Conversation, January 30

Sunday, January 30, 2011

7:30 AM. So, I am very aware that I went to the Florida Keys as an indirect result of some restlessness within me saying that my accustomed way of living had become unsatisfactory. I am equally aware that I am having to avoid temptations — a crossword puzzle, a Nero Wolfe, any of a number of possibilities — rather than slow down enough to do this. Commentary?

It sometimes requires an act of will — of concentration of purpose — if you are to step up to a higher level of consciousness. We have talked of this before, but any moment lends a different slant, a different tinge, another nuance, even to subjects long discussed and well understood.

A lower state of consciousness cannot remember or, really, conceive of, a higher. If your minds were really as they often appear to you — separate disconnected things operating on their own in response to sensory input — there would be little hope of personal development, for in effect you would be dependent upon chance to bring you opportunity in the proper sequence.

You might want to expand on that, a little.

Indeed we do.

Consider your own mental life, what it consists of. You read and re-read, thus a blend of new and old information, always in a new container (because you are not the same person today that you were yesterday unless you have been frozen alive and your brain processes arrested) and yet always in a sort of continuing context (because the part of you that has not changed is vastly greater than the part that has, nearly always).

You interact with others, and you remember past interactions, and you frequently compare them — usually not very consciously — in effect sorting them by emotional resonances.

You have new thoughts as you read or interact, and, just as you associate other like things, you associate your newest thought with whatever it sorts out with.

You do something physically, whether it is drinking coffee or sawing wood or building a fire or taking a walk or sorting papers, and an entirely different part of your mind associates these activities as you do so.

All this experiencing, sorting, associating goes on continually, and not within pigeonholes but across the board; not just now and then, or confined to “important” matters but all the time, with everything. Thus, you can’t step into the same river twice not only because the river — externals — continued to flow, but because you — internals — continued to flow as well.

You experience your lives as static, or as sedentary punctuated by moments of activity, but it is as accurate to say that they are continuously flowing, and the differences in speed of change are more the result of changes in your momentary consciousness than anything else. Moments of heightened consciousness are like rapids (but not necessarily chaotic or even thrilling) in which much more is experienced than usual. And of course just as some people’s minds are fast and others are slow, so some are filled with internal activity and others are much less so.

And so?

And so you may think of your mental life as a continuing process encompassing many states — sleeping, browsing, active, acutely aware, etc. — each of which has its own time to appear and fade away. These states do not change according to any schedule linked to a clock, but they do have their own internal linkages, hidden from you merely by the nature of things. That is, they change, but not arbitrarily. They interrelate, but not mechanically. They interact with the “external” world but are not driven by it.

In short, your mental world fluctuates. It is the nature of consciousness in bodies to fluctuate, or rather to seem to fluctuate, for consciousness fluctuates in relation to the external world of three-dimensional matter. On our side is fluctuates mostly in relation to the part of us that is affected by those in 3-D.

You may perhaps want to look at those fluctuations as opportunities. A less-expanded state offers the opportunity to accomplish routine necessities with less boredom and restlessness. An extremely expanded state offers the chance of making unusually sweeping connections. Sleep allows a recalibration for several systems that otherwise cannot rest, because needed for consciousness in a body.

Now — to get closer to the point. If you in a less-expanded state do not wish to remain there, but wish to move to a more active state, we have told you (and you by now are well aware of) how to do it. A physical relic linked to a specific memory of an expanded time will work nicely — if used consciously as your launching pad. That is, you can’t expect it to function magically — that is, automatically — just because you are in a room with it. For any concentration of consciousness (which is what a higher state is), an act of will is requisite.

But in all this, do not forget what you in your time are all too likely to forget: You as ringmaster of the strand-minds that comprise you are nevertheless yourself but a strand, comparatively, to a larger group-mind. Hence, you may receive opportunities “out of the blue” relative to your own mental life. If the group-mind includes you in its process of concentration, and suddenly you are included in a vast, holy sense of inclusion in something awe-inspiring and uplifting — was that your doing? Not on the level at which you live, no, it wasn’t. And yet you are legitimately a part of the larger group-mind, and so in that sense you own a part of it.

Similarly, a sudden concentration within what is to you a strand-mind may bring to your consciousness something either quite unexpected or something familiar but suddenly “for no reason” emotionally urgent. You are in the middle, between layers. Everyone is.

Enough for now? It hasn’t been as many pages or as many minutes as usual, but I’m sort of tired.

This material was from an angle unfamiliar enough to make you work as well as record. That increases the fatigue level. Ask something easier, though, and you will find it easy enough to continue.

Me? Or do you have something else in mind?

Well, let’s just say a word about mystery novels and your love of re-reading. What is it but establishing and revisiting congenial worlds?

Hanging out with Wimsey and Bunter, or Archie and Nero, or the Continental Op.

Hanging out in those worlds. You may not quite remember that when you began reading John D. McDonald you used to wonder if such things really happened in the world. You were very isolated, and this was a way of gradually eroding the walls that could be accomplished in an isolated manner.

I do remember. I was very inexperienced, and had even less understanding of the world than I do now.

Little understanding, less knowledge, even less first-hand knowledge, and vastly less tolerance or taste for any of it.

I know. An awful prig, even then.

Not of this world, let’s say. Once you begin to learn to stop judging people and things your fluidity improved and you begin to see better. A reciprocal process, of course.

Now, what was that reading of mystery novels but a response to internal prompting? It should be (but isn’t, we realize) evident that you were only led toward certain new things by something within yourself unknown to you. If you had been led to take up collecting opera records, for example, you might have done so and quite plausibly convinced yourself that it was a reasonable thing to do. Your Italian heritage, say, your love of music. But since you did not, the strangeness of the idea is clear to you. Well, the young man of 25 who was so taken by Colin Wilson’s vision of possibilities would perhaps have looked askance at the idea that he, or a development-through-time of him, would collect all those novels of Sayers and Tey and Sandford and MacDonald and Francis and Parker and — you get the idea.

Yes, it would have seemed an appalling waste of time to him, I suppose.

In one sense, it was a waste of time, particularly the re-reading in scanning mode. But was it a waste emotionally?

Apparently not. I was getting something out of them, though I couldn’t say just what.

You were getting and retaining prolonged access to the other side, for in actively imagining those worlds, that is what you were doing. And, by the way, that is how you might have — still might — used television. View once, imagine and remember after that. It is a passive state of reception without digestion that annoys you more than the content. Yet you remember television from your childhood days with fondness.

I used to really get into it. I remember my father seeing me rapt and chuckling and telling me, “it’s only a show, Frank” — and my suddenly being dropped from wherever I had been.

If he hadn’t done it, you’d never have realize your own state, then or later.

Oh, I know. And I might (theoretically) have learned something then about the difference between make-believe and reality, but I didn’t.

Didn’t because couldn’t because shouldn’t. You weren’t wrong and neither was he. Both ways of living in the world are valid.

Well you were right, easier material made for easier transcribing. Many thanks.

And ours to you as well.

One thought on “Conversation, January 30

  1. Hi Frank,
    As always, thanks for publishing these conversations.

    As an aside, as a teenager I was an avid reader of the Nero Wolfe mysteries, and bought or checked-out of the library every single one of them. I now realize from reading this post that it was a way for me to expand my horizons. Plus, your mention of them brings back fond memories.

    And, I find it interesting how I stumbled upon them. I was into organic gardening at the time, and Rex Stout’s sister Ruth had written a book on mulching, which was one of my favorites. In her book, she mentioned that her brother Rex had written some books, so the next time I was at the library I looked them up and was hooked. Interesting how one thing leads to another.

    Best wishes,
    Bob

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