Hemingway: Writing as coping

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

I spent much of last night not doing anything in particular. Or, more like deliberately doing nothing. Lying down, musing. I spend too much time reading, watching Dr. Who, playing Free Cell or  Minesweeper – doing things to avoid going back over my own external life, I sometimes think. I am not terribly happy with my life. It hasn’t been a train wreck but it hasn’t been a howling success, either. My personal relationships are all stunted, I think. I am at my best helping people from a little distance.  Not much good when they get closer, I guess. Why write ten books that nobody reads? Why spend months on books I can’t complete? I suppose Hemingway had an answer for the latter question, never having faced the former one, because everything he published sold.

Hmm, come to think of it, Papa can you give me any useful hints as to how to go on? It seems too much.

You don’t need hints. Just don’t get into alcohol and don’t get into drugs or anything else that will add physical pressures to the mental and emotional ones. They will help you cope in the short run and will leave you totally unable to cope in the long run.

Personal experience?

Do you know any other kind? Vicarious experience must resonate against something within you, or it will have no effect.

Well, that’s the feeling I have always had about alcohol and drugs – that they would be dangerous to me.

They are one form of danger. The root danger is deeper, that of running or walking away from yourself. They can help you do it, but they aren’t the cause of your wanting or needing to do it.

How did you cope with being so alone?

I didn’t cope, not very well. I tried to tell people who I was, what I prayed for, but they couldn’t hear and I couldn’t say, not in words. Gregorio and others whose lives were bound less in words understood me far better. But that doesn’t mean I understood myself, only that I felt better among them..

So, you wrote.

Of course. And as you recognized, after the war there was no real financial need to do so. I tried to express what I was feeling in the book about the war, but it didn’t go over, because of the publicity about Renata and because everybody read it as wish fulfillment, and I had to recoup by publishing “The Sea in Being,” but other than that, I wrote and did not publish. I thought I would pull it all together but I ran out of time.

And I know what you mean by running out of time. You left it too long.

That’s right. Some things can only be done within a certain window of opportunity, and if the window closes, it closes. You know exactly what I was dong. I was writing to preserve my own access, although I wouldn’t have put it that way. I was wanting to stop the pain of restlessly doing nothing. I was writing to create, in the hope of still coming up with something more to learn.

You were filling the emptiness.

Of course. What writer does anything else? If you have access, there is nothing remotely comparable, unless you have equal  interest in the outer world, which I did, for a very long time, but not forever.

It is a mistake to think achievement can replace connection, isn’t it?

Nothing replaces anything, but some things can compensate for the absence of other things. More nothing does not compensate for the nothing you are already feeling.

Our nada who art in nada.

It wasn’t about growing old. It was about growing unable to overcome the awareness of the emptiness.

Thank you, Papa. You do help.

Helping is one of our prime pleasures, here. But remember it isn’t as serious as it seems, while you’re in it. Nobody dies of terminal seriousness, any more than they escape by means of terminal levity.

Still, it seems so long

It is long, and short. Once it is gone it will seem to have been short enough.

6 thoughts on “Hemingway: Writing as coping

  1. It’s an irony to me that one of the things I get from your material is the concept of final contribution and what comprises that. If we all endlessly measured ourselves against the accomplishments of others, we would endlessly come up short. If we look at our lives as spiritual (for lack of a better word) biography, on the basis of access/connection, don’t we get a truer picture of final contribution? “If you have access, there is nothing remotely comparable.” Though I could describe my life fairly similarly to yours, from the outside, the joy from access is indescribable. Your kind and level of access is why most of us are here. Do you get joy from that? Do you see it as an accomplishment?

    (These kinds of posts seem deeply and courageously personal to me, asking me if I have looked this deeply into myself. For me, it can be scary to look so deeply that you might be left with nothing, but your post makes me try it. That’s us “coming up with something more to learn.”)

    1. Excellent. I don’t think i look very deeply, but my redeeming virtue is that i am relatively shameless about sharing my explorations in public, no matter what light they show me in. This may be because i decided long ago that no matter what i did, it would be misunderstood by some and maybe by all. And yes, that level of access is the deepest joy i know.

      1. I was sitting out in the backyard last night just before going to bed, looking up at the stars. I’ve been doing more of this lately, with the good weather and the pause in life. And of course I’m connected up, talking to my team. Life is good. Life is indeed very good.

          1. So true, Frank. I remind myself that sometimes gifts come in crummy wrapping paper, that I should wait for the final outcome before making conclusions. It’s when I get curious about what something could mean or what something will behold that I start to see thru the illusion. Been doing a lot of that lately.

  2. Guidance has had me read and reread this thread of posts; finally (after 7-8 times – I’m slow 😐 ) I see their point: ‘connection’ and ‘access’ still imply more separation than they’d like.

    They’re suggesting it’s more like other growth/changes in life, such as becoming aware that those wiggling things are me (my fingers at ?? months) … the (eventual) awareness of other parts of me that always been there.

    When I first ‘met’ guidance (Guidelines ’98), ‘she’ said we’d be “dong life” together. My work is in growing more aware that I/we/us are one (compound, many-faceted) being “doing life together.” And in continuing the gratitude that ‘us-one-thing’ have this place (blog) for such deep understanding and work.

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