Conversations August 24, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

6:30 AM. Open for business — if somewhat later than usual. Our spiritual heredity?

The temptation here will be to retreat into cliché or evasive generality, which we suggest is what Rita Warren experienced in questioning people in the black box. But they had only a short time to concentrate; it is natural.

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Conversations July 4 2010

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4 AM. Going to bed ever earlier, anticipating this exchange, and getting up earlier as well. I’ll lap the day if I’m not careful.

So we’re a long way before daylight, and the fruit stand is open early. Who and why?

Nothing. All right, let’s talk, papa. What is the rule, here? Sometimes I can scarcely get a word in and somebody’s off and running. Other times, as now, there’s a blankness, a waiting for me to decide what to broach.

Your question contains your answer. That is what’s going on, a gradual transfer of the initiative. And that’s worth a few words.

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Conversations June 20, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

4:45 AM. So, Papa, let me pose the question this way. I am more and more inclined to see your essence as a model — not the only model, but one model — of a complete man, intellectually, physically vigorous. Yet there is the negative evidence, your mental problems, for example. Your inability to get beyond certain fixed ideas — “my mother is a bitch; my father was a coward” — regardless of the facts. I can’t quite phrase my question because I can’t quite grasp it. I’m hoping you can take it and run with it. For all I know, you — or someone but probably you — are suggesting it, in the first place.

No, not Ernest, not at this moment.

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Perennial desire

“My desire for knowledge is intermittent; but my desire to commune with the spirit of the universe, to be intoxicated even with the fumes, call it, of that divine nectar, to bear my head through atmospheres and over heights unknown to my feet, is perennial and constant.”

Thoreau, February 1851 (age 34)

So You Think Your Life Was Wasted (19)

Henry Thoreau’s words and example deeply influenced  my life since I first read Walden at age 24 and wound up writing my M.A. thesis on his early social views in the light of his personal religion. This is a man! And his stalwart, straightforward life is such an example of virtues lived that an earlier age would have named him as a saint. (That is, as a person whose life displayed virtues worthy of emulation.) I never thought, in that long ago, that  I’d be able to talk to him.

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Simple reassurance

My friend Emerson lends reassurance across the years, via Emphatically Emerson, page 174. Writing in 1848, he says:

“Happy is he who looks only into his work to know if it will succeed, never into the times or public opinion; and who writes from the love of imparting certain thoughts and not from the necessity of sale — who writes always to the unknown friend.”
It could have been written this day, expressly for me, the writer of books that few buy but some treasure — or for you, regardless whether you write or blog or speak and regardless whether you have an audience.
Or, to paraphrase Henry Thoreau, write not the times; write the eternities.

Too much news

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.”

Wordsworth wrote that 200 years ago, before telegraph, telephone, radio, television, or fax machines, let alone PCs, internet and PDAs. He should see us now!

I awoke this morning dissatisfied, aware that once again I had allowed myself to shallow out, aiming my attention outward rather than inward, toward ephemeral things rather than enduring ones. Or, as Henry Thoreau puts it in “Life Without Principle”:

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