Nathaniel on life as problems

Friday, October 20, 2017

3:30 a.m. You said we should resume with the distinction between our ideas of personal and impersonal forces. Not sure what that implies, but I’m ready if you are.

When one differentiates carefully between the personal and impersonal, a clearer understanding of one’s position in the world results.

That sentence feels a little pompous, a little stiff, which tells me we may indeed be contacting you – what Jung called impersonal forces – but not yet translating it into human terms. (And I’m not sure this sentence is quite mine, either; neither the wording nor the underlying thought.)

That is good listening. But there isn’t anything wrong or unnatural about a little initial stiffness. As you should know by long experience, it tends to smooth out.

A little coffee may help, and I hear it is ready. [Filling my coffee mug.] Okay.

We should hate to participate in giving the impression that coffee or any substance is a necessity for this kind of work. It isn’t a detriment, but it isn’t a necessity either. It may be a habit, however, and it is often useful to associate habitual tasks with habitual routines, or, as you might say, props. So, early morning bathrobe and slippers, or the same writing desk, or coffee, or the same kind of pen and paper – it all helps, or, rather, it all can be made to help. But it is important to stay on the right side of the line between helpful habit and superstition. An attitude, an intent, may be habit enough.

Understood. I wasn’t meaning to imply that others should do things my way. I don’t see how anyone can do anything somebody else’s way. But I drop bread crumbs, and those who find them useful may follow, and may get their own ideas.

I notice that often we wind up spending a page or two in such seemingly unnecessary comments on procedure before getting on to the topic at hand. So –

People tend either to take ownership of everything in their lives or

Wrong foot?

Seems like it. We shall try again.

Your lives are pre-shaped, we might say, by whatever internal baffles and conduits and intersections you bring to them by what you are. You know you are not psychologically simple. This may lead directly to that, in defiance of intellectual logic but perfectly following emotional logic laid down by past experience. If something reminds you of something else because they are linked in your mind by an unpleasant experience, the connection may not be otherwise obvious or logical or even sensible, but it will be no less strong for that. You know this; it is your experience of life. Many a psychoanalyst or psychotherapist makes a good living helping people manage under circumstances caused by these often subterranean relationships.

But – I hear – it isn’t necessarily the ideal for a life to be lived free of such connections, which may seem to us mostly obstacles to happiness.

It would be closer to say that life is the working-out of such problems, and that the problems are where the treasure is. Just as you wouldn’t like a movie or book without tension, or a crossword puzzle without difficulty, or a game without adequate competition, so a 3D life without internal problems to be resolved – even if [that were] possible – would be empty.

Instead of pain or trouble or annoyance, think intricacy.

Say some more, please

You are in 3D life to work out (by living them) the problems you bring to it. In the living, you often enough add more problems, or different ones, or new dimensions to older ones, but this is not a failure nor even a marching-in-place. Again we say it is not in result but in process that reality inheres.

Well, you say “again,” but I don’t know that you’ve ever quite put it that way.

But you understand the gist. Just as we said that it is not what happens to you that counts, but what changes in you result? This is the same thing. Emotionally, mentally, physically, the living of the thing is the real work. The reshaping of yourself is the real result. The process by which the reshaping occurs may be said to be of lesser importance, or of overall importance, depending on how you look at it.

That isn’t real clear. It is either a tautology or it is cryptic.

Well, it isn’t complicated. From one point of view, how you get to a new place is incidental, and what is important is where you get to. From another, the journey itself is the thing, and any port in a storm.

That last glib phrase is mine, I think. It floated up and I finished your sentence, but I don’t think it is what you meant.

Not quite, but it’s close, which is why it floated by, as you put it. Your mind (anyone’s mind) reaches for the closest similar thing, as Bruce Moen used to say. Let’s say, the journey is itself the important thing, and it makes less difference where it ends, as any end is only temporary anyway. We have told you, often enough, that we’re always on Plan B. That doesn’t mean that we’re always settling for second-best (or worse), but that we concentrate on continuing the journey, and if the winds blow us here instead of there, that’s no loss.

But the contrary view – that the incidents of the journey matter less than the arrival – is somehow also true.

Correct. Logically self-contradictory, but then, so much of life is. Contradictions are always resolved at a higher level of understanding. As you have been told, the universe contains all contradictions within it, but it cannot contradict itself.

So let’s go back to the point. Are the emotional events of your life personal or impersonal? It’s a matter of viewpoint, but it isn’t a matter of indifference which viewpoint you adapt. Your choice will affect how you see the world (and of course your life in the world) and therefore will alter what comes to you.

That last may be more obvious to you than to us.

Is it? Surely it is obvious that how you see the world affects how you react to the world. Someone convinced that life is a series of unconnected random events would be continually in a defensive stance. Or, if convinced that life was actively hostile, or actively (if we could put it that way) meaningless, or actively benevolent – surely you can see that each attitude would produce differences in interpretation, and that different interpretations provoke different responses which in turn elicit differences in the next sequence of events.

Yes, I can see that. I don’t know that I have ever drawn it quite that way in my mind.

Well, in the largest sense, if a hurricane blows through, are you responsible for the lost palm fronds? Yet, if the hurricane blows through and you have left the lawn furniture out, and a chair smashes a window (yours or someone else’s, doesn’t matter), are you blameless?

Do those two paragraphs connect?

Of course they do. Your attitude toward the world implies your attitude toward your place in the world, and that attitude has consequences. When the hurricane arrives, you have some responsibility for what it finds, because you have had some ability to shape or reshape it, ahead of time.

And if I get you right, the point is not to avoid hurricanes – as that is beyond our scale – but to prepare for them.

No, the analogy breaks down. Preparing for them is a side-effect; that isn’t what we mean here. We mean, what you can do is work on yourselves; what you cannot do is assure that all will be peace and prosperity, and John F. Kennedy will not be killed, nor Abraham Lincoln, and your own days will not be troubled.

Yes, I get that. Again Emerson’s “marching off to a pretended siege of Babylon” after “raising my siege of a hencoop.” Or Thoreau’s mention of “cowards who run away and enlist.”

It is usually easier to aim one’s discontents and outrages and aspirations outward rather than inward.

And I hear an implied caveat: Don’t take this to mean implied condemnation or commendation of a public life or of concentration on external affairs.

That’s right. What you do doesn’t really matter. How you do it (mindfully or otherwise) will be found to matter a great deal.

And that’s it for the moment?

It is.

Thanks, and see you next time.


2 thoughts on “Nathaniel on life as problems

  1. Frank,
    Since you have worked on and lived with this information flow for many years, I suspect it feels ‘normal’ to you, with a sense of ‘this-is-what-I-do.’

    For this reader these messages are magical and life-changing (todays particularly so); at the same time they are ‘mundane’ in the sense of ‘this is the way physical-world life works.’ The information is not new, making it all the more powerful because of the corroboration from a number of other lines of knowledge.

    Your presentation allows/helps me pull so many things together into a form my objective mind can connect with (note I didn’t say understand). ‘Understanding’ is more the province of subjective self, but it is important that my objective mind be part of that growth. As always I appreciate your work!

  2. My thinking on this, in progress: it’s a model/framework for applying our own emotional logic to life, from at least a C2 perspective–> living according to this is part of maintaining an impersonal perspective on the emotional events of life (to make for better reactions). It takes us right down to how we live day-to-day life through choices based in our view of events as personal or impersonal. This understanding of emotional events as impersonal better helps us to “work out (by living them)” the problems we bring to life. So, I don’t think I’ve said anything you/they haven’t, maybe I’ve stated the obvious, and I don’t know that I’ve made anything clearer, but these sessions keep motivating me to lay them out, to think more, say more, write more. They feel very participatory to me, and my own sources are very engaged as well. I haven’t experienced anything quite like this, and I’m enjoying it a lot. Thanks so much.

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