrain from doing shapes our lives quite as much as what we do, but the refraining is only effective work when it proceeds from intention. Your life’s work may turn out to be quite different from what you think you set out to do — likely it will be — but it will express your intention effectually; it will not merely fall from your life as an automatic consequence, like shaking the dust from your coat.

My thanks, and to the guys in general. Till next time.

Till next time — but work.

8 AM. The thought comes to me, and my breathing clears (however permanently or temporarily we shall see). The problem is that after all these years many parts of my person-group identify with me as a person with asthma. But why should that have to continue? I asked, those who are afraid if I change, come forward and let’s discuss.

Is it a fear that I would turn my back on the knowledge that life is spiritual as much as physical? Hardly would I do that. That definition is me, by this time.

So what would fear my change from a sickly person — a potentially sickly person, say — to a healthy and vibrant one?

There was not fear, but unconsciousness. It was a matter of bringing into the common mental space of the present the elements of your life that had been maintaining what they knew.

I hear, between the lines, that it is not always necessary to know the causes of an ailment to move from it?

More or less. If the change is made, it is made.

Proceed to sketch it out for me, then, that I may tell others.

The situation you begin from is as it is because it proceeds from your past. Even if it is a condition at birth, it may be considered to proceed from the past in that it is the result of what was chosen for the body in the shaping of the ring. That is, the combination of elements, and the mating of the elements to a specific genetic heritage, set the boundaries, and within them were certain conditions established.

Always — wherever and whenever you are, it is here and now. Always your free will exerts itself on the results of past decisions. Where else could you begin but from where you find yourself?

Your various constituent parts have made their peace with that past, or perhaps we should say, they have each fitted into the pattern, even when their manner of fitting in has been to fit in at odds with the rest of it, or a large part of it. It is no surprise, is it, that a pattern should contain contradictory parts?

In short, any starting-place is the result of past maneuverings and accommodations and warfare — and every conceivable nuance of relationship. What you are is what you have decided to be, one way or another. You may have decided to settle for something, out of weariness or lack of vision or lack of knowledge or lack of consciousness, but for whatever reason, any given moment may be considered to be a moment of rest. It is your previous landing-pad, and your present launching-pad. Always.

So perhaps in that context it is clearer that you decide to change before you change; you do not change as a result of external forces.

You do not, because external forces do not and can not exist.

Think about that.

In all aspects of your life, not just health, external forces do not exist. There is no external, for the inner and outer are one.

This is not empty rhetoric. This is a plain statement of truth. You cannot be the victim of forces that do not exist.

But then — you will be tempted to ask — how is it that our everyday experience convinces us that external forces not only do exist but exist in an overpowering strength?

You, Frank, know the answer, and the odd thing about the human situation is that all of you know the answer even when you repeat loudly that you don’t know it.

It’s the same old question of definition. Who is “you,” who is “I”?

That’s right. The ringmaster may or may not know. It is the ringmaster’s task in life, perhaps, to bring his constituent elements into a harmonious knowledge of the fact that there is no external. But regardless of the extent of the ringmaster’s knowledge, or of the internal diversity the ringmaster contends with (and draws strength from), the self knows, and will pass that knowing along whenever the ringmaster does not block it.

Our intuition can tell us, when we once reach a certain state of coherence.

That is, your intuition can tell you in such a way as to be heard, once you cease to block the message for one reason or another.

Well, it is remarkable. My lungs are absolutely clear and at rest. And I do so I feel like a new man. A superstitious part of myself hesitates to believe in the permanence of the change, but I’m certainly willing to accept it provisionally.

This, for whomever it may encourage!

9:30 AM. External forces do not exist. Pretty important statement.

Is this really gone, or does it lurk, or is it unchanged and waiting for the right conditions (same as lurking, I guess) or what?

It’s gone if you wanted to be. Or let’s say it is as gone as you want it to be, and for as long as you want it to be. But you could always regress.

No. I am telling my troops, if you have an issue, talk to me! Rather than kicking in an asthmatic spasm, your new reaction is to contact me and I will respond to your concern. For instance, is there fear on anyone’s part of a life without asthma? All I feel is joy and anticipation, and a determination that now we can get some work done. Has asthma been my excuse not to work? Not consciously. How about it? Unconsciously?

Let’s say it served as excuse for shoddy work.

Did it?

By definition you would not have noticed.

True. Very well, my present resolve is to do very good work. Note it in the log, please.

But first you want to finish [reading] your book.

But things are moving.

10:30 AM. It isn’t a new thought, but it is no less revolutionary for being not new. “External forces do not exist” means there is nothing to fear. Not randomness, not malice, not death, not decay. Some people will find that thought disorienting; others will find it absurd. But — given that it is true — that is a major touchstone people can use to judge and shape their lives.

Hard to see how it would be applied on a macro scale. Could Palestinians live without Israel as the enemy? Could Israel? Could either believe that in a sense they called it down on themselves? Try telling Americans that about the twin towers. And yet it is true. In the absence of this understanding is the source of the worlds terror of tomorrow, today and yesterday.

2:30 PM. [Wheezing having returned somewhat] I feel like Calvera in The Magnificent Seven. “You came back! Why?!”

Look, you can’t just turn your back on your past.

Why not?


Do you feel that is what you’re providing? What kind of continuity? Oh, I hear it, you’re worried that if I don’t have my physical comeuppance every so often I’ll think anything is possible and I’ll become completely ungrounded.

Well — yes.

That isn’t your decision to make, and isn’t your job to function as an enforcer. You and I need to get this straight. I am responsible for making the decisions, whether you like them or not. I have conceded that I haven’t taken charge of the body as I should have — we both know the reasons — but I have also said that will change, and I’ve taken the first steps. You have no right to decide that I didn’t mean it, or that I need your stage-managing. Stop it!

You — to be blunt — do not have the independent intelligence or the background knowledge to decide whether what I investigate or believe or profess is grounded or ungrounded, warranted or not, embarrassing or not. It is my responsibility. In fact, I see now why I joke about postings being “Captains log, supplemental.” I am the captain of the ship, and the ship can have only one.

Who else has problems with my running the ship? Make your complaints or your worries known.

Will you know what to do with it?

With a healthy body? First step will be to restore it to proper condition, problem by problem, and then we’ll see. Are you afraid of getting hurt by somebody’s reckless driving?

Maybe, a little.

Well, stop worrying about it. Just stop. If you think you see a problem, notify me, don’t take over the helm. Focus your attention on our working together, but if you’re in the boiler room, or swabbing the decks, or whatever you’re doing, do your job and leave piloting the ship to me. And if there’s something I need to become aware of, you can always say “Captain to the bridge.”


Well, that’s a good question, and I hear it. How indeed? Maybe a slight wheeze is all right — but then stop as soon as you get my attention.

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