Saturday, March 19, 2016
F: 3:30 a.m. You were saying?
R: You might think we have scarcely embarked upon our journey of exploration and exposition but in fact most of what needed to be said has been said. Now it is for each person to apply the lessons as they have been given. What we have done, in this little collaboration, is twofold, and consists partly of the information itself, partly of the method of obtaining it.
We could, I suppose, continue for quite some while to add detail and even to add entirely new realms of concepts, put it that way, and there would be value to that. But nothing comes free. The more we spell out, the greater the danger of becoming seen as authority – which
F: Yes, I see it. It’s always a balance, isn’t it?
R: I don’t know about “always,” but often enough, certainly. This is the nature of conveying information.
F: I suppose it’s worth a little spelling-out.
R: Smiling, as you say. Why, what a splendid idea!
F: Yeah, yeah. As I also say, “ I feel so used.”
R: And you love it.
F: Of course. But you were saying?
R: Just as you have come to see the process of gathering information as a two-step reciprocating process – perception alternating with interpretation – so you might see the process of conveying information, similarly, as a two-step reciprocating process, only this time information versus
F: Yes, hard to find the word for it. Processing? That isn’t quite right.
R: Perhaps we cannot yet summarize it in a neat antithesis, so let’s spell it out.
F: As you were about to do when I interrupted.
R: No harm done. And perhaps I wouldn’t have found it so easy to continue the sentence.
Our balance is between the
That dialectical approach isn’t working, even though it is a very simple concept. You try it.
F: I got it easily enough. The information itself is one thing, the effect on the reader is a different thing. If you don’t (if one doesn’t) provide enough information, the reader may not have enough meat to chew on and so may not be assisted in transforming his or her view of things. But if you provide too much, you risk weakening people, rather than strengthening them, by allowing or encouraging them to become too dependent upon an “outside” source rather than deepening their own use of their own resources.
R: Yes, that’s it. Of course the concepts of “not enough” and “too much” are impossible to cram into definitions or even into rules of thumb, because not only are they different for each person, they are different for each person at different times of their lives.
F: “You do the best you can.”
R: It was never any different, whether you are talking about scriptures or detective stories. On the one hand, you are creating a new window onto the world; on the other hand the real object is to help people see through their own windows, not yours.
So for instance, you know that Bob [Friedman] wants a firm picture of day-to-day (so to speak) life in the afterlife, and eventually you realize that the very phrasing of it as “afterlife” contains hidden assumptions that mislead. What are you to do? You see that someone else is trying to intuit “the meaning of life” and after a while you realize that that meaning varies with each person – and I don’t mean the interpretation varies, but the meaning itself, person by person. You see that someone else wants guidelines for how to live his or her life in the best way possible – perhaps the wisest goal of the three – and you see that anyone clinging to anyone else’s description goes off their track by just that much (as opposed to allowing themselves to be struck by something that resonates, and following it where it goes) and you see that the very process of helping people see carries the unavoidable side-effect of raising your own prestige as a messenger – which to that extent invalidates and changes the message. What to do? When to stop? What caveats to set out that will not become dogma?
F: And so it is always a tension of opposites.
R: That’s practically a definition of life.
F: If I don’t mistake, I’m feeling that you are seriously considering ending this series of conversations, or lectures, or whatever.
R: Notice the day?
F: Yes, a nice symmetry, eight years later. [That is, eight years after Rita’s 3D life ended.]
R: Let me say only a few words more, then.
Help is always available – especially in so far as one helps others. It encourages the flow, so to speak, and it reminds you that the help you receive is peer-to-peer, just as in the half you give. In other words, you are not a worm, you are not a god, and neither is anybody else you interact with. You are – we are – peers. Relatives, in a way. Associates. Don’t bow down to others, and don’t let them bow down to you.
F: Is that why I have such trouble acquiring disciples for the First Church of Frank?
R: It is why you make jokes about it, to keep your elbows free. It is a good instinct, if not carried too far. You remember that Lincoln told you.
F: I’m not likely to forget it. “Too much respect is as distancing as contempt.”
R: It is always a balance. Life is always a balance, after all, a tension of opposites in every direction, and you deliberately left free in the center, to move as you wish. No matter what you do, you will not run out of opposites surrounding your new position. Always there are new choices to be made.
F: I feel this valedictory mood so strongly, yet I feel that in some ways we have scarcely begun.
R: That is always so. Remember Thoreau, though.
F: Well, I hadn’t thought of it that way. He left Walden and didn’t quite know why, and often wished himself back there, but “perhaps I had more lives to lead.”
R: You will not get your remaining projects written if you continue to do this in the mornings. There isn’t enough “you” to stretch.
F: No guarantee I’ll do them anyway, of course.
R: No, but pretty close to a guarantee that if we prolong this kind of conversation, you won’t do them, and perhaps you would regret that. So, without promising or threatening that this is goodbye forever, at any rate I can say goodbye for now.
F: I have had Mr. Lincoln’s words in my mind this last week.
R: Yes. I bid you an affectionate farewell.