Friday, November 17, 2017
4:30 a.m. All right, my friends, what is on the agenda for this morning?
Talk a little about the incessant reading you are doing.
Re-reading the six Dion Fortune novels, Moon Magic being the last. Reading Henry Adams on the U.S. during Madison’s administrations, currently reading about the War of 1812. Dion Fortune’s The Magical Battle of Britain, again, though hardly begun. Still on The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events. Still on Awakening from the 3D World. Never finished Holy Ice, a book about crystals. Set aside Parkman for the moment. Read one short story in Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life, which arrived yesterday with Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem.
And what does all this amount to?
Avoidance? Habit? I don’t know.
Talk about your lungs.
Well, I haven’t been really well since asthma started up again, as usual, in the Fall. September wasn’t bad, but it got going pretty well last month and was tenacious enough that I realized, I was just holding my own, between nebulizer and inhaler. But then yesterday I sort of had it out with it. Or, no, it was as if I were saying goodbye to it, as a long-time companion. I remember thinking I’d miss it, in a way. Immediately I thought that, it changed. It didn’t exactly disappear, but the intensity lessened, and I do suspect it will be going. Not entirely sure what this is about. A bit I do, not all.
Talk about the alligator.
If I must. When I was working with Jane Mullen on the 30th, at one point she saw what she apologetically described as an alligator within me, very tough hide, great snapping teeth. We both took it to be a defense-mechanism instilled or installed or developed or however you want to describe it, at an early age. I could see that it had been needed. I could see that it was needed no more and in fact had caused me a lot of trouble, I not being aware of it. So I talked to it and we encouraged it to leave, which it did without struggle. I felt the difference immediately.
And finally, talk about your ambitions and your steps not taken to achieve them.
I take it you mean the things I’d like to tidy up by writing them, as I did Dark Fire, rather than leaving them in limbo.
That, and the ones not yet begun.
Those as well. Lots of work to be done, but instead other than these conversations and their accompanying labor of transcriptions, I don’t do the work, I read. I watch movies sometimes. I do email. But mostly I read. I take it you have a reason for having me trot this out? I’m not very discreet, but this seems unnecessary.
Few people know how they spend their days, and few accounts would be a recognizable summary. That is, few people would describe their lives in a way that would agree with the way others see them.
Natural enough, I’d think. The internal view – I mean, the view from inside – is always going to differ from the view from outside looking in.
Indeed it will. But the view from inside may be as different from “the truth” – meaning, a closer description of cause and effect – as the difference you sometimes cite between intent and effect.
Yes. I point out sometimes, we judge ourselves by our intent, and judge others by their actions (and, often enough, by the effect of their actions). So?
So here is our view, neither internal nor external, both internal and external. The middle two terms of four-place logic, you see. [Rather than either “identity” or “non-identity,” four-place logic includes “neither” and “both.”]
I’m not altogether sure I care for the idea. If I go to the trouble of writing it down, sooner or later I’ll send it out, and maybe it isn’t anybody’s business.
And maybe it isn’t discreditable and you don’t need to worry about it.
And maybe it isn’t anybody’s business anyway.
And maybe it is.
Well, that stopped me. It is?
From our point of view, one’s intent means more than one’s execution. That doesn’t mean, “We forgive you for not doing X; your heart was in the right place, anyway.” It means, what you really do and what you appear to be doing (appear, even to yourself) are not the same thing. Not now, not ever. And of course – though it won’t seem to you to be an “of course,” Frank – none of this is special to Frank, it is one life being used as an illustration of Life.
You having to find somebody willing to be dissected in public.
We wouldn’t have put it quite that way. But, all right, say it is so. It is a valuable contribution, that willingness.
Now, you don’t know which you’d rather hear less, praise or criticism. Of the two, you are better at dealing with the latter.
There is a saying I don’t really understand but that comes to mind: “Praise to the face is open disgrace.” As part of my payment for services rendered, you might explain that one. It’s sort of how I feel, but I don’t know why.
Oh certainly you do, you just haven’t connected it. Think of your reaction to literary criticism. One praising (or criticizing, but let’s stick to praising) another, in a sense assumes the right to do so; that is, assumes that s/he knows enough to have the right to judge.
I don’t think that’s quite fair. Mostly, when people say they like this or that, they are describing how it affected them.
And what’s wrong with that?
As a description of how it affected them, nothing at all. As you have pointed out often enough, appreciation of one’s work by others is an artist’s reward, second only to the work itself. But if the praise or criticism pretends to be an objective judgment, then the would-be judge had better have some credentials, or it is a bit of unconscious or conscious arrogance, and an implied ranking of the artist by an authority.
I see the argument, but it seems a little far-fetched.
To your conscious mind, yes. We suggest it is familiar enough to other levels of yourself! And how much less are you (is anybody!) willing to concede to another the right and ability to judge your life and your being?
People judge all the time, and are judged.
Yes, and what a world of good it does them!
I always smile when you get sarcastic, don’t know why. Anyway –
You have described your life as you see it, and although you don’t quite realize it, or didn’t until this moment, that was a description of doing, not of being. And we would venture to guess that anybody you would ask to describe their lives would similarly describe what they did, not how they were.
For one thing, doing is a lot easier to get a handle on than being. You’re asking the fish to describe the taste of water, when he’s lucky if he can describe the fishbowl!
Aren’t we willing to describe the taste of water for you? That was our point. And, as always not so much for you as through you. you as example for others, because everybody is naturally going to be concerned primarily with their own life that is their responsibility, and only indirectly with the life of others. What they can see done for someone else they can extrapolate for themselves.
A pitfall for biographers, I always say, is thinking they have the right and the ability to judge, just because they have a lot of facts; the portrait they wind up painting is a portrait of how those facts affected the biographer. My life of JFK whom I never met would be very different from those of others, even those who knew him well, because I would see or think I saw different things.
So, to describe you, we would do the same thing you just said, though you don’t quite see it. We would describe you as the interaction of your 3D and non-3D selves. That unseen element is what people guess at, be they biographers, family, friends, or spectators. And we, having a ringside seat, in describing you who are willing to drive the pen, can thereby help others see their own unknown territory.
Go ahead then. I can always cross it out or not transcribe it, if need be.
Don’t we know it! But you’ll find no need. Our judgment is not condemnation but discernment.
Here is how we see you being, as opposed to doing. You live a receptive life,
Stopped dead. But, try again.
If people respond, you respond to them. If you read, you respond to what you read and to what it suggests. If you
Gritting my teeth, in a way, not because of anything you’re saying, but for some reason this is hard.
The process – particularly when it involves a description of yourself – requires you to maintain a difficult and uncomfortable position, neither passively conveying nor actively shaping, neither comfortably objective nor comfortably subjective. The content has less to do with the discomfort than the position itself.
I see. So, just persevere and get used to it?
That is always one way.
But enough for now?
Let’s try one more short passage. It isn’t what you do on the 3D level that expresses your life, it is what that doing does to who and what you are – and that is an on-going process. The nurse who helps a succession of patients, the lawyer who treats a succession of clients, the theoretician who examines a succession of possibilities – the list could be made and added to endlessly – all of you do something that is easily and inaccurately defined, but that doing is not the whole story. What you want to be, what you work at becoming, what you hope against hope is a possibility, is your realer life, percolated through that maze of doing.
See, as an abstract statement it wasn’t hard. But the concrete example is what would let people anchor it.
Oh go ahead then. I’ll let it though if I can.
If you will hold in mind any aspirations you ever had, and look at them, you will see your life differently. You wanted to become a saint, as a boy. You wanted to be a statesman, a famous author. Three easy if not altogether compatible illustrations. But you wanted other things, in different parts of your mind. Soldier and war hero, for instance. Explorers, pioneer, adventurer, a la Daniel Boone. Cowboy, like so many boys of your time. Later you found other ideals.
None of this shows you, now, but they illustrate the fact that what you yourself remember of the life that shaped you isn’t much more accurate (that is, doesn’t include so much) as what others see. And of course we are leaving out what you would cross out anyway.
You, day to day, moment by moment, are an ever-moving combination of various ideals and daydreams, various responses to 3D and non-3D stimuli – that is, the books, and the thoughts and reactions the books stimulate – and a thousand unconsidered but very real everyday reactions as you go about your life.
This has gone on for nearly an hour and a half.
We won’t embarrass your further, and as usual we suggest that you take tomorrow off.
I can see I’ll need to. Very well, till next time.