Receiving a shock from Hemingway

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

3:30 a.m. I guess I’m up for a while, Papa. Might as well use the time. I take it that we are

You take it that we are going somewhere, assuming that I am not a long figment of your imagination.

I’m working, aren’t I? I’m not freezing up. But I am fully aware of how much I don’t know, and how blank I am sometimes about details you couldn’t have forgotten. It’s the same thing with Rita’s material: I sure hope it isn’t something I’m making up as I go along, the way it feels sometimes.

What do you tell others?

I tell them you can’t prove anything, you can’t know for sure where or why or how or anything except, does it resonate? But people believe plenty of things because they want to, or you might say because, being who and what they are, they almost can’t help believing it. I just hope I’m not leading people on.

I think you will find that some of your readers are going to be more impatient with this kind of doubt than I am. To them as well as to you, I say this: No matter what you read, no matter how persuasive the reasoning or how strong the evidence or how impressive the authority of the person writing it, you are always going to have to use your judgment, because there are no guarantees. How can there be any guarantees when the guarantee by the nature of things floats in the air? It’s like an army with its wing unsupported.

I just have to keep remembering that. I had an argument with my son once, who was arguing that the Bible is the word of God and therefore cannot be wrong. I pointed out that there is no way to prove that it is the word of God other than that is what it says, and that amounts to a person vouching for himself. Doesn’t mean it isn’t the word of God – whatever that means to people – but it does mean it can’t be proved on its own authority, because the authority is based on the belief.

Science isn’t any different. Anything and everything you know or think you know is true relative to what you are, which means one man’s truth is another man’s debatable proposition, and a third man’s untruth. That’s just the way it is.

So how do you – how does one – write “one true sentence”?

How do you do anything? You do what seems right. You do the rightest thing you know to do.

And that brings us to you and Martha, I think.

It could, or it could lead to any number of incidents or relationships or conflicts or dilemmas in my life or yours or anyone’s.

I wasn’t meaning it as an accusation

Are you sure?

Well, all right. Maybe a bit of judgment slipping in, there. It did look like you had a choice and chose even while knowing better.

You always want to beware of judgments made by way of foreshortening. The laws of perspective apply in life no less than in the visual arts. We’re touched on this before. You – anybody who reads this – ought to know that the way you lead your life is moment to moment, and the way you look back on it is – how shall we describe it? Scene by scene? Act by act (as in a play)? More like moments of clarity connected by, or separated by, stretches of silently elided smaller moments. We don’t reconstruct our memories, we – well, we select and invent bridging passages, and we make up a story to make it make sense. But what we don’t do, because it can’t be done, is remember the moment-by-moment-ness of it, and that falsifies the memory we do piece together into a screenplay. So something happens to you in July 1934, say, and as you remember it you are connecting it to December 1937 or April 1938 or whenever. What you connect is going to determine the nature of the connection you perceive. It is going to color everything. Those same dates connected with other dates, in other contexts, will elicit quite a different story. Which one is “real” and to what degree? We’re all story tellers, and the story we tell day to day is the one that is real to us. Tell a different story, experience a different reality. That’s called the shock of recognition, when all of a sudden for whatever reason you realize that your facts support a story entirely different than the one you’ve been telling yourself. That’s how people change: They tell themselves a different story.

That’s an impressive statement.

Thank you. but, get back to Martha, I know.

We can talk about whatever you want to talk about. I thought this whole long sequence since September was leading up to this.

That’s an interesting concept in itself, “leading up to.” In this case the journey is its own reward. I am less interested in getting somewhere than I am in describing the process of living through the example of my life, which is what I know.

That’s what Rita was doing.

Big surprise, isn’t it? If I went away for a while – “lurked” as you say – and she returned for another round of talks, you would still be the common denominator, wouldn’t you? Your concerns would have to form part of the context and background, wouldn’t they?

Would they?

Do you see us discussing the intricacies of deep sea fishing or hunting for antelope?

I don’t know that I have happened to think about the implications – though for all I know we’ve discussed this dozens of times. I experience it as my being willing to discuss whatever you want to talk about, and sometimes my having an agenda usually in the form of questions. I hadn’t thought – well, I suppose it is inherent in my saying I don’t have receptors for certain kinds of information, such as hunting or fishing’s details.

Not having receptors for some things implies having receptors for others. But “receptors” in itself implies a more passive role than is quite accurate. There is a difference between psychological receptivity and passivity. A passive participant would be a trance channel. If you are going to be actively receptive – and that isn’t a contradiction in terms, you’re doing it – then clearly you have your own implied or express agenda, on an on-going basis. This is true in this conversation, and in all our conversations, and in your conversations with others, and in everyone’s conversations with others, and in your life and their lives in general. You are always the center of your world, not only in what you can perceive but in the direction of what comes to you seemingly from outside you. You can’t really get this at the deepest level unless you apply it to the parts of your life that seem unconnected to it. That’s why they seem unconnected – because you haven’t built the bridges.

Now, having said that – and if only I could believe that you would remember it moment by moment, but that isn’t the way consciousness functions in the 3D part of the world – we can talk about Martha and Pauline and their common thread, me.

There is a cruel and cutting side to you that I continually see described and yet have to work to believe in. Mostly the descriptions look like the product of envy or misunderstanding. I think, “anybody’s life looks different from the inside.” But your trailing Martha in front of Pauline was cruel. Looks like it from here, anyway.

Martha was many things to me, and had different effects. But to Pauline she was, plain and simple, Nemesis.

And you didn’t mind being the agent of fate.

Remember, everything looks different according to your point of view. We do lots of things behind our own backs, so to speak. You don’t believe that. You think, “You had to know.” That’s true and it isn’t true, both.

Oh, looked at from a distance it was delicious. Martha came casually into our lives and she was so impressed with Pauline, so grateful to be allowed to spend time with both of us, so much the gracious guest of the gracious hostess – and of course they both knew exactly what might be going on. “Might be” because it depended on how I would react. But it was exactly what I told Pauline at the end, she who lives by the sword dies by the sword. She got to experience everything she had inflicted on Hadley, and more, because Hadley had been innocent and that was one thing Pauline could never claim to be. Unlike Hadley, Pauline got to suffer everything in advance, because she knew every move. And what could she do to protect herself? Hadley’s experience couldn’t tell her that, because Hadley hadn’t protected herself, she had withdrawn. But Pauline never stepped back an inch in her life, and all she could do was watch it play out, and try her best to hold her old attraction to me – I mean, to retain her attractiveness – and nothing worked. Too many things were against her. She came in with the tide and she was going out with the tide.

Weren’t you sorry for her at all?

You aren’t going to like this, but the best way to put it is, she calmly and deliberately broke my happy life with Hadley, and here at last was vengeance. There was a cold vindictive pleasure in paying her back.

I hardly know what to say. Not the words you used, but the clear sense of that part of you. I don’t know that I have experienced that till now. It is a cold proud presence. Now I understand some things differently.

You have opened another door, and seen another room, that’s all.

Yes, I see that. I can feel all the – well, I don’t have a good analogy. All the previous judgments are sort of reacting to this.

Let them. That’s what happens when you get a new insight that is no less true than what you had already come to, but doesn’t fit in the way you expected it to.

It sheds light on so many things I couldn’t understand emotionally. Bullfighting and hunting and fishing.

And warfare and competition and tumultuous relationships, yes.

Wow. I’m going to have to absorb this.

But don’t allow it to overwrite what you know. Add, don’t replace.

Yes, I see that. We’re at 75 minutes, and I had been thinking to stretch it to 90, but maybe we should stop here.

Do not allow yourself to forget the feeling you just absorbed. It is important if you are going to deepen your understanding, and get a better congruence between Papa as you have been experiencing him and Papa as others experienced him in life.

I see that. It’s something of a shock. Is this what happened to the MacLeish child that time?

Yes it is. Children don’t reason away what they perceive; they don’t know how to. But she didn’t have any context for it either. What finally calmed her down was experiencing the familiar sides of me over the time it took to reassure her. You might almost say that let her forget what she had experienced. But you must not forget, or it will be only words and will serve no purpose.

All right. Till next time.

I want to write, “phew,” but it doesn’t have the strength I’d need to explain it. It’s sort of funny, thinking about it, my asking how I can know this isn’t me making up a story. Now I know. Either that, or I’m a good storyteller. (And, I’m not.) That was quite a shock. Funny how your mental and emotional life can change so thoroughly in just a moment.

Typing this in, the long paragraph that I called an impressive statement takes on a different look!

3 thoughts on “Receiving a shock from Hemingway

  1. Seems like anyone who reads and absorbs this post will
    A. see Frank is that master of fiction writing he’s wished, thus (very skillfully) making this all up.
    B. begin (at the very least) to see there’s something real going on, shining a (much appreciated) ‘light’ on one’s own “am-I-making-this-up” questions.

      1. Indeed, I did leave out ‘or,’ feeling it not needed. Although, with TGU’s ‘either-or-neither-nor’ training this could read ” Frank is that master of writing, very skillfully showing the reality of this kind of communication and shining (much appreciated) ‘light’ on other’s “am-I-making-this-up” questions.”

        My initial reaction to this post was EH’s line about “readers … impatient with this kind of doubt.” An interesting ‘conversation’ with guidance (unexpectedly) showed me that your deep, consistent, oft-articulated doubt has ‘freed’ me from doubt of my own. Go figure! 🙂

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