Hemingway on his three fears

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

6:15 a.m. If I learned anything from the first two parts of the Burns / Novick series on Hemingway, I don’t know what it would be. I have been more aware of what it had to leave out, than of what it said that I hadn’t known. But I am struck by how much he feared being alone. A writer, afraid of being alone, when his very writing life depends upon being alone? But of course, that’s an example of words misleading.

Papa?

Fear of being alone, fear of death, fear of the dark: three fears you do not understand.

It’s true. Do you, now? And did you, during 3D life?

It depends what you mean by the word “understand.” If you mean understand abstractly, that’s one thing. But if you mean, understand viscerally, that’s another. Intellectually, abstractly, I understood why I was afraid of the dark and afraid of death: I had been killed, in 1918, in the dark, out of nowhere, when that Austrian shell full of scrap metal blew me out of my body. So my body associated darkness with danger – with danger out of nowhere – ever since. But rational knowledge only goes so far. You don’t get rid of a fear like that just because you become aware of it and become aware of where it came from.

No, because that only gets you to the “how” of it rather than to the “why” of it. The fear came as a result of specific events, but the same events on a different person might have, maybe even must have, produced different results.

Yes, but I didn’t really understand that. The cause-and-effect was so plain, I never got to the “why” of it. Why did that cause produce that effect? I stopped at realizing what had happened, not at why what had happened had produced one effect rather than another.

So, now? Can we take them one by one?

No, your initial instinct, to group the three, is better. They reinforced each other.

Okay then, go about it your own way.

You will notice, you began with wondering about my fear of being alone. I went immediately to link fear of death and fear of the dark.

Meaning, you’ve figured it out.

Well, you know, I’ve had enough time! And I’ve chewed it over not only in non-3D, but by interacting with a good number of people in 3D, many of them thinking they were only thinking about me.

Writing that, I got all choked up. So many people loved you. I thought of Morley Callaghan, after he heard that you had killed yourself, thinking about you, remembering you day and night until his wife pointed it out to him and he sat down to write his memoir of your relationship.

Here’s what you people usually don’t realize.

“You people”?

Yeah, I heard that as soon as I said it. I don’t mean it as a slam. I mean, people in 3D who think about the connection between 3D and non-3D and sort of scheme it out in their minds.

People like your mother.

No, people who think about these things, not just feel about them, or accept the opinion of others. You try to understand – and that’s good, of course; what else did I ever try to do, but understand and then express? But in thinking about death and connection you tend to make separations where there aren’t any separations. I don’t mean to imply that I was any different. If anything, my thinking about the subject was more fragmentary and more self-isolated.

Like the thinking you did about the soul, writing in the African night in the early 1950s.

You pointed out, I didn’t have  a lot of the concepts that would have made things clearer to me. But there was always my mother in the way of it, you know. I wasn’t going to become like her. [Hemingway’s mother was mystically inclined in a way that he rejected.]

A friend got me her question to Edgar Cayce and Cayce’s answer. But I imagine you and she will have come to terms by now. I mean, she has been dead since 1951, and you since 1961, and the passage of time in the non-3D isn’t the same as it is in 3D, but it isn’t nothing, either.

But that’s what I’m trying to say. “You people” in 3D underestimate the extent to which we in non-3D rely on you, because you can still change, you can still remember us, think about us, interact with us, and it gives us a point of departure.

I think you mean, some place to use as springboard.

You can’t jump if you don’t have anything to jump from. Your remembering us is more a form of interacting with us, though you don’t realize it. It lets us see ourselves from other points of view – points of view that didn’t exist when we did our immediate “past life review.” In other words, it is a continuing process, and helps us.

Kind of a big thought.

Live with it, examine it, see where it takes you. It may rearrange your mental furniture in surprising ways. Almost all of you will never interact with the culture the way Ken Burns and his team are doing; most of the work will be done anonymously. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a real contribution. And like everything, the more consciously you do it, the more useful it is for you.

This would be a diversion (from a diversion) but I am put in mind of prayers for the dead. I wonder if this is the original thought behind that idea, that degenerated into praying to God for mercy upon sinners. But, the thought is a diversion. You were saying that you have linked your three fears, and understand them now.

What is fear of death, when you look at it closely, but a specific form of fear of being alone? If it were only fear of ceasing to exist, well, maybe some people feel that,  but obviously any suicide had come to the point of seeing anything – even oblivion, if that’s what had to follow – as preferable to continuing as they were. I think for most people, fear of death is mostly fear that they are going to go through some unknown process and they’re going to have to go through it alone.

Not fear of judgment, and then heaven or hell?

Sure, but they’re afraid of facing that judgment alone.

I’ll have to think about that. Anyway, so –?

In one moment, that 18-year-old boy learned a hell of a lot about life and death. Now, I’m not saying that everything I “learned” in 1918 was true, but it was true for me. It shaped the life I let from there.

Okay, I can see that. And those lessons were that life is fragile and precious, first of all.

I already knew it was precious. I enjoyed life from the time I was born. What I learned, though, was that I wasn’t invulnerable in the way I had assumed. So in a way, it taught me that death is always about a heartbeat away from life (for anything could happen) and at the same time, that micro-second moment of death-and-life was almost even more precious than life itself. It was a glimpse of immortality as a fact of life. Now, bear in mind, I couldn’t have told you this then, nor in 1961. As I said, I’ve had lots of conversations with lots of people, and the seeing myself reflected in so many people’s minds has given me new understandings.

I get it. People have puzzled as to why your fascination with the dealing and receiving of death. I personally was puzzled that somebody who had died and returned could be afraid to die again. But if you were fascinated by something about it that you could feel but not understand, naturally you would do puzzling things, think in ways others would find puzzling.

Puzzling to me, too, when I wasn’t taking it for granted because the feel of it was so general.

I think you mean, because you were taking the mood for granted, because it was your mood; you were inside it.

Writing isn’t any easier when you have to dictate across the static.

I’m smiling. Okay, so – somehow we have written through almost an hour – can you give us your three fears in a nutshell? If not, we can do this again, of course.

It isn’t hard. If you live mostly in your head, but what you live is centered in the world around you, that’s a terrific dependence, you see? Yes, I could go out into the wilderness or onto the sea and concentrate on the physical world around me, but I’m still in the center of this processing machine, this thinking, pondering, analyzing, feeling, absorbing machine. I read all the time, and put together elaborate trips with friends. I studied things, and studied people and studied myself. It was all me interacting with not-me. Not that I would ever have thought about it in these terms, but that’s what it  amounted to. Can’t you see that always being in the center like that left me feeling alone, made me want human warmth around me?

You remind me so much of what I have read of the young John F. Kennedy (one of your big fans, as you know), who needed people around him, who devoured the world with his curiosity, although he didn’t seem to be afraid of death, having lived with it as a continuous probability from an early age.

As you know (you would say, “as you suspect,” but in fact you know), he and I share strong bonds, and we felt them in life, although he, young enough to have been my son, naturally felt them stronger than I did. I influenced his youth; he could not have influenced mine.

I guess maybe we will continue this next time? I don’t know if my side-trails prevented us from doing it all at once, but in any case it is always good to connect with you. and it is very satisfying to think that our connecting with our heroes or role models or whatever may help them as well. Not to mention the family we belong to biologically. Thanks, papa. Next time.

 

TGU on transforming society

Monday, April 5, 2021

4 a.m.

[From Martha D. MacBurnie, 4-4-2021 in response to “TGU — and me — on the virus and warfare analogy”:

[Frank, can you ask the Guys why there’s not a more gentle way to transform society? Warfare, disease, famines, floods, revolutions – so violent! Wouldn’t you think there would be a better way to accomplish similar levels of change? Or some way to have people address causes before they get to the boiling point of catastrophe? The history of humans on this planet seems so unnecessarily destructive, unnecessarily hierarchical, and stupid. Will we fare any better when we’re more in touch with our more-than-3-D parts? It mostly seems to me that whoever is running this show is sociopathic, homicidal, or inept. Or maybe I’m just unclear on the concept. Maybe cliffhangers and disasters are really what people and the more-than-3-Ds like best?]

Martha asks a sincere question, so I ask you for comment, though the answer seems obvious to me. I she has this question, presumably others do too.

Of course. What we have asked of you – of any who read this, we mean, of course – is a fairly radical readjustment in point of view. Until – unless – you make that change, not much that we have to say will make much sense to you.

Yes. She seems still to think it is about society, though you have said often enough that 3D life is about individuals.

This time we’re going to ask that you recalibrate – focus your attention and your energies – not so that you may write clearly but so that you may hear nuance. And we ask this of anyone reading this. There isn’t much point in skimming this, saying “I know all that,” and failing to stop and consider it with your emotional center, rather than merely with your intellectual (rationalizing) center.

“To see takes time,” Georgia O’Keefe said.

Yes, whether that means seeing what a flower looks like or seeing what an emotional connection feels like, or a set of situational connections.

Okay. [Recalibrating.]

Perhaps the way to emphasize interconnection of argument is to use bullet points, as we would in showing interconnection of fact:

  • It isn’t about transforming society as end; it is about transforming society as means.
  • Violence is not inherently bad or good. Slow-motion change is not inherently less painful than short, sharp changes.
  • In any case, it isn’t about people addressing causes, not in the way this implies. It is not a matter of social engineering.
  • History will appear to be a certain way – violent, destructive, stupid, etc. – mostly in response to the filters one applies. A different filter emphasizing non-violence, creation, intelligence, will find plenty of evidence as well.
  • “Whoever is running this show” implies an intelligence and will [that are] separate from humanity as a whole. This is and is not an accurate statement, as we shall explore.
  • It is not a matter of what people and non-3D parts of people “like best”; it is a matter of what results from a given set of actions (including thought).
  • And most important of all, perhaps, the question of how you will fare, and why, when you are living a 3D life in active connection with your non-3D component.

Now, that’s quite a few negative statements. Let us rephrase it all into the positive view that corresponds to this negative space.

“Negative space” in the sense of the space around the object, that defines it even if it itself goes unnoticed.

Yes. We do not mean positive and negative here in the sense of good and bad. As you say, the negative serves to outline what we do not mean, so now it is up to us to state what we do mean.

And I get that the reason you asked us to focus carefully is that he temptation will be strong to resist changing our point of view, in considering all this.

Yes. And if you will not look at matters from a different point of view, you will in effect merely dig in your heels and say, “No, this goes against my principles,” as if you were more moral, more compassionate, more sensitive, than we.

Well, you did say, long ago, that we might find you emotionally chilly by comparison.

Yes, but that doesn’t mean that a hot spot is the only valid measure of what is normal or desirable.

Far be it from me to defend you. Proceed.

We’re smiling too, but you know, in a way it might be said that the only way to defend anyone from any charge is to try on their point of view.

“To understand everything would be to forgive everything.”

Yes, and we suggest that you remember this, in considering society and 3D humanity. If you will begin by really understanding yourselves and being willing however tentatively to forgive yourselves, you can make real progress, because you will gain the ability to really move off your present point of view.

In other words, we will be actively choosing what we want to be, rather than merely drifting with what we already believe and see.

That’s right. Now, the positive-space equivalent of the negative-space bullets:

  • We have said repeatedly that “society,” as an abstraction, is not as real as any individual. That doesn’t mean “society” doesn’t exist; it does mean, it isn’t what it appears to be. Like statistics, like scientific laws, it expresses sets of relationships. It itself does not exist without what it is expressing, which is – individuals.
  • Therefore, what society looks like as a whole is vastly less important than the opportunities and situations it presents for the individuals it comprises. A society that is chaotic and seemingly a jumbled mess (when seen as if it were a thing) may in its details provide a quite endless series of possibilities each of which is coherent in itself.

That needs expanding, I think. I get that you mean that just as Bob Monroe described the sum total of earth’s mental production as a raucous jumble of noise – M-Band energy, I think he called it – but within that noise were all these meaningful interactions —

We wouldn’t say your paraphrase is much of an improvement.

No. Let me try again. If you had 500 symphony orchestras playing at the same time, each playing a different piece of music, the result would be unendurable. But listening to any one of them might be beautiful.

Yes, better. And focusing on harmony rather than discord will show that there is plenty to focus on.

To continue:

  • The question of social engineering needs to be addressed. Is it anybody’s business to rearrange the world, or rather to judge the world that declines to be rearranged, to suit any one person’s opinions of it? Or any one group’s, large or small? You aren’t here to improve upon the world, but to live in it.

As Thoreau said, long ago.

Many people have said it, and been criticized for it as being unfeeling. Now, three important points, if we can express them:

  • “Whoever is running the show.” Yes, there is a sense in which your 3D reality is scripted, but it is easily misunderstood. If you cannot understand the external world as an expression of your shared subjectivity – that is, of all of you (present and past, in 3D terms, but of course all present and alive in non-3D terms) – then you cannot see that whatever is, is because of what you are. We may have to expand upon this another time, if it is not understood.
  • Cliffhangers and disasters occur. You can’t say “This is what people want” unless you also say of routine life that “This is what people want,” as well. And, given that both statements are equally true, where is the dysfunction?

Even a very dramatic movie has a basis in normal life. Even normal life has scope for drama.

You can’t have one side of duct tape without having the other side as well. One side is smooth, the other sticky. Which is preferable? Which is even meaningful in the absence of the other?

  • And finally, for the moment, the most important question, and we can’t quite see why it isn’t obvious. When 3D players are living with full non-3D awareness (“as well,” not “instead of”!), all motivations will be different. The errors and offenses that take place because of one’s relative isolation will no longer occur. You won’t be the same people, you will be more. Can society fail to change in response? Or, to put it another way, can you name an equally effective way to transform society than to transform those it expresses?

Seems to me you packed a lot of information into our time. Thanks as always.

 

TGU on following our bliss, and on the virus and society

Sunday, April 4, 2021

4:40 a.m. So I posted a short piece telling how Papa’s Trial came to me – all at once – and then took nine years to be worked out in practice. That’s the 3D/non-3D predicament in a nutshell: Non-3D says, “Say, here’s a great idea, take care of it for us, will you?” and 3D groans and says, “You really don’t have any idea how hard it is to do anything down here, do you?”

But, I’m kidding and yet it is also more or less true. They provide the inspiration, we provide the perspiration, whether we’re talking about a work of art, or dealing with a life-situation that somebody decided would be productive even if challenging. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t a case of us spending a certain amount of time as non-3D gadflies (or coaches; pick how you want to see it), and at some point life says, “Oh, you think it’s so easy, do you? Here you try it for a while!” and off we go again.

What if life is an alternation of having bright ideas and then having to remember how it is to try to execute them, a sort of series of episodes of, “Here, hold my beer and watch this”? It would explain so much!

Seriously, though, I remember one Sunday afternoon in 1967 or ’68. I came down to the living room of the fraternity house I was living in, so pleased with myself. I had spent several hours wrestling with a term paper of some kind, for the hardest-marking history professor in the school, and finally I realized, all I really needed to do to make it come out right was move two paragraphs around. The time and efforts spent, the mental exercise involved in taking the raw material and fashioning it, the aesthetic pleasure when I knew I finally had it – it was so delightful, and if I am not mistaken, it was the first time I experienced that combination. Why did I not know immediately that this was the bliss that Joseph Campbell would later advise us to follow?

I suppose a closer look would reveal that indeed I did know it, and knew it in advance. Nothing that others did, be it tinkering with cars or playing sports or anything you could name, ever was more “me” doing what I do best than me manipulating words. Then it was only a matter of learning to have something to say. (Pretty big “only,” though!)

So, my friends, I get the feeling that the 20 minutes I just spent writing this hasn’t been merely self-indulgence, but has a wider application. True?

Nothing wrong with self-indulgence when it comes in the form of retrospection and introspection. In fact, in a way that is one of the main purposes (and one of the main satisfactions) of your lives in 3D, even if you do tend to cast the blame upon us.

Very funny, and it isn’t like you don’t deserve it. But seriously, I never had something come to me the way the idea for “Papa’s Trial” did, complete with beginning and ending scenes, and title. That by itself would have been enough to get my attention.

And yet that sort of thing happens often to you all, it’s just that you don’t so often recognize it.

No, can’t say we do.

That’s what “following your bliss” looks like close up. It doesn’t come with bells and whistles, as you sometimes say. In the first place, you take it as your own idea (and nothing wrong with that), and as the logical outcome of your own train of thoughts, or of a long-standing preoccupation.

Wilbur Wright and the cardboard box.

Exactly.

He was standing at the counter of his bicycle shop, talking to a customer, and in his hands he was holding an empty flexible light cardboard box that a tire tube (I think) had come in. Unthinkingly, his mind on the conversation, he was flexing it back and forth, each end now twisted up, now twisted down – and something went “Click!” and right there he had solved the problem he had been obsessing over for a good while: He had the wing-warping method of turning airplanes in flight. Because of the content of the conversation? No. Because the conversation was occupying his surface-mind, allowing the idea to connect with the deeper layers, to connect with the answer to the question he was continually pondering. The idea came to him via the unconscious motion of his hands, playing with the carton, but you can scarcely say it was the hands that solved the puzzle. Neither can you say it was a random physical motion that did it. It seems clear to me, it was the long mental preoccupation, plus the keeping the surface-mind out of the way, plus the non-3D part of his mind suggesting to him that he unconsciously make such movements, plus his receptivity to the spark that suddenly leaped the gap.

As we said, it happens more than you recognize, because only a few such incidents get recorded, like the scientist whose dream gave him the key to figuring out the structure of the benzene ring.

So I guess we’re not going to discuss the virus and society today, huh? Given that we have burned half an hour on this?

So you’re saying, “That would have been important; this was a waste of time.” You all do that all the time. But how do you know? Or rather, what makes you think you could ever know?

Like Gurdjieff saying maybe the doodling we do while talking on the phone turns out to be more important than the conversation.

Exactly. Not the product, either, necessarily. Sometimes it is the process. But in fact there is no reason we cannot segue to the other topic. It’s up to you, as much as anything. After all, you could choose to close the book and do something else.

Well, let’s talk about how the virus may be attacking our society’s weak points, which is where we paused yesterday.

It would be more careful if you said how society’s response to the virus attacks society’s weak points. The virus itself merely provides the opportunity for weaknesses (and strengths) to show themselves.

I am put in mind of young Jack Kennedy writing during the war that it seemed to him Americans operated best only when things were very easy or very rough, not so much in the middle.

He was perhaps describing something that he (and you) saw as an American trait, but that others might see as a characteristic of any heterogeneous society.

So you sign off on that?

It is a truth, yes. Not the truth, of course.

It doesn’t seem that our society has gotten any less heterogeneous since 1943.

But focus on the question at hand. That heterogeneous nature: How does it manifest in your society’s reaction to the challenge the virus is?

I can feel a couple of ideas stirring, but why don’t you save us time and energy with a series of bullet points?

We can try to do it that way, we’ll see. Here are a couple of fault lines that are obvious.

  • Belief or disbelief in science as an explanatory principle.
  • Or as an establishment that is or is not politically or economically corrupted.
  • Belief or disbelief in government as well-intended, transparent, and/or competent.
  • Belief or disbelief in life as making sense or life as being a meaningless chaos.
  • Gnawing fears as to whom to trust, what to trust.
  • Belief or disbelief in what sources of information may be believed as both knowledgeable and honest (i.e. not tendentious). This almost overlaps the previous point, but not entirely.
  • A sense or an absence of a sense of, “We’re all in this together.”

Now, none of this ought to be new to anyone, but it may be that it hasn’t occurred to you to consider these points not separately but together. Separately, each point may seem more like pathology than

That sentence was getting out of hand. I think you meant, we might look at certain positions in any of the bullets and think, “That’s crazy, how can they believe that?” but we’d be better off to see that all of the positions, taken together, can give us a better understanding of various people’s worldviews.

Yes. Thank you. Nobody is only his or her economic or political or ideological beliefs, nor are any of these unmixed with one’s beliefs about science, metaphysics, etc., even if one doesn’t realize that s/he has such beliefs. In fact, such beliefs are most powerful (and potentially most destructive) to the degree that they are unconscious, hence beyond the individual’s awareness.

I see the connection. The more homogenous the society, the narrower the spectrum of opinion.

Let’s say, the less range for widely shared extremes. We realize that sounds like saying the same thing. But you can see, perhaps, how difficult it is for your society to arrive at a meaningful consensus about diagnosis or response.

Yes. We’re inclined to blame other opinions on malice or ignorance, and there is no shortage of either quality.

There never is, but they don’t always wreak such havoc. That is the example of a weak spot that the virus situation is probing, and revealing. Don’t assume that just because a condition becomes obvious, that it is therefore dealt with. But we can say that if it does not become obvious, it cannot be dealt with.

We can only deal with whatever we are conscious of.

Well – you can only deal consciously with whatever you are conscious of. You’ll deal with unconscious content one way or another, but not consciously, and therefore probably not very well.

And there’s your hour.

Our thanks as always, and see you next time.

 

Papa’s Trial — the novel that announced its own coming

My favorite Hemingway photo. Would have used it on the cover it we could have figured out permissions.

I’d never had a novel announce itself in quite that way.

A long time ago (June 3, 2012), I was driving to my friend Nancy Ford’s house, which was a journey of about half an hour from doorstep to doorstep. Within \that time, suddenly the idea for a novel presented itself in a couple of jumps.

I even knew the title: “Papa’s Trial: Hemingway in the Afterlife.”

The spine of the story is simple enough. After Ernest Hemingway kills himself, he finds himself accused in an afterlife venue, one indictment after another. He is allowed a defense not only of his actions but of his thoughts, feelings and motivations.

The idea came complete with the scenes that would be prologue and epilog. All the rest would have to be figured out, but I knew that this would be only a matter of sitting down and doing the work.

It wasn’t without reason that this happened as I was driving to Nancy’s. For the previous few years, she had closely watched as I had become increasingly involved with Hemingway, reading his books, reading books about his life, talking to him in a series of conversations that I finally turned into a non-fiction book I called Afterlife Conversations with Hemingway. When I told her about the idea that had come to me, I said, “I’ve missed him,” and to my surprise I found myself all choked up, which told me something.

Of course it is one thing to have a great idea, and quite another to turn that idea into reality. So many angles to figure out! So many possible approaches to take! So many promising dead-ends to work my way out of. Does he have a lawyer, or a “friend” such as the British Navy provided accused officers in the 1700s, as described in the Hornblower novels? Would the trial closely resemble trials in the 3D, and if not, how would it differ? Would the charges be general or specific? If specific, would he confront his accusers, many of which would be still in the body? Should I draw up a bill of particulars? The novel would have to build to a climax. What would it be?

I asked, and Papa said, “It wouldn’t have to be the question itself, but what the impact on me was of all the questions, all the answers. The bursting forth from a lesser sense of self to a greater.”

I said, “An emotional climax for Papa?”

“Not necessarily, though that would help. An emotional and mental climax for the reader!

So then I began the process of writing. I tried this and that, retaining some things, eliminating others, and at a certain point giving up on that draft and beginning again. For a while I included abrasive interaction between the prosecutor and the defense attorney, but ultimately I decided it was disruptive and diversionary, and I took that out. But lots of times, the only way to find out if something would work was tor try it, only to see that indeed it wouldn’t. On the other hand, sometimes it would.

I can’t remember how many full drafts I wrote in the past nine years. Seven, anyway, and innumerable variants of each. Not that I spent all my time writing and re-writing Papa’s Trial. Long months would go by when I would leave it, unable to think how to proceed. But each period of rest would be followed by another period of activity, and I must say, I never enjoyed anything more in my life than the time I spent reliving Papa’s life, sometimes discussing it with him as I went along, creating and recreating confrontations, reconciliations, and sometimes renewed hostilities, as he dealt with the testimony of witness after witness. And because the story takes place in the afterlife, it gave me plenty of opportunity to discuss what our 3D and non-3D life is really all about.

So many tales to tell! So many tales he spent his life telling, retelling, reworking to suit his emotional needs. Some were true, some true but embellished, some false, some false but illustrative. Life in the Midwest, and slices of his life in France, Italy, Spain, Cuba – even several months in China just before we entered World War II. The process of creation, and the politics of getting his creations into print. Love and its endless complications. Fear and “afraid of nothing.” His religious feelings, so little suspected. His breadth of experience, encompassing opera, fiction, painting, sports fishing, hunting, war…

And what a cast of characters! His parents. His four wives. So many famous and not so famous people he knew. (Oddly, the story had no place for his children. I still wonder why it didn’t.)

Quite a story, and of course I couldn’t tell all of it, nor anything like all of it. But what I was able to tell ought to be an education for those whose knowledge of Hemingway is confined to the Hemingway Myth.

Finally, last year life kicked me in the tail when I learned that Ken Burns was going to do a special on Hemingway, so I took another look at it, polished it, shortened parts of it, and finally persuaded Chris Nelson’s SNN Publishing to get the book out. It is set to be published this month. So now we’ll see. I am hoping that at least a few of those who will be intrigued by the Burns/Novick special will be motivated to take a look at Hemingway’s life with an upbeat ending, after the ending we all know about.

As a teaser, here’s how Papa’s Trial begins.

Prologue: The End?

His 62nd birthday was approaching, and he didn’t want to be there to see it. He wasn’t Hemingway anymore, he was a frail old man. The doctors had him at 50 pounds under his fighting weight. He couldn’t fish, couldn’t hunt, couldn’t write. Couldn’t read. Couldn’t fuck or fight or do one damned thing he loved doing. He couldn’t even remember!

This was worth clinging to?

In the early morning he went downstairs, quietly. Mary wouldn’t thank him if he forced her to prevent it again. She had left the keys where he could get them.

He had the shotgun out of the case. He thought of his father, long dead, remembering how bitterly he had criticized the old man, and for how many years. “It took a while, dad,” he thought, “but I finally saw your point. Sometimes there just isn’t any going on.”

He had the shotgun loaded. Where to do it? Somewhere where she couldn’t help seeing it. “Take that, you bitch! You were hand in glove with them, you’ve whittled me down, you’ve got me where you wanted me, at least see the result.”

(Was that fair?  Was it Mary’s fault, really? He pushed aside the whisper of doubt, as he held off any thought of his sons, of anyone he had loved. The Hemingway they had loved was gone. This was just clearing away the debris.)

He pulled the triggers, expecting it to be the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TGU — and me — on the virus and warfare analogy

Saturday, April 3, 2021

4:50 a.m. As so often, I sit down to work feeling that I should know where we go next, yet don’t quite know. Here, for instance, I get that there’s a logical continuance to your argument about the virus and our civilization, but without re-reading the past few entries, I don’t know what it would be – and I get the sense that my reading them is not the thing to do. Sometimes it seems okay to, other times not. So I hope you have today’s lecture prepared, professors.

As it happens, we do, only it is not a prepared script, but an intention to wander through a certain territory. The exact path we travel depends upon where the interaction takes us, as usual.

As opposed to Seth’s way of working, say.

Everybody’s style is different, in non-3D as in 3D. What else would you expect?

I still sometimes slip into thinking of the non-3D as more homogenous, more undifferentiated.

Yes, just as we know everything, etc.

In any case —

The trend of our talk is that World War III, like its military predecessors, is out to transform society, and an analogy that comes to us is one you may not care for, at first blush, but may grow on you.

Yes, I feel it – and for what it’s worth, that’s exactly what happened within me, in a matter of seconds: First revulsion, then acceptance, then a sort of appreciation of the aptness of the analogy.

Remember that it is analogy, not literal description, but still it has its uses. So set it out for us and we will correct if need be.

Well, a virus attacks a body’s weaknesses, not its strengths. Just as a plague takes out the weakest, or a plant infection takes out the compromised plants, so this is a way of culling a society not in the way a war does – by taking the most vigorous – but

No, let me say that more carefully, because as I was writing it, it clarified on me.

Good. Continue.

In the first war, — well, how far back do you want me to go? Even starting at World War I is starting at the middle, in a sense, or rather, there isn’t any beginning to the process. You can always go back farther to show prior changes.

Begin with the conventions of 1914 and take them as given. As you say, you have to start somewhere. And remember, this isn’t a history lesson, it is an analogy. Oversimplify.

[Putting my stuff in Roman rather than italic, because most of what follows is from me, and Roman is easier to read than italic.]

Okay. In prewar 1914, war was understood to involve primarily combatants, not civilians. War always involved collateral damage, to property particularly, but civilians, though they might be liable to robbery, rape, imprisonment, etc., were not regarded as legitimate targets of warfare. For that matter, warfare at least in Western Europe was not expected to involve massive destruction of civilian property. Such things as churches, universities, etc. were just not legitimate targets of military activity. People had been working for decades to hedge warfare around with rules to civilize it, you might say. That’s one reason that the German invasion of Belgium was so incendiary. It wasn’t just that they invaded, it was how they invaded, because the German army, infuriated that the Belgians resisted rather allow them free passage, took to them with fire and sword. Photos of churches and libraries reduced to single standing walls shocked the world, and of course the Allied governments knew how to channel that shock into anti-German sentiment.

One thing led to another. Whereas in July 1914 [that is, before the war], everyone agreed to certain rules of warfare, by the time “peace” returned after November, 1918, all the rules had been destroyed or ignored. Entire civilian populations (beginning with the Belgians) were being starved. Artillery barrages were attacking cities. Taxicabs had been mobilized in one case, to move the French army to meet an emergency. [An example of the blurring of the lines between military and civilian.] Poison gas, unrestricted submarine warfare (which involved the sinking of civilian ships without prior warning and without allowing crews and passengers to save themselves in lifeboats) were blurring the lines between military and civilian. Within months of the declaration of war, the British were attempting to starve out the Germans by interdicting all seaborne commerce. Zeppelins bombed English cities without any pretense of seeking military targets; they were out to spread civilian terror if possible, thinking that then English, having been immune to invasion since 1066, might panic if they got a taste of warfare at home.

I’m sorry to go on at such length, but it’s hard to say even the barest bones of the change in a few words. The point is, the reason the people of the 1920s – the survivors of this massive social earthquake – were so demoralized, hysterical, rootless, was because they knew at an unconscious level and to a lesser extent at a semi-conscious level and to a still lesser extent at a conscious level, how mortal a blow the prewar world had suffered. Parenthetically, this is why Hemingway’s first books made such an immense impact, and, to a lesser degree, those of others like Remarque and dos Passos. The artists – the sensitive fingertips of human society – sensed and expressed something that neither they nor their public yet understood, but did feel.

The second war continued the process and made it even more brutal, moving from the destruction of Poland in two weeks to the deliberate and needless destruction of undefended Rotterdam by air raids, to the street-by-street destruction of Stalingrad and the 900-day starvation of Leningrad, to the air raids that destroyed Dresden and so many other cities, and on to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And I assure you, this is only the most superficial of glances at the continued downward spiral of brutality, that led all involved to do things by the end of the war that they would never have dreamed themselves capable of doing at the beginning.

But the point of our analogy —

Yes, I sort of buried it, didn’t I? The point is that at the beginning, war took the most physically fit, the soldiers and sailors and airmen, boys and young men in the prime of life. But as the war stretched on, not only did the combatants take older and older, and younger and younger – the war spilled over and took women, and children – even babies, who starved to death because of food blockades, or who were malnourished and stunted. It took old men, it took everybody, and it spared nothing by category. By 1945, it was clear that war itself had become the enemy of human existence. Some leaders – Eisenhower, Macmillan, Kennedy, even Khrushchev, finally – saw it more clearly, more quickly than others, but gradually it became clear to even the stupidest. (In 1963 the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that ended testing in the atmosphere, which had become routine, was very controversial. Who would advocate such testing today?)

Refocus, a bit. This is useful but still leaves the essence unsaid.

War can no longer be counted on to concentrate on the fittest; now it may be said to concentrate on the most defenseless. (That’s a half-truth at best, but I’m trying to get this out.) The virus may perhaps be carrying on where the warfare left off, attacking the most vulnerable.

No, that isn’t quite it. Let us take it from here. We couldn’t have produced this summary so easily; perhaps you couldn’t produce the prognosis.

[Reverting to TGU in Roman, me in itals]

Go ahead, it’ll be a pleasure to merely write.

As if you ever confined yourself to that! But here it is. Just as a medical virus is most deadly among those with the most compromised immune systems, so a social virus attacks a society’s weakest points, not its strengths Or rather, so a broad unfocused attack is most destructive to the weak points, not the strong points. And that’s what you’re seeing, as we will explain next time.

I feel like I got carried away, but even what I did say didn’t scratch the surface.

No, it’s fine. People need the perspective, and they aren’t going to spend years acquiring it. A few pages won’t overwhelm anybody, and remember, these are words used as sparks, not as building blocks. You will have set some people to seeing things in a new way, and you’ll never know who, nor is there any reason that you need to know.

Okay, well, I feel like this time you should be telling me, “Thanks for all this.” 🙂  Till next time.

 

TGU on our social transformation

Friday, April 2, 2021

2:40 a.m. Shall we continue on the subject of the virus and society, or do you wish to go on to something else?

In your conversation yesterday you said, rightly, that any social transformation, well-intended or not, well-aimed or not, is necessarily trivial compared to the transformation we are discussing.

I didn’t put it quite that way, I think, but that is true enough.

Recall your conversation with Skip Atwater.

Skip asked – this must have been 20 years ago, when I did my ten sessions in the black box – “What is the next stage in human development?” He may have used other words, but that was the gist of it. And I – you – responded that it would be all people walking around in their 3D lives while remembering that they were connected.

Recalibration, please.

All right. It would be us living our lives in active connection with the non-3D part of ourselves; in active communication all the time, as a routine part of our lives, taken for granted. “Here” and “there” both, all the time.

And the process of making that transition is what Bob Monroe said The Gathering is watching. And you will remember that he said that everyone alive was there because they wanted to be on the playing field instead of sitting in the stands.

I do remember. And that was nearly 30 years ago, because it had to have been either December, 1992, or March, 1993.

Yes, a long time in terms of human lifespan; perhaps not quite so long in terms of the age of the universe.

Very funny. It seems long enough ago, for sure.

Our point is that a little shift in historical perspective is in order. That is, things that began 100 years ago are not ancient history, of no relevance to your present day, merely because a century has passed. A major transformation takes place over time. It is the passage of time that allows for it to occur in a way other than catastrophe.

I get a picture, there, of geologic strata slipping by each other gradually rather than in a sudden earthquake.

Exactly. The amount of energy used and released is experienced quite differently if it is released over a long time or all at once or over an intermediate time. Even as it is, the shocks of the two world wars have not ceased producing aftershocks. Time, geography, culture – many variables determine how long it takes for any given band of humans to get the memo. There are tribes in the jungles of remote Pacific islands whose lives were unaffected by either world war, or by the developments that followed them – until one day they were affected, and their lives were never the same thereafter. That had nothing to do with their understanding what had happened, and had nothing to do with anyone’s intentions. It just happened as things unrolled.

I remember seeing Jack Paar’s short film showing the cargo cults in the Pacific islands. The natives had been living their lives. Suddenly they were surrounded by men and machines which, in passing, gave the natives a glimpse of a new world. Perhaps they got iron or steel tools, I don’t remember. But what I do remember is that the men left as suddenly and inexplicably as they had arrived, and some of the natives, in hope of getting them to return, constructed “airplanes” of wood – that is, they made up things that from the air are clearly meant to be taken for airplanes. The special must have aired in the early 1960s, nearly 20 years after the end of that war. One wonders how much longer the cargo cults continued, and what ultimately happened to those tribes. I suppose I could look it up on the internet. But this ought to illustrate your point.

Those natives were connected to their own non-3D components, remember. They, like you, did things for reasons they didn’t necessarily understand. And they, like you, comprised many strands putting them into resonance with many “past lives.” They weren’t as simple, as undivided, as you (and they) may have thought them.

You are implying that the non-3D isn’t racially segregated.

You smile, but we suggest that it will come as a new thought to some, that “ignorant” natives are themselves connected to sources of wisdom and experience as deep as your own. And this provides an opportunity to make a point that is equally obscure:

Just as your own “Upstairs” component is different from others, so others are different from you. Sounds like the same thing said twice, doesn’t it? But psychologically, it isn’t.

I think I get that. We expect our own mental world to be private and special, but we don’t always remember that so is everybody else’s, to them.

That could be – should be – stated more carefully.

I know, recalibrate. [Melodramatic sigh. J]

I suppose we could put it this way. We know (rightly or wrongly, but we’re pretty sure of it) that our social superiors underestimate the richness of our lives, from sheer failure of imagination. We are less likely to realize that we do the same to our social inferiors, for the same reason, because those on the underside of any social relationship see the power relationships more clearly.

And in order to forestall later misinterpretation, you may want to spell out your attitude toward social distinctions, for you have never done so.

Never is a long time, but perhaps I haven’t.

Well, it has always seemed to me that there is a

This really will take recalibration, to get myself fully in focus. It’s hard to express what you have never before put into words, especially given my awareness of how easily the words are misheard.

There is the individual and there is the individual in society. To oneself, everyone is equal, not as an easy abstraction or as a political statement, but as a simple expression of fact. Each individual is unique, not a better or worse copy of some master template. Each person is a window on the 3D world, a uniquely constructed amalgam of mostly invisible influences: strands, “past lives,” genetic inheritance, etc., etc. The nature of this window is necessarily mostly unknown to the other windows s/he lives among. We are all mysteries to one another. At best, we get glimpses, and even these glimpses may have more to do with what the other mirrors for ourself than with the other’s intrinsic nature and quality.

But as soon as you put these individuals into relationship with one another, comparison begins, a vast sorting-out process to see who has status and who doesn’t; who lives “at the center of things” and who is in the sticks; who has been given “the advantages” and who has not. Et cetera, et tiresome cetera. This aspect of our live is endless high school.

The same individual! But two very different pictures of life.

Yes, now carry that understanding to those South Pacific natives. In themselves they are unique windows, just as you said. Seen through the eyes of society (and “which society” would be an interesting question to pursue sometime), they are backwaters, or perhaps “noble savages,” or whatever the society wishes to project upon them.

When everybody lives connected, this bifurcation with transform!

Yes. I see it. The differences will remain, but not the psychological isolation.

Exactly. Your Park Avenue matron, your middle-class farm family, your slum dweller – and, rather more ambitiously, your Polynesian, your African, your Asian, your European and your North and South American avatars will come into closer connection, as has been happening for the past several hundred years, only now at a different level.

That’s very interesting. I hadn’t moved to that latest thought.

But speak of empires.

I have long thought that the meta-purpose of the European empires, unsuspected by anyone involved, was to become the glue connecting the world. The empires came, flourished, withered and died, but the interconnection of societies that they fostered remains, and continues. The West was the universal solvent, so to speak.

And, you see, the process continues at a new level or intensity, and, like what you call the meta-purpose of the empires, largely unsuspected.

And enough for one session.

Our thanks as always. Very interesting. Who else would connect Jack Paar and Bob Monroe?

 

TGU on the virus and society – 4

Thursday, April 1, 2021

4:35 a.m. Let’s try, anyway.

You are familiar with the social effects of the Black Death upon Western European society. [I had to look it up: Mid 1300s.]

I am slightly. The only thing I real know about it is that losing such a large percentage of their population in England and France (don’t know about elsewhere) had the effect of elevating the condition of the poor somewhat, because with labor in greater demand they had some bargaining power. But whether what I “know” is actually true, I can’t say.

The Black Death was one of those transformative events that were, in effect, a world war by society’s larger non-3D beings against existing conditions. But note, we said “in effect.” It isn’t that the abstraction “society” had a specific “higher being” that went to war against society’s 3D underpinnings.

No, not literally. Still, as if.

Change is continuously called for, and when blocked for too long it will be effected in exceptional ways rather than [only] normal ones. Really, of course, catastrophes and natural processes occur side by side, but the one is evident and the other less so.

I am having to restrain myself from following the impulse to guess what you are going to name as our society’s choke points and their origins. I don’t imagine that my shorthand description of specific causes is much more than scapegoating.

Excellent. Very well done indeed. To hold convictions while criticizing them is not unheard of. But to hold strong convictions recognizing that they are nonetheless almost certainly inadequate is much rarer. Yet this is nearly always the true condition: Your explanations are rarely very accurate except at the most superficial level. How could they be?

Because we never have the data?

That, but more because you rarely have the deeper perspective that allows you to soar over the landscape rather than be tied to the data. A small example is the way people ascribe importance to irrelevant or at best secondary factors because they do not suspect the deeper factors’ existence, as in your example of technological necessities driving increased regulation.

So people are conservative or liberal and cherry-pick facts to support their stance.

At an unconscious level, yes, and in advance. Nor is this the only spectrum of political opinion, though many may not get beyond it. Other lines cut across this spectrum at other angles, and thus people’s attitudes within each spectrum differ.

Violence / non-violence. Revolutionary / evolutionary. Mystical / materialist.

And many others, yes. Now notice, bias doesn’t mean you can’t form valid opinions and can’t see reality in a form no more distorted than any other way of seeing it. It merely means, “Here is your starting point.”

[6 a.m. Continuing after an interruption.]

So when we look at the shortcomings in your society, we are unlikely to look only to the relatively superficial flaws you all see. Instead we, having a longer view and a broader understanding, look to deeper causes.

Calling us shallow, eh? I admit it. Guilty, your honor.

It is a matter of available RAM, as much as anything. How many years can you study? How many interconnected subjects can you study? How much first-hand experience can you gather, in a given lifetime?

JFK traveled all around the world, and was always reading, and had privileged access into the lives of the powerful of his day, and still it is easy to see how many things his life did not bring him into contact with, neither at first hand nor at second hand. So he was one of the most well-informed leaders of his time, and still it is plain how much more he needed to know, and didn’t. And this from a man who never stopped learning.

As we say, a matter of available RAM. You will remember that Carl Jung compared the unconscious mind (as he thought of it) to an infinitely wise individual who had lived forever, accumulating wisdom and experience forever, and never stopped learning. How would the 3D portion of a 3D being hope to compete with this? A better plan is to cooperate, rather than compete. We can know; you can act.

“Act’ in this case extending to the act of choosing who and what we want to be.

Of course. That is your primary action, not accumulation of honors or resources or achievements. Note, we don’t say “only,” we say “primary.”

Now, if you concede that we see better, know better, than you, and you agree that you in 3D are uniquely positioned to function in a way that changes who you are not merely during 3D life; not even primarily, but who you and your non-3D component together are, what you represent, you can see perhaps how inefficient it is for 3D and non-3D to work at odds with one another.

However –

Yes, I was hearing the “however” too.

However, life may require that 3D life proceed as if in isolation. Your society has been passing through that phase for some time now. What is a materialistic society but a mechanism proceeding without a pilot? Yet it may offer useful conditions for a while, possibly for some while.

I take that to mean, there is something to be gained by leaving up a structure that sees the world as only what can be measured, that sees meaning only in those things that proceed from such a truncated view of what we are.

Any and every attitude is grist for our mill, you know. Who is as ardent an advocate of unity as a reformed separatist? (This is not the primary reason for continuing such societies, of course.)

So unless I am mistaken, you are about to tell us that “World War III” is to help free us from the materialist nightmare that had so complete a grip on at least Western society in 1914.

Recalibrate and try that again.

Okay.

It’s more like “World War III” continues the process that 1914 so spectacularly initiated. And it is the spectacular side; the mundane changes have been continuing and accumulating their impact all along.

That’s better. This is not a “one-off” and it stands in a lineage, it is not an isolated event.

So it might be said that if we had taken different paths, the virus might not have happened?

Surely that is self-evident, unless you semi-consciously believe that things sometimes occur “at random,” as the charming phrase has it.

It makes it seem like a punishment.

Of course it does, to those inclined to see the world that way. But they could just as easily see it as the result of invisible laws  of nature. Drop a 10-pound iron on your foot and it is not punishment operating, it is the law of gravity. Well, that and your not moving your foot in time.

Move your foot in time, would be our advice.

I think we might have done better if not for my physical problems this morning, but – we could have done worse, too.

Or could have not done it at all. We wish you well as always, and we will see you when it is possible.

Okay. Our thanks to you, of course.