Thursday, May 20, 2021
3:30 a.m. So, we are at number 44 already, out of 100 sayings. This is going much faster than I expected it would.
Love and gravity are a twofold action of one life, whose conservative instincts in man and nature preserve inviolate the harmony of the immutable and eternal law of spirit. Man and nature alike tend toward the Godhead. All seeming divergence is overruled by this omnipotent force, whose retributions restore universal order.
There is another cause of Alcott’s obscurity, besides his penchant for paralytic words and words that are, you might say, spiritual clichés, or metaphysical clichés. (“Godhead,” for instance. People use that term and they mean something by it, but it isn’t a word that is in any way self-explanatory. It’s sort of pompous and empty-headed, all surface and no content. Or so it seems to me, anyway.) And that is his extreme compression of thought. Compression in the laying out of a thought is one thing, and all to the good. But compression that leaves out necessary connectives may strike the author as elegant, but fail to do the job of communicating. It is one thing to deliberately omit so as to make the reader work to comprehend, a la Hemingway; it is another thing to omit, not realizing the effect you are having. The one is supreme artistry, the other is incompetent communication.
Or am I just complaining because Alcott makes me work?
In any case, state what you get from this paragraph.
Oh, he’s saying that all life is one thing, unity underlying diversity. At least, that is what I get out of it. I found it striking that he used the same illustrations – love and gravity – that you all have used every now and then for 20 years. “We don’t get warm and fuzzy about gravity, either,” you said once, in telling Rita and me that love is the binding force of the world, and that this was not a metaphysical or sentimental statement, but the expression of a law of nature, like gravity.
So basically your complaint here is that he uses a word you dislike.
I can see that it looks that way, but really, it’s more general than that. I feel like, if I didn’t already know what he means – mostly because of years of talking with you – I’d certainly never figure it out from his words alone.
No, in this you are over-reacting. Words as sparks, remember.
“Damn it, Jim, I’m a metaphysician, not a bricklayer.” [Star Trek fans will understand the reference.]
More or less. Onward.
Love designs, thought sketches, action sculptures the works of spirit. Love is divine, conceiving, creating, completing, all things. Love is the Genius of Spirit.
Again, I think, a fault of over-compression. Restating it makes its intent clearer, I think, even though it is a little wordier, a little less elegant. But what good is elegance if it leads people to bounce off the surface rather than being drawn in to the substance? So: The works of spirit are designed by love, sketched by thought, sculpted by action. In other words, non-3D is translated into 3D by a process combining love, thought, and execution. And it is love that drives the engine.
Yes, but you will note that he nowhere here attempts to define love, nor should he. That’s for the reader to ponder and tease out on his or her own. He says, “Love is the Genius of Spirit,” and perhaps this is one instance of his writing in such a way as to let readers’ attention ricochet off the surface. It deserves a closer look.
I presume he uses “Genius” not as we do casually today, meaning someone of exceptional intelligence, but as it was used in his time, as the underlying inspiring force.
You could say that genius is the non-3D equivalent of the 3D inspiration. That is, “genius” could be looked at as an active inspiring force underlying manifestation in 3D. Thus, not so much “Tesla was a genius,” as would be the expression in your time, but “Tesla followed the genius of electrical perception and manifestation,” as the term would have been used in Alcott’s day. People followed their genius, they didn’t identify with it, even to the extent of refusing to identify with it. In any case, he says here, the non-3D manifests in 3D via Love. Love is the conduit.
You’re right; I missed that nuance.
Life, in its initial state, is synthetic; then feeling, thought, action are one and indivisible: love is its manifestation. Childhood and woman are samples and instances. But thought disintegrates and breaks this unity of soul: action alone restores it. Action is composition; thought decomposition. Deeds executed in love are graceful, harmonious, entire; enacted from thought merely, they are awkward, dissonant, incomplete: a manufacture, not creations, not works of genius.
This is very interesting. I will have to consider whether I agree with it, but it is very suggestive.
Only, you should spell it out.
I thought it was clear enough, once we slow down enough to actually read it. what’s obscure about it?
We smile., Many things, if you do not approach it from the proper angle.
Alcott says life is one thing, and is experienced as one thing initially in our lives, until thought – analysis – breaks down the unity into its component multiplicities, at which time life appears to be a conflict of forces. Once we are beyond childhood’s perception of unity, he says, only action can simulate unity again, by choosing. If I’m not mistaken, this is the note you’ve been harping on for about 20 years now. And, he points out, deeds “executed in love” present a very different appearance from those “enacted from thought merely.”
Now look at what he meant by saying children and women are examples and instances of love in its individual aspect.
Yes. I set that to the side as being too extensive to be dealt with as an aside. I imagine that some women will bristle at this, thinking Alcott is being condescending to women, but I’d say his intent is precisely the opposite: He praises some women, at least, as examples of preserving beyond childhood that unity of being, in a way that is rarer for men. Of course the politically correct climate of 21st century America pretends there are no essential differences between male and female, but Alcott lived before such violent abstractions.
Yes, but how does this manifest? Can you say that children and women experience life in a certain way?
I think you can. It has been said that Emerson – and Gorbachev, come to think of it – grew up in a world primarily –
Recalibrate. You’re onto it, only say it carefully. It doesn’t matter if it takes up our remaining time.
Okay. Emerson’s father died when Emerson was a boy. Waldo’s young life was dominated by two women he never ceased to revere: his mother and his aunt Mary Moody Emerson, a strong-willed, well-educated, extremely individual person. So although the Emerson children were all boys, the atmosphere of the home was very much shaped by his feminine perceptions. I read somewhere that some scholar – Richardson, maybe – said Emerson learned to see the world integrally, not in pieces.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh said in one of her autobiographical books that a man’s life is the pursuit of one thing, and a woman’s is the relation of everything to everything else. Perhaps an overstatement, and perhaps more true of her time than ours, I don’t know, but certainly Emerson saw differently, and perhaps it is as simple as that, that he learned to see intuitively rather than rationally (“logically”), which in those days meant “thinking like a woman.” A woman’s intuition, for instance.
And Gorbachev, who was born in 1931, spent his childhood from age 10 to at least 14 in a world populated almost exclusively by women, as the men were mostly killed or were soldiers. It is speculated that he, too, absorbed that extra sense by growing up among women, who did not make a fetish of logic and “rationality” such as had led Marxism into logical dead-ends.
And pause here, because the next saying is not to be dealt with at the end of a period of concentration, but at the beginning. Well done here.
Thanks. In what sense?
It is always good work to go your own way regardless of prevalent social trends, and sometimes it is easy and sometimes not. The gender thing is particularly charged in your time, and needs to be periodically dis-charged, but people have been known to be injured by the careless discharge of explosives.
Very funny. Okay, well, our thanks as always. I look forward to our discussing the actual and the real, which are of course the very touchstones of Transcendentalism.
Frank DeMarco, author
Papa’s Trial: Hemingway in the Afterlife, a novel