Wednesday, May 4, 2011
7:30 AM. All right, guys. A brief encounter Monday leads to the question of where the idea came from, to suddenly realize that The Sun Also Rises meant something totally different from what I or anyone I had ever read thought it meant. I asked Hemingway and he said ask you. So–?
He said your problem is with definitions. That could be said to be the problem in general, for in definitions is encapsulated your view of the world, even if various definitions contradict each other. What you know depends upon what you allow yourself to experience.
And that uses definitions as the gatekeepers.
What you’ve just said isn’t wrong, exactly, but it might be more helpfully phrased. Let’s start again, beginning with the question at hand, which hopefully will keep us grounded.
Your loose definition of “the guys upstairs” freed you from the need to try to formulate precise ideas of what was happening, and freed you from any temptation to adopt someone else’s. Your casual anti-theoretical frame of mind came in handy here, as so often, in that your lack of interest in having things nailed down in advance allowed you to explore freely.
Nevertheless, your assumptions were there. Your definitions were implicit. They weren’t rigid but they were unconscious, which by definition means you weren’t aware of them and you couldn’t influence or shape them, but they could and did influence and shape your perception of whatever happened.
At one point you assumed that the guys upstairs – because nonphysical – knew everything. That’s just an example, to show you how far you had to travel. It took a while for you to admit (for, “admit” is what it felt like, was it not?) that the guys could not know something without it being proof that they did not exist. For, another of your assumptions was that “the guys may not really exist, but may be part of my mental stage-crafting, and if I look closely enough I may be able to catch them in the act of not-being-real,” so to speak. Two contradictory assumptions, but by keeping them geared so loosely, you could function with them.
Was it the same “you” that functioned in both cases? Or did each assumption correlate with a different compatible subset of “you”?
Yes, I know where you’re going.
The problem of definitions does not begin outside of yourself, but inside. This, not for you Frank alone, of course, but for one and all. It would prove beneficial for you all to practice seeing the world as if (“as if”!) the only set point is you yourself, and you aren’t set either. To put it another way – but say the same thing – consider the entire external world including your body to be but a manifestation of your inner, otherwise unknowable, being. Treat the world as a mirror in which you may learn to see your own image.
The physical world only?
No. Good. Not only, because the non-physical world, as we have said more than once, is an integral part of the physical world. So, if the physical world is a mirror of your unknown self, so is the non-physical, and in a way even more so.
Consider your situation as ring-master of a large, unknowably large, set of component parts. (But don’t go thinking of Heathkit radio sets, or sets of shop tools!) This cast of characters, assembled together in you, takes on a character wholly unique. No matter how few or how many strands within you, the net pattern, the final effect, the shape of the mask, so to speak, is unique. That is what you were created to do – to live this set of possibilities.
Now, “living this set of possibilities” means, on the one hand, teaching them to work together, or at least not to work against each other. By “teaching” of course we mean not “do as I say” but “do as I do.” The habit-pattern that is your mind – the mind of the ring-master who lived this combination – expresses and perhaps even calcifies, to some extent, the elements it comprised.
But the larger sense is that the ring-master, working within this net of possibilities, shaped, by choosing, what the final effect of that combination would be. Lincoln consistently chose to express kindness and compassion when he might equally have chosen to express resentment for slights, or bitterness over reverses, or one-eyed partisanship. You understand. His life, like anyone’s, was a choosing among elements. By the end of his life he was what he had chosen to become. The process of choice was not a one-time thing, but a continual sifting of possibilities in many circumstances, as the “external” world provided him opportunities to choose.
It may seem that we have strayed from your question, or not even begun to address it, but in fact not so. The basis of the question lies in definitions, and the wrong definitions – especially unconscious definitions – assures that you will come to unhelpful answers.
You today are the sum of your choices in light of your possibilities. It’s only a tentative sum, so far. You still have time to alter the arithmetic by the choices you make. But where you stand right now is the result of past choices from among the possibilities the external world presented – which, again, means the parts of your unknown inner self that were externalized for you to experience.
When you talk to the guys, how different is it from talking to yourself, or writing to someone else, or imagining a conversation? In each case, a part of you sets up one speaker, another part sets up the other speaker, and a third part – you as ring-master – observes and records. That’s the only way it ever is.
We know that’s counter-intuitive! We know it doesn’t seem to make sense. If it were obvious, wouldn’t it – be obvious? We’ll try to make it plain.
What you can experience is only that to which you have some resonance. Another way to say that would be, you experience only that which affects some part of you, some strand known to you or unknown. As you have said (for it was your analogy, really) you experience only that for which you have Velcro.
This should make intuitive sense, when you think about it. Something that has nothing to do with you cannot come into your attention. It just can’t. By definition, perhaps, you could say, “anything that I notice, affects me.” The converse is, “anything that I do not notice cannot affect me,” which is true provided you didn’t notice it at any level however subliminal.
Can you see that this is just Thoreau saying that you don’t have to count the cats in Zanzibar? Anything that is important to you will be right there in your path. Your path may send you 3,000 miles away – may send you to the moon, or to any farthest adventure – but if is your path, it is going to be right there for you to undertake. By definition, no?
So – when you begin conversing with non-physical entities, who is doing what? Is it the same “you” extending to them that deals with the service-station mechanic, or the store clerk, or a grandchild, or an employer, or a beloved one? Is it the same “you” that expresses in a garden, or on a subway, or in a crowded restaurant, or on a holiday? There is a different “you” – that is, subset of you the ring-master – for every occasion.
Each subset is precisely fitted to the occasion, or some other subset would have presented.
Obvious, now, surely?
And this is as true from the other side as from yours! You reach out to the subset of the other side (to clumsily so call it, for the moment) that matches your intent.
You could say that subset is Hemingway, but it isn’t, really. It may be part of him. You could say it is “the guys” but that doesn’t really express much, and it risks a false precision. You could say it is “only you yourself” making it up behind your own back, and again, you wouldn’t really be saying anything, on the one hand, and it would be misleading, on the other.
So when you ask a question like, “who is this on the other side,” it’s an impossible question to answer except in terms of whatever definitions you have already learned to see through. Thus, most often you will get an answer that may or may not satisfy but will have to do, for lack of definitions. This is one reason, BTW, why people so often get answers confirming their own belief systems. Isn’t that the other side is pandering, or that it doesn’t exist, or that the person in the physical is overriding the answer: It is that the answer has to match up with his definitions, or shake those definitions, or contradict them, or be in essence invisible to him. With the best will in the world, communication in such circumstances is difficult.
I think I’ve had glimmers of this from time to time, but, as you say, I didn’t take the time to reason it out.
Reasoning it out won’t take you very far if your reasoning proceeds from unconscious definitions. That’s why it is useful to talk to us. You might think of this as a way of your getting to hear from unsuspected parts of yourself – for, if the part of you corresponds to, or resonates with, something on the other side, how are you to distinguish between talking to unsuspected parts of yourself made visible, so to speak, by being externalized as “the guys” OT1H, and talking to an external beings such as Jung or Hemingway OTOH? It is, in a way, a metaphysical distinction, for neither they nor you are units! Neither they nor you could be distinguished if the ring-master label hadn’t been placed on them, and on you. But just as you may be [physically] composed partly of material that used to be other beings, so psychically (except removing the “used to be” aspect of the analogy).
This is important stuff we’re giving you, and we know we will have to give it repeatedly, in variations, before you can really get it. But it’s good work to do.
And it’s nine o’clock, though I have had interruptions, so plenty time to stop for today. Many thanks, that was very interesting.
Until next time, then.