Monday, August 9, 2010
4:30 AM. I couldn’t do a thing yesterday, other than the morning consultation which went extraordinarily well, I thought. Wasted the rest of the day evading impossibility. (Also, complaining about it, a bit.)
Bob Friedman says outline it. Nancy Ford says, ask. Her point, and it’s a good one, is, if you want the job done, give me the sense of it. So I write down a few questions based on a conversation with her:
What do you want me to accomplish with this book, or these books?
What is the purpose? What is your purpose for the book? Is it —
– that we can communicate back and forth with you?
– that Hemingway’s life is an example of the dynamics of human life?
– is it a new metaphysics for our new circumstances?
– is it a correction of wrong concepts?
What is the center of it, and the way to find the structure of it? Re-reading the material first to last may not do it.
We see the frustrations and the feeling of inadequate preparation for the task. But this is merely the result of allowing the task in sum to overwhelm you, rather than breaking it down into manageable bits.
What I’ve done so far hasn’t been overwhelmingly successful in cutting it down to size.
What you’ve done so far has been scattered in your memory.
You read and categorized and prepared to put together earlier materials in four parts, and you know well enough how you proposed to shape So You Think Your Life Was Wasted. Who you are, what it means, etc. But you got diverted.
You did get out Chasing Smallwood by excerpting only those conversations that centered on his life and values.
You made what you’re calling headers – a sort of analytical overview – for the material since 2005.
You’re doing it day by day as you go along – you’ve done it even including yesterday’s. So, you could hardly be more up to date than that.
It’s all in the computer in properly named files and directories. It’s all printed out in uniform format in your binders. In terms of having done the irretrievable first steps, you have nothing to reproach yourself for.
Irretrievable first steps?
Using the word in the sense of “no going back.” An unusual usage, but in this case appropriate. You can’t fool yourself that you don’t know how to begin or that you left it too long (as probably you have left too long any great use of your later black-box sessions, for instance). The rest of the job can be accomplished in just such quietly diligent, seemingly little-worthwhile steps.
Can it, now? Well – how and toward what end? Can you tell me that or is it necessary that I discover it for myself as I go? What’s the center of it?
Think of it as “them” if it helps. What would the center of the Bible be, for instance, or Shakespeare, or Seth, or any extensive body of material? We know you’re not writing a Bible, calm down, but in the way that the Bible isn’t so much a book as a library, and in the way that Shakespeare and Seth are not so much any given work but a form of shaping, an intellectual vector, so these little conversations aren’t a tightly focused book or theme, but are an intellectual vector.
In the first place, not one book but several. In the second, not to be written so much as to be continued, for Muddy Tracks and Chasing Smallwood and Sphere And Hologram are part of it all. In the third place, there is no reason to keep everything separate. Material can be used in more than one context, and will shed additional light by your so doing. In the fourth place, your shaping of it is as much the end product as your questions, and for the same reason:
You are the product, and the shaper, and the object on display. If you don’t see that, you don’t see much.
Oh, I see it, all right. Notoriety, with all the attendant benefits so graphically described recently. Not even fame, which I once wanted, but notoriety, which combines the major disadvantages of fame with none of the advantages. But I’m really not complaining about that, and you must know it. I said long ago I was willing to be taken for a fool if I could learn something.
But there must be some clearer path to follow, if only for this one enterprise.
What is a clearer path than peace and quiet and plenty of time, and continual, scheduled, access to information and inspiration, and the use of your abilities, skills, and developed interests to produce worthwhile products?
But you must work. There is no creation without toil, not in material reality. You would find your problems disappearing as they did last year [when I published three books in the same year] if you would just put in the time – a lot of time – each day. It is what you want to do – why not do it?
Now, if the scope of the final work paralyzes you, that is mostly because you mistrust your scholarly preparation. But this is needless. You have written and published five books. You don’t need any skills you don’t have or can’t get.
Why not try Bob Friedman’s approach if nothing else works?
It’s a lot of work, much of it unnecessary if you’ll give me the center of gravity I’m looking for, so that I may sort them that way.
Again, we gave you an initial center, or you shaped it, see it as you wish. So You Think was not abandoned because it was a dead end, but because you stopped work on it.
And now we can give you the key to your problem. It was not clear to us until this moment. Do you see it?
Yes. New material continuously flowing in makes earlier materials seem incomplete.
We remind you of Schumacher’s Law Of The Disappearing Middle.
I see it. That’s very interesting. That really is the key to resolving the sense of overwhelm, isn’t it?
It can be.
Thank you. All right, this discussion has helped. Nancy reminded me, as I’m continually reminding my friends who have achieved access to guidance but often don’t think to use it – ask!
[For the sake of the listeners-in. E.F. Schumacher pointed out, nearly half a century ago, that successive advances in technology continually tend to present society with a choice between the initial primitive tool – a shovel, say – and the very latest thing – perhaps massive earth-moving equipment. All the refinements between the initial tool and the latest thing tended to become unavailable, in the same way that in any public library, the classics remain available, and the latest thing is always available, but everything in the middle tends to have a pretty short shelf life. So I see, from what the guys said above, that each stage in our development is foremost in our attention while it is occurring, and tends to get forgotten or slurred over as newer events take place. If it isn’t recorded at a time, chances are it won’t be recorded at all. Thus, if I hadn’t written Muddy Tracks in 1998 and revised it in 2000, chances are I never would have written it at all.]
This neatly turns on its head what I have been looking at as a disadvantage and in fact a paralyzing problem. It also very naturally divides the material by theme and chronology, so that later books may carry it farther.
So now you see your intermediate path. Do the disciplined time-consuming work needed to put out So You Think while containing to receive material that will thus continually present itself as broader vistas, newer understandings, potential new works. You’ll always have your task unrolling in front of you.
Well, all right. I don’t like wasting time, effort and material, so I’m glad if what I already put into So You Think wasn’t wasted.
As you go along, make a list of themes (in the same way you are supposed to be keeping a list of questions for us) and you will see that the thrust of the material reveals itself in a more complete, more rounded, more not-to-be-suspected-in-advance manner then could probably occur if you were to feel it necessary to put into a box ahead of time.
All right. Well, this worked out in a surprising manner. As usual, what you’re saying makes sense, and as so often you did it by putting together things I knew but was holding in separate categories in my mind. Anything to add?
In outlining your way ahead, we have done what we can do. If you have robots stopping you or interfering with your work, only you can find and disable them, or rather reprogram them to help rather than hinder. You have the tools to do that, and you don’t need assistance to do it – no one does, provided they have access to their unconscious – and if you will simply monitor your feelings and do the analysis, which need not be much more than simple recognition of cause and effect, you can clear things out remarkably. This by the way is a benefit earned by so much work helping others, that has in the process taught various aspects of your own person-group in ways they could not have learned otherwise. “Physician, heal thyself” was not rhetoric, and not sarcasm, but very simple advice.
As you say that, I am reminded that this has been one of my hang-ups. So many things have seemed to apply to different subjects.
You are making our words into Scripture, which we specifically and repeatedly warned you not to do. The proper use of guidance is to be guided, not to embalm the guide’s words in print or in a graven image. Take what you have learned and express it and forget about the mechanism of scholarship – proper attribution and all that. It does not give your words added legitimacy to quote them as being from us, nor does it add flow. It impedes it, if anything. If you want to write a left-brain right-brain book – not so bad an idea – give a précis of what you have learned in part one, and the transcripts or partial transcripts in part two. Or do it however you wish, but know this: Just because you have come to understand something is no guarantee that everybody or anybody else will understand it without some explanation. You and only you have lived in the center of all this – nobody else, even if they have been following along transcript by transcript, will come to it from the same place or proceed in the same way. If you don’t continue to provide your own muddy footprints, much of what you have seen and learned and come to will remain an inaccessible private vision (as so often happens with such explorations) rather than serving a larger community.
So – paraphrase, synthesize, interpret. Don’t deify.
All right, very persuasive. And time to go. I’ll hope to see a difference. I know, I know (and, after all, I do approve it or I wouldn’t keep quoting it): Righteous persistence brings reward.
It is its own reward, in fact.
Okay. Till next time, thanks.