Hemingway on Pauline and Catholicism

Wednesday September 30, 2015
[Last night:]
F: 8:30 p.m. So, Papa, you and Pauline and the church and a new life, next.
EH: Yes but just note that here and do something else. You don’t know how much this takes out of you, because it is so natural, seems so easy. Better once a day, not more.
F: All right, I can do that. Till tomorrow morning, then.
Wednesday September 30, 2015
F: 1:05 a.m. How about now?
EH: Well, we’ll see.
F: You know where we are. [long pause] Or maybe not quite yet.
EH: Probably better not. One or two more sleep cycles.
F: Okay.
4:15 a.m. The clock said, clearly, two minutes to midnight, but I said to myself, “it can’t possibly be that,” and when I actually opened my eyes and got to a clock, it was 4:15. Two sleep cycles, as advertised. I sure had to force myself to my feet though. Interesting push / pull – my slightly wheezing lungs versus my reluctant frame. A little coffee should fix that.

So, Papa, let’s continue. Seems to me, Joseph Campbell’s statement quoted in Jeffrey Kripal’s book Esalen applies particularly to this phase of your life. [“If there is a path, it is someone else’s path and you are not on the adventure.”]
EH: Perhaps it does. But at the time, all I could feel was the breaking of the stones beneath my feet. I wasn’t trying to follow any one person’s path, but I had had a sense of my own – the struggling artist who makes good, you know – and now all of a sudden –
Well, my story never quite matched the stories I was trying to imitate, and from the very beginning I was adjusting the facts to match what they should have been if I was going to live up to the story. You know? You and I started with this question after you read the first book of [Michael] Reynolds’ five-volume biography.
F: I sure do. I could see the discrepancies but at the same time I couldn’t write you off as a phony and a poseur, and you helped me reconcile the outer facts with the inner facts of your life.
EH: And maybe if we hadn’t started off in that problematic way, you wouldn’t have gotten interested enough to keep going.
F: Maybe not, though that is hard to imagine now. And we’re going to have to come back to this, too, aren’t we, at different stages of your life?
EH: If we retrace the whole thing again, probably. But why would we do that?
F: Don’t ask me! I only work here.
So let’s continue where we left off, you having to start again.
EH: It will be hard for people to understand, soon. In my day, in my upbringing, people did not get divorced. They might spend their lives in unhappy marriages – even desperately unhappy marriages – but divorce was beyond the pale. I was rebellious against every feature of Oak Park, but that should tell you that I was still prisoner to its ways, or I wouldn’t have had anything to fight against.
F: Complicated subject right there. As I was writing it out, I thought of you visiting your family for Christmas, 1923 and not bringing Hadley or – most important – their 10-week-old grandson. You had reasons, but they were just reasons. You never did bring him to see them, and never did bring Patrick or Gregory, either.
EH: No. And as you know, it was emotionally complicated. I loved my father but I couldn’t be his dependent son, and it was even more so with my mother. And beneath all of that was my relationship not even with Oak Park but with the childhood that had produced me but wasn’t what I wanted it to have been.
F: Any more than the Red Cross was the Army or “an industrial accident” was war heroism.
EH: That’s it. I was still busy creating myself, and it took a lot of energy, papering over all those flaws in the scenery. [I think this should have been, “flaws in the background,” or in the pattern.]
F: But then – it just comes to me (interesting, this process. Detours or seeming inadvertences move me, position me, slightly, until I ask different questions from the ones I intended to ask, because somehow I am seeing things at a new angle) one of the many things divorce meant to you was liberation, in a way. And divorcing Hadley meant divorcing a more conventional part of yourself (romantic young artist making his way), which you did want – thus adding one more cross-current to how you felt about it.
EH: One more not-quite-conscious cross-current. No wonder I felt like I was being torn to pieces. Yes, and I loved Hadley – always did – but people stand in for so many things in a man’s life. Interesting. I’ll have a talk with her, see how she saw it. “Talk” is a translation, of course, but I don’t want to go into how we communicate here, it isn’t all that different from what you and I are doing now, and it isn’t the point at the moment.
F: No. So, I move the previous question. You and Pauline and the church and a new life.
EH: Pauline’s family was intensely Catholic. So was Pauline. And this presented me with an opportunity. If she had been one more Protestant, it wouldn’t have represented such a break from my past, and this was a break I wanted. That is, it was a break away from my “story” and toward what I really was inside.
F: I get that. Go ahead.
EH: No Hemingway was Catholic! And they weren’t southern, either, and weren’t commercial successes, except my damned Uncle George. The Pfeiffers were a world away from the Hemingways, not to mention the Halls. But this is all still external. The fact is, I was exposed to a simple Catholic country at my most impressionable age, and it took.
F: That’s going to take much more exposition.
EH: I know it, but we’re getting there. A summary statement doesn’t have to come at the end of an exposition, it can precede it just as well.
So let’s try to set it out. For the moment let’s disregard the other aspects of Pauline – her wealth, her Uncle Gus, her chic, her intelligence as a reader and editor – and let’s stick to one thing: her Catholicism, because in some ways that was the greatest of the opportunities this new life offered. People think I married her for her money. They don’t stop to consider, I assumed, and assumed correctly, that I was going to make a lot of money myself. Not Safari-in-Africa money, but that wasn’t in my sights then. Money to live well while I did my work. I knew it was on its way. I didn’t need Pauline’s money to support me. In fact, in some ways her money was a step backwards, into Oak Park respectability. That’s one reason I liked Key West so much. [I.e., it wasn’t.]
F: Tempting side-note but let’s pick it up at another time. And we can talk about “the useless money” you mentioned somewhere. But not now.
EH: There is a big difference between a Catholic and a Protestant way of seeing the world. Maybe less so in your day, I don’t know because you don’t know. But in the 1920s they were very different, and everybody knew it. Were, had been, and we assumed would continue to be.
F: Can you spell it out as you experienced it?
EH: I can, but I’m painfully aware of how little I knew about it, really. To me, Protestant meant Episcopalian, and it meant social respectability and a sense of moral and social superiority.
F: Oak Park, in short, rather than the church itself.
EH: Sure – but I didn’t do the thinking that would have been required to untangle it. Anyway, that was about all I really knew. Baptists, Quakers, other sects, not much. Methodists I might know socially, but not on religious grounds, if you understand me. Presbyterians, Lutherans, whatever.
For me – I can only talk about what I experienced, inside and out – for me, Protestantism was my parents – intend to do good and be good, to be a socially useful and socially respectable element and to follow a rigid code of behavior, no excuses. And especially with my father, as his mental illness grew on him – I can see that now – his own irrationality was so closely grafted onto his religious ideas that it discredited the whole thing. It could have left me with a grudge against God, if things had worked out differently.
F: I can’t understand why we haven’t filled more pages but it is past an hour and I can feel my energy flagging. Can we start again here next time?
EH: Better than trying to push through and risking glossing over stuff through more fatigue.
F: Okay, till next time, then.

3 thoughts on “Hemingway on Pauline and Catholicism

  1. At first glance there seemed to be no relationship between your dialogue with Hemingway and what is below. Rereading it, I can see it. Elements of the communication process, the role of religion, the value of all life experience, for example.

    The second part of my download is either self-evident or iconoclastic, depending on previous beliefs. My impression is that its intent is to get me/us thinking differently versus telling us “how it is”. I hope it will be read in that light.

    Me Ruminating: Last weekend I pursued topics that I knew were expansive and reached beyond me and my greater being. Effectively I floundered. We seem to be better connected to our greater being than beyond. It seems likely that the wisdom I was seeking was not all available “near” my greater being and we would have to extend significantly to be able to find a place where the information could transfer. That’s some speculation on my part, but I definitely lost the flow and sense of connection. (Near and far in this context doesn’t mean physical distances; it’s ease of connection or high affinity and low affinity.)

    Response: Don’t forget that exploring is sometimes equivalent to getting lost, in that you get off the map.

    Do you sense it (the connection) back?

    Me: Yes. Was the problem me or greater than me?

    Response: Floundering on your part is one viewpoint but a better viewpoint is that the joint mind of you and You was extending but getting noise. The difference between you and You in these matters is indistinct. To effectively reach “far” beyond the greater you, other minds must join the group, or to look at it another way, the group mind of you and You must attract the knowledge and intelligence that exists in another part of consciousness.

    The farther the “reach” for the information, the “farther” it is from the reality that you are able to relate to, so even if the connection is made, the information transfer will be “noisy” or “gibberish”, or you just spin around in your joint mind without any apparent input.

    (This addressed the connection issue but didn’t get into how to develop “longer” links. Anyone have ideas on how best to accomplish that?)

    Response Continued: You have been wanting to talk about religion and some religious beliefs. This is a good opportunity, because religious beliefs often become the gap filler when a more definitive understanding is not yet possible. Functioning in isolation from greater consciousness, one has little choice but to formulate concepts from only man’s point of view.

    In this context, we’ll examine your topic of interest: the idea that man progressively attains a higher and higher levels of consciousness, where the highest is a state of unity.

    It is not difficult to see how this idea gets traction. You yourself have changed your beliefs, made connections, increased your awareness. Combine this with the old concept of reincarnation and you have what appears to be spiritual progression via sequential lives.

    Flip it around to the viewpoint from the greater being, and there is progression through experience, changes of “state”. The difference is that those state changes are a realization of inherent capability, versus a result of achievement, or worse yet (meaning even a worse way to think about it), a reward.

    Since different greater beings are in different states, as are all of their incarnations, man looks at the isolated incarnated individuals and makes assumptions that it’s man’s enlightenment that matters. Or man looks at all the apparent levels of awareness and draws a conclusion that it’s his job to elevate himself up a ladder of awareness.

    In the case of the latter, one might think they must “get with it”, follow the slogan “onward and upward”, or push and pull with your fellow human to attain, attain, attain.

    An alternate viewpoint which is from that of the greater being is that every single human is changing the state of the greater being just through living its path. That is attainment for the greater being. Part of your life experience (addressing me) is to expand your awareness in support of a change of state of your greater being. But that should not be compared to another human having a different experience that doesn’t include awareness expansion. That other individual is contributing just like you are to its greater being’s state changes.

    In both cases the human is realizing it’s potential experience through living and the greater beings are realizing their potential changes of state.

    Does this mean there is not potential benefits to increasing your awareness? No, of course not. But it does mean that humans are not in a good position to judge that one level of awareness is better than another for two different people, because that depends on the states of their two respective greater beings. Besides, it is not and cannot be an independent action. If a person is increasing their awareness it’s because the greater being is in concert with it (likely as the conductor); it couldn’t be otherwise. The same is true if they are not.

  2. It’s a little strange to me. I’ve never read Hemingway–and I’m pretty well-read–and I couldn’t offer a real reason why. It seems as if there was/is a barrier or resistance there. Not antipathetic or even knowing– for example there are some writers or just people whom one knows one will not groove with so one doesn’t bother. I don’t know, it may be as simple as Henry Miller was my “American in Europe” as young impressionable kid and that’s all I needed…

    Anyway, it’s enlightening to hear of Hemingway’s personal foibles insofar as they are relate-able to me and mine. Generally I don’t go in for biographic details of artists. It always feels beside the point not to mention that it is often just disappointing. But with this material, well let’s just say I have my own “Oak Park” that I’ve had to come to terms with. I’ve also felt that inchoate need to make radical breaks in my life. Having the courage (or foolishness) to make the break is never the issue. Rather having the courage to face the consequences and after-effects of those decisions is more difficult. I mean, it is a matter of being responsible for one’s choices, but it’s also a matter of not leaving oneself in the lurch after having made a hard or painful choice–especially if the choice appears to have been the “wrong” one. Not keeping faith, albeit in a necessarily honest way, with one’s choices feels worse than making the “wrong” choice in the first place.

    Anyway, reading this it’s almost as if every life lived constitutes a case study that is later available in any number of ways for study and contemplation.

    1. That last sentence is an interesting way to look at it. In my own case, evern the wrong turns and the dead ends turned out, looking backwards, to have been as productive as anything else. TGU always say they are ready to lay new opportunities at our feet no matter what we choose and where we windnup.

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