Thursday, December 2, 2010
7:30 AM. It is interesting that when I came to this each morning, expecting information, it came, and when I don’t, it doesn’t. There’s something to think about, there.
Oh, and I am reading Kerouac’s Desolation Angels, slowly, and I find Kerouac so without an idea of the reality. He had a feeling, he had impulses, but he didn’t have anything more than what he had read, and remnants of what he had been taught –
And it occurs to me (it’s always a shock to remember) I could talk to him. Do I have the energy? Maybe so.
Jack, you know I love The Dharma Bums. You know I read the book Poets On The Peaks about your time on the mountain alone, and was disappointed and surprised that you weren’t at home there in solitude. You know that the book I just finished writing is really about who we are, and what can we realistically believe and experience, beyond God and atheism.
Jack Kerouac, are you available to talk?
You know, by now, that the links between an author and those readers who really get what he is saying are as strong as any links can be. There’s a reason why you link up, after all; there is a pre-existing connection, and stumbling onto the book just makes it clear to you. Kind of a one-way link until one of you dies, though! Or maybe in the Internet age it won’t be like that. Maybe you’ll strike up actual friendships like you and Michael Ventura, even though you never meet and in some ways don’t really communicate at all. But still the link is going to be one-way on the surface, because the writer gave you his thoughts and feelings and values and the accidents and important facts of his life – even when he was lying to you – and you are a total mystery to him. That’s why fan mail doesn’t really lead to anything. There is no “juice” as you say beyond the thanks or appreciation.
It is interesting to connect with Hemingway through you. Different flavor entirely than connecting through his books – that I didn’t really understand, I think now, the ones I read. When you read a guy, you read him through where you are in your life, and what you’ve heard about him, and what you think he’s doing, and who you think he really is beneath the messages he puts out. You have to deal with envy, too, and your own defensiveness, if you feel like you’re in competition with him. But connecting through you, I see him in the light of your appreciation and connection, and I see into him in a way I never did, not that he was important to me. Our work was too different.
But was it really?
Well no, now that you make it clear (by showing me your own connections) I can see that he and I were doing the same thing, but from very different windows.
You had the alcohol in common.
You really worry about that, don’t you? You’ve got a teetotaler strand inside you that’s always saying, “That isn’t good for you, it isn’t respectable, it’s a waste of your brain cells,” or something. Good thing you have other strands that drank the communion wine!
Papa was some 25 years older than you – a little farther than you are to me. You had to read him, growing up.
Again, though, what you read isn’t necessarily what the author writes any more than it is what he lives. There is so much translation going on!
I see that. So – your reaction to him?
Didn’t you start out wanting to talk about searching for God and not finding Him.
More or less. Okay, go ahead.
We take the things we need, wherever we find them. If it’s Zen, if it’s hypnotism, if it’s magic or religion or ritual out of these contacts, if it’s wild partying or steady dogged drinking or getting drunk on the vision of Walden Pond or anything – if it’s soldiering somewhere, or being a banker going back and forth to work, if it’s being a politician or a crook or both, whatever it is, we find what we need in life, even if it’s lost searching. You think “flowers” but maybe God needs weeds, too, and Venus fly traps. What I’m getting to is just, Hemingway to me isn’t going to be Hemingway to you because we start from different places. But Hemingway to me in light of Hemingway to you is a third thing altogether, and so on. Hence, literary criticism, and why it paralyzes the critics. They wind up in a labyrinth of mirrors and it confuses them into talking to themselves, or they think they’re the only ones who know because in truth they are the only ones who have put together just what they’ve read, and so that became something unique and they created it, but they don’t realize they were creating it.
Hemingway, I see it clearly now, looking at him through you and through what I am now, and who I connect to without the insulation of the body and of time and space, was looking for God, trying to see if God was there. He felt God. He felt Him clearly enough, sharp enough, that he could even almost quarrel with Him. But what he couldn’t do is come up with the connectors. And that’s what you’re talking about. You could believe in God but then what? How did that help make sense of the world? Did He intervene in our lives? Seemed like it sometimes, but why? And when He didn’t, why not? And how did it all make sense or any of it? It was easy to make sense of the world if you just said, there is no God, there is no spiritual life, there is no afterlife, this is all there is, it’s obvious. But if your crap detector said no, that’s too simple, it leaves out too much, you still had the problem of how to think about it.
Why do you suppose he became a Catholic, but to get those layers of connection between man and God? The Protestant world was so divorced between the two that you’d wind up either saying God is or God isn’t, but you couldn’t really think about it and say “God is in this way and here’s the results.”
But he couldn’t get what he needed by being Catholic either, because ritual only brings you so far. Concepts like saints and even angels only bring you so far. And, of course, the church means church politics, and he couldn’t stomach the church being on the side of the fascists in the Spanish Civil War even after he came to a more balanced view of it that saw it was between two extremes, each one of which had certain things right. But he was too honest to pray to God from within the church while he saw the church against the people and he was too confused to see that God has to be as far beyond his churches as anything else.
Well, think about it. Hemingway was old enough – just barely, but he was old enough – to serve in the first world war! That means he was old enough to see it and what followed as abnormal, and then to see what had preceded it as illusion and lies. I wasn’t even old enough that I had to serve in the second world war. What I grew up with – what was normal for me – was what he had experienced only as a big change and a long going downhill.
But you were looking for the same thing.
We were, yeah, in a way. We were looking for what you’re looking for and finding differently. We were looking for the source of it all, not something to be believed so we could go back to sleep about it, but something we could rest against and say this is true enough that I can live it.
I like that: True Enough That I Can Live It.
Don’t take it as a book title; take it as a motto that says what you’re doing.
Well, I don’t have energy enough to have you and Papa chat in my presence this morning but, sometime, if you are both willing.
Whose idea do you think all this is, really? Hemingway’s? Yours? Mine?
I don’t know, I just say TGU and leave it at that.
Just so you don’t dishonor your own divinity, or anybody else’s. I lived out being lost in one way; Hemingway in a different way; many others in other ways. We don’t need any more models of how to be lost while still knowing something. We need models of how to live found, without living in blind or blinded belief.
You – we – need models of Living Connected, in other words.
There’s your title, too, if you want it.
Thank you. This has been a gift and a pleasure, the better because unexpected.
Unexpected to part of you.
Yes, as usual. I understand