(Judge ever so cross. Was hoping for a guilty and wrap up. Court Reporter)
JUDGE Involution-Odyssey. The Defendent Involution-An Odyssey has been cleared by a majority verdict on the first Charge.
The Trial addresses the Second Charge Against the Book
The Second Charge
That you Odyssey acted without deliberation, or discernment in harnessing the Author to a lifelong service and made promises of reward that you have not fulfilled. How do you plead?
BOOK. Not guilty on both counts
PROSECUTION. Let us dispense with the easy one first. How many beautiful copies of yourself have been sold?
BOOK. Sold? Probably about 100. Given away? About the same.
(Blimey! A fuss about a limping loss. CP)
PROS. Not a resounding success are you? Given to whom?
BOOK People the Author thought would be interested, Authors of alternative science, and others of spiritual bent who might review and endorse.
PROS How much do you cost to print and send someone who might be interested?
BOOK A little under ten pounds.
PROS So the Author cast you upon the waters at a personal cost of about a thousand pounds. She has faith in you even if we don’t. How many of those lucky recipients replied or reviewed?
BOOK Initially four.
PROS Presumably the Author had selected them? Not a great endorsement of your worth. Not even gratitude for a relatively expensive book.. You may stand down. I call my first witness on the second charge. Professor ANON.
(Behold the aesthete! Looks like a Vampire, never seen the sun. Only comes out at night. CP) Shhh…
Professor ANON. I understand you agree to appear on condition of anonymity. Please tell the court why you were selected as one of these unfortunate recipients?
ANON Let me see? It could be be because I head up the educational programme of a very prestigious Institute ( so Rare we are almost bleu CP), or maybe because I am a poet with a poetic open vein and the author thought I might be infected by her poetry, which I have to say hardly qualifies… Or maybe because I am also Critic with fine forceps for the phoney, and then I am an Essayist able to sustain a Marathon. Or it might be because I hold readings of poetry from various traditions to gatherings and I suppose she hoped…
PROS Clearly a modest man of parts… How did you react to the work? What was your opinion?
ANON Frankly, (well maybe not very frankly) it was hard to form any opinion. Opinions need meat to chew upon. It is certainly not poetry, but it does not have the clarity of prose either. It purports to put forward a scientific hypothesis but grasping it is problematic because it uses the same word ‘Involution’ for two very different processes, the enfolding and encoding of experience, and the manifestation of that encoded memory through the scientific recovery of it. I made a serious effort to grasp the book, and read it twice, but in the end abandoned it. I got glimpses but then they evaporated… most frustrating…
(Pompous git. Needs his dose of blood presto.CP)
PROS Not easy for you then? What is the purpose of your Institute ? Its mission if you like?
ANON Well! That would be telling. If forced to be rough I’d say roughly ‘To foster a bridge between the perennial philosophy, science and poetry’ but it’s much more complex than that….
PROS I am sure it must be. It is not a characteristic of the Perennial Philosophy that the experiences giving rise to it are ephemeral?Is that not also the characteristic of poetry- to allude or suggest but not quite define? So you would not consider this book of scientific allusion a contribution to that bridging endeavour?
ANON Well I have been working on almost identical ideas for a number of years, so it is not new to me. Limited in value would be my opinion. If I were her supervisor I would suggest the author would have been better writing a scientific hypothesis in scientific terminology so that her thesis might have been debated amongst those of us able to evaluate it. As it is, it will remain unread and understandably so. Unfortunate but there it is.
PROS So, as a promoter of the perennial, and elusive you would have preferred instead a defined and argumentative hypothesis. No further questions.
DEFENCE COUNSEL Can you clarify how you came to be approached to read this work in the first place?
ANON The Author, I believe, had researched the Institute of which I am a Director. We are the only one of its kind. She wrote to ask me to give an opinion
DEF And you agreed to receive a copy?
ANON I did, somewhat apprehensively, and rightly so, as it turned out. She turned quite nasty..
DEF Dr ANON I have a copy of an email written to the author in which you said and I paraphrase… I read the comments from Koestler, Lorenz and others…they were less than unequivocal. None of them offered to use their influence in getting the work published, and one word from them would have undoubtedly done the trick. You recall the instance? You took your appraisal of its likely merits before you saw it? Simply because she had self-published?
ANON Well in my position one does take the opinions of others before embarking on what may prove a pointless waste of time. There’s very little of it about. Time, I mean. One of them, (I think it was Koestler) expressed his doubts about the likelihood of publication.
DEF Yes. He said ‘I am less certain about publication’ Does that not imply it would be difficult, rather than unwise? In the same letter Koestler also said ‘ ‘To expand your thesis would undoubtedly be worthwhile‘ Interesting that you selected only the doubt but not the validation. How did you know of these other authorities; Koestler, Lorenz etc?
ANON The Author had made an completely unsubstantiated claim in her letter that they had supported her thesis.
DEF You did not believe her? So she afforded you the stick with which you then beat her?
ANON No, no. Their letters suggesting approval were not full endorsements. Had they been so, given the authority of both eminent men, the earlier work would have been published when it was first written in 1970. They were simply being kind as one is in private letters to a needy supplicant…
DEF Was it kind in your first letter to the author when you said ‘It always seems to me dubious to quote people’s letters: they feel compelled to be polite and so say positive things that they certainly would not stand by in print. I would not like my letters quoted to all and sundry?.That is quite a generalisation. It does convey your doubts before you even saw the work. Were you aware that the Author had personally known Konrad Lorenz through her first husband’s work with him at the Max Planck Institute?
DEF Or the nature of her correspondence with Koestler?
ANON No. How could I be?
DEF But you did not ask, did you? You simply assumed because you had never heard of her that the claim was spurious. For all you know these eminent men meant what they said. Perhaps not everyone is as ‘kind’ as you are? Are you aware the work has been endorsed, openly and freely on the cover by Ervin Laszlo.
ANON I am now.
DEF Would you say Ervin Laszlo is an eminent man of the calibre of Koestler or the Nobel Prize winner Konrad Lorenz
ANON Yes. But…
DEF Are you also aware that Laszlo tried to get his publishers to take on the publication, as did another endorser, and both failed. Does that in any way give an indication as to the merits of the work?
ANON Probably not. It merely means it is not a commercial proposition.
DEF Rather contradicting yourself aren’t you? So the failure to attract a publisher is not a measure of the merits or value of the work? Yet it was the first assumption that you made, as well as casting doubt on the integrity of the author in quoting them. Would you say that gives an impression of ‘open mindedness’ in an approach? Either towards the book or the Author? Is it,in fact, appropriate to the promoter of the ‘Perennial Philosophy’ which, if anything is about openness and trust, to immediately doubt an account of such perennial experience and relationships with others?
ANON I am an academic. All that was explained before I agreed to consider the work. One can meet a lot of crackpots these days. I was just protecting myself from a possible crackpot.
DEF I see. Author armed with book. Very hazardous.Given that initial reaction, it was generous of her to even continue communication with you. But she still gave you the opportunity to reconsider and sent a copy.
ANON She needed my help, obviously. I am rather well known in the field…
(So are cows and sheep. Slaughter anyone? CR)
DEF So after you had read the work of the possible crackpot, you communicated your negative views about it to the author?
ANON I cannot remember but I expect I did.
DEF Let me refresh your memory. You received the book in early March. It was at the end of August that the author wrote and I quote As I think our preliminary correspondence made clear I was in search of help, support, contacts, dissemination. Since you have been either unable or unwilling to provide even a comment I wonder whether you might be prepared to return the book?. I am very short of copies for review and there are others to whom it could be sent. I will certainly refund the £3.00 postage if you wish.
Did you return the book as requested?
ANON No. I had made copious comments in the margins. It could not have been used for another review. I sent a cheque for the cost of the book instead.
(But not before taking it all in! And not until asked!CP)
DEF. You deface books. That’s interesting. So you were interested enough to copiously annotate this misguided book. Was the cheque banked?
No further questions.
PROSECUTION I would recall the book to answer the first part of this charge. Odyssey, you are charged as follows:
That you acted without deliberation, or discernment in harnessing the Author to a lifelong service. How do you plead?
BOOK Not guilty
PROS. Do you deny the lifelong service required of this Author?
BOOK No, but that was hardly my doing. The witnesses already called have explained the climate of rejection and unreadiness: more specifically, as in the last witness, their personal prejudices against me, I’d invent a new term and call it ‘Bookism’. You need letters behind your name before you write a book as speculative as me…
PROS That brings me neatly back to the first part of this charge: your lack of discernment in selecting this author to carry the ignominy of your claims! She was not an appropriate choice was she? She had no standing in either academic circles or spiritual community. What you call Bookism was directly due to that lack of discernment. Why would she pass muster? It was inhumane to subject her to such judgement was it not?
BOOK There is an expression ‘Judge not lest ye be judged’ It does not mean the superficial interpretation; that if you judge others you will be judged by them. It means your judgement itself enables the measure of your prejudice, your limitations, your preconceived ideas. You have heard a poet saying I am not poetry, a scientific Professor saying I am not science ( or not until he published first) but a few who had similar ideas offering some applause (and who are then disbelieved!) The market is no measure of a book, because it would choose Fifty Shades of Grey as the paeon of value. You will have to do better than that.
PROS No further questions
DEF There was another poet, a Professor of Poetry at Oxford who was approached. Why that one?
BOOK Because she held a temporary Chair for the promotion of poetry in contexts where it is not usually found.
DEF So a History of Science written in poetry would seem exactly what she was paid to promote? What was her opinion?
BOOK She said she did not have time to read the work of ‘other poets’ and declined to accept a copy.
DEF Ah how elastic is the public purse for self-interested people…So why did you choose this Author?
BOOK. She is still here. That’s why.
DEF You mean she has survived?
BOOK No. Not survived. Believed.
DEF In you?
BOOK. Not so much in me, but in the importance of what I contain, an alternative to destructive materialism, an alternative to intellectual argument. More importantly a kind of irreverence to upstage the dogmatic…any dogma…particularly intellectual dogmas. I am about intuition…
DEF Irreverence! You are all about God!
BOOK. God is all there is. That’s what she believes anyway. That’s why I chose her. She never would have joined a ‘prestigious Institute’, or an ‘established congregation’ of any kind. She has nothing to lose, because she has no standing, no pre-established loyalties, and she has been so vilified by the academics she has written a book for everyone else. That stoicism and broader appeal took a lot of training, and dare I suggest, some considerable discernment. I very carefully picked and trained a bloody-minded virtual orphan and made sure she never settled comfortably anywhere. Nobody with good opinions to lose would have written me.
DEF No further questions.
JUDGE (To Jury.)
I direct you to give full weight to the evidence presented today. If you find the defendant acted with right judgement in the selection of its Author you are bound to find it Not Guilty. The question of financial reward as a measure of value I direct you to ignore. Please confer before the next Charge is brought, relating to inappropriate language and timing.
25 thoughts on “‘AUTHOR SELECTED ‘Without Deliberation or Discernment’-Odyssey Accused on Second Charge”
“Nobody with good opinions to lose would have written me”
Yes, indeed. But written you are, good Book, and your author is still in your thrall.
I suspect that many past theorists could have heard their work say the same.
Thank you kind Jurist! It’s been fun seeing myself from ‘outside’.
Speculations are up for grabs in status ridden cultures.
It’s curious, these boxes, these genres, these stuctures into which truths must neatly fit to be acknowledged.
High time the inspirational curriculum is expanded. Involuton is a forerunner – to be celebrated.
Ah well! It’s fun to cross examine. My mother always said I should go into the Law. This one was a corker witness. No exaggeration at all!
Why does it matter how many? Wouldn’t a single reader be enough to shout thanks? Think of Blake, Melville, Penelope Fitzgerald. Look at how many have followed the Bible, Dawkins, or the Rolling Stones, and where has that led anyone?
Indignation Joe is a rich contribution! Each single reader is, indeed, enough, for this was written for single people. There are many paths through it, and every reader sees it differently.That has been its vindication, because it never sought to replace dogma with alternative dogma. I suspect that is why to the academic it is seen as both arrogant and missing its target! How to judge a book that sets up no target?
What and how to read and why is a question. That indignation was as much directed inward as anywhere else. I attended a lecture a few weeks ago. The speaker talked about the relationship between the reader and the writer. He seemed to imply that relationship has been adulterated by the on-line life, where how many has become more important than what or how or why. And I may have fallen for that seduction a click or two meself.
As for judging books, sounds so serious. But one should not criticize something for not being what it was not intended to be. But we do it all the time. Because we want it to be something else, something more familiar maybe. Can’t get no satisfaction. We often read with prescription glasses which can only focus within a prescribed distance. Everything else is a blur.
Anyway, I just meant to say that the number of copies sold or given away should have no bearing on the charge at hand. The number is irrelevant. “Best Seller” is not necessarily Best Teller.
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I understood most of that Joe. It is easy to get seduced by failing to keep up with the numerically successful! We are all surrounded by hype, but nothing is more realistically sobering as much as being among ‘popular genre’ authors and sitting, watching potential punters skid away, to realise that one has truly written a ‘mad’ book, a frightening book. That was why I was so grateful to Viv for saying that there was no need to fear what was never going to be followed by an examination! It was always intended to be FUN, frivolous, and yes, irreverent. But knowledge is taken so very seriously! Ideas even more so. I never believed it was even ‘difficult’ but somehow I have to accept that others perceive it that way.
I had fun once, but I didn’t enjoy it. But what is a punter?
Someone who places a bet? Usually on an uncertainty! Like the horses, or a book whose ‘genre’ does not exist, written by someone you have never herd of (pun intentional).
Ah, punters and buskers.
The numbers game is seductive and destructive. I’ve been chatting to another author who is very disheartened and ready to give up; her sales have been in the tens of thousands if not the hundreds of thousands. When is enough, enough? I keep asking myself that and also why it matters?
Today I met someone who had read two of my novels, given to him as a birthday present by a mutual friend. Very gratifying indeed.
I would be VERY happy with tens of thousands! I’d start with a few tens even!
See, that’s what I mean. My own sales figures seem paltry to many Indie writers, but to others, they seem fantastic. I’d be happy to see sustained growth, rather than the decline I have seen.
Bravo, Philippa! I leap up clapping my hands, risking contempt of court. Nearing midnight I read this on my ipad while riding in a shuttle van back to my apartment from the airport, a little tired from the flight. I perked up as I read on, and at lines near the end chuckled heartily to myself. Damn, you choose some perfectly awful photos – That dark stained wood of courtrooms and the sight of the gavel puts me on edge and gives me chills. The vampiric aesthete appears carved of driftwood – no living roots – and sanded smooth and covered over with now yellowing and cracking varnish. Just awful, but coming from you in your deadpan delivery, kind of droll and with a cheshire cat smile and wink of your eye behind it, hilarious. You have a gift for comedy too. Brilliant turn having the Book itself speak. And what words fly out from its fluttering pages! “The Book that Wrote the Author” is a wonderful idea to explore further. I imagine a children’s book could be made of this with delightful and humorous illustrations.
That you’re a kind of orphan, existing in a space beyond neat and clearly defined category, is what from the beginning has drawn me to you, being a kind of orphan myself, a loner and solitary, having always felt also that I’ve belonged nowhere. This precedes your books, an instant feeling I had when I read only excerpts from your work. I’ve wondered about this “loner” or solitary I am, if I truly am this, or if I’ve just never found a community where I feel at home. I don’t necessarily by choice dwell on the margins.
This whole phenomenon around you and your book could be fleshed out as a sociological study. I think it’s a story as old as humankind. The outsider, the orphan, the one who belongs nowhere, has always come with either crazy ideas, or deep truths which take a while, perhaps more than a lifetime, to recognize and assimilate. The outsider is distrusted by groups who cling to and refuse to let go of familiar ideas, even if such ideas have grown false and harmful. The outsider is often persecuted and even killed by mobs. The higher the quality of work, the more unusual and unique, the lesser the number of individuals who will be able at first to appraise it at its true value and appreciate it. Such work is a seed planted and it will take some time for it to sprout and break the surface, let alone flourish and bear fruit. Who knows if in the future there will be someone or more than one who eats that fruit, is nourished by it, and inhabited by the spirit which has overtaken you continues the work you began, in a way completely satisfying to you. – Then there are the problems and dangers of elitism. Megalomania and Delusions of Grandeur come in waves in the wilderness. I think it happens in various degrees of intensity to all creative types: The temptation in the desert which comes promising power and glory. Young talents especially believe their work will move the world to change and revolution. They try to force the matter, and create things full of noise and fury, signifying nothing. I have my own stories of myself. What a ridiculous young man I was. I did some crazy shit. Then came a period when I realized no one really cares no matter how hard I tried, or maybe I tried so hard I scared away attention; and honesty is less practiced than given lip service to, and I became seriously unpleasant, angry, miserable and depressed, either lashing out or turning somberly inward. This still happens to me sometimes when I think about it, but I now include myself in the judgement and try to be more forgiving. I realize that how harshly I accuse or criticize others may mask the origin of a problem which I should face as my own. So much displacement goes on, and maybe not enough personal responsibility. There’s immense apathy and indifference in the world, which claims us all, honestly, at certain periods. Who knows what moments of true genius, authentic epiphanies, each of us in our lifetimes let go by unacknowledged or have greeted with silence. All of us have done it, leaving someone feeling sorely neglected. There’s only so much time and energy we can devote to each other. In time, Philippa, you and I will probably lose touch. It’s just natural. But you’ve planted a seed in me, so in that sense you’ll always be with me. A fine tree may grow from it in time, a welcome addition to my garden, where I can cool myself in its shade and nourish myself with its fruit, or get up and walk around it at night, looking up through its branches and contemplating the stars. But as with any of your readers, it’s certainly up to me to take care of this seed and make sure it gets the nourishment it needs to grow strong in root and trunk and full in leaves and branches.
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There you see! I have only to disappear for twenty four hours and two men across the globe discourse on paper, at length;with generosity and erudition, and rather humbling superlatives. Since I was unable to follow the ball of this game stroke by stroke I will respond to the replay one at a time.
Glad someone perceived the ghastliness of the photographs, the rootless driftwood poet well varnished was more apt than you can know! Nothing pleases more than for comedy to be ‘divined’ from the droll. It is so often lacking in ‘worthy’ endeavours. I was pleased to discover that my birthday is the day of the Joker ( shared with Charlie Chaplin, Peter Ustinov and Spike Milligan) and I suppose Involution is a comprehensive joke seen in that light. Viv admitted to laughing out loud and that has not been a common response!
The ‘orphan’ and his/her relationship with the herd, the family of Man is something that very much lies at the root of the search for other orphans, and the characters that people the book were mostly such maverick solitaries, or if they were not they ended up beheaded like Lavoisier anyway. It is an essential ( and probably creative) component of the grit that creates the polished pearl of new ideas. As you say the grit can be painful, abrasive and tempt anger and self doubt, but a single hand held out is enough to re-centre and walk on!
I was also young once John, and impatient, and yes, the desert had deranged. I did believe the insights of Involution might change the scientific paradigm before arrogance destroyed the globe, and that conviction burnt so bright that it turned to charcoal. Yet I now realise that it was a necessary fertilization for something else.
I wonder whether you and Brian ( and Viv and Ashen) realise how much your re-cognition has meant, and why I was (again) brave enough to go and read to young and thrusting performance poets ( bright, articulate,kind) and find a kind of silence followed, as though I had dropped a megalith in the village pond. (I thought I had chosen the easiest invitation- the start of Canto the ninth!) All sobering. More below but thanks inadequate.
I have followed the competing arguments of the court case with great interest; I have much less interest in the outcome. Partly, this is because I do not believe that we can really know the outcome of our actions; this outcome may not be clear for years, and may bear most strongly on people that we will never meet or who have not yet been born. From my own experience, I know that chance meetings with a writer—whether in person or embodied in a book—can change the whole course of one’s life. And partly, I question whether we creators have anything like the freedom that we believe ourselves to possess. To put this another way: if we are truly immersed in and possessed by our creative process—as opposed to the advancement of our career or the promotion of our persona—then our options may be circumscribed by our alignment with our Daimon. In moments of frustration, I find that it is always a good idea to ask, “Could I really have acted any differently? A great many people could act differently, and do, and, for this reason, there are fewer truly original writers, artists, composers, and thinkers in any generation than there should be.
Let us say that there is a story that is waiting to be told, and that we are here to act it out; to do this, we must form a multifaceted partnership with the Daimon, to which each brings his/ her particular gifts. If it were only a case of the writer becoming a passive “vessel” for the Daimon, this would be a much simpler thing to understand. The exchange is mutual, although quite unpredictable. It is also highly peculiar. Fullness leads almost inevitably to emptiness; intoxication is followed by deep feelings of abandonment. There is a metaphysical paradox at the heart of this relationship: by gaining access to the breadth of our primordial power, we simultaneously become less free than we were.
The Daimon does not seem especially concerned about our comfort. Is he/ she simply callous, or does he/ she know things that we do not? I am reminded of my first year as a student at the Art Institute of Boston. I had a wonderful drawing teacher called Geoff Koetsch (with whom I am still in touch after 40 years). During my first semester at the Art Institute, I was a bit unsure of my figure drawing skills, since I had focused almost entirely on abstract art projects during high school. Geoff was wildly supportive at first, and very intuitive and insightful in his critiques. I felt as though he saw me from the inside out; he not only saw what I did, he saw what I could do. Then, about six weeks into the course, he suddenly stepped back. His feedback became far less frequent, his tone cooler, and his comments terse. I could not help but wonder if he has lost faith in me or if I had done something to offend him. My drawing skill nonetheless grew by leaps and bounds. Years later, when I asked him about this he said, “Once I got you into the right rhythm, I knew that you would be able to take care of yourself. I only had to correct you here and there.”
There is a gulf between the Persona and the Daimon, which sometimes appears to be very wide indeed. Perhaps this is a matter of creative necessity, or perhaps it is just one of those things. From our perspective, we cannot help but be aware of the infinite number of ways that we would prefer our lives to unfold. The Daimon, from his/ her perspective, may be aware of the almost infinite number of reasons that our lives must unfold as they do. Gurdjieff sometimes spoke of an “objective” mode of vision. Somewhat amusingly, his descriptions of what this is are anything but clear. I do believe, however, that there is a pre- or post-incarnational height from which all of our creative projects can be taken in at a glance. From there, we may suddenly grasp how all of our breakthroughs and blocks, our transports and frustrations, form the parts of luminous and interactive whole.
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Interesting Brian that your introduction of Hillman’s The Soul’s Code’ continues to unwind in almost every encounter now. I am currently reading a marvellous exploration of the critical importance of the daimons ( various) in Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights and because you MUST read it I cannot introduce it too explicitly. It is one of those books that resets the geiger and reaches deep into recognition. The relationship between ‘persona’ and daimon is really the major subject of the book, and how inter-twined the stabilisation process is and through childhood happens by slow degrees. A book seemingly written for the young, whose wisdom it assumes instinctive, yet it operates at so many levels that we (less fortunate, less instinctive) can see it only with hindsight. He also has a marvellous way with names and a major and sinister seductive character is called Mrs Coulter, the only one with an ‘ordinary’ name who is the destroyer of daimons. Makes your point most economically!
Your story of Geoff Koetsch does suggest he retained an instinctive understanding, wise and rare in a teacher, though probably less rare in the visual arts where fewer words are wiser words.
I embarked on the Court case simply to explore the very issue on which your comment is focussed. The verdict is irrelevant. But I am glad that John is sent the shivers by the gavel. It is exceeding heartless, but that is the symbol of the world’s analysis nicht?
In my comment above, there is a typo in this sentence:
“Partly, this is because I do believe that we can really know the outcome of our actions; this outcome may not be clear for years, and may bear most strongly on people that we will never meet or who have not yet been born.”
It should read as follows:
“Partly, this is because I do not believe that we can really know the outcome of our actions; this outcome may not be clear for years, and may bear most strongly on people that we will never meet or who have not yet been born.”
When Brian George makes a typo and fails to correct it, one gets a sense that an earthquake and avalanche could happen somewhere within.
Brian’s response and comment is excellent. Being honest with oneself, does one really care how many readers one gets? On the surface, yes, we all want adulation and praise. We desire recognition and fame, or at least imagine what it must be like, and, whether admitted or not, often keep ourselves going and producing work due to the prospect. But those driven for that alone produce work of diminishing quality, until at last they’re only pandering to the public, trying to appeal to a prevailing fashion or taste, trying to fit into a niche. All kind of falsehood reigns there, of individuals patting each other on the back and not really meaning it, to keep up an illusion. To thine own self be true. Know thyself. These are what should be driving us, this unfolding in ourselves and discovering of destiny. If my own work turns alien and strange to the present time, and I’m largely ignored and dwell in anonymity, so be it. What Brian writes is absolutely true, of investment of one’s whole heart and soul into one’s work, to where a deeper determinism becomes evident, and one finds that one can’t do otherwise. If one is true to oneself, regardless of how it appears to others, everything is as it should be, and those connections and associations which are vital and essential to oneself eventually reveal themselves, showing themselves at the right time. This can take the place of readers. Aren’t readers secondary to the pursuit of self-knowledge and wisdom?
A quote by Kierkegaard for Brian George who shapes so many of his own thoughts and reflections in the form of paradoxes:
“The case with most men is that they go out into life with one or another accidental characteristic of personality of which they say: Well, this is the way I am. I cannot do otherwise. Then the world gets to work on them and thus the majority of men are ground into conformity. In each generation a small part cling to their “I cannot do otherwise” and lose their minds. Finally there are a very few in each generation who in spite of all life’s terrors cling with more and more inwardness to this “I cannot do otherwise”. They are the geniuses. Their “I cannot do otherwise” is an infinite thought, for if one were to cling firmly to a finite thought, he would lose his mind.”
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I don’t remember ever coming across that Kierkegaard quote before, but it is certainly on the mark. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the statement is the juxtaposition of accident to necessity. He writes, “The case with most men is that they go out into life with one or another accidental characteristic of personality of which they say: Well, this is the way I am. I cannot do otherwise.” Beginning with these “accidental characteristics,” the artist then butts his head against the limitations that the world constructs around him, most often with just barely adequate support, or none. Yet, behind the scenes, some mysterious alchemy is at work. By devoting all of her energy to the transformation of the stone that the builders rejected, which is simultaneously both her project and herself, the artist, after many labyrinthine turns, is at last able to reveal the essential in the random.
I am reminded of Blake’s famous maxim, “If a fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.” The origin of “Involution” would certainly appear to be accidental—the chance meeting with a significant stranger and a supernatural green eye on a beach in Florida in the late 1960s. Philippa’s vision of the toroidal shape of history was a given. Like all others presented with such a gift, she might justifiably ask, “Really? Was there no one better qualified?” But the forces of apparent accident knew what they were doing, and the book, in the end, succeeded in reimagining its author. Whatever the judgment that the jury of critics, scientists, and readers might pass on “Involution,” let it never be said that Philippa has not persisted in her folly! Now, she has only to discover how wise she has become.
You amaze and delight me, Brian, with the proper amount of scare in you too to compel even reverance. I don’t think it could be expressed any more perfectly than you have here. Philippa’s case is fascinating too, in that she has written what has become considered her Magnum Opus. She claims she only aimed at fun and irreverence, but she clearly poured her whole heart and soul into Involution, which she has admitted elsewhere. There’s a pendulum effect going on inside her, a swinging back and forth between views she has of her own work. Or, she being the bob, and Involution being what she’s affixed to as the pivot, maybe it’s like Foucault’s pendulum, where she swings back and forth, and ever so slight changes occur in her as the earth rotates on its axis and orbits around the sun. I had thought earlier, getting familiar with all this, “Why couldn’t Philippa continue Involution, exploring expression of it creatively in another form? Why has she settled on that one, expressing it that way? There’s more than one way this can be expressed. Look what James Joyce did, how he advanced from earlier works into pushing for a new form of getting at ideas he had in mind, even exploding all known forms and entering into completely new terrain.” Then I think, as you’ve defined here in your expression of this thought, Brian, she poured her All into it and couldn’t do otherwise, to the point where real genius is recognized in its poetic spirit. You read her writing style, how she expresses herself elsewhere, and that really is who she is, down into her finest fibers. It’s not just an act or a role she’s playing. The work is her very fruit, containing her vital juice, and you can’t ask an apple to turn suddenly into an orange. She doesn’t practice witchcraft or magic, but really followed natural processes to get to her result, the hard way, by not skipping any stages of development and then giving birth to it. A true creative work, which resonates, I think, with the Greeks and the origin of poetry in that classical sense which contains the human ideal. (Maybe we guys practice alchemy a little more than women do as a surrogate or indirect way of doing what women can do directly and so naturally: giving birth.) Philippa’s not a “contemporary” poet, or a postmodern poet. No short-cuts, no collage technique, no tricks or games, but a deep unfolding of natural processes, and a total commitment to words and their meaning in their plain and wholesome sense, though she elevates and arranges those words so that the inherent music in them comes out. But it’s all still of a piece, one thing connected organically to another, the roots of the tree planted in the rich soil of her very being, which still feeds on her and is nourished and sustained by her. For her to leap into another way of expressing Involution, in another form, to create another kind of fruit, would require either a total uprooting or entail having to begin all over again, from the ground up, from seed, to sprout, to tree, then after another lengthy and agonizing process in which she has invested her whole heart and soul, to giving birth or bearing fruit again. I can see the kind of creative artist she is, and she may feel she’s of a dying breed, but she’s really the only kind of creative artist I think will endure in the end. She really did put all she had and all she is into Involution in its present form. Part of me thinks in reflecting on it, “I hope I never write or create a Magnum Opus, or if I do, I hope I die before it’s completed.”
Hey Viv, greetings. I sincerely appreciate the likes. Philippa before she said she was off to a book fair not long ago, proud and with pleasure forwarded to both Brian and I in an email the good and kind review of Involution you wrote and posted on Amazon. The one thing a little jarring to me in it is the image of you reading Involution while on the treadmill exercising. But hey, who am I to talk, I’ve done reading and have had some of my profoundest thoughts while sitting on the can!
‘Wisdom’ still a work in process Brian! ‘I could do no other’ sounds heroic but there was ‘no other’ to be doing! If that eye was the filmic creation of my daimon ( and all the careful preparations to introduce the fellow witness, and a open car that drove to Key West) then there was no running from not only its content ( or rather absence of content) but the implications of being selected for special privilege! No man being an island is pretty central, and therefore dredging up the mud to examine the island’s unique structure inevitably followed. So yes, being less free, except to choose what had been chosen ( the greatest freedom of all) is what followed.
One word I would adjust is seemingly ‘accidental’. No ‘accident’ was ever so meticulously contrived beginning with a letter from a complete stranger in Florida offering his ‘house’ on loan to other complete strangers in Bavaria. All followed and if you can ever face reading ‘A Fine Careless Rapture’ you will fit all the dovetailed pieces in place, until the Eye blew it all sky high!
I suppose Involution was merely putting it all back together before I made for the exit!
There was no vocabulary provided. The next part of the trial will address language.