I discovered the cave painting quality of early Hemingway short stories. Truth and beauty. The historical packing up of a saw mill town, Horton's Bay, Nick coming upon the old site faded into the ground with his girlfriend during a fishing trip in the story "The End of Something." The prose was a thing of higher consciousness, presence in the moment. Whereas before in DeMott's classroom of English 11 we had been readers, strenuous, bringing the moments of a poem to life, here was a deepening, along with the witness of a deeper reading being done upon life by Hemingway. The artist going beyond the surface, beyond every day reality, making textual connections.
The story starts as the final loading up of the saw mill upon a departing boat, and it ends with Nick having broken up with his girlfriend, asking a buddy who drops by to leave him alone.
My paper was late by more than a week. I got a C minus, and not a single comment on the paper upon its return. Even as I had contributed to the classroom discussions.
I looked for the terms to put my experience in, and they were outside the bounds of what the professional academy wanted from me. But I had noticed something, and I was stubborn about it, continuing with my ways of studying the literary text, taking too long. And here was the material for my thesis which never was, taking up the process in the last works of Hemingway, as made sense to me for bringing home the concept of higher meaning. I handed in, finally, a related paper in my very last class (to the man closest to a mentor) attempting to explain Hemingway's personal understanding and high consciousness of the experience of self, the comparison of the old fisherman and the old writer going back to cover the bullfights the last time. Texts I found interesting. The alignment was too curious a thing to pass up. A coincidence of fiction with reality.
And still, not much a single grade of any good kind, not a single approbation, except a nod from a Classics professor I'd slipped the paper in with his own class' final paper assignment, but then again, some real understanding from another mentor as I tried to tease out the conversation.
But the society and the prevailing cultural trends down to the minutia can be discouraging. Lacking imagination, obeying rules.
The brutal examples go back to taking the inner symbol of the caduceus, the rising chakras, the inner cross and halo, turned into the Roman's convenient style of execution, Peter crucified upside-down. As if to say to a prisoner, oh, you're so smart, well, think about this. The symbol, of the cross, though, having been transformed back to an inner meaning somehow tangible to the species on the gut level, stuck, gaining a power of its own, 'til it too was accepted.
The artist, seeking truth and beauty, and higher consciousness, has to constantly endure that tension, with fitting into the edge of a society which has no cultural interest in acknowledging his critique, his upbraiding, his example, his teaching, as it preserves itself, replicates its messages on a daily basis in a pervavsive way, preaching its logical common sense logic, having created a language of terms to match its message. The artist has no option but to retreat within, to find peace and vision, and then, if he has some luck, to come back with it as best as can be put into the form of words or other art.
Convention will generally want you to behave, to fit in: if you're an artist, replicate yourself as what we know an artist to look like and act like already.
The artist himself will wish to fit in. To say, I'd like to fit in, but really I am unable to, is another expression of a deeper truth, like unto the phrase speaking of the savor of the salt of the earth.
Out for a late dinner I drink wine, later have difficulties falling asleep, wake up with the familiar down feeling, as if having lost a train of thought. Leaving me to wonder if wine is abused, sanctioned as the socially acceptable drug, but missing the mark, dulling 'the infinitely gentle infinitely suffering thing' with its 'vision of the street as the street hardly understands,' in ultimately a greater state of loneliness. That we drink it to fit in with society might be a clue, though that is certainly not the only reason why, the definite medicinal quality of it.
Washington, the town of political ideology, and its unimaginative drug of choice... its way of using that drug, again, with convention, with corporate and tax collector stamp of approval. Something intrinsically unconventional, mind-opening.
The thing comes for the artist to not avoid awkwardness, to not avoid the state of being outside of facets of prevailing cultural trends, but to gain, to find deeper awareness, to explore what it might be like to be the outsider, off in the desert.
The artist must engage his own mind, converse with it.
One grows more convinced that the shamanic tradition and practice, which could be similar to the way Larkin finds his words and lines, of the way MacGowan's mind wanders a city, is the satisfying thing. That, to me, is the way to make use of a spirit, to use it as a vehicle for creativity, a very personal matter, the exploration of a very personal territory, one which takes bravery to explore.
I wished, after a shift we would all hang around, break out the milk crates, pull out a musical instrument or two. Everyone was bound to go their separate ways, irritated for not being paid overtime, working up to the brink. Then we could have sung and exchanged jokes in a healthy way.
I sometimes think that the drink is misused in conventional society. To me it's a drug to be taken alone, as oft as not, though of course it starts in the social realm. But I don't even like to go out and drink, seems to blur and miss the point.
Ay, Horatio, but there is something of thy science.
Tis conventional, I mean to say, the act of. Rather not to ingest it as with weeds and barks of the shaman, for betterment, to think our way out of this, as you say, congregation, sir.
I shall repeat thy lines, they gave me these glasses at the mental hospital, so I could see better.
That was a funny of mine, my liege. Where I came-est up with it, I do not know.
Came-est up with that, I have came-est up with that, aye sir. Ha ha.
Wouldes't we be getting up to thy Good Guys, up on Wisconsin Avenue? Each Denmark hath such a house.
Back to your science, Horatio. Horation.
So do I contact MacGowan, through the playing of him, as he's not here to do it himself, wish that much I would. Most excellent to have him here at any moment, really. Along with George Harrison.
It's the convention, it's always the convention and the conventional thinker. They are the ones who make it hard and unhappy. They don't grasp the positive element, the real studious effort that is happening when you explore the psyche, through wine or weed or walk in nature. Your attempt is of understanding, in an honest way, perception.
Literature, I suppose, is a jump, inherently, against verbal convention. It invites havoc, imagination, counter-culture. Inherently is it a different step from a programed routine of consciousness as allowed by society, as regulated and taxed, its time accounted for. That is one reason why writers always have problems paying the bills. As if the most acceptable form of writing is that which can be bribed, for not going far enough, let's stop it there, with a few exceptions.