Sunday, August 10, 2014

The early stories of EH depict it, setting up camp, preparing food and coffee, the overall techniques of fishing.  Through them shows the issues of self-trust, the showing of knowing how to do something properly.  For an artist, an important issue.  "Can I leave the important tasks of basic feeding and caring for the creature to myself?  Can I trust my own senses, instincts, practicality, common sense, to live in good health?"

Okay.  Might not seem a big issue for you.  But for an artist, fine-tuning and even the basic choices are important, the trust of knowing what to go on, shepherding, following a process understood at a far more intuitive level than is put in common words.  There is self-trust, enjoyed in the mode.  But there are other voices, like a stern practical older sibling, always asking, "do you know what you are doing?' or "what are you doing?"  There are even parts of the artist's own brain and mind:  "Well, you messed X up, and Y up, and Agnes Von Kurowsky, and Z, so how can you trust yourself over this?"

The simple tasks are reassuring, grounding, a return to home where things are basic and taken care of.  And so Nick Adams opens a can of beans, makes pancakes, to enjoy a moment of satisfaction an artist might otherwise not be so certain of.

A Ken Burns documentary reveals how agonized Samuel Clemens would be over his choices, taking what were decisions of self-trust and making them the cosmic responsibility over life's tragedies, the death of a daughter to meningitis.  Revealed, how me might have thought about his work.  Arthur Miller comments on how Twain wrote as a depressive would write.  There is also the frequent self-questioning at the writer's core, the child questioning, making note of how his father dries his hair off vigorously with a towel after a bath.  That perhaps childish activity perhaps does not fit so well into the adult world, make a choice based on what you want, stand by it, stand up for it.  (There is the exquisite noticing of James Agee, in A Death in the Family, the father's shaving;  same in his share-cropper life piece.)  In self-conflicted moments, in a kind of bind, it's easy to freeze, sadly enough.  And this is why the relief a writer's friends bring him is a gift.

It's not by coincidence that Hamlet is an excessive noticing observer, a constant troubled self-questioner, either going through reality or imagining it all, never able to ground himself self-confidently until the final scene, which is one of action.  The other figure who stands out, Hamlet's father the king, in ghostly form, has been consigned to a place where he must redeem himself, "fasting in fires" 'til his horrible deeds and sins are purged away.  The meeting, the combining of the two is central to the play.  It's no coincidence that the dramatist writer spokesman is a nascent statesman, who will one day potentially bear the horrible decisions one has to make in such a role of power.  But that will be only when the young prince outgrows the diversions of Falstaffs, for then he will boldly fight and be willing to spill blood for common cause.  I can see how a room of instant friends of the bar might be a diversion, to take one's mind off of things, but of course it's better to be doing something healthy, along the lines of yoga and exercise, to find the strength within.

Driving back with my mother, a nervous passenger, herself a very good writer, down Route 81, through the truckers in the mountains, through the long gauntlet of Scranton Wilkes-Barre, approaching Harrisburg I found myself commenting on choices the writer's I knew had made.  (The road offers a glimpse into the psyche.)  They might well have been odd ones, inexplicable ones, seemingly immoral ones, Kerouac allowing his mother to work in a shoe factory while he, not working a job, wrote, or maybe the list of odd jobs he had kept in the years as a writer matured within him, (the final product being an attempt to show that through the work one wasn't such an idiot after all, despite all the risks.)  As anything that comes through the mind, the specifics I've forgotten.  My mother said to me, as we merged from one highway onto another, something like, "write that down;  write that down and that will make a book."

The Buddha held that knowledge, whatever we learn, is a process of remembering, of discovering what we already know within.

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