Wednesday, May 26, 2021
5:20 a.m. The smallest disruption of routine can send you off the rails. I am still waiting for my printer’s cartridge to arrive through the mail, and in the absence of being able to print out work materials, I am sort of stumped. Revising on the computer isn’t the same thing as revising on paper. It just isn’t. So I’m sort of stalled on the task of revising Alcott’s first 50 sayings. Perhaps I’d better keep going on the second 50, since I already have them printed up. Yet – something said don’t do it that way, but pause between the two sections.
You gentlemen have anything you’d care for us to do while we wait for the ink? Or, should I revise on the machine and treat it as a tentative exercise until I can put it onto paper?
You could do that if you wished. It wouldn’t really waste any time, in the end. Or we could talk here, but of course you are somewhat under the same constraints.
No, not so much. Here I would transcribe and send out, and I could print for my own record later. It isn’t a matter of revising on the machine.
Do you hear the humorous echo of your childhood?
I do, in fact. It’s funny how things sneak in, isn’t it? The nuns used to refer to cars as our “machines.” They would say – well, I don’t remember anything specific, but I remember that’s what they called them, and here am I, going on three–quarters of a century later, and I call a computer “the machine,” in much the same way. I wonder what that is about, if anything. Or do you intend to tell us, using that as an example of something?
We could; we don’t need to, but it’s like that Hemingway short story title.
“I guess everything reminds you of something.” Are you accusing yourselves of plagiarism?
If we didn’t, no doubt you’d be willing do. We smile.
Me too. Well, what, then?
Not everything needs to be a big deal, you realize. Sometimes things you notice are relatively trivial, but even trivial things can prove to be quite illustrative.
Well, I notice that [my friend] Louis is finding that nearly every Hemingway story he reads sends him back to a very clear memory of something earlier in his life, often something he hadn’t thought of, literally, in decades.
Receptivity is everything. And perhaps that’s our theme du jour, as you like to say: receptivity.
It is proverbial that as you age, short-term memories fade in importance, and longer-term memories resurface, often in great detail. Can something that is so universal as to be proverbial be accident? Can it, for that matter, be unmeaningful?
Rhetorical question, I take it.
It is. Not too hard to figure out, given that nothing in life is accidental. All great art contains everything needed, and no more. You think life isn’t art?
So if the latter part of your life reminds you of specific and general incidents and themes from earlier in your life, it is superficial for you (that is, for anyone) to shrug off the process as “just getting old.” It is far more meaningful to say, “It is part of getting old. What purpose does it serve?”
Sure. That puts a constructive spin on it. reminds us that the tendency is there for us to use it to advantage.
And the question is how to use it for advantage.
Which you happen to be ready to tell us.
You can’t say it wouldn’t be useful, or timely.
No. Why would i?
So here’s the thing. The second half of life isn’t just a long coasting downhill, putting in time waiting for the curtain. Yes, it often feels that way, we realize. (We remind you, we fully participate in 3D, no less than in non-3D. We are you in different terrain, as we have told you from the first.)
It’s a long downhill coast if you don’t know how to take it, maybe.
Even there, your non-3D component hasn’t lost the script. Or do you think that this part of you is bored, too?
How would we know?
Yes, but it was another rhetorical question. Your life has purpose, from the first minute to the last. It is increasingly a matter of choice, though it may appear to be the other way around.
Let me clarify that, because you didn’t actually say what I feel you mean. I think you mean, we tend to think our life is one of first greater choices, as life opens up, then of fewer choices, as life closes in. And I know you are talking about our internal life rather than our external life.
That isn’t quite right, but close enough. Your internal and external life – we remind you – are two ways of experiencing the same thing. So in reality they do not diverge. However, in appearance they may, and in function they definitely do, and for good reason.
Recalibrating, because I can feel that this may become somewhat intricate.
Not so much intricate as – well, an extended argument may be experiences as intricate, we suppose. Bullets, then:
- Your physical life (barring “accident” or termination prior to the normal lifespan) is a process of expansion, maturity, contraction.
- Your mental life is usually experienced as absorption, homeostasis, and either stagnation or abstraction, that is, abstractification, generalizing.
- Your – we’ll call it “spiritual” – life is one of certainty followed by confusion, then proceeding either to new confidence or the confidence (so to speak) that no certainty is available.
These three processes may seem to diverge. They may seem to proceed independently. But, as we say, how could they? Only, each manifests according to its nature, and the manifestations may seem to have nothing to do with one another.
If you will look at your lives as meaningful, undefeated, always in process, and never completed by the completion of a given physical life – we know that may seem paradoxical – you will see your lives in better perspective.
Unlike Yeats who thought of life as a long preparation for something that never happens.
He wouldn’t have been wrong to say that, provided that he added “so far as external observers can see, and so far as one expects 3D death to be the end.” And the difficulty here is that it is the end, and isn’t.
Yes. I have the sense of that.
But not everybody does. It is a matter of faith, more than anything, and faith cannot be purchased or stolen or even earned; it is a gift, given or withheld.
By whom, and according to what criteria?
Some other time, perhaps. For the moment, let’s stick to the point: Life as a given individual does end with 3D death, in that that particular mixture of elements will not return to another 3D life. If it returns, it is as a strand, not as the entire bundle. But it does not end in 3D dearth, in that living is forever, as your old friend [Ed Carter] wrote. The “you” you forge in life is a real achievement; it does not go away. It functions as it always has functioned.
Do you have any reason to feel like your being as it exists at this moment is perfect and needs no further work? To put it another way, do you think there is nothing more you could do, could become, “if only”? Well, it is always that way, up to your last 3D moment, and beyond. But there is a difference between what may be doable in 3D and what may be doable in a larger sphere of action.
This will strike some people as merely words. I have heard someone say you engage in double-talk – which I take to mean, some of your words went dead on her, but still there is the possibility to be guarded against.
The reason your old memories return in or out of context is so you may mentally – spiritually, we would say, if that word hadn’t gone dead – return to other points in your life. Your added days provide you with added perspective, with added wisdom. If hindsight is 20-20, why not use it?
Use it – I take it – as part of our continuing process of self-refinement, self-creation.
That’s all there is, of course. You will find your “declining years” to be far more satisfying, far more interesting, if you keep in mind that retrospection and rumination is a valid and therefore appropriate activity for this part of your life. The frantic striving to keep your head above water is past; the tangible 3D goals and aspirations are mostly or entirely past. What is now appropriate is the summing-up and the further preparation – for life doesn’t end with 3D death, any more than the 3D world ends with evening.
And there’s your hour and a little more.
Our thanks as always, and although this has become a habit to say, I mean it.
till next time.
Frank DeMarco, author
Papa’s Trial: Hemingway in the Afterlife, a novel