Hemingway: Living for the edge

Friday, July 10, 2009

Papa, you will have read Hank Wesselman’s somewhat pugnacious question to you.

[Hank had emailed me, in response to a previous dialogue with Hemingway: “I like this conversation with Hemingway. In life I was always put off by his boxing obsession and the fact that he proclaimed that he would rather beat someone up than read a good book. Why don’t you ‘hit’ him with that one?”]

At first I wasn’t going to ask it, but then I thought, if it was a sincere question it deserves to be asked, and deserves an answer.

All right. And this answer may illustrate for you one of the problems always attendant on this kind of work. Who are you talking to? In this case I mean, what age Hemingway? The answer you’d get from a 20-year-old isn’t what you’d get 10 years later, or 30, or after-the-fact entirely.

Yes, I do see that. We’re not the same person from year to year.

The whole point of living is not to be the same, year by year, but to change – hopefully for the better, hopefully learning something, but anyway changing with inner and outer experiences. Of course, you gain and you lose as you go along. You outgrow some things and develop new problems, maybe.

Now, one part of this question is easily dealt with. I didn’t prefer beating somebody up to reading a good book. Just count the number of people I beat up, and the number of books I read! And, more to the point, I never said that. I may have said something like it; I may have said I love boxing even better than reading a good book, but that was in a moment of exuberance. Would you want anything you ever said – in whatever passing mood – to be taken to be your philosophical stance?

But if the problem is that I loved boxing, well, there’s no defense possible, and none needed. Tastes differ. If he doesn’t like boxing any more than you do, fine. But just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. I liked my life to have an edge on it, and boxing is a very good edge, pretty harmless except if there’s an accident somehow, and great fun. You tend to think of it as beating people up, but that’s because you’re not considering that you’re as likely to get beat up, unless you’re the kind of guy who only fights patsies. There’s nothing wrong with getting and giving a bloody nose, or bruises, or cuts, or anything, as long as you’re taking the same risk and it’s a fair fight.

It’s like bullfighting. The torero isn’t exactly taking advantage of the bull! If the man had armor plating, or a safe platform, or he went out there with a rifle, it would be one thing. But he goes out there with his skill and his courage and his sword and cape, and he is not as likely to die as the bull is, but it happens; and he’s plenty likely to get wounded. In fact, it’s damn near certain that he will be, sooner or later – and the trick then is to go back into the ring the next time, when his body knows full well what could happen. And that’s the edge, you see. That’s feeling the life within him. That’s living right in that moment. And that’s why some people get addicted to the edge.

Well, you can’t fight bulls every day, and you can’t do it in Paris in the 20s or Key West in the 30s. You can’t risk your life in a war, or on safari, more than a few times at most in a lifetime. And who would want to? That’s the edge of the edge. But boxing, it’s good exercise, it’s a fair fight, it’s not likely to really hurt anybody, not on a friendly-match basis. You’ll notice from Morley Callaghan’s book, he continually gave me bruises and cut my mouth, and I didn’t hold it against him – why should I?– and I kept coming back for more

Betting more money than you can afford to lose, too – that can give you the edge. If you lose, you aren’t going to be killed or wounded, though you might not eat so well for a while, but while they are running you are right there. And then it becomes less about whatever you’re betting on, and more about the bet itself. Winning, or the chance of winning, especially at long odds, and the chance of losing – the good chance of losing – gives you the edge. That’s why betting can become an addiction, and the more a person has, the more he has to bet, so he’s putting down insane amounts on something that can’t be calculated – because it takes that much to give him the edge.

So, that’s me and boxing. And me and hunting and gambling too, for that matter, as a sort of bonus. What people don’t get about me for some reason – and I can’t figure out why – is that I wanted first-hand experience of life. I didn’t just read about it, I wanted to live it. I enjoyed living in a body. But if I didn’t need to write it, to re-create it, you never would have known I existed. There are plenty of people like me only they don’t write. Gregorio Fuentes, for example. All the men I hung around with who knew how to do things and enjoy them and do them perfectly. You just don’t hear of them unless they happen to be inside your world. Frank, in your case, your father.

Thank you, Papa. This did illuminate things. I’ll send it to Hank and to some other friends.

No Hay de que.

Hemingway: Life always slipping away

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I hope you are happy, papa. You are, of course, much in my mind today.

Thank you. Understanding is always appreciated; it is like a cat must feel when somebody is stroking him. And you have a saying, don’t you, about getting “strokes” when people complement each other?

I believe you do understand why I had no good choices left, so you understand what my suicide did and didn’t mean to me. But more, you somewhat understand and must put more effort and thought to it if you are going to really understand, that I like other people was a different person at different times of my life. You could say, different every single day, and with the perception of that difference comes a sort of background desperation sometimes, a sense that it’s slipping away, that it could never be held in the first place. That background realization was always there, and it ought to tell you something.

I am sort of distracted at the moment, don’t know why. Fragments of a movie scene again last night (Dead Again).

Coincidence?

Until I wrote down the title, the connection hadn’t occurred to me. Okay – since you can probably see it more clearly than I can – what does it suggest?

I can’t necessarily be responsible for your associations! But think of your father to understand me better.

Yes, I get that. Different life circumstances, but a similar wish to enjoy the day rather than living in past or future.

When you realize that your life is always slipping out from under your feet, as a boy you look forward to when you will be a man and can participate fully in life. It doesn’t occur to you that life will still be slipping away behind you. As a grown man you feel the slippage but you’re thinking of where you’re going, what you hope is coming to you. And at some point you see that the best actual action is behind you and the best you can hope for is whatever wisdom you’ve accumulated, plus the use of skill you’ve acquired, plus you can still enjoy lots of things. But if you don’t have any sense that there’s more coming after life, the pointlessness overwhelms you, plus there’s no use just sitting around waiting for death if you don’t want to and aren’t afraid to die.

That monk John Tettemer you read about – he was old enough to be my father, and he died a good while before I did.

In 1949.

Yes. He knew the value of the fact that the present moment doesn’t exist, or is all that exists, however you want to look at it. He set his eyes on eternity because he could see that this life in a body is just a fast ride to there.

So – your life is just an expression of carpe diem?

My life is an expression of living life to the fullest as best I could, physically and mentally. And emotionally. If I could have had a more satisfying framework for the spiritual longing that was at the core of me, I might have been happier, but maybe I couldn’t have done that. You yourself have seen how hard it is to live when you don’t believe in the reality of things.

Yes. So few things are worth much effort, unless I can persuade myself to throw myself into them, and that doesn’t last.

“And that doesn’t last” could sum up everybody’s life, could it not?

Thank you, Papa. Your life certainly was a success in that you gave so much to the rest of us.

It’s funny, isn’t it? You work so hard to succeed and at the end of it, the only thing that matters is your effect on others. Not true, exactly, but in a way close enough.

That inexpressible inner life

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I have been repeatedly unable to express the life I live. Externally, what do I do but read and sometimes write, and talk on the phone and sometimes in person? I eat and drink and tend to my simple needs. I shop for food and go to the post office when I need to send packages. I buy books and usually read them. Not much of a life, eh?

Except – all the richness is internal. In my mind as I read those books I live elsewhere and elsewhen – yet it is not (always) escapism, for I am well aware as I do so that I am living here and now (whatever the particular here and now happens to be) as well. And always I am building a picture of the world, a picture no one can match. Nor, of course, can I match anyone else’s. It is that unique picture, and those habits of mind, and whenever we intend, that we bring across when we die.

I have no energy to record John Tettemer’s youthful realization that this life is only preparation, but that expresses exactly what the guys brought forth.

I guess I should be transcribing each day’s entries, daily, into the computer and printing it out. It would be a relatively painless way of accumulating what I need. But what an incredible labor to try to do it backwards! Another reason to do it daily, of course.

Page 135 of Tettemer. “To my mind, holiness means complete unselfishness, living for others in place of oneself. The monk’s life and the mother’s life of devotion to the interests of others are good starting points for the achievement of saintliness. A good mother and a good monk are saints, whether they perform known miracles or not.”

Hemingway: Making acquaintance with the dead

June 17, 2009

7:20. Bob Friedman, having met Mariel Hemingway, is interested in the idea of Papa adding a message for his granddaughter. But this strikes me as grandstanding – not to mention, grandstanding on thin ice.

Still – Papa? Anything you’d like me to pass on to your granddaughter?

How would you expect to convince her that it was a real message?

Well, actually, I don’t think it could be done. I just thought I’d ask.

And you wouldn’t mind a little demonstration yourself, as reassurance.

That’s about it. But I don’t expect one.

Good.

 

Thursday, June 25, 2009

6 AM. Papa, I know that Bob would still love to have a message from you to your granddaughter. So would I if you wanted to send it, but on the other hand – well, you know.

I do, and I recognize the cross-currents within you. Tell Bob, I know of his dissertation on men and war because you know of it because you know him and he knows it. If you had read it, it would have been a shorter circuit, but everything connects sooner or later.

Just because you’re interested, I’ll say a little about the process as we experience it.

I’m famous and I die and on your side people keep reading me and keep writing about me. It all sorts out automatically in degrees of closeness. My family talking about me is one thing, my friends, another; acquaintances, another level further away, people reading me in school, say, another.

It isn’t organized in any way, I’m trying to show you that there are different degrees of closeness, just like in your own lives. The world has billions of people – that doesn’t mean you’re equally affected by all of them, and how could you be? There’s close and there’s far and there’s might as well not even exist.

Well, put it this way. Once a man’s family and friends are gone, he’s alone in the world. There are degrees of relationship in everything. Some things are closer than others, it’s that simple. It’s true of spatial relationships and it’s true of people. You have your family, your lovers, your close friends, your acquaintances, etc., as I said. The nearer ones have more effect on you than the farther ones do. It’s clear enough, surely.

But it sorts out another way, too. There are those who are closer or farther from you temperamentally. My mother and I weren’t at all close intellectually, or even emotionally except in opposition. Her reaction to the story-telling part of me isn’t nearly as close to me as  [F. Scott] Fitzgerald’s, say, or even Morley’s [Morley Callaghan]. They came closer to my writing center, you might say. And I don’t mean to pick them out particularly. They’re just examples. Max Perkins certainly understood me better than Fitzgerald, for instance.

But see, in that case there is an example for you. Scott Fitzgerald was close to my emotional life and my writing life and my – what do you want to call it? My emotional everyday life. So that’s three categories.

Oh hell, this is getting too theoretical. The simplest thing is to say that those who know you best may know you in different ways. They may be related to you, they may spend a lot of time with you, they may have shared common tasks, or maybe they just know you because you’re the same thing somehow. Hotchner and me, for instance.

So what I wanted to tell you is that over here, somebody who has been famous has left lots of cords hanging down that people can yank. But not everybody’s yank is of equal strength, and not every yank goes past a certain threshold. So mostly we aren’t particularly aware of it.

Some things get our attention. Hotchner spending enough time to write a book about us couldn’t help but get my attention even if I hadn’t known him. But him being a pal and reading my stuff and writing about me, of course he’s going to be front and center. Mary writing about me (good or bad) or Marty or anyone I lived with – of course I am going to be there. But somebody reading my stuff and not even particularly understanding it or being moved by it – how can that get through to me, and why should it? What would it add for me or for them?

Besides, it matters if people think you’re dead or if you’re alive to them. Bob thought I was dead, and so he wrote about what he could conclude I thought and felt by what I had written. That didn’t touch me. But if he had had deep feelings about me and had written from them – I am not saying he should have, I’m explaining differences – if he had written from deep feelings about me, I’d have heard. If he’d written from deep instinctive sympathy with me, I’d have heard. Writing more or less as an exercise, however sincere and interested he may have been, I didn’t.

But now, you see, there is another hook. It is as if I met him through you and now I pick up his dissertation with the interest you acquire when you know the author. You see?

I do, I think. You’re saying that we can make the acquaintance of “the dead” through our own sympathetic response to them, and they will respond and perhaps be changed.

That’s it exactly, and isn’t that what you’ve been doing since December 2005?

I’ll have to tell Bob. If he can believe it, he can open a whole new world. Edgar Cayce, anybody else who ever meant anything to him.

Yes – and this is the point of the book you’re working on now, isn’t it? You don’t talk to people just for what you can learn, and not for what you can get out of them, but for companionship.

Thank you, Papa. That’s the point. I’ll bear it in mind.

Comparisons with Hemingway made from the Non-3D

[I find the damnedest and most interesting things in my journal, long forgotten. David Poynter was one of my “past lives.”]

Monday, June 8, 2009

Yesterday, picked up Morley Callaghan’s That Summer In Paris, about the author’s friendship with Papa – at least, that is the aspect that interested me. I am about halfway through it, enjoying it (appreciating it) more than I would have thought I would. I vaguely remember something about the fight where Callaghan knocked down Hemingway while Fitzgerald left around go on and on, and it’s clear that the publisher counted on that story selling the book.

But I picked up this book to ask a simple question. Why am I always so moved at the thought of Hemingway’s valiant life? I know his reputation for being rude, abusive, self parodying (unintentionally), and all that. But – I’m on his side, all the time. I have come to fiercely identify with him even when objectively he’s wrong. Why is that? Always we are Lincoln men, Hay said, or Nicolay but I think Hay. Always I am Papa’s man. Why is that?

Thursday, June 11

On Monday I asked a question but could not make myself stay for an answer. Always I am Papa’s man. Why is that, and why does his valiant life so move me, when earlier it did not?

I don’t think I should ask papa. David, Joseph – anybody who knows – what is it all about?

Yes, David because it takes a writer. I didn’t quite read him, you know. He was becoming well-known as I was ending my life, but I wasn’t particularly interested – wasn’t particularly in sympathy with – the problems of young people in the new postwar world. They were in a most violently disruptive phase, savagely rejecting the world that had brought them the war, and a considerable number of babies were going out with the bathwater.

With Hemingway as with Yeats, you met him moving backwards from his last work. Therefore you saw him as no one – especially himself – ever saw him. And Hemingway who wrote For Whom The Bell Tolls, and The Old Man And The Sea, and Islands In The Stream, and even To Have And Have Not, did not exist in my time. Nor did the author of A Farewell To Arms and – especially – The Sun Also Rises exist in my mental world. If I did not pay attention to him, he could not directly influence me, of course.

Not that I did not know his name. Who could not know his name? But to know the name and reputation of Fitzgerald, say, is after all not to be influenced by him, necessarily. It may amount merely to being biased against him by what one heard or read.

All right. So – his effect on me?

Consider merely what he is to you. A partisan in some of your causes, and a representative of what you will never be, but admire, in other respects.

The physical man.

Well, just think what you were thinking yesterday. All that physical pleasure – too much trouble! All that pleasure seeking, experience-seeking, making his way – too much trouble. Not you, not your life.

No, not remotely. What we have in common is reading a lot.

Well, a little more than that. Hemingway was very attractive to, and attracted by, women, and regardless how he talked about sex, he was drawn to them by magnetism and by what they elicited in him, not mere physical appetite. In fact his physical appetite often confused him and left him unable to perceive or obtain what he wanted and needed from them.

And then, there’s his contrarian tendencies. He was in fundamental opposition to the intellectual currents of his age. He strongly suspected that “intellectualism” was corrupt at its source (and I would agree) but did not have the fundamentals, the credentials, to establish counter-movement except in so far as individuals could perceive it from his writings or – much more doubtfully – in his life.

Then there is that attractive force, the consistent helpfulness, the tentative belief in others until they proved him wrong. And his eagerness to be on equal terms with those he recognized (rightly or wrongly) as great. It came out looking like he had to be champ but it went in looking like, he had to deserve a place at the table, and doubted himself often and fiercely.

And there are the depressions. And the ungovernable rages. And the concussions. And the love of good writing. And the longing for companionship. Enough?

Quite a list. Surely many people share that list.

Are not many people his admirers? But how many of them assume the ability to contact him?

I’ll grant you that. There is his non-socialist, non-political sympathy with the victims of socially organized injustice, too. Remarkable that he kept it, having spent so much time among the rich, and having married rich, unfortunately.

Speaking as a sort of ex-socialist, that is another aspect of his reputation that was off-putting, you know. At a time that seemed to call for social solidarity, he seemed content with stories of individual bravery or betrayal, taking the scene for granted.

But I have showed that The Sun Also Rises is

Yes but I didn’t have you there then to explain it! And perhaps I could have seen it even if I had had you there (as, in a sense, I do).

In any case, surely you can see that the honest reporter, that day-dreaming self-romanticize her, the craftsman, all appeals to you.

Oh yes.

The anti-fascist, anti-communist, clear-eyed observer?

Sure.

And even when you differ so strongly, you have been where his times left him.

Yes. And anyway he was still searching.

Yes. As you pointed out in your little essay about the soul. Now, another time (for you are tired now) you might ask why Hemingway resonates to you. It isn’t as simple as that you are in the body and interested in him.

G.K. Chesterton on dogma and inquiry

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Reading The Everlasting Man. G.K. Chesterton isn’t always careful enough about distinguishing between what he knows and what he only thinks he knows. Speaking of that –

Mr. Chesterton, I admire your writing and your spirit, as you no doubt know. I particularly like the cavalier way you dismiss certain prevalent superstitions, and wonder if I have not unconsciously aped you in adopting some similar manner. I keep thinking to write about spirituality and our culture but haven’t yet, except in passing. Any advice, criticism, comment?

You have the proper attitude but you seem to be doing things the hard way. If you have a place to stand, you can stand firm easily enough – but how can you do it when standing on shifting sands? It is in the very dogma and authority that you distrust that you will find the solid place on which to put your lever, to move the world or at least yourself.

Your friend asks if you are going to make her into a religious fanatic. You thought, “better than an anti-religious fanatic,” which is not a bad rejoinder – but what of the fanaticism of nowhere-land? What of the fanaticism implicit in the stance that holds that you must never come to bedrock truth, lest you run aground? It is true, life in time may be seen as a river. But do you want to spend all your time floating, and never get out to stretch your legs?

To leave off metaphor and simile, let me say it this way. You have in Catholic doctrine the results of 15 centuries of considered deliberation upon the gravest subjects: the nature of the physical and nonphysical world, the nature of life and death, the conditions actually facing us as we function within these limits. These are bedrock questions, corporately and collegially considered and reconsidered, then codified and made accessible and – most importantly – made practical. Is this of no practical value to the seeker after truth? Is it not true that one ignores such an effort and such an end-result of such effort only out of fear?

Surely it is clear that someone who is afraid to look too closely into an argument is afraid that the argument may convince. One afraid of another’s thought can only be afraid that to lose ignorance of that thought is to lose the ability to withhold consent. No one is afraid to investigate what he knows in advance is nonsense. No one fears to expose error in others – but it is far from unheard-of for one to fear exposing errors dear to his own heart.

So it comes to this: If you fear to examine something, you must at least suspect yourself of hiding from the truth.

And it comes therefore to this: If you pretend to examine the subject while willfully refusing to examine the bulkiest object in the room, others must be pardoned for questioning your sincerity.

This is not to say that in order to investigate a subject, one must investigate every bit of evidence, every current of thought. But just as in academics so in metaphysics, you have a duty to demonstrate familiarity with the major works in the field. To be ignorant of the central work is to have an inescapably flawed vision of the field in question.

I do see that. Thank you. It’s a little overwhelming, though. I am no theologian.

No, you are, instead, a solitary explorer. If you prefer wandering around without maps to risking your ignorance of the terrain by glimpsing the most certain features of the landscape in a map, that is your choice. But even a bad map well used is better than none at all – and how much more so a good map!

It is a convincing argument, but I don’t think I will wind up back in the Catholic Church.

Then there isn’t much to fear, is there, in looking? But you might find that you have not ceased to be a Christian, unknowingly – and in that case, you may find that you have not ceased to be a Catholic just because you removed yourself as a communicant.

Interesting thought. I guess we’ll see. Thank you for your life’s work.

One’s life’s work is one’s life, more than any stray artifacts one may leave strewn about. But – you are welcome, old friend.

Oh?

Why do you think you have resonance, as you call it, with certain writers and not others?

Hmm. I’ll think about that, maybe.

TGU on the use, misuse and disuse of a journal

Monday, August 12, 2019

6:45 a.m. A dramatic dream ending with him on top of a hanger or outbuilding, having overcome the last guard, but the airplane takes off over his head – in other words, he has failed. Failed to get away or failed to get to someplace, I don’t know. I think the point is, my story [follow-up to Dark Fire] needs action, drama, something external, not just intellectual tension. And that tells me someone is more interested in the next novel than in the Hemingway story (especially since I see that Reynolds had my insights anyway). But I’m not sure it justifies or even advocates abandoning Hemingway yet again. It means, set things in the external world for once.

7:15  Feeling pretty useless, which is what happens when I don’t work.

I had an idea yesterday. What if I did for each project what I did for Hemingway, and devoted a different notebook strictly to thoughts, ideas, fragmentary bits? I don’t yet know if the idea is working out for Hem, of course.

Here’s another thing. If I could only work out some system – and I’m good at working out systems, when I put my attention to it – why couldn’t I figure out how to index my journal in some practical, useful way? Everything I have done till now has been not practical, despite my best attempts.

I suppose the first question has to be, What do I want to get out of it? That is, what end result? What usability? I have tried dividing previous sorts by category and the categories have been too abstract or too detailed.

Give me a hand here, guys, I’m getting too old to be wasting all this time and effort.

If in fact you are wasting it, merely because you can’t use it.

Yes, that’s a lot of help. Pin my faith on somebody being willing and able even to plow through it, let alone transcribe and use it.

They did it for Thoreau, and for Emerson.

They printed The Heart of Emerson’s Journal. [Actually, the entire journal was printed as well.] Besides, what good does it do? Even for famous men, their source material is of only limited interest. For me? And, I want access to it for my own purposes, as Emerson used his.

No, you dream of recapturing your life by having a magic key to memory.

Well, say I do. What would be so wrong with that?

Nothing wrong with it. but impractical.

What’s so wrong with knowing where I had ideas?

Nothing wrong with it. but impractical.

How is it impractical?

It is closer to archiving the winds that blew while you were here.

Thank you Henry Thoreau. It is the rest of that quote that is my very point. “Our thoughts are the epoch of our lives.”

He didn’t say “the record of our thoughts,” he said our thoughts.

Well, now, that’s an interesting idea. I hadn’t looked at it that way.

Aren’t you seeing internal/external in a way no one else seems to? [That is, as reflections of each other.] Tentatively enough that you don’t know, yourself, if you quite believe it?

Say some more about that?

Aren’t you living your life as an unsculpted process, you accepting what comes and doing little or nothing to bring it to happen?

Quite unlike Joseph P. Kennedy, who said things don’t just happen, they are made to happen.

He was right, but maybe so are you.

Not only have we moved quite a way from a simple request for assistance in indexing my journal, this very entry is an example of how it works. If I were to transcribe this, it would be on my computer journal, and probably I’d put it on my blog, even on facebook, as a sample of communication. If I don’t, it will lie here entombed and forgotten.

So?

I’m not saying every entry deserves electronic immortality, far from it. I am saying, what of the things in the past that I’d like to remember having written or even thought.

And maybe they aren’t worth this effort. Maybe the present moment, not past moments, are what deserve your attention. Even if one is writing of the past, one writes in the present, as one lives. There is nowhere else to live but in the present.

You are making a mistake and you have realized it before and forgotten it, so we will remind you again: The past is raw material for the present; it is not something to be obsessed over or enshrined for its own sake. You live now, in the living present tense. Nobody lives then, nor in the times to come. It is quite passible – and, in fact, common enough – for people to live their present moments obsessed by (frozen in) the past or future, but this is a mistake. Past and future do not exist as separate things, the way language tempts you to think of them. Every moment of past and future is a present-tense moment. Every moment lives and continues to live, as a stitch in a tapestry does not cease to exist when the needle is busy elsewhere, or has not yet laid down that stitch as seen from a given point of view.

You may spend your present-tense moment thinking about past or future – or doing anything, for that matter – and the point is not what you are thinking or doing but whether you are present while doing or thinking, or whether you are in a sort of trance. Not that full attention can’t be divided [I think they meant alternated] with what might be called slackened attention, or sleep, but that full attention is the only space you can work from.

As Gurdjieff said.

Bear in mind, Gurdjieff lived long enough ago that the mental raw material he had to work with was radically different. The electronic age has its drawbacks, but it has already transformed average human consciousness in ways you hardly see. Yes, people’s attention-span is shorter. Yes, they are distracted by millions of thought-baubles (TV, internet, games, continual telephonic communications, etc.). Yes, they are ignorant of their ignorance. But they live in a different kind of world, with different sensory perceptions that now routinely extend to ideas and experiences that would have been so unusual and so mind-stretching in Gurdjieff’s day – only a century ago, after all – as to be a different species.

I feel like I haven’t been judging my own being accurately. I thought I would come to something, and it seems that was delusions of grandeur.

More like, everybody comes to something, and the less firm their ideas are about what they are to accomplish, the less they worry about it.

I get the sense that you are gently smiling at me, and partly wondering when the poor bastard is ever going to get it.

Maybe a little of each, yes. Follow your own advice, and “Unlax, Fuddsy.” {For those who don’t remember bugs Bunny cartoons, that was the advice Bugs was constantly giving Elmer Fudd.]

So to return – at length! – to the question of indexing my journals in any way that will let me use them —

You are using them. What you were built who you are, as who you are builds who you can be (that is, lays out possibilities and forecloses certain paths). Don’t confuse the living being with the frozen record of who that living being is at other times.

But when we read someone’s journals, or someone’s letters, say, we can learn so much!

Yes, but can they?

So someone’s journals or letters are useful mostly to others?

The shell is what they [the journals or letters] have, nothing else. The person himself or herself casts off that shell as side-effect of living. Surely you can see the difference.

It puts a new light on Hemingway’s allergy to biographies and letter collections.

Though he was happy to read those of others, yes. It isn’t so much invasion of privacy as, you might say, incompetent invasion of privacy. People may use another’s records for their own growth and that’s well and good, but it doesn’t get them to the person. You don’t get internal to internal by going through external, though it may seem that’s the only way to do it.

So, no help indexing, huh?

If you want to waste your time, it’s yours to waste, but we decline to be made to appear to endorse it.

Huh. Well, that’s definite enough. Thanks for the disquisition, anyway.