Sunday, May 16, 2021
3:15 a.m. Let’s continue.
[XIX. THOUGHT AND ACTION.
[Great thoughts exalt and deify the thinker; still more ennobling is the effect of great deeds on the actor. The dilation and joy of the soul at these visitations of God is like that of the invalid, again inhaling the mountain breeze after long confinement in chambers: she feels herself a noble bird, whose eyrie is in the empyrean; that she is made to bathe her bosom and plume herself in the ether of thought; to soar and sing amidst the seraphim, beholding the faces of Apollo and Jove.]
Particularly irritating exalted symbolism here.
Or perhaps merely it irritates you by the difference between the ground it stands on and the ground you yourself are standing on.
It seems to me it isn’t standing on any ground whatsoever. Not that the thought is ungrounded, but that the language is so high-flying.
In a word, — So what?
Oh, I know, I’m just venting. The thought itself is sound enough. but calling great thoughts or great deeds “visitations from God” is practically begging for people to disregard what you are pointing out.
As we said earlier, you may choose to be irritated or you may choose to be inspired by a fellow aspirer. It is always your choice, never forced, even though the choice be made by default. Instead of guessing at the specific language, expand under the imagery.
It’s true, it is an inspiring image, the 3D self blossoming again like a parched plant receiving a watering.
And this image will carry the message when the specific words have been forgotten, for it is true: Great thoughts, great deeds, remind you who and what you really are.
Of course there is the question of what great deeds or thoughts actually are, and how we perform or entertain them.
In such cases, work backwards a la Hemingway’s definition, that a good deed is something you feel good after, and a bad deed something you feel bad after. You don’t need to be able to pre-define a great deed or thought to recognize the opportunities when they arise.
[Action translates death into life; fable into verity; speculation into experience; freeing man from the sorceries of tradition and the torpor of habit. The eternal Scripture is thus expurgated of the falsehoods interpolated into it by the supineness of the ages. Action mediates between conscience and sense: it is the gospel of the understanding.]
Interesting idea. “Action mediates between conscience and sense.” What does he mean, really, by calling it “the gospel of the understanding”?
The act makes things real. It commits you to one course (if only for that moment) rather than leaving you contemplating many possible courses. Before the act, you are an internal community thinking about, voting (so to speak) on who and what you want to be, relative to one specific moment. The act chooses one specific path among many potential paths, and forecloses (if only for the moment) any possible others. How else do you suppose you choose, in your 3D life, but by acting. However – a linguistic complication arises in that thought is a form of action, and must be considered in the same category as action.
[Transcribing this, I see I did not make clear, nor did the guys, that we are making a distinction between active thinking, which is work, and the form of free association that people often confuse with thinking.]
So, his saying that actions purge scripture of what has been added to it out of sloth or ignorance means, more or less, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
More or less. When you try to do something and you find that what you thought so is not so, you’ve learned something. And when you find that what you tried only tentatively, hoping but not really believing, is so, your life expands, just as Thoreau said in that quote from Walden about your life having new freedom.
Okay, I can see that. Bob Friedman understood that. He told me once that until he and his partners took concrete steps to incorporate The Donning Company – renting an office, running up some stationery – they weren’t a company, they were just a couple of guys with an idea.
The actions set them on the path, you see. Actions (and still less, thoughts) have nothing of inevitability about them. They require, and repay, decision. And maybe they turn out well or maybe not; in either case, they will have to be followed by new action, new thinking.
[Most men are on the ebb; but now and then a man comes riding down sublimely in high hope from God on the flood tide of the soul, as she sets into the coasts of time, submerging old landmarks, and laying waste the labors of centuries. A new man wears channels broad and deep into the banks of the ages; he washes away ancient boundaries, and sets afloat institutions, creeds, usages, which clog the ever flowing Present, stranding them on the shores of the Past. Such deluge is the harbinger of a new world, a renovated age. Hope builds an ark; the dove broods over the assuaged waters; the bow of promise gilds the east; the world is again repeopled and replanted. Yet the sons of genius alone venture into the ark: while most pass the rather down the sluggish stream of usage into the turbid pool of oblivion. Thitherward the retreating tide rolls, and wafted by the gales of inglorious ease, or urged by the winds of passion, they glide down the Lethean waters, and are not. Only the noble and heroic outlive in time their exit from it.]
If he is here saying anything more than Joseph Campbell in talking about the hero’s journey, I don’t see it.
That’s a pretty big “only.”
No argument, it is. I’m just saying, that’s what XXI amounts to.
“Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist,” Emerson said, as you know.
Yes. It isn’t a matter of choosing to be different, the way some conformists choose eccentricity of dress or speech to persuade themselves and others that they are real; it is that true originality marks you. You are different to the world because you are true to your self. And I suppose it shouldn’t be necessary to add that Emerson was using the stylistic form of his time in saying “man” rather than “person.” It isn’t as if he thought half the human race had been born unable to be true to themselves.
[The world, the state, the church, stand in awe of a man of probity and valor. He threatens their order and perpetuity: an unknown might slumbers in him; he is an augury of revolutions. Out of the invisible God, he comes to abide awhile amongst men; yet neither men nor time shall remain as at his advent. He is a creative element, and revises men, times, life itself. A new world preexists in his ideal. He overlives, outlives, eternizes the ages, and reports to all men the will of the divinity whom he serves.]
Again, the hero’s journey – and I don’t mean to imply that I don’t agree with it, by making the comparison.
Remember to consider each saying in light of its predecessor and successor, as we did with Thomas, and it will help you keep the larger argument in mind. That is, it will make the drift, the tendency, clearer. So, here you see Alcott continuing to move from the nature of the individual to the individual’s effect upon society.
Perhaps later I will go back and see if I can clump various sections under headings, to make that relationship clearer.
Be aware, if you do so, that any organizational scheme detracts from alternative understandings even as it clarifies any one potential understanding. That isn’t to say, “Don’t do it”; more like, “Handle With Care.”
[Character is the only legitimate institution; the only regal influence. Its power is infinite. Safe in the citadel of his own integrity, principalities, powers, hierarchies, states, capitulate to the man of character at last. It is the temple which the soul builds to herself, within whose fanes genius and sanctity worship, while the kneeling ages bend around them in admiration and love.]
Again, pretty high flying, but again, a hard core of experience and aspiration.
That’s Alcott, in a nutshell. The proof is that he did not allow himself to become embittered or disillusioned by so many external failures over so long a life, but aspired as long as he continued to respire.
Externally, this saying is easily mocked, and will seem even to its admirers to be too good to be true. At best – they will be tempted to say – it is an ideal statement; certainly it is nothing to be actually experienced. To which we reply, “Well, yes and no.”
And I think I just got what you would say.
Say it then, and we’ll see.
I get that you would say, judge this saying on Character by the standards of the world – of the shared subjectivity – and at best it will appear to be an ideal. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” Ideal, but not real. In the 3D world it doesn’t happen.
But – ?
But look at the same saying from the point of view of the 3D-plus-non-3D individual, and it is straight fact, and follows from the previous stepping-stones.
Correct. And we remind you that the 3D world of appearances is only somewhat real; it is not as real as the 3D-plus-non-3D (or All-D, as we also call it, for convenience). Therefore, what is true for the All-D may be untrue (only “ideal”) in the 3D. Which of the two seems real to you will depend entirely upon you, what you are, not upon circumstances.
And that is enough for now. Your hour is up, and your energy is expended for the moment.
Many thanks for prodding me to begin this little project. It’s interesting. Till next time, then.
Frank DeMarco, author
Papa’s Trial: Hemingway in the Afterlife, a novel