Hemingway’s choices

Sunday, October 11, 2015
F: 5:15 a.m. When we stopped, yesterday, I had a firm idea of where we were going next, but this morning I don’t, so I hope you do, Papa.
EH: Don’t you find it interesting that you skim the previous handwritten writing when the printed-out looseleaf book is sitting there two feet away, and you never look at it? Why is that, do you think?
F: Instinct, I suppose. I don’t mind giving myself a hint, but I don’t want to change the center from me to you. [And only on typing this up do I notice I said it backwards; but he picked it up as I meant it, “from you to me.”]
EH: That is, you want to be controlled remotely, you cooperating, rather than taking the stick yourself.
F: I see you’ve been watching “The Martian” with me, just as a few years ago you watched the old Star Treks by looking over my shoulder.
EH: Links provide input.
F: A tempting subject in itself.

EH: One for another time, and meanwhile anybody interested can investigate on his own; it isn’t like I’m the only source of information here, or you.
F: So then, what’s our next step in the process of exploring about you and Martha and Spain and To Have and Have Not?
EH: Understand, there isn’t any one path to it, or to anything. Webs are like that. Think of them as paths consisting of an unending number of redundant possibilities. That’s what gives us the flexibility we need. Without that massive redundancy, we would continually have to be backing out of dead ends, or in fact finding that in practice, as opposed to theory, “you can’t get there from here.”
F: Feels like that often enough anyway.
EH: That is because opportunities that are unperceived do not actually exist, though they continue to exist theoretically.
F: Meaning the gap is on the 3D end? Our tunnel vision?
EH: There isn’t any reason to beat yourselves up. Yes, it is on your side, in the sense that your limited consciousness may leave something unilluminated that otherwise might show you a way forward. Yes, if you don’t already have familiarity with a subject, you will see a tangle rather than a navigable network. Certainly yes if your mental concepts prevent you from seeing this or that opportunity. But – all of those are part of the price of living in 3D.
F: Any of the gap on your end?
EH: Only in the sense that whoever you connect with may be unhelpful or even hostile. And in that case, it still comes back to your end, in that – who established the link? Or rather, what part of you linked up with that particular set of reactions, that memory-system, that disembodied personality?
All right, so when I was away from Hadley and not yet with Pauline – when Pauline was away in America waiting for the 100 days’ separation Hadley had insisted upon to expire – there I was, living in Gerald Murphy’s studio and living partly at his expense – he having put money in my account just to be helpful – and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I don’t mean, I was undecided. I mean, I couldn’t imagine how to go on. I didn’t want to leave Hadley, I didn’t want to give up Pauline, I didn’t want to give up my structured dream of how my life would be, that was starting to come true. I was wracking myself to pieces.
At least, a part of me was. Later it became clear that another part of me was like a bird struggling to emerge from the egg, fighting desperately to escape the nurturance that had become a prison.
But I didn’t understand that. I could feel the pain and the confusion and the second-hand reports of the struggles going on within me, but I didn’t sense the emerging new being, all I sensed was chaos and destruction.
And it was chaos and destruction. The boy I had been, the young married man I had been next, the new father, the somewhat respectable image I could see in the mirror was all gone, and what was in its place? An adulterer, a breaker-up of my own life, a center in a new story that didn’t have any precedent or structure.
F: That is, you didn’t have a model to follow.
EH: That’s right. There was no path to follow. What I did have was my art and craft, and the purity of it. That is what I clung to, and ultimately that is what was going to save me. If I had prostituted myself then, it would have been all over for me. I would have been a one-shot wonder and God knows what kind of awful life I would have led. If you want to imagine it, read Macomber.
F: Macomber? I was thinking of Kilimanjaro but it came out Macomber.
EH: And you may look at that as a fortuitous linking of two seemingly very different things, or you may find something nobody sees.
F: Hmm. Care to tell me?
EH: It will be more real to you if you do the work of spinning the connecting threads yourself.
F: Okay. “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is about a writer looking back on his life seeing what he has betrayed by letting himself be seduced by the soft life instead of staying on the beam. At least, that’s how I read it. “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is about a man suddenly growing up, in one instant, after having been destroyed in his own eyes just the day before.
EH: Notice how you have described the two stories – they are about the man’s own actions and reactions; they are not about the actions of others victimizing him.
F: Yes, I see that.
EH: Well, isn’t it clear that so did I?
F: Now that you mention it, sure.
EH: Tell that to 80 years of critics and teachers and biographers.
F: I could feel myself putting that “80 years” in. I could go look, I suppose, but it doesn’t seem necessary or worthwhile.
EH: The sense of it is right anyway – from the 1930s, the legend began.
F: So, to imagine the life you might have led if you had started whoring for the magazines, read Macomber?
EH: Kilimanjaro was obvious. Macomber adds nuance. Maybe I wouldn’t have grown up and maybe I would have been destroyed by what would look like outside forces.
F: But, that isn’t what you did.
EH: No, and Pauline’s Catholicism is sort of what saved me, you see.
F: No, not quite. I have a sense of it, but not distinctly.
EH: Because it was convenient, even necessary, for me to profess my Catholicism, I could express parts of myself that had been under pressure for my whole life. They had been a part of the total mixture, but they didn’t harmonize with the rest of me that had been shaped and encouraged by my background and environment. By 1926, I had accumulated quite a head of steam behind it, too.
F: Italy in 1918.
EH: And Spain, repeatedly after 1923, and the life of Paris around me from 1922 on – and I don’t mean the life of expatriate Paris, or even of artistic Paris, but of the people I saw on all sides. And even, by exception and contrast, the few months Hadley and I spent in Toronto in 1923. All these things were in my psychic background – that is, they were experiences that linked up my life in the 3D world to parts of my non-3D being that were there to be expressed. And then suddenly, with the breakup of my marriage and of my old life and expectations and even reputation, I had a new canvas.
F: You just said something pretty important for understanding life, didn’t you?
EH: It will be important to some, less so to others.
F: But I got it. Where we go, what we do, who we hang out with, provide triggers for parts of ourselves to manifest that otherwise might not exist. Our choices shape our lives in that way, as well as in the more obvious ways.
EH: This strikes you as profound, but, as I say, to others it will be obvious. Folk wisdom has expressed it well enough, long enough. You can tell what a man is by who he hangs out with. Don’t frequent the occasions of sin. It’s simple enough. I have just given you an explanation for it that hadn’t occurred to you.
And there is your hour.
F: Thanks as always. (6:40)

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