Sunday, March 11, 2018
[A session that came in sort of sideways, and then went on far longer than usual.]
5:10 a.m. EDT. A dream. He is at his desk. His superior comes by. He realizes he can’t do his job any more, at least he’s afraid that’s true, and is pretty sure it is. He tells her he is getting things ready in his mind, because he doesn’t want to jump in prematurely, as he used to do when younger. She accepts that – at least apparently, but maybe really, too – and leaves him alone. But he is in white-hot panic.
Preview of coming attractions? Flashback to earlier days? Analogy to Hemingway’s last years? All of the above?
I never had the confidence I would have needed, to accomplish what I was nonetheless impelled to attempt. And then I not only didn’t have the confidence, but was discouraged by the feedback as well, and did not have the confidence I would have needed to press on regardless. I needed John Nelson’s brashness, or Michael Langevin’s, or Bob Friedman’s calmly implacable purpose, and instead I had – what? A perpetual feeling for what might be the way?
[Unexpectedly, for basically I had been writing to myself:] Don’t be so hard on yourself.
And within I had a traitor as well, someone always saying, “You can’t, you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t have, you don’t deserve it, you aren’t worthy.”
Maybe everyone has such angels, and maybe everyone has to decide whether to listen to them.
Maybe so. It didn’t make my life any easier, nor any more productive, to not know what to do.
Maybe nobody knows.
That isn’t how it looks.
Look at how some people look at your life. To them it appears a miracle of good fortune, natural gifts, luck possibly unmerited. Just as you have thought of the lives of others.
So, what? It’s just a trick of perspective, how I’m feeling?
It is a feeling, one that may be overcome by doing the work you can do, while you can do it, rather than being overwhelmed with sorrow that you did not do what maybe you could have done and maybe you could not have done.
Which leaves you happier, doing what you can, or lamenting what you cannot?
Am I supposed to put this out in public, as well?
Nobody can force you to do so.
That isn’t what I asked.
Everybody has his own path, or non-path, and breaks trail in his own way, shaping his life in the process. But it’s more about breaking the trail than about getting to the destination, for there is no destination, ultimately, only traveling.
I’ll think about it. Meanwhile, shall we continue?
That is just what we have been doing here. If we are going to produce something of use to people, it can only be something that takes all the high-flying speculation and marries it to the slogging through the mud that is, so often, a human life. Conflicts, emotional overwhelms, depression, despair, hatred – all the expression within a life of forces beyond control – it is real, is it not? It is to be explained. It is to be placed into context. You don’t want – we don’t want! – one more representation of human life as if you were calculating machines (homo economicus) or reasoning beings, or ideologically determined ones, or pawns in the hands of God or the devil. Neither [descriptive] extreme is helpful. Only both extremes of any range, all extremes of all ranges, if it could be done, will help anybody face and transmute his own private despair.
Is everyone in despair, then?
It is not a question of everyone, nor of all the time. It is a question of helping those who can be helped, when they need the help.
Of course, I see that. And I read years ago that greatness consists not of being at one extreme or its opposite, but of touching both extremes at once.
Isn’t that what your heroes have in common? Hemingway particularly?
I have had many heroes over the years, and I notice that they have changed. That is, the qualities I value most – as embodied in individual lives – have changed within me, so that the heroes of one time become merely estimable men.
Hero-worship is a useful and a limiting tool, both.
Would it be worthwhile for me to read Carlyle on hero-worship?
You aren’t likely to get as much out of it as you might have gotten if you were reading it 150 years ago.
“No vale la pena.” [Not worth the effort.] Probably not, but how hard would it be to get it out of Alderman [library] and look?
Only, as we say, probably not worth your time. To return to the point: Examination of your life (one’s own life, we mean) may be done at any of several levels, and the more levels, and the more in relation one to another, the more productive the insights. Only, no one can understand one’s own life without feeling it.
And as it said in the movie [Ordinary People], feelings don’t always tickle.
No indeed. But feelings alone, examination of events and motivations alone, treating your life as if it were lived in isolation – as one usually does – produces a curious weightless distortion, leaving the picture floating in air.
I’d better go start the coffee. I get the sense that although we’ve been going more than half an hour, the most important part is about to begin.
Not more important than what has preceded. Instead, an important amplification that may, true, benefit from your own particular kind of chemical assistance, coffee.
Fortunately, only a matter of pressing a button, today. I don’t always have it ready to go from the night before, but I did this time.
Observe, though, how your mood lightened as you had the prospect of productive work. It is meaninglessness and drift that make people’s lives torment, and isn’t that precisely what we have been trying to help you dispel [in others]? And by the way it is very important that you not let them put you on a pedestal (thus creating a very convenient gap which they can use to excuse themselves from making their own efforts) if only by omission.
I understand that. Nonetheless, not everything is anyone else’s business, let alone everyone’s.
No, but the fact that dirty laundry exists is all that’s needed. Everybody will have their own secrets, their own shortcomings, regrets, shames, embarrassments to conceal. They’ll understand very well, and, you’re right, the specific contents of anyone else’s skeletons in the closet is nobody else’s business.
And we are 45 minutes in, but on the other hand the coffee is at hand. So, we may proceed for some time if you need to.
I do. I don’t know why I don’t spend all my time creating, either this way or another.
But you no longer have the energy you did when you were young. It is an inevitable process, so it becomes a matter of using what you have, in the light of your experiences, to do so more efficiently. The results may be more or less the same, for quite a while.
“Old age and treachery can defeat youth and skill,” they say in tennis.
A better analogy would not involve competition with others, nor even with oneself, but would express how the compensating knowledge and wisdom of age may keep up with, and often outdo, the sheer energy and impetus of youth.
As we were saying, your lives may be examined as if in a vacuum, and, indeed, often are. Or they may be examined in the light of the times they were lived in – a “life and times of” book of someone famous. Or, they may be examined from inside – autobiography – or from outside – biography—or, very rarely, from a spiritual perspective. Even the words “spiritual perspective” scarcely mean anything to your time.
No, it sounds like The Lives of the Saints.
Now, this is a slight digression, but a relevant one, perhaps. Tell of Adomnan’s life of Columba.
Yes, I had that in mind during that last paragraph. I bought it when I was on Iona, 15 years ago, and I like it very much, but it struck me how different it is to the way any biography would be written today, or even, almost could be written today. The things that scholars value so much as facts don’t interest Adomnan at all. When Columba was born, where, the name of his dentist (so to speak), the family tree, the record of his life chronology – none of that interests Adomnan. What does interest him is to show why Columba was held in such high regard; what qualities he possessed and how they manifested. The physical facts that enter the narrative are wholly subsumed in that purpose. And what we are left with, I recognized very well. It was a straight recounting of what might, I see, be called “the spiritual facts,” if the phrase be properly understood.
You should say a little more.
My own experiences, and those of my friends, especially those centering around our Monroe Institute experiences, if only because those combine community with specific group and individual endeavors understood within a common context. What specifically happens is often less important than what it indicates, what it illustrates or hints at or provides feedback to or encouragement for. And I think that’s what I find so simpatico in the viewpoint I read into the life Adomnan wrote. He sees the way I do, although his is firmly Christian in a seventh-century way that is not available 14 centuries later.
All right. Now, take a moment to gather your strength, and center, and we’ll see how far we got.
Okay. We have over ten pages – and our 65 minutes – already. But I take it that you have something specific in mind. [Pause.]
To examine what is called the spiritual heritage of mankind is not without its value, and may be done in any of various moods and methods. In-depth examination of any one religion’s scripts and traditions will lead in one direction. Comparative reading and study among many will lead in a different direction. Skimming or deep immersion, in either case, will, similarly, lead in different directions. Learning in any of these ways, and then actively relating them to one or more philosophies or disciplines, similarly, will lead in various directions. Will Durant leads one way, Carl Jung another, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and Emerson each in his own direction.
Of course, nothing worth doing is ever done in the spirit of imitation. Of emulation, yes, but not of imitation. You see the distinction?
Yes. Imitation tries to be someone else. Emulation tries to live up to the best in someone else.
Yes, I’m a little surprised myself. I didn’t know that until I said it. You’d think I was in contact with somebody smart.
Probably you’re just making it up.
Clearly. So –
So in your day (well, actually in the days to come that you will not live long to see, but you have to begin somewhere, sometime) you will need to emulate, not be forever imitating. Thus, new ways of seeing will produce a new [type of] history, a new biography, a new spiritual memoir, that will not have existed because they could not have been created out of the conscious vision of the world that is passing away. Only, don’t expect the Age of Aquarius to manifest in full bloom in the next 20 minutes.
We are not here talking about a project for you nor your friends; we are talking about how you may reshape the boundaries and possibilities of your lives by absorbing this material and transmuting it into whatever it is that you, yourself, living where and when and how you do, produce when you incorporate your own being into it.
That will sound a little backwards, inserting ourselves into the understanding.
Seem, perhaps, but not be. It is said correctly, and the work needed to rearrange your minds to absorb it is work that will make it yours.
Now. There is a problem. Over 25 years, you have been led from the more commonly accepted view of things (even though your view may have been unusual, it was well within the common stream) into something actually new even though seemingly an echo of other things that have been said here, there, elsewhere. It is too much to expect others to retrace that path, set out in how many books?
I don’t know. Muddy Tracks, Chasing Smallwood, Sphere and Hologram, Rita’s World, A Place to Stand, Awakening from the 3D World – six or seven, anyway.
Nobody is going to go about living your life again, so it would be as well to produce another precis.
And that can’t be done this way? Is that what I get?
We’ve been telling you right alone. But here is what we’re adding now: To write a book is to fix your understanding in time, and so the objective becomes to render each previous book obsolete or anyway out of date; otherwise you only imitate yourself. The previous books remain as stepping stones, but perhaps ultimately they will be of little importance except – big “except,” however! – to show others a way that the pathless path may be walked, in hope of encouraging them to do their own journeying in their own manner.
So now that you are aware that we intend to weave your lives-stories [i.e. life story, but plural, as it applies to all of us, not just one of us] into the larger story of life lives among the vast impersonal forces of the universe, you see two things perhaps. One, you must be willing to give up an unpredictable part of what you believe and understand and think you know; two, you must live your lives as bridges from what you were to what you are becoming, even while realizing that you are what you are; you express what you express, which is a very different thing.
And after an hour and a half, that is enough for the moment.
And almost 15 pages to transcribe. I hope the steno pool is available.
Well, you have coffee, don’t you.
Smiling. Next time, then. Thanks for a very helpful session.