by Tao Writer
Book Two Of The Philosopher Series
Directory – The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration
Chapter 1 – Anaïs Nin
Chapter 2 – Rainer Maria Rilke
Chapter 3 – Emily Dickinson
Chapter 4 – Alan Watts
Chapter 5 – Simone Weil
Chapter 6 – Simone de Beauvoir
Chapter 7 – Stanley Kunitz
Chapter 8 – James Baldwin
Chapter 9 – Henry Miller
Chapter 10 – May Sarton
Chapter 11 – Ursula K Le Guin
Chapter 12 – William James
Chapter 13 – Virginia Woolf
Chapter 14 – William Blake
Chapter 15 – Steve Jobs
Chapter 16 – Mary Oliver
Chapter 17 – Oliver Sacks
Chapter 18 – Gaston Bachelard
Chapter 19 – Susan Sontag
Chapter 20 – Martin L King
Chapter 21 – Seneca
Chapter 22 – Albert Einstein
Chapter 23 – Iris Murdoch
Chapter 24 – Bertrand Russell
Chapter 25 – Maya Angelou
Chapter 26 – Carl Edward Sagan
Chapter 27 – Henry David Thoreau
Chapter 28 – Joseph Campbell
Chapter 29 – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Chapter 31 – Olga Jacoby
Chapter 32 – Albert Camus
Chapter 33 – Hermann Hesse
The Gate Keeper of Inspiration – Prologue – Socrates Black
The bell ringed to notify me someone was at the front desk. Out of habit, I glanced at the calendar for the date. It was January 14, 1977. Not that the date mattered so much here, but it does give some indication of who might be arriving this evening. I have been the facilitator at the Inn for as long as I can remember, but time here seems to stand still so memories are all I have.
It was a dream that brought me here the first time to this picturesque place of beauty, fields and streams, forests and lakes. The Inn was an old, large wooden barn where craftsmen and women came to practice their art and writers, poets, artists, and philosophers came to talk and share their thoughts. I had the inspiration to bring all my favorite people here to share their stories and to inspire others. So that is what I did. The Inn is difficult to reach as it can not be located on a map and can only be found by those who have been given an invitation. My position here…I do not think of it as work…is to welcome the guests and to be of service to them in whatever way I can. I am the Gatekeeper at The Inn of Inspiration. My name is Socrates Black.
I leave my study and head toward the front desk. Our arriving guest glances up from the oversized hood covering her head and partially hiding her face. As she pulls back the hood, I witness her renowned beauty. The room appears brighter with her presence. Her eyes are a steel penetrating gray. They focus on me as I walk behind the desk and reach for her room key from the cubbyhole behind me. I turn toward and face her. Her smile offers an invitation to engage. So I do.
“Bonjour Mademoisell. I am here to assist you with your transition in whatever manner you may require. You are free to call upon me at any time. You can meet the other guests this evening. They have been waiting for your arrival. In particular, Ms. Weil has asked that you be seated at her table. I trust this meets with your approval. Cocktails and tea will be served starting at six and dinner will be served at seven, but these are merely arbitrary numbers. There are no clocks here to watch time move, so time is no longer a burden, nor is it a measure of existence. I will ring the chimes to announce the appropriate moment.”
“Thank you, Mr.?”
“Please, just Socrates, Ms. Nin.”
“How do you know my name. Have we met?”
“No Ms. Nin. As I mentioned, we have been expecting you. I am the one who sent you the invitation.”
“O’ In that case Socrates, please call me Anaïs, and thank you for the invitation.”
“Le plaisir est pour moi, Anaïs. May I show you to your suite?
…to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 1 – Anaïs Nin
I walk around the desk to escort Anaïs to her suite. The guests have no need for luggage as their favorite articles of clothing, books, and art are all provided just by their thoughts. The suites are modeled on the guest’s favorite living spaces during their earthly existence and opens to a shared courtyard garden with trails through the forest, and mountain hikes for the more ambitious.
Each suite also has a private balcony opening to either the gardens, mountains, or lake. Guests are free to engage with the other guests or maintain their privacy. Each evening everyone is asked to meet for tea, cocktails, dinner, and to share time with their fellow guests. It is optional of course but so far no one has turned down the opportunity to engage with their friends, colleagues, and fellow creative spirits. The dialogue and discussions always provide intellectual stimulation and inspiration to release the creative spirit. The ideas shared and exchanged by those of different generations, fields of interest, and sexuality are as far ahead of common thinking today as when the ideas were originally received.
In the evening after dinner I ask one of our guests to give a reading, a performance, or discuss a work of art. Last week Picasso brought paper and paints and we all painted until the wee hours of morning. Everyone had a wonderful time and were surprised at the finished product of their painting abilities. All the paintings were displayed the following week in the lobby.
“Perhaps you might sing for us one evening, or give a reading from one of your books.”
She gives me a puzzled look. “Not many people outside of close friends know that I was classically trained as a singer. How did you know…? O, it does not matter, now. We can talk about that later. May I ask you another question Socrates?”
“I am at your service Anaïs. What would you like to know?
“Why me? Why did I receive an invitation to this…this wondrous place?”
“You asked at the front desk if we ever met. No, we have never met in person but I know you or at least feel as if I know you through your creative and fascinating Memoirs .”
“You are familiar with my memoirs?”
She blushes for a moment. “But they were never met to be published. I wrote them for survival.”
”I know Anaïs but they were. They are an import part of who you are as a woman. They became a guidebook for many young women in the world today. You are ahead of your literary time Anaïs.”
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. That is the reason I started keeping a diary around age eleven. I did not wish to miss any part of my life. I want to be able to reflect upon any segment of my life at any time. I can confide in my Diary the complete truth without any judgement except my own. Does that seem strange to you Socrates?
”Not at all Anaïs. You are a unique and beautiful woman. Your soul comes alive in your writings. That is one of the reasons I invited you to join us at the Inn. You have so much to offer us. You will find a sincere welcome from our other guests. I have absolutely no doubts whatsoever.”
Now we are at her entry. There are no doors. Only a keyhole into which I insert her key. Upon turning, the solid wall softens and transforms into a veiled entry. We enter. Each time I have opened a guest’s entryway I see this same look of amazement and awe.
“Socrates, this is beautiful, fantastically beautiful. How did you know this is how I envisioned my home.”
“I am the Gatekeeper of Inspiration Ms Nin. Excuse me…, Anaïs. I know what inspires the imagination of our guests.”
“You have to tell me more about this unique ability you have Socrates.” Not waiting for a response she moves toward her desk and picks up a pile of papers. She recognizes them as the papers she is currently working on concerning her difficulty expressing feelings of the heart within the written word. She doubts her skill to convey her own true feelings to the reader. Anaïs looks at me with the unasked question of “How did you get these?” but she doesn’t ask nor does she wait for an answer.
She runs her hands over the mahogany desktop and the room instantly fills with her personal energy. She glows with the deepness of her passion for life and love. She sets the papers down upon the settee and opens the french doors to her balcony and to the garden. She breathes deeply and looks up to the heavens as if to give silent thanks. She returns inside, leaving the double French doors open. The breeze ruffles her papers setting on the settee and carries them to the floor, but she pays no attention.
Before exploring the rest of her suite, she turns toward me. “I…I don’t know what to say. I am so grateful for your invitation.” She reaches her slender arms around my neck and embraces my whole body with hers. “Thank you Socrates,” she whispers softly in her French accent as she places a gentle kiss upon my cheek. She runs off to see the rest of her suite, but before disappearing into her bedroom, she turns to ask.
“Socrates, is Henry here?
The bell at the front desk rings. “Not yet Anaïs. He is on the guest list and should be joining us soon.” I leave Anaïs to her discoveries and close the veiled door behind me as I leave to respond to the ring of the front desk bell. I make my way down the long corridor and descend the spiral brass and marble staircase, pass the French chandeliers and into the lobby.
“Good afternoon Rainer. “How may I be of service?
…to be continued.
The Gatekeeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 2 – Rainer Maria Rilke
“Good Afternoon Socrates. I hope I did not interrupt you. I am wondering if we might continue our conversation from last night, if you have time?”
“Yes, there is always time here. That is one on the amenities of the Inn. There is always enough time to do whatever you wish. The passage of time no longer exists at this Inn.”
“Where did we leave off? I remember, you were telling me about a number of letters you received from a young poet asking your advice and your were wondering whether or not you should respond as you are a poet and not a teacher of poetry.”
“Because I do one thing well does not mean I can teach it,” responded Rainer in his rather abrupt manner. “Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody. There is only one way. Go into yourself.”
“That is true Rainer. Perhaps that is the very advice our young friend needs. The butterfly can not teach the caterpillar how to become a butterfly, but she can be an inspiration. Whenever we start out on an adventure, we are unsure of ourselves. We are afraid of the untravelled road. We have doubts. Each generation relies upon the elders of previous generations to lay a path for them to follow until they acquire the faith in themselves to venture into the darkness and the unknown. They cling to these bits of wisdom, these bread crumbs, almost like one clings to a belief.”
Socrates continues, “Remember in your youth you were encouraged to be courageous in your writing of poetry. You created a style of your own built and expanding upon the style of those poets before you. You did not judge them. You simple emulated them until you found your own voice to write poetry in a way that had not been done before. In your own unique creative style.”
His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.
As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.
Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly–. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.
“I remember reading your poem, The Panther. I was thinking at the time what a beautiful way with words you expressed the emotions of the captive. You put yourself inside the consciousness of the cat. You saw through his eyes and thought with his mind. That is what an artist does. For some it is instinctual for others it must be learned.”
“Your young friend only seeks your wisdom and experience. Perhaps in doing so he might learn from some of the pitfalls and challenges you experienced in your life of writing.”
“But Socrates. Is it not those experiences you wish me to save my young correspondent from the very same experiences which are necessary in the building of one’s character?”
“Yes, that is true Rainer. Neither your wisdom or that of others will save him from experiencing his own life. It will however strengthen his courage to know that others before him have faced and overcome such seemingly insurmountable circumstances. It is the responsibility of the poet to encourage others to take a chance with words and to express the emotions of life in ways which have not been expressed in quite the same way ever before, as you did with The Panther and your other writings.”
“In fact, my dear friend. You already have the title for your creation. Letters To A Young Poet. ”
…to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 3 – Emily Dickinson
She sits quietly across the pond in Monet’s Garden atrium, straight back posture on a bench without a back. She is plain in a visual sense, except for the red streaks in her auburn hair. She is dressed in a white cotton dress. As I approach, I hear her repeating a verse out loud to herself.
Yesterday is History,’Tis so far away –
Yesterday is Poetry –
‘Tis Philosophy –
Yesterday is mystery –
Where it is Today
While we shrewdly speculate
Flutter both away
“Excuse me Emily. I hope I am not interrupting, but your note said it was important for us to talk before the evening gathering.”
”O’ Socrates. Forgive me. I was just reciting a poem out loud. Thank you for joining me on such a short notice.”
”I am here to serve Emily. How may I help?”
“I am worried about the gathering this evening. It will be the first since my arrival. I am such a loner. I spend much of my time in solitude. I rarely leave my room. I prefer the company of others through correspondence more than face to face contact.”
”I understand Emily. Attendance is voluntary. Nothing is mandatory here at the Inn.”
”I know. It is just that, I want to attend. That is what surprises me. I have been so private most of my life except for my mother and Lavinia. It is a bit overwhelming. People and conversation drain me so I do not understand this pull of energy to attend.”
”I understand your reservations Emily. I am also a loner who prefers my own company to that of others and yet I am also the Gatekeeper here which requires me to interact with our guests. We have little if any control over the forces of our existence. I have learned to trust my instincts over my thoughts.”
”Thank you Socrates. I feel better now. Once again I look forward to the gathering this evening.”
”It is my pleasure always, Emily. But now I have a question for you. The verse you were reciting when I arrived. Do you believe poetry and philosophy are intertwined? I am a philosopher by discipline but I think of myself as more of a poet by nature. Do you see yourself as a philosopher as well as a poet?”
”I am a poet, but all poets are philosophers, Socrates. Simply put, only the vehicle of delivery is different. Poetry is philosophy in its essence, reduced to the conclusions of the dialogue. Philosophy is the dialogue. It comes from the mind. Poetry comes from the heart. Yes, they are connected. They are not very different in their intent. They both want us to see the situation from a different perspective. For me, philosophy is something I studied at Amherst. Poetry is something I experience through the everyday experience of living. And yet, the philosophy of my life and death are expressed in my poetry. My poetry is my philosophy.”
”Maybe I should consider being more of a poet. Sometimes my dialogues take on a poetic nature.” Just then the chimes ring to announce the gathering for the evening. “This is a topic I would like to discuss more with you at another time, Emily. Perhaps it might be a topic for one of the evening talks?”
”There are many poets and philosophers here. It should be a lively discussion for sure. Socrates, would you be so kind to escort me the the hall. I would be more comfortable in your presence?”
”It would be my pleasure Emily.”
…to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 4 – Alan Watts
I take Emily to the table where Simone Weil and Anaïs Nin are seated. They both welcome us to join them but I see Alan Watts across the room gesturing for me to come over. I excuse myself promising to return before the gathering ends and I join Alan at his table.
”Thank you for joining me Socrates. I am most appreciative especially in light of the fact you left three beautiful and inspiring ladies to converse with me.”
”In truth Alan, I wanted to continue our conversation from a few nights ago. We are both autodidacts and yet I find our views of nature and mankind to be so similar. I have listened to many of your lectures, and with each listening I learn something different about myself and my relationship with nature and with all kind.”
”It saddens me Socrates that humankind sees itself as lonely and isolated from nature when the reality is that we, humankind and nature, are part of one continuous energy flux. We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.”
”How true my friend. I know much of your vision and philosophy of life comes from your experiences and your mystical dreams.”
“That is true Socrates. My mystical dreams and experiences started when I was very young. Most individuals discard their dreams and visions as bundled sensations with no clarity of meaning, but they are so much more. They are doorways into the larger consciousness of all that exists.”
“While living at Esalen, I had many mystical experiences that I cannot explain to someone who has not themself had at least one which they remember. They are too easily abandoned as a flash of light or a shadow in our blind spot.”
”I know from our last conversation you are familiar with a few of my dreams and visions, but please share with me one of your experiences.”
“Okay. I will. As mentioned, this one occurred while living at Esalen. I had a favorite bench on the edge of the bluff, facing east. I would plan my arrival right before sunrise. I would sit down, take a deep breath, cross my legs, straighten my back, watch the sun rise, the occasional school of dolphins and listen to the sea, the birds and then, total silence. The day turned to absolute darkness. The rising sun became just another star in the universe around me. It, I am immense. Endless. I am the universe. Then, just as quickly, I looked down upon myself sitting there on the bench looking into my abdomen and seeing that same endless, immense universe inside my finite body. I know what everything is. I am it!”
“Bravo my dear friend. For when you see that the universe cannot be distinguished from how you act upon it, there is neither fate nor free will, self nor other. There is simply one all-inclusive ‘Happening,’ in which your personal sensation of being alive occurs in just the same way as the river flowing and the stars shinning far out in space. There is no question of submitting or accepting or going with it, for what happens in and as you is no different from what happens as it.“
”And still we see ourselves as separate and alone in the universe,” says Socrates.
“Socrates I have a question for you. I see you in front of me. I can reach across this solid table and grab your arm. I see other people, I know without knowing, each interesting in his or her own manner. I want to talk with them all. My suite is England, New York, California, my boat in Sausalito, wherever I see myself. Wherever I wish to be. The guests are past and present, timeless and now. This place Socrates. It exists in the reality of the imagination, but is it real?
”Excuse me for interrupting gentlemen but I decided to leave the poetesses to their discussion of rhyme and meter and to join the philosophers. Besides Socrates, you promised me this dance.”
”You are correct Simone. I did. Excuse us Alan.”
“By all means Socrates. We will talk again soon.”
…to be continued
6. The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 5 – Simone Weil
“Please excuse my intrusion Socrates. I realized you and Mr. Watts were about to enter a rather deep and possibly long conversation and I had a need to speak with you this evening.”
“Do not worry Simone. Philosophers tend to be patient individuals. Allen and I will continue our conversation another time. You seem a bit perplexed. How may I be of service?
“Perhaps that is the issue Socrates. Everyone tells me to be patient but I am tired of the injustices which surround me everyday. I want to end it. I want each individual to be free to pursue the goals of their life without the social and political restrictions imposed by governments, nations, and religious orders. For the greater part of my life I have been on a crusade for workers rights and equality between the sexes, but I do not seem to be making much progress. I dress in the clothing of a man so that I might be accepted as a peer and not only seen as a woman or sex object. I hold my own intellectually but socially I feel as if I am a misfit.”
“You are a very intelligent woman Simone and you bring so much understanding to you colleagues and friends concerning the cause of the common man. It does not matter if you call yourself a socialist or a communist. It does not matter if you are a Catholic or a mystic. You have an altruistic spirit and a giving heart. Albert Camus and I were walking in the garden somewhile ago and your name came up. He described you as, ‘The only great spirit of our time.’ 
“Whatever you give your attention to will profit in some form from that attention.”
“I believe you are correct Socrates. I am not one who simple observes. I believe in taking action.”
“And you take action Simone by giving a person or injustice your attention,” Socrates interjects.
“I think attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love…If we turn our mind toward the good, it is impossible that little by little the whole soul will not be attracted thereto in spite of itself.”
“Yes, that is true Simone. Change occurs because of and in spite of our efforts.”
“If I understand correctly Socrates, what you are telling me is that even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul.”
“Yes, yes, Simone. Very well stated. You must believe that. It is the source of your inspiration and the drive of your energy and attention.”
The music stops but Socrates and Simone are still standing in the middle of the great hall. The other guests of the Inn are engaged in conversation and laughter, so the two go unnoticed until they are approached by another woman.
“Good evening my friends. I hope I am not interrupting. I would like a moment with you Socrates if I might.”
Simone turns around and sees her dear friend and colleague Simone de Beauvoir. The two friends embrace.
“We have much to catch up on love. Let’s meet for a swim in the morning,” says Beauvoir.
“Great I will meet you at the lake. The joy of meeting and the sorrow of separation. We should welcome these gifts … with our whole soul. Thank you Socrates for your time and attention, both of which I required this evening.”
“The pleasure as always is mine Simone. Thank you for the dance. May I escort you back to your table?”
“Thank you Socrates, but my friend needs you now and I have taken up much of your time. Your insights and observations are very much appreciated. We will talk again.” replies Simone.
Simone Weil leaves to join Anaïs and Emily who are still engaged in poetic conversation at their table.
“How may I be of service Ms. Beauvoir?”
…to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 6 – Simone de Beauvoir
“Socrates. Would you mind if we took a stroll into the garden? I would love some fresh air and stars.”
“Everything you can imagine is here for you at the Inn my dear lady.”
Simone takes Socrates by the arm and the two leave the ornate grander of the Great Hall, over the small foot bridge crossing the almost silent stream, and into the garden. The air is filled with the scent of jasmine and honey suckle. There is no moon but the black sky is filled with so many galaxies of stars that the darkness has to fight for space. The two sit on a wooden bench facing the lake.
“I love to come here Socrates and watch for shooting stars,” says Simone softly. “I often see you sitting on one of the benches doing the same thing. You are always alone. You seem to me a man of solitude and yet you are the Gate Keeper of the beautiful Inn and grounds with the most exciting and interesting people I have come to know. How does all of this happen my dear gentle man of all ages?”
“For your flattery, you shall receive an answer. This all happens by chance Simone.”
“Chance? I was just thinking about it the other night while waiting for a shooting star. What astonishes me, just as it astonishes a child when he becomes aware of his own identity, is the fact of finding myself here, and at this moment, deep in this life and not in any other. What stroke of chance has brought this about?”
“You are the stroke of chance who brings this about, Simone. The energy you give to being alive, to living your life, and inspiring others to do the same.”
“I do not know how much of an inspiration I am to others, but I do love being here. This is my life and it is in the knowledge of the genuine condition of our lives that we must first draw our strength to live and our reason for living.”
“Touché Simone, well said. Your reason and purpose in life came to you at a very young age. I remember my overwhelming joy when I learned of your second place finish on the National Post Graduate philosophy exam. At 21, you were the youngest person to ever pass the examination. Although so many factors in our lives are, that was not chance.”
“True Socrates. After the examination, even though Paul Sartre, my friend and colleague finished ahead of me, I knew my role in life was going to be intermingled with philosophy.”
“I know you do not think of yourself as a philosopher Simone and yet here we are two philosophers sitting on this bench waiting on the chance to see a shooting star.”
Simone laughs. “Thank you Socrates. But tell me, please. How is it I am here? Is it by chance? I mean … Chance … has a distinct meaning for me. I do not know where I might have been led by the paths that, as I look back, I think I might have taken but that in fact I did not take. What is certain is that I am satisfied with my fate and that I should not want it changed in any way at all. So I look upon these factors that helped me to fulfill it as so many fortunate strokes of chance.”
“See you are a philosopher Simone. You see all the factors in front of you.”
Just then they both look up and see a shooting star appear and shoot across the width of the sky. It was the brightest star in the heavens and seemed to shoot on forever. Simone placed her head on Socrates’s shoulder as the fire flies floated above them and the frogs croaked them to sleep.
”I am so blessed by chance to be here.” She dreamed.
…to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 7 – Stanley Kunitz
I see a note on top of the front desk from Stanley Kunitz asking me to visit him in his suite when the opportunity permits itself. I love my visits to the guest’s suites. Each is the inspirational creation of the owner. Most contain furniture and artifacts from the guest’s own era, but some like Picasso’s suite are decorated and adorned with objects de art from more modern periods. Because Stanley is a gardener as well as a renowned poet, his suite is surrounded by gardens, ponds, and forests. “Nature is a great inspiration,” he always says.
I walk up the brass and marble stairway, through the library, and down the long hallway to reach Stanley’s suite. A note on the front door says, “Please come in. I am either in the garden or the study. Make yourself at home.” I pass through the vailed doorway and enter the suite. I head for his study as he always has a warm fire and a decanter of brandy awaiting his guests. I love the smell of his books, some neatly lining the many shelves, others scattered around the room, others in small stacks haphazardly organized around the sun lit study. His desk is filled with notes and papers, a half glass of brandy, and a few books by other poets.
I look out the garden door and wave to Stanley to notify him of my arrival. He waves back. I walk across the room to his roll top desk where he keeps the brandy and pour a decent amount into a snifter. Then I walk over near the fireplace and sit down to relax in his green chair while he completes his work in the garden. It was most likely a combination of the late night with Simone, the warmth of the fire, and the sips of brandy that caused me to drift off until I heard Stanley’s voice.
“I used to sit in that green Morris chair and open the heavy dictionary on my lap, and find a new word every day. It was a big word, a word like eleemosynary or phantasmagoria – some word that, on the tongue, sounded great to me, and I would go out into the fields and I would shout those words, because it was so important that they sounded so great to me. And then eventually I began incorporating them into verses, into poems. But certainly my thought in the beginning was that there was so much joy playing with language that I couldn’t consider living without it.”
“Language is important to both of us Stanley. We need to communicate. Words allow us to do that so we have a common image to go along with the word.”
“The problem with many words Socrates is they present different images depending upon the culture of the people where they are used. The images of poetry are almost all universal. The images of my childhood. The deaths of my father and stepfather are events I thought could only happen to me, but we all experience loss. Poetry speaks to the common everyday experiences we all share. The losses, the joys, and the frustrations of life. Poetry incorporates and transcends words. That is why I am a poet.”
I respond. “The poet says, ‘Unless you have felt it, you cannot truly understand it,’ and the philosopher says, ‘Unless you understand it, you cannot truly feel it.’ Do you agree with this statement Stanley?”
“I do not know Socrates. I could imagine an emotion, like fear, occurring so suddenly in life that the mind may not have time to identify it first. Fear, however, in the hands of a poet stimulates both the heart and the mind simultaneously. Think of Poe’s poem The Raven. My heart beats fast each time I read it when there is nothing to personally fear. Do the words generate the emotion of fear in this case or do the words aid in the understanding of the fear? Does the mind just go along?
“I studied psychology, philosophy and poetry so that I might better understand some of these connections between words, feelings, and thoughts but I do not know if I am any closer to that understanding. Perhaps we might raise this question with Carl and Sigmund one evening over dinner.”
“That should prove to be a lively discussion,” laughs Stanley. “You, Socrates, have the mind of the philosopher and the heart and patience of the poet.
“That is true my friend. My discipline is philosophy but I think of myself as more of a poet. I think all poets are philosophers but not all philosophers are poets.”
“I,” replies Stanley, “have the mind of the poet and the heart of the philosopher. We each go about in the performance of our daily activities with these two angels guiding us from different perspectives. The philosophers in us wonder endlessly in the garden, thinking, contemplating, rationalizing the thoughts in our heads while our poets take notice of the scent of the wisteria blooming on the trellis above us, the buzzing of the honey bees, and the heavy burden of the sunflower trying to hold its head erect.”
“Yes, we are both or should I say all three, poet, philosopher and psychologist.”
“That would explain some of my life’s complications,” says Stanley. “Maybe I enjoy not-being as much as being who I am. Maybe it’s time for me to practice growing old. The way I look at it, I’m passing through a phase Socrates: gradually I’m changing into a word. Whatever you choose to claim of me is always yours; nothing is truly mine except my name. I only borrowed this dust.”
“Yes Stanley,” I reply. “Stardust.”
…to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 8 – James Baldwin
It is early Sunday morning and I am wandering through the lake gardens checking on the preparations for the afternoon picnic. It is the perfect day, as Sundays usually are. Over in the grove I seem my friend Jimmy. He appears to be fishing, but there is no fishing allowed in the lake.
“Good morning Jimmy. Are they bitting today?”
“O’ Good morning Socrates. Yes, they are. I like to put a piece of bread on the end of the string and feed them. They provide me with a sense of communication, poetry in the nibbling. There is no hook so the fish are free to safely feed and I am free to simply watch and enjoy the morse codes they send me. I think we communicate without judgement from a collective point of consciousness.”
“That is an interesting perspective Jimmy. Does it work with humans as well?”
“There is no judgement from the fish as to who provides this bread for them. They do not know nor care if I am a man or woman, Black or white, gay or straight. They just eat the bread. With humans it is different. I need words to tell the other who I am. I am responsible to them in a greater way. A great deal of what I say just leaves me open, I suppose, to a vast amount of misunderstanding. A great deal of what I say is based on an assumption which I hold and don’t always state. You know my fury about people is based precisely on the fact that I consider them to be responsible, moral creatures who so often do not act that way. But I am not surprised when they do. I am not that wretched a pessimist, and I wouldn’t sound the way I sound if I did not expect what I expect from human beings, if I didn’t have some ultimate faith and love, faith in them and love for them. You see, I am a human being too, and I have no right to stand in judgment of the world as though I am not a part of it. What I am demanding of other people is what I am demanding of myself.”
“You sound more like a philosopher than a writer Jimmy although I know ultimately you are an artist who engages philosophy. We are similar in that way. We are both true to our own convictions rather than to the tastes of others. We both write what we want to write and say what we want to say. Not what others want to hear. And as you say, ‘We have both been misunderstood.’”
“You’ve got to tell the world how to treat you, Socrates. If the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble.”
“True. So very true.”
“But tell me Socrates. Why am I here? Why did you invite me to this world of poets, writers, artists of all forms, musicians, intellectuals and thinkers?”
“Because you greatly influenced my life, Jimmy. Your stories liberated me from feeling alone in the world.”
“You do not know how pleased I am to hear that Socrates. When I was very young (and I am sure this is true of everybody here), I assumed that no one had ever been born who was only five feet six inches tall, or been born poor, or been born ugly, or masturbated, or done all those things which were my private property when I was fifteen. No one had ever suffered the way I suffered. Then you discover, and I discovered this through Dostoevsky, that it is common. Everybody did it. Not only did everybody do it, everybody’s doing it. And all the time. It’s a fantastic and terrifying liberation.”
“I know. I was in college when I read The Fire Next Time. I was struggling with my role as a student of Western philosophy and as a Black student in a white educational, political and social system. I did not know where I belonged.”
“This is the crime of ignorance of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it.”
“But we both survived to become the artists and writers we are.”
“Yes we did but we loss too many of our unacknowledged contemporaries along the way. It comes as a great shock to discover the country which is your birthplace and to which you owe your life and your identity has not in its whole system of reality evolved any place for you. And if you survive it, if you don’t cheat, if you don’t lie, it is not only, you know, your glory, your achievement, it is almost our only hope because only an artist can tell, and only artists have told since we have heard of man, what it is like for anyone who gets to this planet to survive it. What it is like to die, or to have somebody die; what it is like to be glad. Hymns don’t do this, churches really cannot do it. The trouble is that although the artist can do it, the price that he has to pay himself and that you, the audience, must also pay, is a willingness to give up everything, to realize that although you spent twenty-seven years acquiring this house, this furniture, this position, although you spent forty years raising this child, these children, nothing, none of it belongs to you. You can only have it by letting it go. You can only take if you are prepared to give, and giving is not an investment. It is not a day at the bargain counter. It is a total risk of everything, of you and who you think you are, who you think you’d like to be, where you think you’d like to go — everything, and this forever, forever.”
“Are you saying we are only here as witnesses?”
“During my times, I saw the sheriffs, the deputies, the storm troopers more or less in passing. I was never in town to stay. This was sometimes hard on my morale, but I had to accept, as time wore on, that part of my responsibility—as a witness—was to move as largely and as freely as possible, to write the story, and to get it out.”
“And we are still trying to get the word out Jimmy.”
“I think I know how many times one has to start again, and how often one feels that one cannot start again. And yet, on pain of death, one can never remain where one is… It is a mighty heritage, it is the human heritage, and it is all there is to trust….This is why one must say Yes to life and embrace it wherever it is found—and it is found in terrible places; nevertheless, there it is; and if the father can say, “Yes, Lord,” the child can learn that most difficult of words, Amen.”
“Amen Jimmy. Amen. Shall we join the others at the picnic? There are some new guests here and I would like to introduce you. Henry Miller and his wife June recently arrived. I believe you and Henry know each other and share many common interests.”
“That sounds perfect Socrates as long as we can continue this discussion another time.”
“It would be my pleasure Jimmy. This conversation is not finished. We have yet to speak directly to the issues of race.”
We head toward the glen where the picnic is being held. Most of the guests have already arrived. Each is dressed in the clothing of their time period but it does not seem to matter to anyone as they engage freely with each other in conversation. Johnny Hartman, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane are testing the sound system for this afternoon’s entertainment. Margaret Mead approaches Jimmy to remind him of their upcoming dialogue on race tomorrow evening after dinner and the two walk off together. I am a witness to this beautiful day and to the engaging individuals I have invited here. I feel a gentle grasping of my arm.
“Socrates. Will you be so kind to join me at my table?”
I turn to see June Miller, tall and stunning, holding my arm.
“I can not seem to find Henry or Anaïs anywhere. We are going to lunch together during the concert.”
“It will be my pleasure June.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 9 – Henry Miller
“Good evening Henry.”
“Good evening, Socrates. I am looking for June. Have you seen her?”
“We were with each other earlier Henry. She had asked me to assist her in finding you and Anaïs. Then the music started and June wanted to dance. She left after a few dances to look for you. Is everything okay?”
“Socrates, I do not believe you could have any idea how chaotic it feels to be in between two women I love.”
“O’ I think I might,” responds Socrates. “I have had my share of misunderstandings and romanic mixups. You are not alone.”
“I feel as if I am always in two worlds at once, and neither of them is the world of reality. One is the world I think I am in, the other the world I would like to be in.”
“That is a dilemma my friend. What then do you think is the world of reality?”
“I think everyone has his own reality in which, if one is not too cautious, timid or frightened, one swims. This is the only reality there is. If you can get it down on paper, in words, notes, or color, so much the better. The great artists don’t even bother to put it down on paper: they live it silently, they become it. This is the reality I strive for.”
“Is this the reality you found during your years living in Big Sur?
“You know Socrates for some time now I have stressed the fact that whatever “it” is one gets here at Big Sur, one gets it harder, faster, straighter than one would elsewhere. I come back to it again. I say, the people there are fundamentally no different from the people elsewhere. Their problems are basically the same as those who inhabit the cities, the jungles, the desert or the vast steppes. The greatest problem is not how to get along with one’s neighbor but how to get along with one’s self. Trite, you might say. But true, nevertheless.”
“I agree. During my years at Esalen my life expanded in so many directions and areas of self discovery. I began to seen the world and life differently. My senses were put on reboot. I could see perfectly.”
“Things not only look different, they are different, when perfect sight is restored. To see things whole is to be whole. The fellow who is out to burn things up is the counterpart of the fool who thinks he can save the world. The world needs neither to be burned up nor to be saved. The world is, we are. Until we accept the fact that life itself is founded in mystery, we shall learn nothing. By the way Socrates, thank you for the invitation. This is life’s true reality.”
“My pleasure Henry. You know it was your book Big Sur And The Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch that implanted Big Sur into my consciousness. Upon completion of your book, I started looking for a way to get there. It was in Big Sur where I experienced magic again, from start to finish. That place and my experiences there opened my life to the miraculous.”
“The greatest miracle Socrates is the discovery that all is miraculous. And the nature of the miraculous is utter simplicity. The ground for any kind of growth and cultivation is prepared by lying fallow. The nearer I get to the grave the more time I have to lay fallow. Nothing is important now, in the sense it once was. I can lean to the right or left, without danger of capsizing. I can go off the course, too, if I wish, because my destination is no longer a fixed one. As those two delightful bums in Waiting For Godot say time and again:
And no one budges.”
“Perfect my friend! An unfixed destination, that is what I strive to inspire here with my guests. How perfect it is when we realize that the miraculous is everywhere in everything. That the one in all waits patiently for all to be at one with all there is.”
“And you have. My suite is all the places I want to write, the Inn, these garden filled grounds, your guests. This is all part of the miraculous Socrates. You have created this heaven.”
“Yes it is my friend, but the inspiration comes through you and the other writers, poets, philosophers and artists who are here by my invitation. I am merely the facilitator. We all process a certain amount of wisdom and this wisdom needs to be shared with all of life.”
“I agree Socrates. Every great sage has maintained that it is impossible to impart wisdom. And it is wisdom we need, not more knowledge or even “better” knowledge. We need wisdom of life, which is a kind of knowledge that only initiates have thus far been known to possess.”
“Yes Henry and we are the new initiates.”
“I discovered eventually that, after giving time and attention to people, what I said made no difference. I maintain that advice is futile. One must find out for himself. It sounds cruel but it isn’t.”
“No, it is not cruel and it is true,” says Socrates.
“You have to get to the point of no return before coming up again. There’s no God protecting you. In the end you have to come back to yourself. It has got to be you doing something, whatever you decide upon. Do what you think you have to do and don’t try to follow somebody else’s pattern because he was successful. You can’t be that way. You are You. You’re absolutely unique and each one has his own destiny. We can learn as much as we wish, listen to the greatest masters and so on, but what we do, what we become, is determined by our character. The aim of life, Socrates, is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”
“Spoken like a true man of wisdom and it is that kind of wisdom which infuses the blood and cells of every person here, individually and collectively. That is why I invited you here Henry to share your experience and wisdom with us.”
“I did have diarrhea of the mouth there for a bit. After saying I know longer give advice to people, I proceeded to tell the advice I would give, to the person who has no need of my words.”
“Advice given from our experience and shared with a pure heart is wisdom Henry.”
“Thank you Socrates for that insight. I am overwhelmingly joyful to be invited this this wondrous reality. There is just one other thing to know…when you have expressed yourself to the fullest, then and only then will it dawn upon you that everything has already been expressed, not in words alone but in deed, and that all you need really do is say Amen!”
“I seem to hear that word often of late Henry. Amen!”
At that moment June and Anaïs approach us, arm in arm, laughing like two school girls sharing a secret.
“Back to reality,” says Henry in a whisper. “But what a reality to be in Socrates, I am the happiest man alive.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 10 – May Sarton
This morning I am walking along the path around the lake. It is a beautiful Spring day. The sun is already warming the dew air. I see Henry and Jimmy relaxing in the hot springs. They wave me over, but I wave back and keep walking. As exciting and open I know that conversation would be, I need solitude this morning. My responsibilities as gate keeper of the Inn keep me charged with the presence and sharing with those I invited here. This is my world. There is no place else I would rather be. And for me to give all of myself to this garden of inspiration, I need to seek my other reality as Henry Miller puts it. That is time alone. Solitude .
After the roaring ocean sounds of Big Sur and the gentle lapping sounds of the South Pacific (except during hurricane season when the ocean and the wind combine to make nature’s loudest noise) I have come to appreciate the quietness here of the almost still lake, but today I venture upstream to the lake’s source a few miles up the mountain’s side. It is the place I go when I need solitude. It is as vivid a part of the dream that brings you this story as the individuals you meet. The veiled entry opens only to me. It can be observed from the trail, but not entered except by myself. The guests refer to it as Socrates’ Cave. No doubt a pun on my student Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave , but it is not a cave at all.
My cave is a small alcove open on one side to the stream which intersects a natural hot spring. I collected rocks from the hillside and built a round tub where the streams intersect to make nature’s most inviting hot tub. I know I could have just imagined the hot tub and it would have appeared, but I wanted to create everything in this space with my own hands. The only piece of furniture is a small sitting bench facing the stream. The other three sides of the alcove are vines, flowers, trees, and a family of red foxes who created their burrow here.
I look down toward the lake and I see May Sarton coming up the trail. I walk to my veiled doorway and open it so she knows where to come. I invited her to share tea with me this morning. I wanted her to see my place of solitude.
“Good Morning Socrates. I did not know you invited anyone to share your cave. I feel humbled.”
“You are my first visitor May. I wanted to invite you to my place of solitude because your poetry and journals greatly influenced me and my approach to solitude. Now solitude is as important a part of my life as breathing. I come here at least once every day to reflect and to review the on going events of my life.”
“I know exactly what you mean Socrates. I am alone here for the first time in weeks to take up my “real” life again at last. That is what is strange — that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life, unless there is time alone to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened.”
I added a small table for tea and two chairs in the alcove for May’s visit. The view and sound of running water over the rocks complete the serene setting. We both sit down and admire the moving picture before us.
“O’ Socrates. This is a most beautiful solitude I have ever experienced. Thank you again for sharing your cave with me. Do you come here to write?”
“No. I do not write here May. I come here to clear my mind of thought and to recharge my energy when life uses more than I sometimes have. It is a constant battle of balance. As you can see, the alcove is very sparse in furnishings and yet filled with nature’s abundance and beauty.”
Just then two of the fox cubs come out of their burrow and playfully approach May. She offers each a biscuit. The third climbs up my pant leg and falls asleep in my lap. The mother fox pokes out her head to check on the cubs, sees all is well and returns inside.
“I understand why your cave is invisible to the guests. A place of solitude must be available when needed in the moment. You do not what to schedule a particular time for solitude or have to stand in line for a ticket.”
“Yes May. I know you understand. Your writings, particularly Journal Of Solitude inspired me to carve out a place for it and to incorporate solitude into my life without guilt. I can see from here that all is going well down below without my presence. I also invited you here to share a little more about poetry if you are up for it.”
“Why of course Socrates. I am, I think, more of a poet…, if to be a poet means allowing life to flow through one rather than forcing it into a mold the will has shaped: if it means learning to let the day shape the work, not the work, the day, and so live toward essence as naturally as a bird or a flower.”
“How true. Although I do not write here, this alcove, this nature inspires my creative soul.”
“We are the same Socrates. We both journal our lives but deep inside we are poets. You choose to be a novelist, but you’re chosen to be a poet. This is a gift and it’s a tremendous responsibility. We have to be willing to give something terribly intimate and secret of ourselves to the world and not care, because we have to believe that what we have to say is important enough.”
“I am never quit sure of that last part May. I write for me so I do not know if my words are important to anyone else.”
“Of course they are Socrates. Poets find one another. I find my position as a poet today a curious one… For a long time I have maintained that the poet’s affair was the individual human soul, the story of it in one man, in my case the transforming of personal emotions into written events. I still believe that our job is somehow or other to be above the mêlée, or so deeply in it that one comes through to something else, something universal and timeless. It is only when we can believe that we are creating the soul that life has any meaning, but when we can believe it—and I do and always have—then there is nothing we do that is without meaning and nothing that we suffer that does not hold the seed of creation in it.”
“Yes May. Very true words. Poetry transforms and transports us through the chaos of life and even death to this universal, timeless space we are now in.”
“Solitude itself is a form of poetry. Both wait for the inaudible and the invisible to make themselves felt. And that is why solitude is never static and never hopeless. On the other hand, every friend who comes to stay enriches the solitude forever; presence, if it has been real presence, does not ever leave.”
“I understand May. Your presence here this morning has already greatly enriched this alcove, my place of solitude. You added another layer of inspiration to the running stillness of nature.”
“Thank you Socrates. I believe all art must be nourished by faith, the faith of an equal. We must live our lives burning them up as we go along, so that at the end nothing is left unused, so that every piece of it has been consumed in the work. There is no being sure of anything except that whatever has been created will change in time, and sometimes quite erratically.”
“Yes May. There is no certainty in life, but we are here, now. Poetry, solitude, journals are all necessary elements of the creative lives we live. I too want nothing left of my being unused…but before that happens, I am going to soak in the hot wading tub I built in the stream. Would you care to join me?”
“Yes Socrates! It would be my pleasure.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 11 – Ursula K Le Guin
Sometimes in the early hours of the day I like to hike the forest trails surrounding the property. There is something special about watching the sun rising through the branches of trees from the floor of the forest. I see life being regenerated in everything, from the opening blooms of flowers to the hungry sounds of baby robins tormenting their mothers for food. I have been thinking about words today and their power and impact upon society. Up ahead I see the bench where I usually stop to rest is occupied by Ursula K Le Guin. I attempt to back away but I unintentionally cause a break in her meditation and she looks up.
“Good Morning Socrates. I was just enjoying the feel of the sunrise through the trees upon my face. This land reminds me so much of home. I love this magical place you invited me to.”
“Good Morning Ursula. Please excuse my intrusion. I thought I was alone on the trail and I must have been thinking out loud to myself.”
“No apology is necessary Socrates. I welcome your presence.”
“Thank you Ursula. You mentioned home. Did you mean your home in Portland?”
Ursula laughs. “No my masterful friend. I was speaking of our home on The Farthest Shore.”
“The home of dragons?”
“Yes, of course.”
Ursula sees I am confused by her words, but continues. “I believe one of the functions of art is to give people the words to know their own experience.”
“Yes. I agree.”
“It’s one reason why we read poetry, because poets can give us the words we need. When I read good poetry, I often say, ‘Yeah, that’s it. That’s how I feel.’ Poets get the words right!”
Although it was my desire to speak with Ursula about words and storytelling, right now I am at a total loss for any words at all. I am still lost in her words, “The Farthest Shore.” I mange to pull my thoughts together enough to ask, “Is this the reason you started to write Science Fiction? “To give readers the necessary vocabulary for life possibilities beyond this one?”
“Yes, partly. Words do have power. Names have power. Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it.”
“We are both poets. We know the power of words, but where does the science come in?”
“Science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside. Science explicates, poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe. We need the languages of both science and poetry to save us from merely stockpiling endless “information” that fails to inform our ignorance or our irresponsibility.”
“You are a gifted storyteller Ursula. It was your poetic language which led me to read your EarthSea Trilogy. These books were my first reading adventure into science fiction. They changed my life. I began to feel free again.”
Ursula pauses for a moment, then continues, “As a writer, I want the language to be genuinely significant and mean exactly what it says… If you believe that words are acts, as I do, then one must hold writers responsible for what their words do.”
“I know and believe in the power of words. Your words helped me to overcome my fear of dragons which started with a movie I saw around the age five. Your stories helped me to believe again in magic, in other worlds, worlds within and beyond this orb we live in. Such was the power of your words.”
“Wow! Thank you Socrates. That is quite a compliment.”
“It is true Ursula. I only give compliments when they are so.”
Ursula is momentarily at a loss for words now.
I continue. “In my later years I had a life changing dream about a dragon and had one tattooed on my chest. I would never have had that done in my youth. I did not trust myself enough and I did not trust the possible consequences of my action if there were to be any.”
“To see that your life is a story while you’re in the middle of living it is a help to living it well.”
“I know. I learned that truth from reading your books, Ursula.”
“There’s a point, around the age of twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities. When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are.”
“Well, it took me until my mid thirties to come to grips with that choice. After thirty six years of doing, I tried just being. I still sometimes wonder who I am. Being here as you say is ‘between acts.‘ I am here. That I know, but change is certain.”
“And no matter how much I change there’s something about me that doesn’t change, hasn’t changed, through all the remarkable, exciting, alarming, and disappointing transformations my body has gone through. There is a person there who isn’t only what she looks like, and to find her and know her I have to look through, look in, look deep. Not only in space, but in time.”
“And what do you see when you look deeply into your true self?”
“Dragons. Dragons everywhere… When I die, I can breathe back the breath that made me live. I can give back to the world all that I didn’t do. All that I might have been and couldn’t be. All the choices I didn’t make. All the things I lost and spent and wasted. I can give them back to the world. To the lives that haven’t been lived yet. That will be my gift back to the world that gave me the life I did live, the love I loved, the breath I breathed. The way to see how beautiful the earth is, Socrates, is to see it as the moon sees it. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death.”
“I understand Ursula. How might I be of service.”
“I would like you to escort me along The Other Wind to our home Socrates.
“The home you spoke of earlier? The Farthest Shore ?
“Yes. Home isn’t where they have to let you in. It’s not a place at all. Home is imaginary. Home, imagined, comes to be. It is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them. Are you ready Socrates to meet your true self?”
Before I could answer, she brings her palms together and is immediately surrounded with fire. Her body is transforming. I can see the formation of a red head and golden wings. Then horns and huge amber eyes. After a few moments she appears as a beautiful dragon.
“You are The dragon Orm Irian . The sister of Tehanu and called daughter by Kalessin, the oldest of dragons, from your stories.“
“Yes. I am Socrates. You are a dragon too. Your real name is Dragon Tao.”
As if to prove once more the power of words, when Orm Irian speaks my dragon name outloud, I become a ball of fire from which the Dragon Tao emerges. Orm Irian leaps from the trail into the sky as my transformation is completing. I watch her soar a hundred feet above me as I stretch my wings and ready for flight. We climb through the various trade winds until we reach the Other Wind, the one that will take us to the Farthest Shore.
Ursula’s last words to me before she became Orm Irian were these.
I remember one time while in human form I saw the dragons aloft on the wind at sunset above the western isles; and I would be content. I know it is time to return home now because I am no longer content with just watching. Thank you Socrates for being my guide.”
“My pleasure Ursula. My pleasure always. We are dragons all.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 12 – William James
I am taking a leisurely stroll through the garden to the west wing of the Inn, still unable to put words to my other worldly dragon experience with Ursula. The morning fog still holds the intoxicating scent of the night blooming cactus as the rays of the sun change the mist into invisible sweet air. I am on my way to the Library to meet with William James. We are both concerned as philosophers and psychologists with the decline of truth as a pillar of leadership in the affairs of states and of the world.
I begin to cross the walking bridge over the stream and pause midway to stop and listen to the sounds of the water rushing over the rocks. The stream is strong after three nights of rain. It is spawning season for the salmon, and one of the guests favorite activities is witnessing their exhaustive trek each year to their birth place. They swim freely here without threat of capture. They are going home to give birth and to die. Much like the dragon Orm Irian. We must all complete this cycle of life and death. None of us are immune, but here we get to decide how, when we are ready.
I love this wing of the Inn. The Library is designed after the reading room in the New York Public Library only not as large and unlike the reading room, there are many nooks and crannies with a fireplace in each. Guests can arrange for a room and for requested texts or manuscripts to be delivered whenever they wish. There are no out of print books in our Library. Every book ever written is available upon request. No book, however is permitted to leave the Library. William has asked to meet in Room #3.
I knock on the door.
“Please come in Socrates. I have been expecting you. Thank you for meeting on such short notice. Would you like a brandy?”
“Yes. Of course William. I will be happy to join you in a brandy. I too would like to continue our previous conversation on the subject of truth. Are you interested?”
“Yes. Of course my friend. I agree with you that truth can not be an absolute for as you so rightly argued, an absolutely must be complete in and of itself. Truth in and of itself is not complete. We have the truth, the half truth, the right out lie, the little white lie, the lie of convenience and many more aspects of what we call truth.”
“But William. Is absolute truth even a reasonable thought or condition to strive for? Does truth prevail over lies? Are not both truth and lies equal contenders for human consciousness? The lies of advertisers for so many industries mislead and destroy the health of millions of citizens with no real detriment to their profits and they continue.”
“True Socrates but who controls the truth? Any person at anytime can claim a hold on the truth and later another can also claim he holds the truth. Who determines the truth? What qualifies as truth in a world of lies?”
“When one human is asked to testify against another, he swears ‘to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,’ so help him God. Is that even possible William? Are our political systems asking for the impossible in the search for truth?”
“There will always be shades of truth Socrates, but as a pragmatist I see a concept like truth as a tool for prediction and problem solving and reject the idea that truth can in any way be used only as a means to describe or mirror a reality. I contend there is no such thing. The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths.”
“Yes, my friend. Truer words have not been spoken.”
The two men then toast each other on their realization as the chimes sound for the evening event.
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 13 – Virginia Woolf
William and I are walking toward the massive front doors of the Library when a hand softly grabs my arm from behind.
“Socrates. Might you have a moment?”
I turn to see Virginia Woolf standing stunningly behind me with a stack of books under one arm, but before I can respond, I hear from William.
“Please go ahead Socrates. We can continue our discussion of truth another time. Good evening Virginia. I will see you both later at the evening’s event.”
“Thank you William. Please excuse my interruption.”
“No problem at all my dear lady.” William opens one of the Library’s massive doors and leaves.
“I so love this Library Socrates. It has every book I will ever want to read and I have all the time there is to read them. This is a book lover’s heaven. I have sometimes dreamt that when the Day of Judgment dawns — the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say when he sees us coming with our books under our arms, ‘Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.’”
“I agree Virginia. This is where I come to listen, to connect the silent energy between the word and the brain. The voices here speak in whispers audible only to those who truly listen. The voices of all those who have ever put ink to paper speak to you here and are silent when one does not need their intervention.”
“This is what concerns me Socrates. I do not know my voice. One moment it is this. The next moment it is that. Polar opposites exist in this, my one body.”
“Do you think this tension of opposites is detrimental to you creativity?”
“No I do not. I believe in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female… The androgynous mind is resonant and porous… naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.”
“True Virginia. Then why fear it? Perhaps you should continue with your examination of your own words.”
“I want my writings to be true Socrates, but how much of the truth do I tell? Anyone moderately familiar with the rigours of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings; snatched at ideas and lost them; saw his book plain before him and it vanished; acted people’s parts as he ate; mouthed them as he walked; now cried; now laughed; vacillated between this style and that; now preferred the heroic and pompous; next the plain and simple; now the vales of Tempe; then the fields of Kent or Cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”
“This again is all true Virginia. So I must ask the question, ‘For whom do you write?’”
“The habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments… What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through. I should like to come back, after a year or two, and find that the collection had sorted itself and refined itself and coalesced, as such deposits so mysteriously do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life, and yet steady, tranquil compounds with the aloofness of a work of art. The main requisite, I think on re-reading my old volumes, is not to play the part of censor, but to write as the mood comes or of anything whatever; since I was curious to find how I went for things put in haphazard, and found the significance to lie where I never saw it at the time.”
“Truth is not an absolute Virginia, but please tell me, how would you write about the place where these two energies reside? Your soul?
“One can’t write directly about the soul. Looked at, it vanishes, and yet, how beautiful a street is in winter! It is at once revealed and obscured. Here vaguely one can trace symmetrical straight avenues of doors and windows; here under the lamps are floating islands of pale light through which pass quickly bright men and women, who, for all their poverty and shabbiness, wear a certain look of unreality, an air of triumph, as if they had given life the slip, so that life, deceived of her prey, blunders on without them. But, after all, we are only gliding smoothly on the surface. The eye is not a miner, not a diver, not a seeker after buried treasure. It floats us down a stream; resting, pausing, the brain sleeps perhaps as it looks.”
“And that stream Virginia has brought you here at my request.”
“A moment, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length my dear friend and I have taken up much of your precious time.”
“You can only receive what I freely give. Time changes everything and we adapt as best we can. You have not taken my time. We are both a part of this shared moment Virginia.”
“Are you saying Socrates that a self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living.”
“Yes Virginia. I am. We are.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration- Chapter 14 – William Blake
One of my everyday joys is walking around the lake. The grey cobblestoned trail is the equivalent of the yellow brick road. It carries my body wherever my thoughts wish to take me. This walking meditation awakens me to the new and unfamiliar parts of my being. I asked the caretaker to extend the trail up to my cave so it might be easier to reach when it rains. This morning I am planning to walk it for the first time. Like my cave, the trail is only visible to me. To other guests it appears as dense undergrowth and forest. However, before reaching the new trail I see William Blake pacing in one of the wooded alcoves.
“Good Morning William. I hope I am not intruding. I saw you from the path. We have not spoken for a while. How are you my friend?”
“Socrates. No, you are not an intrusion. I am very happy to see you.”
Socrates knows William is an intense personality. It is from this seeming endless energy his creativity is derived.
William continues, “I am well Socrates. Thank you my friend. And you?”
“I am also well William. From my observation you seem a bit perplexed. Is there anything I might assist you with?”
“Yes, there is Socrates. I was wondering, as usual, about the duality of the body and soul. Although the body is gone after death, I believe the soul continues to live. I know that our deceased friends are more really with us than when they were apparent to our mortal part. Thirteen years ago I lost a brother, and with his spirit I converse daily and hourly in the spirit, and see him in my remembrance, in the region of my imagination. I hear his advice, and even now write from his dictate. People think I am insane.”
“I have had similar experiences following the loss of loved ones. The body is mortal but the soul is eternal. You are not insane William and no one here thinks you are.”
“Thank you Socrates for your support. I cannot help myself. In this mortal life I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man’s. I will not reason and compare, my business is to create. I wish to do nothing for profit. I wish to live for art.”
“And you do William. Everyone here is enamored with your poetry, your painting, and drawings. Your creativity is beyond the realms of mortal man. It comes from your soul.”
“I believe part of the problem is first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged: this I shall do by printing in the infernal method by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away and displaying the infinite which was hid.”
“Your poetry does that as well William. It examines the nature of mankind and slowly peels away the layers of his existence until his core, his soul is reached. Your description of heaven and hell were instrumental in my understanding of mankind’s multilevel nature. We are not our bodies and unfortunately most of us lack understanding and appreciation of the soul’s role in our creativity and inspiration.”
“I think that is the problem I have with organized religion. It only examines mankind’s human behaviors and attempts to control his natural desires with outdated rules of morality. Men are admitted into heaven not because they have curbed and governd their passions or have no passions but because they have cultivated their understandings. The treasures of heaven are not negations of passion but realities of intellect from which all the passions emanate uncurbed in their eternal glory.”
“Once again I agree William. Inspiration and creativity come from the soul. You are an example of the creativity which is possible in man once he has discovered and accessed his own soul.”
“You never know what is enough until you know what is too much. I have not reached that point of my soul being one hundred saturated with the spirit of God yet Socrates. My creativity knows no bounds.”
“It is that spirit which is an inspiration to everyone here.”
“Thank you for your time and insights Socrates. I am ready to return to my studio. I am ready to record the undertakings of my soul. I know some think I am foolish but I do not care.”
“No one sees and records the soul’s creative processes better than you William.”
“I must only remember the tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way…A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.”
“True. So very true. My wise friend.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 15 – Steve Jobs
I am walking through the art studio at the far end of the lake. The visual artists love this area. They create freely here from their own inspiration and that of their fellow guests. Picasso is in one corner painting an abstract portrait of his mistress, Adriana. I have never understood his art but I have great respect and admiration for his creativity and imagination. I think he must add a little something to his tea throughout the day to see the world as he does, but that does not matter. He graciously nods at my presence before returning to his task at hand. Unless asked for my opinion, I do not disturbe an artist in the mist of his/her work.
I walk out into the garden. The white Easter Lillys are in full display swaying gently in the warm breeze. The small creek is full of tadpoles anxious to become frogs and turtles who bask in the sun on an old fallen tree branch. I notice Steve Jobs sitting quietly in one of the forest alcoves. He waves for me to come over.
“Good morning Socrates. What a beautiful day.”
Yes it is Steve. How are you doing?
I am well Socrates. Thank you. I have been completely free of any physical pain since my arrival… Socrates. May I ask you a question and will you answer truthfully?
“Yes and yes.”
“I know I did not want to die. No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. “
“That is all true Steve, but what is your question.”
“Socrates. Am I dead?”
I paused for a moment before answering because I realize Steve’s fragility, as he is newly arrived here. “Yes Steve your body is dead.” Before I can explain further, Steve interrupts.
“What of this body?” Steve pounds his chest. “It is solid and healthy. I am pain free for the first time in…” Steve stops in mid sentence. “How long have I been here?”
“Time is not measured here Steve so I am unable to answer your last question. You are in transition. The pain free body you have now is based on the memories of your body from when you were still alive. You are your same consciousness but in a transitional body.”
“The last thing I remember was being surrounded by Laurene and the kids. I tried to remain conscious despite the medications. Remembering that I will be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that I am going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking I had something to lose. There is no reason for one not to follow his own heart.”
“And that is exactly what you did Steve. You changed the world by following your heart. I had a similar experience myself during a recent heart attack. You realize nothing else really matters in the pursuit of your life. Everyone else is a guest in your life. You assign their roles and importance.”
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward but you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
“That simple approach to life is still true here Steve. We can only understand life by looking backwards, through it.”
“Where is here, Socrates?”
“This place is not a location. You are a guest at the Inn of Inspiration so you might continue with your creativity and expand upon your imagination. As you know all of the guests here are very creative in different fields of art, music, literature, politics, and science like yourself.”
“I know creativity is just a matter of connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”
“You helped many creative individuals realize that truth Steve. You inspired and provided the tools for inspiration to an entire planet of people. You helped connected the citizens of the planet with the same interconnected circuitry you used in the tools you developed.”
“I realized when I got ill how my time on earth is limited so I refused to waste it living someone else’s life. I refused to be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. I refused to let the noise of others’ opinions drown out my own inner voice. And most important, I had the courage to follow my heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
“Exactly Steve, exactly.”
“One more thing Socrates if you don’t mind. How long can I stay at this beautiful Inn sharing time with so many gifted and talented individuals.”
“As I am the Gate Keeper here at the Inn Steve and you are here at my invitation, you are free to stay until you are ready to transition solely into spirit.”
“Thank you for your time and insights Socrates. I made plans to meet with Picasso and Adriana for tea and I see they are waiting by the lake. I would not like to keep them waiting any longer. Why don’t you join us. I understand Picasso makes a “spirited” cup of tea.
“Thank you Steve. It will be my pleasure.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 16 – Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver asked that I meet her on the footbridge over the creek in the east garden before she checks into her suite. I sense a bit of uncertainty as is sometimes common with those who have suffered from a long illness. As I approach her, she turns to face me.
“Good morning Ms Oliver. May I address you as Mary?”
“Yes. Please do, Mr…?”
“My name is Socrates Black, but please call me Socrates. Welcome to the Inn Of Inspiration. I am the Gate Keeper and the one who invited you here. I know you have many questions and I will do my best to answer all of them in time.”
“I thought I was cured of the cancer. The last thing I remember was lying in my bed. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. My lungs burned. When I opened my eyes again I was here in this beautiful place of nature. Is this heaven Socrates?”
“No Mary. There is no heaven or hell in actuality. They exist only metaphorically. The energy that is you, your life, to use the term loosely, is still alive in this place of transition.”
“For years and years I struggled just to love my life. And then the butterfly rose, weightless, in the wind. ‘Don’t love your life too much,’ it said, and vanished into the world. Am I now a part of that world? Did I love my life too much?”
“Yes Mary. You have always been and always will be a part of that and this world. They are different and the same as are you. As far as your second question, the answer is no. You inspire in others the ability to love their lives and themselves more. In the end we all must learn to let go.”
“In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.”
“You not only when out into the world. You created worlds. You saw the world with poetic eyes and then translated that vision into words to assist others to see the world differently, with different eyes.”
“I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done.”
“There is nothing else my dear poetess. So many people miss so much because they do not pay attention. They are too busy being busy with their lives to notice the fragile leaf or pattern of the butterfly’s wing”
“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work is it not Socrates.”
“Yes it is Mary.”
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
“You partake in this world much more than most human inhabitants Mary. You commune with the life of this world be that life a bear, a butterfly, a duck, or a grasshopper. You reach out to them with your life’s spirit, they receive you and give back to you themselves.”
“The end of life has its own nature, also worth our attention. I don’t say this without reckoning in the sorrow, the worry, the many diminishments. But surely it is then that a person’s character shines or glooms.”
“Unfortunately for most people it takes that long before they come into their own being. They glide along life’s surfaces never choosing to go deeper into the world of which we all are an integral part. I remember the last stanza from your poem The Journey which I read during my time at Esalen and which became a personal guide in my own life. ‘
And there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do — determined to save the only life you could save.
“You read my poetry Socrates?”
“Yes, Mary. Your words are a gift to the world. I am honored to say I have read most of your body of work and I look forward to reading the poetry you create and inspire here. In fact, I would like you to give a reading for the guests some evening. Stanley Kunitz , May Sarton , Emily Dickinson and many more have been awaiting your arrival. They know I extended you an invitation.”
“Are you a poet Socrates?”
“Yes Mary I am. At least I think of myself as more of a poet than an essayist. I do both. I think the poet requires a gentle spirit which we both share. The poet writes not to influence the reader, although that is often the end result, but simple to share a part of his/her vision and experience of the world.”
“I feel the same Socrates, but If you are too much like myself, what shall I learn of you, or you of me? Perhaps in either case you will share your words with me someday?”
“It will be my pleasure to share my poetry with you Mary. There is still much we can learn from one another no matter how similar our natures are. I find, and perhaps you do also, that the creative process for the poet or any creative person requires an amount of solitude that the non creative person does not understand. I want to assure you my dear lady, your time here is truly your own. You will be able to create without outside interruption.”
“Thank you Socrates for inviting me here. In my life so often I am at my desk. It is a silver morning like any other. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again is so important to the creative individual. There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
“You will find no such individuals here Mary. The air here is rich with the energies of inspiration and creativity.”
“I believe I know myself rather well Socrates and my loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.”
“You will find Mary all of the guests here share your view. It is one of the reasons we do not have time in this pastoral place.”
Mary continues her thought. “But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.”
“Here at the Inn Mary, all of your external needs are taken care of with just your thoughts. Your imagination replaces, if you wish, the habits of your physical existence. At one time during my life I had an encounter with a patron at the library where I worked. After I assisted her with her book selection, she started looking in her handbag for her car keys. O’ here they are,” she exclaimed. “Just where I always put them. When you reach my age a good habit is better than a fading memory.” For her it was absolutely true. Your transition will take some time, but I believe you will eventually find yourself free of most unnecessary habits.”
“The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition I find are also teachers… And if you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real. In the shapeliness of a life, habit plays its sovereign role… Most people take action by habit in small things more often than in important things, for it’s the simple matters that get done readily, while the more somber and interesting, taking more effort and being more complex, often must wait for another day. Thus, we could improve ourselves quite well by habit, by its judicious assistance, but it’s more likely that habits rule us.”
“I completely agree with what your say Mary. Our habits are also teachers. Perhaps the issue here is one of semantics. Here at the Inn you are free of the habits which ruled your physical life. I like the word ceremony or ritual over habit because a ceremony requires attention, while most habits are automatic. At the Inn, the automatic is taken care of for you. You are freer to engage more in the ceremonies supportive of your own creative energies. You asked about my own poetry. Perhaps this simple poem will explain what I mean. ‘The Ritual’ is the title.
the way I step
across the bench,
face the sky,
adjust my hips,
straighten my back,
and breathe deeply.
All to just sit—
to the sea.
“Yes Socrates. I understand. You are a poet. It has frequently been remarked, about my own writings, that I emphasize the notion of attention. This began simply enough: to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer. It was my pleasure to notice such things… Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness – an empathy – is necessary if the attention is to matter. In creative work — creative work of all kinds — those who are the world’s working artists are not trying to help the world go around, but forward. Which is something altogether different from the ordinary. Such work does not refute the ordinary. It is, simply, something else. Its labor requires a different outlook — a different set of priorities. Ritual is a part of the creative process whereas habits may sometime be a distraction from the creative process. Thank you my new friend.”
“It is my pleasure always Mary, but please tell me now, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life now?”
“O’ Socrates. Only the philosopher poet would ask me that question using my own words. I am still eager to address the world of words – to address the world with words. There is instilled in me this deeper level of looking and working, of seeing through the heavenly visibles to the heavenly invisibles.”
“Again. Welcome my poetess. Shall we join the others?”
“Yes, by all means let us do so.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 17 – Oliver Sacks
I am relaxing in quiet meditation in my cave, soaking in the waters of the hot spring. I have decided to make this cave my home-space and entertain my guests here. I will continue to use my office at the Inn for GateKeeper business. After all, everyone here is invited by me because each is a person I would love to sit down with in conversation over a bottle of wine or a pot of tea. One’s privacy is respected here and I do not wish to hide this view of the world from others’ eyes any longer. I do not consider this cave my home. It belongs to nature. I am just permitted to occupy it for a while, very much like my body. It is just dust on loan to me from the Providers. When I or any being chooses to leave the body to become spirit, payment on the loan is made.
The Providers created this Inn to allow invitees to function in an environment supportive of creativity through imagination. To mix, to mingle, and to share ideas and imagination without the confines of time. I was given the position of GateKeeper in a dream along with the task of inviting those individuals I would like to share time with to be a part of this creative realm. The problem is many of the individuals I wish to share time with are from different time frames in the creative development of the planet. This is not a problem for the Providers because time as we normally think of it does not exist here. There is only this moment.
I hear a knocking sound but because no one has ever knocked on the door to my cave before I do not realize where the sound is coming from.
“Socrates. It’s me, Oliver.”
“Just a second Oliver.” I quickly grab a towel and tie it around my waist as I head toward the door.
“Am I early?”
“No. Your timing is perfect. Please come in. I was relaxing in the hot spring. Would you care to join me there?”
“Yes. That sounds perfect after my two mile swim upriver. You know Socrates, I have walked past to spot many times and I never saw this cave. Did it just appear overnight?”
“Well, yes. It has just recently become visible to the guests. It has to do with my quest for finding home. I realize it is not the walls or views that make a home, but what is created in the space within those walls and views that is the real home. It’s about space and what we do with it.”
As Oliver removes his clothing and hangs it on the rack near the stream, he turns toward Socrates who has already returned to the hot spring. “It might have to do with your identity Socrates.”
“You might be on to something there Oliver. As I realize the growing strength of my creativity and inspiration from these extraordinary guests, my previous dependence upon the physical becomes less of a factor in my identity.”
“We have, each of us, a life-story, an inner narrative — whose continuity, whose sense, is our lives. It might be said that each of us constructs and lives, a “narrative,” and that this narrative is us, our identities. If we wish to know about a man, we ask “what is his story — his real, inmost story?” — for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us — through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives — we are each of us unique.”
“It is Oliver that uniqueness of the individual I wish to discuss with you today regarding the creative process. Where or when is creativity borne?
“Creativity involves not only years of conscious preparation and training but unconscious preparation as well…This incubation period is essential to allow the subconscious assimilation and incorporation of one’s influences and sources, to reorganize and synthesize them into something of one’s own.”
“Is anything ever truly our own? Just before you arrived I was thinking about this cave. It is not mine. I do not own it. It is not my home. I fill only the space contained within, with furniture, light, guests, and memories.”
“All of us, to some extent, borrow from others, from the culture around us. Ideas are in the air, and we may appropriate, often without realizing, the phrases and language of the times. We borrow language itself; we did not invent it. We found it, we grew up into it, though we may use it, interpret it, in very individual ways. What is at issue is not the fact of “borrowing” or “imitating,” of being “derivative,” being “influenced,” but what one does with what is borrowed or imitated or derived; how deeply one assimilates it, takes it into oneself, compounds it with one’s own experiences and thoughts and feelings, places it in relation to oneself, and expresses it in a new way, one’s own. All young artists seek models in their apprentice years, models whose style, technical mastery, and innovations can teach them. Young painters may haunt the galleries of the Met or the Louvre; young composers may go to concerts or study scores. All art, in this sense, starts out as “derivative,” highly influenced by, if not a direct imitation or paraphrase of, the admired and emulated models.”
“In light of this revelation, I Socrates Black, doth proclaim the space enclosed within the natural walls of this cave as my own.”
Oliver cheers while they both laugh in solidarity.
“It is a huge leap for you to now make yourself, I mean your cave, open to observation Socrates. It takes a special energy, over and above one’s creative potential, a special audacity or subversiveness, to strike out in a new direction once one is settled. It is a gamble as all creative projects must be, for the new direction may not turn out to be productive at all.”
“Maybe it is my inner voice who guides these decisions Oliver. So far she has taken good care of me. I tend to land on my feet more than my head. I feel free of something. A weight, a burden. I do not yet have a name for it. I write about it the best I can.”
“The most we can do is to write — intelligently, creatively, evocatively — about what it is like living in the world at this time.”
“With each of us being unique as you say. What is our common factor?”
“I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”
“I think you are preaching to the choir here reverend one. We have both lived our lives in our own way. I would like to think our humanity is our commonness, but it has not worked so far in bring all life together.”
“We are all creatures of our upbringings, our cultures, our times. And I have needed to remind myself, repeatedly, that my mother was born in the 1890s and had an Orthodox upbringing and that in England in the 1950s homosexual behavior was treated not only as a perversion but as a criminal offense. I have to remember, too, that sex is one of those areas – like religion and politics – where otherwise decent and rational people may have intense, irrational feelings.”
“That is very true my friend. Is death then the common factor all of life shares? And, if this is true, why do we fear death?”
“I cannot pretend I was without fear of death. But my predominant feeling has always been one of gratitude for life. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. I say I love writing but really it is thinking I love — the rush of thoughts — new connections in the brain being made. And it comes out of the blue…In such moments: I feel such love of the world.”
“I too know that feeling Oliver. Love for all of life. Especially here and now in this place.”
“From here Socrates I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts.”
“That is why each of the guests here was invited. To share in the connectedness of our common humanity and I can think of no better why to do so than through the inspiration and sharing of our creative natures.”
“I must agree Socrates, but before we continue with our dialogue might I impose upon you for a glass of ice tea?”
“Certainly my friend. It will be my pleasure.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 18 – Gaston Bachelard
I am in a somewhat bewildered state this morning as I walk through the garden and past the lake toward the hot springs. It feels like a Sunday morning so it must be, but I have no way of knowing as time does not exist here. I know it does not matter, but every once in a while I have dreams which place me in different times and places than here. These dreams come during the day as well as night and appear and sensually seem as real as this place is to me. I ponder how that is possible. I sit down on one of the carved benches on the far side of the lake. After only a few minutes of solitude, I hear footsteps on the path.
“O’ please forgive me Socrates. I interrupted your meditation.”
“No Gaston. No apology required. I am just sitting here thinking about, well, consciousness I suppose. I have been having dreams while both asleep and awake, and in all of them I feel conscious…of a great love.”
“I completely understand Socrates,” replies Gaston. “Consciousness rejuvenates everything, giving a quality of beginning to the most everyday actions.”
“That is true Gaston. Each conscious experience is as a rebirth. Each thing I do is a new experience no matter how many times I have done it at different times before. I wait for the pendulum to swing in the other direction as it must.”
“If our heart were large enough to love life in all its detail, Socrates, we would see that every instant is at once a giver and a plunderer.”
“It is that fine balance upon which life teeters my friend. Right now I feel this great love inside of me and an emptiness equally as large. A new life ahead when I have already lived so many years. Who is dreaming my dreams?”
“I know Socrates. Sometimes a dream can be so strange that it seems that another subject has come to dream with us.”
“Exactly! It is as if I am being visited by the dream rather than its creator.”
“‘A dream visited me.’” That is certainly the formula which indicates the passivity of great nocturnal dreams. To convince ourselves that they are really ours, we must reinhabit these dreams. Afterwards we make up accounts of them, stories from another time, adventures from another world… The teller of dreams sometimes enjoys his dream as an original work. In it he experiences a delegated originality; and hence he is very much surprised when a psychoanalyst tells him that another dreamer has known the same originality.”
“But tell me Gaston. What about my daydreams when I am wide awake? Just walking up the path this morning I experienced half a dozen different realms, each as real to me as the other.”
“Can you recall any of those realms now Socrates?”
“Well no, but I know I had the experience of each,” I reply.
“In contrast to a dream Socrates a reverie cannot be recounted. To be communicated, it must be written, written with emotion and taste, being relived all the more strongly because it is being written down. Are you a poet Socrates.”
“Yes. I am Gaston. I know the power of poetry.”
“Great Socrates because reverie gives us the world of a soul and a poetic image bears witness to a soul which is discovering its world, the world where it would like to live and where it deserves to live… Poetry forms the dreamer and his world at the same time.”
“I understand Gaston but how does one account for the reality of these reveries all taking place now? I am in the place I want to be. My life is open to every possibility and yet I dream of them.”
“There is a transition occurring Socrates. Cosmic reveries separate us from project reveries. You are experiencing cosmic reveries. They situate us in a world and not in a society. The cosmic reveries like you experience possess a sort of stability or tranquility. It helps us escape time. It is a state. Let us get to the bottom of its essence: it is a state of mind… Poetry supplies us with documents for a phenomenology of the soul. The entire soul is presented in the poetic universe of the poet.”
“My worlds, your worlds, like the universe and love are constantly expanding. They come and go so quickly.”
“You are expanding Socrates. You are free of life’s burden. Write down your words of love. Written love … is going out of fashion, but the benefits remain. There are still souls for whom love is the contact of two poetries, the fusion of two reveries… To tell a love, one must write… Love is never finished expressing itself, and it expresses itself better the more poetically it is dreamed. The reveries of two solitary souls prepare the sweetness of loving… The reality of love is mutilated when it is detached from all its unrealness.”
“Amen my dear friend Gaston. Amen,”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 19 – Susan Sontag
It is raining this morning, what some people might refer to as dreary, but I cherish these moments of solitude, walking to the rhythm of the soft falling rain. There is a lightness to my step and joy in my soul as if some hidden burden had been lifted. I am happy.
I am headed to the Library. The path is empty this early except for the singing birds and the occasional fish taking to air over the lake. There is a peacefulness around a library. Knowledge patiently waiting to be found for all those who seek it.
I open the massive wooden doors and close them as quietly as possible although I think I am the only one here this early today.
“Good morning Socrates. Would you care to join me for a cafe and a bit of brandy?
The voice surprises me as my eyes adjust to the dim light.
“It is me, Susan. I am over in Alcove #3. Please join me.”
“Yes. Good morning Susan. I would love to join you. The cafe with brandy sounds like a good tonic with which to engage the day. How glad I am to see you. Thank you again for your enchanting evening talk. I was inspired to start writing again after my brief rest period. Your words about the things you believe writers ought to do…”
“O’ you mean. ‘Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world… A writer is a professional observer.’”
“Yes, exactly. I am an introvert who loves to observe life happening and it is happening all the time, everywhere. The great experience of being here is the choice to observe or participate is always one’s own. Like you. I love to get inside words, pay attention to its inflection and usage. Paying attention to the word, and to the world are equally important for the writer.”
“I agree Socrates. The nature of moral judgments depends on our capacity for paying attention — a capacity that, inevitably, has its limits but whose limits can be stretched…But perhaps the beginning of wisdom, and humility, is to acknowledge, and bow one’s head, before the thought, the devastating thought, of the simultaneity of everything, and the incapacity of our moral understanding to take this in.”
“Because of the infinite vastness of time and space?” I ask.
“Time exists in order that everything doesn’t happen all at once … and space exists so that it doesn’t all happen to you.” Susan replies.
“I will have to ponder that one a bit Susan, but thank you for the insight.”
Our cafes with brandy arrive and we both sit back in our chairs enjoying the aromatic blend of the two aromas.
“I watched you this morning from the window walking along the path. You appeared so light and happy as a butterfly. I silently called to you and asked you to join me.”
“That then is why I am here. How may I be of service?”
“There is an essential … distinction between stories, on the one hand, which have, as their goal, an end, completeness, closure, and, on the other hand, information, which is always, by definition, partial, incomplete, fragmentary.”
“I left so many fragments behind Socrates that in looking back I wish I had closed. My task is not to find the maximum amount of content in a work of art, much less to squeeze more content out of the work than is already there. My task is to cut back content so that I can see the thing at all.”
“Are we speaking about art Susan?”
“Well art and love. I miss Annie. I would never acknowledge that publicly while I was alive and now wish I had shared our love with the world. There was more than enough there.”
“Yes, I can see that Susan.”
“I grew up in a time when the modus operandi was the ‘open secret’. I’m used to that, and quite OK with it. Intellectually, I know why I haven’t spoken more about my sexuality, but I do wonder if I haven’t repressed something there to my detriment. Maybe I could have given comfort to some people if I had dealt with the subject of my private sexuality more, but it’s never been my prime mission to give comfort, unless somebody’s in drastic need. I’d rather give pleasure, or shake things up.”
“And with your own words, you solved your dilemma. ‘Private sexuality.’ There is no need to confess your sexuality to anyone except yourself and your lover(s). You know Annie and I believe she knows you equally. No injustice or disservice was done by your privacy. I know for a fact she is still OK with your privacy even as she has ended her own silence on your relationship.”
“Yes! She used the word, ‘lovers.’
“How do you know this Socrates. O’ it does not matter. What is important now is to recover my senses. I must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more… O’ thank you Socrates for this gift of your wisdom and time.”
“It is my pleasure, Susan. Always.”
“What about you Socrates? As I watched you walking the path earlier, I saw a very handsome fulfilled man. I bet you have lots of stories to share.”
“Well, there is one I want to share with you but first let’s get another cafe and brandy.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 20 – Martin L King
I sit in quiet meditation looking out from my space at the trees and greenery around me, the river, the peacefulness of being. I have no need to know what day or time it is as neither has any relevance to existence here. If only the world was so.
I imagine those who sought to rule the world at various times thought the same. Those responsible for this space created a world without anger and hate. Love and respect are the central themes here.
I am waiting for my dear friend Martin to join me this morning. We have been bumping into one another around the grounds and finally made a plan to meet.
“Good morning Socrates. I am honored to be a guest in your space.”
“It is my pleasure to have you here Martin. Please come in and have a seat.”
Martin and I are comfortable with one another. We have shared many wonderful and insightful conversations.
“It has been too long Socrates. Much too long.”
“I have been thinking about my college days Martin and the beginnings of your peaceful, non violence approach to real life everyday terror. Nothing has changed Martin. Racism still exists.”
“Some see it that way but there can be no gainsaying of the fact that a great revolution is taking place in the world today… it is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle. The disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality… Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
“That is true Martin and in light of this racism you continue to believe in a philosophy of love and nonviolence.”
“I think we can be sure that the vast majority of us who engage in the demonstrations and who understand the nonviolent philosophy will be able to face dogs and all of the other brutal methods that are used without retaliating with violence, because we understand that one of the first principles of nonviolence is a willingness to be the recipient of violence, while never inflicting violence on another.”
“In my younger days Martin, I considered myself a soldier for the cause but I did not know how many times I could turn the other cheek and love my enemy.”
“Well, I don’t think of love as, in this context, as emotional bosh, but I think of love as something strong and that organizes itself into powerful direct action. This is what I have tried to teach in the struggle in the South, that we are not engaged in a struggle that means we sit down and do nothing. There is a great deal of difference between nonresistance to evil and nonviolent resistance.”
“You speak of love in the same way Jesus speaks of love.”
“Yes, Socrates. I equate love with agape. Agape means understanding, redeeming good will for all men. It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative. It is not set in motion by any quality or function of its object… Agape is disinterested love. It is a love in which the individual seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes. It is an entirely “neighbor-regarding concern for others,” which discovers the neighbor in every man it meets. Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friends and enemy; it is directed toward both.”
“Love thy neighbor as thy friend?”
“Yes. If one loves an individual merely on account of his friendliness, he loves him for the sake of the benefits to be gained from the friendship, rather than for the friend’s own sake. Consequently, the best way to assure oneself that love is disinterested is to have love for the enemy-neighbor from whom you can expect no good in return, but only hostility and persecution.”
“So the good and decent become the sacrificial lambs of the fierce and waring.”
“No Socrates. That is not what I met. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. But before we continue, why don’t we move to your hot tub? My aging body could use a good soak.”
“That sounds perfect Martin. It would be my pleasure.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 21 – Seneca
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” These were Seneca’s parting words to me the first time we met here at the Inn Of Inspiration. I have pondered them oven in my head often since then.
I am walking to the far shore of the lake where my cave abode waits. I still have the cubicle behind the front desk, under the stairway where I say for late arrivals but I seldom use it these days. I am spending much more time in the place our guests call Socrates’s Cave, most often alone, and sometimes with invited guests. Today, my dear friend Seneca is joining me for a hot tub and his special blackberry wine. As I continue the climb to my cave, my senses are blessed with the arousing scent of rosemary coming from the garden. I see Henry, June and Anaïs brushing themselves and each other with rosemary branches, playing and laughing like children. I reflect back to my last conversation with Henry.
We were speaking of his reality with the two women when he said, ‘“But what a reality to be in Socrates. I am the happiest man alive.”’
Yes, here, this moment, I would agree with you Henry.
I arrive at the entrance to my space and pass through the veil. There is something special about returning to a place of one’s own and finding it the same as I left it the last time I was here. It is a peacefulness, for sure. The hum, the sound of this personal space is familiar and speaks to me each time I enter. The sunlight breaking through the thriving plant life. The rushing of the stream. The still, warmth of the hot tub patiently waiting our tired bodies as I hear Seneca coming up the path.
“Good morning my dear friend Seneca. Welcome.”
“Good morning to you my dear friend Socrates. Time has kept us apart for too long. O’ I know time does not exist here but I am from a time when it did, as are you. Who else can I blame for us not seeing each other for what seems too long a time?”
“Well, Seneca. There are three things I know about time. (1) It cannot be stored or saved. (2) It is finite for all living creatures. (3) It can be remembered but you cannot go back or ahead in time to change or direct it. Perhaps today you might broaden my perception on time and other subjects but first let’s pour some wine and retire to the awaiting tub.”
“Sounds like an excellent idea.” Seneca continues talking as the two men remove their robes and slide into the healing warm water. “What man can you show me, excluding those of us here, who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years lie behind us are in death’s hands.
Therefore… hold every hour in your grasp. Lay hold of to-day’s task, and you will not need to depend so much upon tomorrow’s. While we are postponing, life speeds by. Nothing… is ours, except time. We were entrusted by nature with the ownership of this single thing, so fleeting and slippery that anyone who will can oust us from possession.”
“But even those of us chosen to have continuation here still look back on life as being much too short.” I interject…
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”
“I still occasionally have this sensation of time and life speeding up.”
“You must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow… Just as travelers are beguiled by conversation or reading or some profound meditation, and find they have arrived at their destination before they knew they were approaching it; so it is with this unceasing and extremely fast-moving journey of life, which waking or sleeping we make at the same pace — the preoccupied become aware of it only when it is over.”
“The preoccupied miss so much of the feeling of thou with everything.” I say.
“Living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man; yet there is nothing which is harder to learn… Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.”
“That statement does not surprise me, Seneca. I believe the same from my experiences. Perhaps this is true for you also. I have become more stingy with my time as I live more of it. I realize it’s finiteness.”
“People are frugal in guarding their personal property Socrates; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”
“How does one respond to your earlier statement making time the villain in keeping us apart then Seneca?”
“My dear Socrates forever the antagonist, but in a good way. Set yourself free for your own sake; gather and save your time, which till lately has been forced from you, or filched away, or has merely slipped from your hands… Certain moments are torn from us… some are gently removed… others glide beyond our reach. The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness.”
“By the term carelessness, do you mean the same as unawareness?” I ask.
“Yes, humans are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!”
“And we cannot forget the role of procrastination.”
“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”
“It can sometimes take a lifetime to learn that also. What do you think is the role of immortality in relationship to time?”
“We are in the habit of saying that it was not in our power to choose the parents who were allotted to us, that they were given to us by chance. But we can choose whose children we would like to be. There are households of the noblest intellects: choose the one into which you wish to be adopted, and you will inherit not only their name but their property too. Nor will this property need to be guarded meanly or grudgingly: the more it is shared out, the greater it will become. These will offer you a path to immortality and raise you to a point from which no one is cast down. This is the only way to prolong mortality — even to convert it to immortality.”
“I am very grateful for my teachers, my families. You are one Seneca. I am grateful for you.”
“Well, thank you Socrates and I am grateful for you also. We should try by all means to be as grateful as possible. For gratitude is a good thing for ourselves, in a sense in which justice, that is commonly supposed to concern other persons, is not; gratitude returns in large measure unto itself. There is not a man who, when he has benefited his neighbour, has not benefited himself, — the reward for all the virtues lies in the virtues themselves. For they are not practised with a view to recompense; the wages of a good deed is to have done it. I am grateful, not in order that my neighbour, provoked by the earlier act of kindness, may be more ready to benefit me, but simply in order that I may perform a most pleasant and beautiful act; I feel grateful, not because it profits me, but because it pleases me.”
“The giving and sharing of gratitude?” I ask.
“Yes Socrates. The wise man… enjoys the giving more than the recipient enjoys the receiving.”
“Is it possible that human kind could become a slave to life?” I ask.
“Honors bind one man, wealth another; nobility oppresses some, humility others; some are held in subjection by an external power, while others obey the tyrant within; banishments keep some in one place, the priesthood others. All life is slavery Socrates. Therefore each one must accustom himself to his own condition and complain about it as little as possible, and lay hold of whatever good is to be found near him.”
“To the determent of any hope, dreams and aspirations?” I ask.
“It was nature’s intention that there should be no need of great equipment for a good life: every individual can make himself happy. External goods are of trivial importance and without much influence in either direction: prosperity does not elevate the sage and adversity does not depress him. For he has always made the effort to rely as much as possible on himself and to derive all delight from himself.”
“For you and I that may be true Seneca, but man is a social animal, ruled by other men and no longer nature. Today he either controls or destroys nature, the planet and himself.”
“If nature should demand of us that which she has previously entrusted to us, we will must say to her: “Take back a better mind than you gave: I seek no way of escape nor flee: take it away.” What hardship is there in returning to the place whence one has come? That man lives badly who does not know how to die well.”
“Then you also feel the earth’s dying?
“I do, but before we continue, I saw a platter of fruit, cheese and bread on your table. I could use a bit to eat and another glass of wine. I could stay here and flitter away all my time with you Socrates.”
“It will be my pleasure Seneca, my friend. ‘“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”’
..to be continued.
23 Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 22 – Albert Einstein
The property here is surrounded by snow covered mountains glistening in the gentle rising of the sun. I am making my way to the highest point of the range at around 12000 feet. This journey is one of my periodic rituals to watch the sun glow beneath the clouds and then rise above them to light and warm the valley. Although my breathing is a bit labored, the temperature is perfect for my morning adventure. On this day I feel my two legs could carry me anywhere, to any continent, to any sphere in space but for today they need only carry me to the top of this mountain.
As I leave the tree line and the precious sounds of life accompanying me on my journey thus far, I walk pass the beaver den as the mother and two kits come out to greet me. The small lake formed as a result of their damn will provide a safe and protected spawning area for the returning salmon. The dense forest gives way to sparse meadows and rushing streams. The rock formation ahead tells me the end of the trail is near. It is dawn as I make my way around the rocks to the east side of the range. Sometime ago I imagined and created a meditation shed on the bluff of this mountain, above the falls, facing east for myself and the guests to use. It is a wooden cabin closed on three sides with open windows to the east. The roar of the waterfall falls flowing underneath the structure adds to its mystery and ambiance. All is silent once inside.
As my eyes adjust to the darkness of the cabin and I move toward my favorite spot, I see a familiar face. He awakens from his meditation and acknowledges me as we are the only two in the hall at this time.
“Thank you for meeting me here Socrates. This is one of my favorite places of the many beautiful places here on the grounds and at the Inn. My imagination flys here above the clouds and yet I sit on solid ground. The sounds of the falls are lost in the sounds of silence. The winds whisper. The clouds float. The sunrises are always most beautiful during the new moon phrase. It is as if the she shines more brightly to make up for the moon’s absence. Don’t you agree my friend?”
“I do. The sun does seem to shine brighter. Good Morning Albert. I trust the trail here was not too arduous. I am always surprised so many of the guests come here. When I imagined this meditation hall, I purposely blended it into the mountainside and made it small so as not to conflict with nature. Still, when I come here I experience the same largeness of wonder I experience when standing on the shore looking out over the ocean.”
“As I believe my friend, if one looks deeply into nature, then you will understand everything better.”
“That is true Albert. You are as much the philosopher as the man of science. I am pleased to know this side of you. It adds to your aire of mystique.”
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”
“Fortunately our eyes are open enough to take in this wonder.” We both pause our conversation to watch the sun rise through the clouds and light the sky. The golden rays reaching like giant arms across the vast sky absorbing the darkness which covered the land.”
“You know Socrates. You and I are very much alike in many ways.” Says Albert. “We are both men who cherish our solitude and alone time. My passionate interest in social justice and social responsibility has always stood in curious contrast to a marked lack of desire for direct association with men and women. I am a horse for single harness, not cut out for tandem or teamwork. I have never belonged wholeheartedly to country or state, to my circle of friends, or even to my family. These ties have always been accompanied by a vague aloofness and the wish to withdraw into myself increases with the years. Such isolation is bitter, but I do not regret being cut off from the understanding and sympathy of other men. I lose something by it to be sure, but I am compensated for it in being rendered independent of the customs, opinions and prejudices of others, and am not tempted to rest my peace of mind upon such shifting foundations.”
“Well said Albert. We both function independently of other’s shifting foundations. Most have difficulty understanding this aspect of our nature, but we see and recognized it in each other because it exists in each so strongly. Like you, I have never belonged anywhere but here. And I must ask, if not mankind, what or who guides you?”
“The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. The trite subjects of human efforts, possessions, outward success, luxury have always seemed to me contemptible.”
“I would add fame to that list of trite contemptibles.” I say.
“Yes. We should add fame to that list. Worshipped today, scorned or even crucified tomorrow, that is the fate of people whom—God knows why—the bored public has taken possession of.”
We both sit quietly for a while and take in the beauty unfolding before our eyes.
“You and the providers created this glorious place Socrates for us to to be reinspired again by life. The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination and you my friend are very imaginative.”
“Thank you for that compliment Albert. It is my honor and pleasure to have you here as my guest. I need to be reminded of the role and importance of imagination in life.”
“My pleasure Socrates.”
“Speaking of imagination. I know you are a great lover of music and Pablo (Casals) is giving a concert this morning in the garden. He has a few new creations to share. We can continue our conversation during the walk down the mountain and perhaps afterwards we can soak in the hot springs.”
“An excellent idea Socrates. “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I get the most joy in life out of music.”
“Of course you do. You are the Gate Keeper of Inspiration.” The two men laugh. “At least,” Albert continues, “The walk down is always easier than the walk up. It is a law of physics. I should know.”
“Of course you do my friend.”
The two men laughing together, leave the meditation hall and the early morning glow behind them.
24 The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 23 – Iris Murdoch
It is one of those mornings where one knows everything is perfect. It is the acceptance of this fact which aids in the growth and development of inspiration. When I know the perfect exists in everything, I can create without either judgement, fear, or shame. The imperfect does not exist or as my friend Miles (Davis) says, “Don’t fear mistakes – there are none!”
I feel charged this morning. A while back some of the female guests asked if they could have use of an old barn structure on the north end of the property to use as a special retreat center for women only. It is the building from my dream which brought about this magical place and started these writings. It was the first building on the property. The original structure will be maintained but they would like to add some skylights and convert some of the rooms to be used for various individual crafts.
The structure is solid and built over our natural hot springs. The plan is for part of the building to be used as a bath house for female guests and staff. The windmill near the old barn is being repaired and will be used to pump water from the hot springs into the bath house. The group, represented by Iris Murdock, was pleased the Providers okayed the plan. Each guests has inspirational control over their individual living space but because this was an original building of the property, all plans have to be approved.
As I approach the grounds, I see the old building and the windmill under repair and I begin to relive the dream of how this all started when I dreamed of a place …
“Good Morning Socrates. I interrupted your memory. Please accept my apology.”
“No apology is necessary Iris. It is a sound and pleasant memory. I am never without it. How are you my dear friend?”
“Life is very good Socrates.”
“Yes it is, Iris. We both feel and appreciate that. It is also important to verbalize it whenever the opportunity presents itself… Life is good.”
“On behalf of the women here, I want to thank you for your kindness and generosity. We are all so excited about our new space of inspiration and creativity. The addition of the bath house is icing on the cake.”
“It is my pleasure always, Iris. Would you care to give me a tour and discuss your plans for the old structure?”
“Yes, but first will you tell me why I am here. I mean. Why did you invite me to be a part of this wonderful existence?”
“Are you wondering if it were chance or causality?”
Iris responds, “Causality and chance … are the same things looked at two ways. Of course we are rather mechanical, and psychoanalysis can offer us some useful generalities about ourselves. But everything that is important and valuable and good belongs with the little piece of us which is not mechanical and no one who is not bemused by philosophy or a youthful mood really doubts the existence of this piece.”
“Yes Iris. That is why you are here. We are those pieces. You and I are both philosophers, poets and writers. This paradise is the dream which allows me to have conversations with the people who have influenced my life. Your influence came as a mirror in many ways. Here, we are the characters of our own fiction experiencing the goodness of life.”
“Plato remarks in The Republic that bad characters are volatile and interesting, whereas good characters are dull and always the same. This certainly indicates a literary problem. It is difficult in life to be good, and difficult in art to portray goodness. Perhaps we don’t know much about goodness. Attractive bad characters in fiction may corrupt people, who think, “So that’s OK.” Inspiration from good characters may be rarer and harder, yet Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov and the grandmother in Proust’s novel exist. So I musk ask Socrates. Are we the good and dull or the bad and volatile.”
“That is a good question Iris, and it is one for which I do not have an answer. I think this is the reason I prefer philosophy to writing fiction but you have done well combining the two.”
“Both art and philosophy constantly re-create themselves by returning to the deep and obvious and ordinary things of human existence and making there a place for cool speech and wit and serious unforced reflection. Long may this central area remain to us, the homeland of freedom and of art. The great artist, like the great saint, calms us by a kind of unassuming simple lucidity, he speaks with the voice that we hear in Homer and in Shakespeare and in the Gospels. This is the human language of which, whenever we write, as artists or as word-users of any other kind, we should endeavour to be worthy.”
“Amen to that Iris!”
“Great art is liberating, it enables us to see and take pleasure in what is not ourselves. Literature stirs and satisfies our curiosity, it interests us in other people and other scenes, and helps us to be tolerant and generous. Art is informative. And even mediocre art can tell us something, for instance about how other people live. But to say this is not to hold a utilitarian or didactic view of art. Art is larger than such narrow ideas.”
“So what is the role of the tyrant in art and truth? Can they coexist?
“Tyrants always fear art because tyrants want to mystify while art tends to clarify. The good artist is a vehicle of truth, he formulates ideas which would otherwise remain vague and focuses attention upon facts which can then no longer be ignored. The tyrant persecutes the artist by silencing him or by attempting to degrade or buy him. This has always been so.”
“And regarding truth?” I continue.
“Some philosophers tell us that the self is discontinuous and some writers explore this idea, but the writing (and the philosophy) takes place in a world where we have good reasons for assuming the self to be continuous. Of course this is not a plea for ‘realistic’ writing. It is to say that the artist cannot avoid the demands of truth, and that his decision about how to tell truth in his art is his most important decision.”
“Is this where morality enters?”
“Life is soaked in the moral, literature is soaked in the moral. If we attempted to describe this room our descriptions would naturally carry all sorts of values. Value is only artificially and with difficulty expelled from language for scientific purposes. So the novelist is revealing his values by any sort of writing which he may do. He is particularly bound to make moral judgements in so far as his subject matter is the behaviour of human beings… The author’s moral judgement is the air which the reader breathes.”
“Very well stated Iris. As writers and philosophers we must always be conscious of the affects of our words upon the reader.”
“Yes, very true Socrates.”
As I turn toward Iris to ask another question, I hear women’s voices in the distance. “Tell me Iris. Have you thought of a name for the structure? We can’t keep referring to it as Socrate’s dream castle.”
She takes my hand and leads me to the area between the windmill at the north shore of the lake. The is a bonfire burning and women are dancing and singing around the fire. Joyful and happy. There are the two Simones and Anaïs and Mary… all the other women.
“Yes we have Socrates. It is named ‘The House Of The Fire Dragon’ in honor and memory of Ursula (K LeGuin) and, of course, your first book.”
“My first book? In The House of The Fire Dragon, Lives a Gentle Man. You read it?”
“Yes. With attention and love.”
“You must be one of the few. I think I only made twelve copies of the book. It was all done by hand.”
“No Socrates. I was one of the fortunate. It was my pleasure.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 24 – Bertrand Russell
I spend most of my nights here in what has become known as Socrates’ Cave. I love falling into sleep and awakening here to the sounds of the stream, birds and the occassional barking dog. In my deepest imagination I could not imagine a better place to be. If it does exist beyond imagination, I am making my way there for no home for me has ever been permanent.
I have had more time to myself of late. That has been good. My core is that of a loner, buy I am not a hermit. I enjoy the company of others in the sharing of joy and conversation. I just seem to require it less and less these days. It takes a great deal of energy to be in soul contact with another being.
This morning Bertrand Russell is coming here to share a hot tub and a bit of brandy. Our conversations always leave me filled with a greater sense of wonder about the role of philosophy, god and religion to humanity. There he is at the entrance.
“Good morning Bertrand. How wonderful to see you again.”
“And to you a good morning, my dear friend. Here we are, two loners about to engage in what is known in Gaelic as Anam cara. We best be careful else the others will believe we are becoming more social.”
They both share laughter as each knows the other cares nothing of gossip. Especially when the talk of others is about themselves.
“I welcome you into my home. I am glad to see you are able to remove yourself from the library for a leisurely hot soak.”
“The wise use of leisure, Socrates, it must be conceded, is a product of civilization and education. A man who has worked long hours all his life will be bored if he becomes suddenly idle. But without a considerable amount of leisure a man is cut off from many of the best things. There is no longer any reason why the bulk of the population should suffer this deprivation; only a foolish asceticism, usually vicarious, makes us continue to insist on work in excessive quantities now that the need no longer exists.”
“I am not sure I can agree with you on that first statement Bertrand. Although I worked many long hours, once freed, I have not experienced boredom. In my life I can not recall a single moment of boredom. My imagination was so expansive there was no room for boredom to exist.”
“That is why you are the gatekeeper here my friend. Your imagination inspires and circulates like air among us all.”
“Thank you my friend.” I reply.
“There is an element of boredom which is inseparable from the avoidance of too much excitement, and too much excitement not only undermines the health, but dulls the palate for every kind of pleasure, substituting titillations for profound organic satisfactions, cleverness for wisdom, and jagged surprises for beauty… A certain power of enduring boredom is therefore essential to a happy life, and is one of the things that ought to be taught to the young.”
“Once again I must disagree with you my friend but perhaps because I have not experienced boredom, I am not the best antagonist. I strongly question if a failure to be inspired by what is around us leads to boredom that it could be taught to students.”
My friend Socrates always the moralist. Perhaps it is as unwise to spend one’s vital capital as one’s financial capital. Perhaps some element of boredom is a necessary ingredient in life. A wish to escape from boredom is natural; indeed, all races of mankind have displayed it as opportunity occurred… Wars, pogroms, and persecutions have all been part of the flight from boredom; even quarrels with neighbors have been found better than nothing. Boredom is therefore a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.”
“Perhaps Bertrand I am out of touch with the whims of society, but I do not see boredom as a problem any more than I see leisure activity as a moral issue.”
“We are less bored than our ancestors were, but we are more afraid of boredom. We have come to know, or rather to believe, that boredom is not part of the natural lot of man, but can be avoided by a sufficiently vigorous pursuit of excitement…”
“Do you have a picture of the ideal life then my friend?” I ask.
“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Knowledge and love are both indefinitely extensible; therefore, however good a life may be, a better life can be imagined. Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life… Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.”
“None of that sounds boring to me. And here all this time I thought I was already living the good life. Now I have something more to look forward to.”
Both men laugh and slide deeper into the hot spring water.
“But tell me.” I ask. “If as you say boredom is a natural part of life, will humankind ever find satisfaction with their lives?
“In the conscious desires of the man who seeks power for its own sake there is something dusty: when he has it he wants only more power, and does not find rest in contemplation of what he has. The lover, the poet and the mystic find a fuller satisfaction than the seeker after power can ever know, since they can rest in the object of their love, whereas the seeker after power must be perpetually engaged in some fresh manipulation if he is not to suffer from a sense of emptiness. I think therefore that the satisfactions of the lover, using the word in its broadest sense, exceed the satisfactions of the tyrant, and deserve a higher place among the ends of life.”
“I take that as a yes?”
“Well. Yes and no.” Bertrand answers.
“In that case.” I reply. “I better open the brandy. This is going to be a long leisurely morning with no moments of boredom. I am positive.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper of Inspiration – Chapter 25 – Maya Angelou
It is another beautiful morning. It feels like a Sunday but I am unsure, and besides it does not matter here. Each time I open these massive doors and enter the library, I feel as if I am about to embark on another fabulous adventure. We added a new wing, a Poet’s Corner, and moved the entire poetry collection there. The addition opens to the lake on one side. I think the birds love it as much as the poets as the overhang provides protection from the elements. On the right is a wildflower garden designed as a labyrinth for walking meditation. It extends for as long as someone wishes to walk. It has no physical boundary so it is easy to be alone and yet it is impossible to be lost. I see Maya Angelou standing on the bridge connecting the library with the labyrinth. I approach her.
“Good morning Maya. I hope I am not disturbing your thoughts.”
“No. Not at all Socrates. Standing here in the morning sun I realize you only are free when you understand you belong no place — you belong every place. I am not sure why you invited me here my friend but I am grateful for the invitation.”
“You are here Maya because you are one of the people I would have loved to sit down with and share a pot of tea or a glass of wine. It did not happen then so it can happen now.”
“Thank you Socrates. You are very kind.”
“Maya. You remind me so much of my mother and her sisters. There was not a strong male figure in our family. My mother and her four sisters raised us all. I was raised knowing a woman’s strength.”
“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.”
“My mother was like that and passed the trait to be myself forward.”
“I know. Just this morning Mary Oliver gave me a copy of your poem and essay on Stand Undiminished. I did not know you are also a poet Socrates. You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution. You seem to have discovered that truth for yourself and now you are here helping us to remember. Helping us to be inspired by life.”
“Thank you Maya. Like the stream we are standing over this moment, it is always changing. It is never the same river except by name.”
“We need the courage to create ourselves daily, to be bodacious enough to create ourselves daily – as Christians, as Jews, as Muslims, as thinking, caring, laughing, loving human beings. I think that the courage to confront evil and turn it by dint of will into something applicable to the development of our evolution, individually and collectively, is exciting, honorable.”
“Indeed it is Maya. Our humanness is our common trait.”
“If you are going down a road and don’t like what’s in front of you, and look behind you and don’t like what you see, get off the road. Create a new path!”
“Yes. Unfortunately too many of us get stuck in one of life’s ruts and fail to change lanes.”
“Each one of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather superstorm or spiritual superstorm, when we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other and empathize with each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike.”
“That is why we are still a part of this world Maya, but I need to regress a bit. I was thinking about something you said earlier. ‘If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking.’ Evil and racism come to mind. If only thinking could change them.”
“Throughout our nervous history, we have constructed pyramidic towers of evil, ofttimes in the name of good. My moto has become ‘Just do right.’ Right may not be expedient, it may not be profitable, but it will satisfy your soul. It brings you the kind of protection that bodyguards can’t give you. So try to live your life in a way that you will not regret years of useless virtue and inertia and timidity. Take up the battle. Take it up. It’s yours. This is your life. This is your world.”
“And this is yours Maya. As poets we both know the power of words to affect change. The pen over the sword. Is it enough?”
“At the end of the day Socrates people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
“Amen Maya. Amen.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper of Inspiration – Chapter 26 – Carl Edward Sagan
It is another beautiful morning here on the grounds of the Inn of Inspiration. One of life’s great joys is being in an environment of inspired individuals. It does not matter that we agree on everything or anything for that matter. It matters only that we follow that which we are inspired to do. Inspiration is an important element in the pursuit of one’s dreams. Writers, poets, and musicians rely on individual muses or nature for inspiration but what about scientists or mathematicians. What inspires them? The quest for knowledge and understanding or the inert need to get to the core of the equation?
“At the end of the day Socrates people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
Those words spoken to me by my friend Maya Angelou only a short while ago still reverberate in my being. How we make the other feel is love. All those I invite to share this inspiring space love one another. Jesus, Gandhi, John Lennon each said it was all we need. They were right. I want each person I have contact with to feel my love for them. Even death when he comes to greet me. My mind wanders this morning.
I am on my way to the library to meet with Carl Sagen. I am going through the back way so I can walk through the new gardens of the Poet’s Corner. I see May Sarton and May Swenson laughing like young school girls on a bench surrounded by blooming daffodils. Many saw them as competitors in their earthly days but there is no sign of competition today. All I see is the love between them.
Each time I enter this structure, I am in total amazement of the books, the silence, the smell of ink and paper, the tombs of so many lives. “I love books.” I say out loud.
“I do also,” says Carl making his appearance from between the stacks. “Books, purchasable at low cost, permit us to interrogate the past with high accuracy; to tap the wisdom of our species; to understand the point of view of others, and not just those in power; to contemplate — with the best teachers — the insights, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history. They allow people long dead to talk inside our heads. Books can accompany us everywhere. Books are patient where we are slow to understand, allow us to go over the hard parts as many times as we wish, and are never critical of our lapses.”
“How true. Good morning Carl.”
“Good morning Socrates my old friend. Thank you for joining me this morning. I am anxious to show you the plans for the observatory the Providers have given permission to construct on the South Mountain.”
“Yes, I am excited to see them, but for a moment I would like to return to your statement about books. I wish there were a way to share this wealth of history and information. It just seem to me that the world has fallen into a dark state of ignorance and denial of late. Dreams are being crushed as a result.”
“The gears of poverty, ignorance, hopelessness, and low self-esteem mesh to create a kind of perpetual failure machine that grinds down dreams from generation to generation. We all bear the cost of keeping it running. Illiteracy is its linchpin…. Frederick Douglass taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom. But reading is still the path.”
“You are correct Carl. Thank you for your insight. You see beyond this world of ours. You look to the stars for your inspiration.”
“All of humanity is made by the atoms and the stars… our matter and our form are determined by the cosmos of which we are a part.”
“Yes, I agree Carl, but tell me more about your project.”
“The premise is a simple one Socrates. The dome of the observatory is the lens of the telescope permitting a large number of people to observe the same events at the same time. The dome becomes whatever part of the universe it is focused upon.”
“I remember a bicycle trip I took in Mexico. One night under the influence of peyote, I lay on the ground and watched the sky. The sky seemed to move around me as a half dome. I watched shooting stars disappear into the dome’s horizon.”
“That is the experience I want everyone to have. The universe spinning around each individual. That is in truth what happens each day. Once we leave those domains of human experience, there’s no reason to expect the laws of nature to continue to obey our expectations, since our expectations are dependent on a limited set of experiences.”
“So the experience I had on peyote is the reality of how the universe is to each of us. It is an endless dome sky?”
“The other unique feature of the dome of the observatory is that it will project the universe from any point in the universe. Look at this working model.”
“Is that the Earth?” I ask.
“Yes.” Carl replies. “From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
“Beautifully said Socrates. You sound more like a philosopher than a scientists.”
Carl laughs. “I am a believer in Critical Thinking Socrates.”
“Okay Carl, now you are taking a page from my books. What do you say we take a stroll over to South Mountain and view the grounds for the new Observatory? We can continue our discussion on critical thinking. Fortunately it is a long walk so we will have all day.”
“You know me Socrates. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them. I know you will find the weak links in my premise and give me an independent confirmation of the ‘facts.’”
“That you can rely on my friend. That you can rely on.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper of Inspiration – Chapter 27 – Henry David Thoreau
Today is one of those misty mornings when most of the guests here at the Inn of Inspiration choose to remain in bed a bit longer or arrange for a late coffee or breakfast with friends. I on the other hand, after donning my rain gear and boots am heading for a hike in the mountain forests. I am in great need of solitude this morning. No particular reason. My duties at the Inn are minimal and there are no new guests arriving or needing my attention. I just wish to be alone for a while.
I past the hot springs where Simone Weil, Simone Beauvoir and Jimmy Baldwin gesture for me to join them. As much as I am tempted, I point to the trail head and wave. They wish me a safe journey and return to their conversation.
There is something about being alone in the forest that energizes me. Perhaps it is simply the fact that I am not really alone but among my closest friends. The trees, birds, squirrels and other creatures of the forest welcome me, opening their world to greet me as a member of their family in the same manner I welcome each guest to the Inn. They require no attention from me nor do they need my assistance. I have no responsibilities other than to put one foot in front of the other, to breathe deeply of the fresh morning air and to take in all the beauty their world freely offers.
I do not know for how long I have been walking as my mind has slipped in and out of presence this morning. I return to awareness when I hear someone call my name.
“Good morning Socrates!”
I look up to see Henry Thoreau sitting on a bolder smoking his pipe.
“O good morning Henry. I was just… Well, my mind was elsewhere.”
“ I know what you mean Socrates. I am myself alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to Society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is – I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?”
“Well Henry that perfectly describes me this morning. My thoughts have drifted to some other place or unfinished deeds that I lost my reason for coming into the forest which was to simply enjoy this beautiful morning.”
“I completely understand Socrates. I think the morning, the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night. Little is to be expected of that day, if it can be called a day, to which we are not awakened by our Genius, but by the mechanical nudgings of some servitor, are not awakened by our own newly acquired force and aspirations from within, instead of factory bells, and a fragrance fills the air – to a higher life than we fell asleep from. All memorable events, I should say, transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere. The Vedas say, “All intelligences awake with the morning.”
“But I also came into the forest this morning because I wished for solitude.” I say.
“Yes Socrates, me too. Being alone in a distant woods or fields, in unpretending sprout lands or pastures tracked by rabbits, even on a black and, to most, cheerless day, like this, when a villager would be thinking of his inn, I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related, and that the cold and solitude are friends of mine. I suppose that this value, in my case, is equivalent to what others get by churchgoing and prayer. I come to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go to home… It is as if I always meet in these places some grand, serene, immortal, infinitely encouraging, though invisible, companion, and walked with him.”
Henry pauses for a moment. “I hope I do not appear rude when I say this, but I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
“We are brothers of the same belief Socrates, but now that we are together, please join me for a cup of tea at my cabin a short ways from here. I think I have a bit of brandy to fend against this moist chill.
“Absolutely Henry. It would be my pleasure. I did not know you built a cabin in this neck of the forest.”
“I have done so only recently after visiting your cave on the other side of the property. It inspired my creation. As much as I love my space at the Inn, like you, sometimes I just want to be alone with my own thoughts in nature. I am convinced that to maintain one’s self care on this earth is not a hardship but a passtime, if we will live simply and wisely.”
“Well said my friend.” The two of us continue along the path to a small lake and Henry’s cabin.
He says, “I came into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and to see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I come to die discover that I had not lived.”
“And what have you learned so far?” I ask.
“I learned this Socrates by my experiment thus far, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. Also in proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.”
“That is the same reason the Providers gave this space to us.” I add.
We walk a bit farther to the cabin. It is made of logs, but Henry tells me he used only trees which had already fallen from storms and old age. He also built all the furnishings which are sparse himself by hand.
Henry stokes the fire and brings a small kettle of water and a half bottle of brandy over to the small table. “I find most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”
“I could not agree more Henry.” I say.
He continues as he pours a little brandy and some hot tea into each of our cups. “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. I believe in keeping my life as simple as possible.”
“Here! Here!” I add and the two of us toast to the simplicity of our lives. I then notice some papers along with a pen and a bottle of ink on a table in front of the window facing the lake. “How’s the writing coming along?”
“Very well!” He says. “This is a wonderful spot for inspiration. In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained;… We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.”
“The examined life is never a narrow experience.” I interject.
“You are correct Socrates. Our truest life is when we are in our dreams, awake for it is as hard to see one’s self as to look backwards without turning around. My desire for knowledge is intermittent, but my desire to bathe my head in atmospheres unknown to my feet is perennial and constant.”
“Henry, my friend. You have created the perfect grounded space to maintain your lofty thoughts and dreams.”
“Thank you Socrates for your inspiration and friendship. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.”
“Amen brother. Amen.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper of Inspiration – Chapter 28 – Joseph Campbell
I am in the north wing of the library also known as the Mythology Wing. One could spend a life time in the stacks here and not even begin to turn the page of what is historically available. I need to do a bit of research on Hera, the wife of Zeus whose name came up recently in some other research I was doing. I always find libraries to be warm and entertaining places. There is none like this one in all the physical world. In terms of content it surpasses the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt which was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world. That library was the cornerstone of a research facility dedicated to the nine Muses of the arts. Caesar burned some of it during his siege, but its real decline started much earlier with the outcasting of the scholars and intellectuals by Ptolemy VIII around 145 BC. We have recreated many of the scrolls from that library to provide access for our guests to the original texts and writings of the ancient scholars.
Eventually the library of Alexandria dwindled during the Roman Period for the same reason most of today’s libraries succumb, lack of funding and support. Fortunately our library will never have to face such a situation. The Providers made our library to house the worlds’ wisdom and knowledge which had been previously lost to wars, disfavor and carelessness.
Let me see, our librarian told me I could find the information I seek about half way down isle thirteen which is at least half a city block further for me to walk. I have not spent a great deal of time in this wing, but I always love spending time in the library. From the moment I open the massive front doors I feel transported not from any time or place but more into a place of silence and wisdom. I am Plato coming out from my cave into the light.
“Good morning Socrates. What brings you to my corner of the library this morning?”
I am immediately startled as I had been in my own world. I turn to see Joseph Campbell seated at a long table almost hidden by the stacks of books surrounding him. “Good morning Joseph. I was not expecting to run into anyone this morning.”
“You know me Socrates. I spend much of each day here researching the ancient histories and myths of humanity. What brings you here so early?”
“I wanted to do some research on Hera.”
“O. The wife of Zeus. Now there’s a story for you. I think you will find her about half way down isle thirteen. I was just about to take a break myself. Would you care to join me for a glass of sherry or cup of coffee before continuing your journey?”
“Yes. That would be wonderful Joseph. Sherry for me, thank you. Let’s move over to those overstuffed leather chairs by the window.”
“My thinking exactly Socrates. It has been a long while since we last had the opportunity to sit and converse.”
Joseph lays down his notebook and the two of us settle into the comfortable leather chairs in front of a huge stained glass window. I am not sure I ever noticed the window before but it is a cloud image of Hera.
“Look Joe.” I say pointing to the window. “Did you know….”
“Yes Socrates.” He says without even turning around to look. “This is the perfect spot to begin the journey of your research.”
“Joseph, you are one of the few individuals with whom I find myself constantly in amazement.”
“And you Socrates are a hero in my eyes.”
“Me. A hero?”
“Yes you Socrates. A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. You give your being to this paradise, this life, so you can share it with those you love, respect and appreciate. You give all of us here a new lease on life.”
“After my early years, my life has been about enrichment of the experience of life. It has never been about the money.”
“I think the person who takes a job in order to live – that is to say, for the money – has turned himself into a slave.”
“I agree with you 100% Joe.”
Joseph continues. “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive. One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that. We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.
“I think poetry Joe has connected me with that truth more than anything else in my life.”
“Poets are simply those who have made a profession and a lifestyle of being in touch with their bliss.”
“True, how true.”
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” Joseph adds.
“Finding the bliss path is not alway easy for most of us. I mean, you knew the moment you walked into the indigenous peoples’ wing of the Metropolitan Museum what you wanted to do with your life. Here we are older in years and I still do not know what I want to be when I grow up, but I would not trade one moment of this life I live for any other life. This I am sure of. I left the world I wanted no part of and embarked on this journey of self discovery and never left.”
“Wherever you are – if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”
“I agree Joe. I first had to remove myself from the noisy brain world of what I believed to be reality to a quieter inner world.”
“That doing is what makes you a hero Socrates. The first work of the hero is to retreat from the world scene of secondary effects to those causal zones of the psyche where the difficulties really reside, and there to clarify the difficulties, eradicate them in his own case (i.e., give battle to the nursery demons of his local culture) and break through to the undistorted, direct experience and assimilation of what CarlJung calls “the archetypal images.””
“I found almost complete solitude was and remains necessary for me on this journey. The world of people is too busy and noisy for me.”
“I completely understand Socrates. Sacred space is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”
“I am a witness to that truth Joe. Just look at where we are and what we experience here each and every moment, this beauty, understanding, acceptance and life.”
“I know Socrates. The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”
“Amen Joe. Amen: I think I am ready for that sherry now.”
“Me too Socrates. Me too.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 29 – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
It is one of those quiet, rainy mornings. I do not know why but I have been thinking about my brother a good deal recently. We were never close during our childhoods. We were separated in age by only three years but it often seemed a much wider period of time. We had not spoken in the seven years following our mother’s death, and then one day I received the message that he had died. Life, death and time all converge at this point during each of our existence.
Our mother was the connecting point between us so when she left whatever connection was there, was broken. I do not know what made him so angry with me all the time but that we his nature, especially after Viet Nam. He sign up for repeat tours. Three in all. I missed it by the draw of the lottery system. We only knew our experiences with each other and never really knew the other person. He never wanted to discuss any issues between us. I believe he was afraid to open up.
“You are always trying to psychoanalyze me.” He would say. “I am beyond your analysis.”
And he was. Now, when I look back, I know there was nothing more I could have done. He has come into my dreams recently. He was not a part of my life after I left for college and he to Viet Nam. I lived briefly with he and Lillian, his third wife, when I moved to Los Angeles hoping to bridge the gap between us. That experience proved to be a disaster. So now he enters my dream world, uninvited. My dreams are my own. So what is it I need to learn?
I know time does not exist in this realm at the Inn Of Inspiration where I invite those who inspired my life to aid and inspire others but it has truly slipped away from me this morning. I see Fyodor Dostoyevsky coming up the path. We agreed to meet for some tea and a hot bath at my cave and he is right on time.
“Dobroye utro, moy dorogoy drug. Dobro pozhalovat’ v moy dom.” (Good morning my dear friend. Welcome to my home.) I say.
“Socrates. You are always a source of wonder to me. I did not know you spoke Russian.”
“Well, I do not. I practiced those two lines for a few days now so that I might greet you in you native tongue.”
“I am honored by your gesture Socrates. Dobroye utro, moy dorogoy drug.”
After a brief exchange of our recent activities and our first pot of tea, I suggest we move to the hot stream running at the edge of my cave for a soak. I always do my best thinking here and today there are many thoughts filling my brain.
“The first book I read of yours was Notes from Underground. It was also the first book of existentialist literature I read and influenced my journey through philosophy during my college years. I identified with Underground Man then and in many ways still do. When you look back at your early days as an existentialist philosopher do you still despair?”
“When I look back at the past and think how much time was spent in vain, how much of it was lost in delusions, in errors, in idleness, in the inability to live; how I failed to value it, how many times I sinned against my heart and spirit — then my heart contracts in pain. Life is a gift, life is happiness, each moment could have been an eternity of happiness. Si jeunesse savait! (If youth knew!)”
“I see in you Fyodor myself reflected in so many shared experiences. We have both lived various phases of our life high on the hog, in the depths of despair, and in material plentitude and scarcity of those necessities of life. An yet here we are. Still here, sharing this hot stream and tea together. Do you carry any bitterness within?”
“I’m not despondent and I haven’t lost heart. Life is everywhere, life is in us ourselves, not outside. There will be people by my side, and to be a human being among people and to remain one forever, no matter in what circumstances, not to grow despondent and not to lose heart — that’s what life is all about, that’s its task. I have come to recognize that. The idea has entered my flesh and blood. The head that created, lived the higher life of art, that recognized and grew accustomed to the higher demands of the spirit, that head has already been cut from my shoulders. But there remains in me a heart and the same flesh and blood that can also love, and suffer, and pity, and remember, and that’s life, too!”
“I am asking these questions of you today Fyodor because just prior to your coming I was thinking about my brother. Following our mother’s death my brother pointed a gun to my head and threatened to ‘blow my fucking head off.’ I have never before in my life felt such fear and hatred for another human being as I did in that moment. I felt abandoned by all I believed in.”
“I understand Socrates. I haven’t lost heart, remembering that hope has not abandoned me. After all I was at death’s door also, I lived with that thought for three-quarters of an hour, I faced the last moment, and now I’m alive again!”
“So, are you saying because I still have life that I should forgive him?”
“A true friend of mankind, who you are Socrates, whose heart has but once quivered in compassion over the sufferings of the people, will understand and forgive all the impassable alluvial filth in which they are submerged, and will be able to discover the diamonds in the filth.”
“I am not there yet my friend. My brother appears in my dreams naked before me seeking my forgiveness and I am unable to have the thought, let alone say the words. How were you able to forgive the tsar who stole ten years of your life in prison camps and forced military service?”
“We must love all that has been created by God, both the whole and every grain of sand. Love every leaf and every ray of light. Love the beasts and the birds, love the plants, love every separate fragment. If you love each separate fragment, you will understand the mystery of the whole resting in God. You must see the good in your brother.”
“I take your words to heart Fyodor because we are each mirrors for the other but I do not have the capacity within my own heart right now to forgive him. Our relationship was much different than that of you and your brother.”
“And it is so simple Socrates. The one thing is — love thy neighbor as thyself — that is the one thing. That is all, nothing else is needed. You will instantly find how to live.”
“I know you speak the truth Fyodor. I thank you for that and for your listening and understanding, moy dorogoy drug.”
“It is my pleasure Socrates.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 31 – Olga Jacoby
It is late afternoon as I wonder through the Great Hall and into one of our many gardens on the property where I sit down on the small bench under the large oak tree to ponder my talk for this evening. My guests have asked me to speak to the topic of why we fear death and if our fear of death is based solely upon religious dogma or is there some other reason grounded in science or philosophy.
I believe the fear of death is real but the reason for this fear I do not know. I am here as the gatekeeper. All the guests here at the Inn of Inspiration are here at my invitation and all have transitioned from the realm of death to be an inspiration and to share the keys of their inspiration with one another. I am the only one here who has not physically died. So the topic of death seems a curious one to me. From a purely scientific point of view death is merely the cessation of life within the body. However, from a religious perspective we are tought to believe in an afterlife, a return to the Garden of Eden from which man and woman were eject upon their discovery of sin.
I have never been a big fan of religious dogmas. My understanding of death comes primarily from two experiences I had in my own life neither of which led to my death. The first was the evening Kathleen died. The second was the evening of my first heart attack. In both instances I felt the presence of death in my room not as the shadowy figure wielding a scythe as depicted in horror books but as a transitional guide. It was a darkness I had not experienced before. A darkness of transition leading to a greater understanding of life. At least this is what I assume. I did not surrender to its call and therefore remained here, but I felt light on the other side of its dark curtain. There was no fear. I thought perhaps it would be more like a birth, not a resurrection, a return to existence, not as Jesus is said to have experienced.
As I look up through the leaves of the giant oak into the blue shimmering sunlight of the sky, I am suddenly brought back to my bench by the gentle words from one of the guests.
“Socrates. Are you all right.”
I return to my body from which I seemed to have briefly escaped.
“O’ please excuse me Olga. I was elsewhere.”
“No Socrates, it was I who interrupted your journey into thought. Please, forgive me,” responds Olga.
“How are you my dear friend? I was thinking about my talk this evening and drifted off into my own thoughts. I am..”
“We are all permitted to dream Socrates. I again apologize for awakening you from yours. You were with nature, who is god to me, in this beautiful garden”
“Your being here at this moment Olga is not an accident as I was thinking about the roles of philosophy and religion in our fear of death.”
Olga quietly responds, “We always fear the unknown Socrates. I am not a coward and do not fear death, which to me means nothing more than sleep, but I cannot become resigned to leave this beautiful world with all the treasures it holds for me and for everyone who knows how to understand and appreciate them.”
“I know you chose to hold on to life for as long as you could and to surrender to death’s call only when you were ready and on your own terms.”
“To leave a good example to those I love is my only understanding of immortality. As you a knowledge, I held onto life for as long as I could, but we all must at some point surrender to death’s embrace.”
“An interesting choice of wording Olga, embrace, for I also in my experiences close to death felt it more as an embrace than fear but you and I hold similar views of science and religion.”
“Science is turning on the light, but at every step forward dogmatic religion attempts to turn it out, and as it cannot succeed it (religion) puts blinkers on its followers, and tries to make them believe that to remove them would be sin. This is the only way in which I can understand their continual warning against knowledge.”
“I agree Olga. I remember reading some of the letters you wrote to your doctor in which you offered your views of science and death in contrast to his views on religion’s role in our acceptance of death. They are very elegantly written without anger or fear of your impending death. There is a note of acceptance in your letters which I fear your doctor did not understand.”
“Whatever we cannot know let us simply and truthfully agree not to know, but no one must be expected to take for granted what reason refuses to admit. More and more to me this simplest of thoughts seems right: Live, live keenly, live fully; make ample use of every power that has been given us to use, to use for the good end. Blind yourself to nothing; look straight at sadness, loss, evil; but at the same time look with such intense delight at all that is good and noble that quite naturally the heart’s longing will be to help the glory to triumph, and that to have been a strong fighter in that cause will appear the only end worth achieving.”
“I could not agree more, Olga. Perhaps you should be giving the talk this evening. You know what it is to surrender to the fate we must all face as a part of life. I have not yet experienced that release of letting go completely, although I have been at death’s door. I was not afraid. I was just not ready to surrender at that time.”
“Thank you Socrates. Your experiences makes you the perfect choice for tonight’s talk. Not to be afraid when you are all alone is the only true way of being not afraid. Where does your courage come in, when you cannot find it in your own self but always have to grasp God morally?… To get rid of the greater part of our responsibilities in life by placing them on God is by far the easier thing to do, but not the best way for making us strong in thinking well and acting still better.”
“True Olga. As I said before our views on this matter are very similar.”
Just then the bells from the Great Hall ring signaling the beginning of the evening activities.
“Well Socrates my dear friend, your audience awaits. But before we go, I want to thank you for the love you give to all of us here at the Inn. Love, like strength and courage, is a strange thing; the more we give the more we find we have to give. You have helped us all to understand those words and have given us the opportunity to live and to prove that edict on a daily basis.
“Thank you Olga for your kind sentiment, time and insights. You have provided me with much of the content for my talk this evening.”
Olga gentle places her hand on my arm. “May I accompany you to the hall Socrates.”
“Why of course Olga. Perhaps we can continue our conversation after the evening’s talk. I will be very interested to hear your insights.
“Absolutely Socrates. It would be my pleasure.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 32 – Albert Camus
It is one of those early rainy mornings that I love as much as the warm sunny mornings which also awaken my heart. I just returned from a rather long stroll through he gardens and to the other side of the lake. Along the way I encountered many of our wonderful guest. I am very proud of what we have accomplished here in this paradise of inspiration and creativity and grateful to the Providers for making my dream a reality. I realize my work here is drawing to an end and soon it will be time for me to venture off into another dream.
Although we are isolated from the events of the world, we do on occasion receive word from the outside. Word of the pandemic the planet is currently experiencing is a painful reminder of how vulnerable we are as a civilization. All of life is connected and the planet will strive at all cost to maintain a balance within nature and humankind. When humans pollute the air and waterways so vital to the life of the planet, nature responds in the only way she can with a virus forcing humankind to return order to an out of order life. As a direct result of humans around the world being in force isolation, the air is cleaner, life is abundantly returning to the oceans and rivers and animals are reclaiming parts of the environment denied them for so long by man made roads and buildings. Although it might resemble chaos, order and balance are slowly retuning.
Most of my guests here have lived through disasters both natural and man made and they know that life survives but often the cost to life itself is very high. We have learned that nature will always seek to bring balance to itself and the planet via fire, floods or viruses resistant to man’s chemical agents.
While I am sitting in the lobby of the Great Hall permitting the warm fire to dry my clothes, I see my dear friend Albert Camus across the way. He holds up a pot of coffee and a bottle of brandy asking in silence if I would like to share it with him. I nod yes and he walks toward me across the polished wood floor boards.
“I was just about to leave a note in your box to arrange a chat and here you are. How are you my friend?”
“I am well. Thank you Albert.” Albert has never been one to beat around the bush. I know he wishes to speak to the current world situation so I give him an open invitation. “What are your thoughts concerning life and the world’s situation today?”
“That is exactly what I wish to speak with you about.” He sets down the tray with the coffee pot, two cups and the bottle of brandy. He pours a generous amount of brandy into each cup and tops it off with coffee and hands one of the cups to me. “I was just thinking Socrates. Life is short, and it is sinful to waste one’s time. They say I’m active. But being active is still wasting one’s time, if in doing one loses oneself. Today is a resting time, and my heart goes off in search of itself. If an anguish still clutches me, it’s when I feel this impalpable moment slip through my fingers like quicksilver… At the moment, my whole kingdom is of this world. This sun and these shadows, this warmth and this cold rising from the depths of the air: why wonder if something is dying or if men suffer, since everything is written on this window where the sun sheds its plenty as a greeting to my pity? I can say and in a moment I shall say that what counts is to be human and simple. No, what counts is to be true, and then everything fits in, humanity and simplicity. When am I truer than when I am the world? My cup brims over before I have time to desire. Eternity is there and I was hoping for it. What I wish for now is no longer happiness but simply awareness. Why does humankind make life so complicated Socrates?”
Usually when Albert and I have these conversations it is he who offers the solutions to my questions. Now he is asking me the question. “I think mankind has lost his way. Today’s world lacks leadership and direction,” I respond.
I can tell Albert is thinking. He takes a large swig of his coffee and swallows. “To decide whether life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question of philosophy. Everything else … is child’s play; we must first of all answer the question. Man must decide if he wants to survive.”
“But how can mankind make such a critical decision when he has lost all concept of who he is and his place in the world,” I ask?
“This world in itself is not reasonable, that is all that can be said. But what is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational and wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart. The absurd depends as much on man as on the world. For the moment it is all that links them together.” He pauses to review in his mind what he just said and adds, “It is not so easy to become what one is, to rediscover one’s deepest measure.”
“True.” I say, “But what is the measure of man?”
Albert responds quickly. “Our task as humans is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls. We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more to people poisoned by the misery of the century. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks we take a long time to accomplish, that’s all.”
“But is that not the point we are in discussion about. How much time do we have and how does humanity reach the necessary level of understanding?” I ask.
“In a world whose absurdity appears to be so impenetrable, we simply must reach a greater degree of understanding among men, a greater sincerity. We must achieve this or perish. To do so, certain conditions must be fulfilled: men must be frank (falsehood confuses things), free (communication is impossible with slaves). Finally, they must feel a certain justice around them.” He replies.
“Ah, there lies the rub. The world is not a just world as you said earlier. Slavery still exists in many forms and equality is no more than a concept.” I respond. “Maybe as artists we need to take a more authoritative role in humanity’s development. We have been silent for a long time.”
Albert takes another sip of his coffee. “An Oriental wise man always used to ask the divinity in his prayers to be so kind as to spare him from living in an interesting era. As we are not wise, the divinity has not spared us and we are living in an interesting era. In any case, our era forces us to take an interest in it. The writers of today know this. If they speak up, they are criticized and attacked. If they become modest and keep silent, they are vociferously blamed for their silence. In the midst of such din the writer/artist cannot hope to remain aloof in order to pursue the reflections and images that are dear to him. Until the present moment, remaining aloof has always been possible in history. When someone did not approve, he could always keep silent or talk of something else. Today everything is changed and even silence has dangerous implications. The moment that abstaining from choice is itself looked upon as a choice and punished or praised as such, the artist is willy-nilly impressed into service. “Impressed” seems to me a more accurate term in this connection than “committed.” Instead of signing up, indeed, for voluntary service, the artist does his compulsory service. What choice does he have Socrates?”
“Yes and that service is so needed in the world today. The artist must make a stand.” I say.
“Humanity must learn that in the depths of winter, there lies within the heart of every human on the planet an invincible summer… What doesn’t kill mankind makes him stronger.”
“Amen Albert. Amen. I think I am going to need a refill if we are going to continue.”
“Two more Camus specials coming right up.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Chapter 33 – Hermann Hesse
It is a blessing for me to have this time and this place to share so many warm encounters with the artist, musicians, poets, writers, thinkers and all people who inspire others to dream with an unlimited imagination. To think outside the often narrow confines society constructs for us in which to function and live.
I wake each day renewed. Yesterday has already been shaped and formed. There is nothing I can do to change yesterday accept to apologize today if I accidentally did wrong to another human or creature. I say accidentally because I would not intentionally bring emotional, physical or spiritual harm to another life, another human. There is enough harm upon others in the world, by nations, by military forces, by self-appointed and elected officials and by the mere task of surviving each moment. Do no intentional harm to others nor to yourself.
These thoughts are running through my head while sitting on my favorite bench overlooking the smooth, calm waters of the lake. This is the place I come for solitude but I am not always alone. Sometimes there are guests passing by who stop to say hello and sometimes the trees have a lot to say but fortunately they do not require any response from me. I just listen. They sway in the wind. I listen. They sway. That is the extent of our interactions. I listen. They sway. Nothing more is required of me nor them. This is my destiny fulfilled.
“When we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. I was just watching you listening to the trees Socrates. I appreciate and admire a man with whom solitude is a friend. And, how are you my dear friend.”
“Good afternoon Hermann. I was just thinking to myself how much I appreciate and love the time and solitude I have here to live the life I choose to live. My own destiny, with as much or as little solitude as I desire. I strongly believe solitude is a steppingstone to destiny.”
“Solitude is the path over which destiny endeavors to lead man to himself. Solitude is the path that men most fear. A path fraught with terrors, where snakes and toads lie in wait… Without solitude there is no suffering, without solitude there is no heroism. But the solitude I have in mind is not the solitude of the blithe poets or of the theater, where the fountain bubbles so sweetly at the mouth of the hermit’s cave… Solitude is not chosen, any more than destiny is chosen. Solitude comes to us if we have within us the magic stone that attracts destiny. You and I, Socrates. We have that stone. We build our destinies.”
“Then it would seem we are in agreement Hermann that destiny is an energy from within and not determined by an outside force.”
Hermann replies. “When destiny comes to a man from outside, it lays him low, just as an arrow lays a deer low. When destiny comes to a man from within, from his innermost being, it makes him strong, it makes him into a god… A man who has recognized his destiny never tries to change it. The endeavor to change destiny is a childish pursuit that makes men quarrel and kill one another… All sorrow, poison, and death are alien, imposed destiny. But every true act, everything that is good and joyful and fruitful on earth, is lived destiny, destiny that has become self.”
“I think your statement is especially true for the artist here Hermann.”
“Not only for artist Socrates. In each one of us there is a hidden being, still in the deep sleep of childhood. Bring it to life! In each one of us there is a call, a will, an impulse of nature, an impulse toward the future, the new, the higher. Let it mature, let it resound, nurture it! Your future is not this or that; it is not money or power, it is not wisdom or success at your trade — your future, your hard dangerous path is this: to mature and to find God in yourselves.”
“But I think Hermann the drive and destiny of which you speak in more visible in the creative process than it is in the corporate executive.”
“I think you are correct Socrates. When artists create pictures and thinkers search for laws and formulate thoughts, it is in order to salvage something from the great dance of death, to make something that lasts longer than we do. Their destiny becomes unending and they artist achieve a sense of immortality.”
“Many of the artists and thinkers here suffered a great deal before satisfying or even finding that destiny and personal fulfillment.”
Hermann responds. “It is hard to learn to suffer. Women succeed more often and more nobly than men. We must learn from them! Learn to listen when the voice of life speaks! Learn to look when the sun of destiny plays with your shadows! Learn to respect life! Learn to respect yourselves! From suffering springs strength…”
“We all know your words are true Hermann but I still remember a few times in my life when I made decisions based upon people or events outside of myself. Look at how many creative people turn to god for inspiration particularly in times of great despair.”
“If you are now wondering where to look for consolation, where to seek a new and better God, a new and better faith, you will surely realize, in your present loneliness and despair, that this time you must not look to external, official sources, to Bibles, pulpits, or thrones, for enlightenment. Nor to me. You can find it only in yourself. And there it is, there dwells the God who is higher and more selfless… The sages of all time have proclaimed him, but he does not come to us from books, he lives within us, and all our knowledge of him is worthless unless he opens our inner eye. This God is in you too. He is most particularly in you, the dejected and despairing… Search where you may, no prophet or teacher can relieve you of the need to look within… Don’t confine yourself… to any other prophet or guide. Our mission is not to instruct you, to make things easier for you, to show you the way. Our mission is solely to remind you that there is a God and only one God; he dwells in your hearts, and it is there that you must seek him out and speak with him.”
“For me Hermann god is inside me, true but also god is about acceptance for all, myself as well as my fellow man. I am reminded of the words you wrote in the first book of yours I read, Siddhartha where he is attempting to explain the nature of duality to Govinda.
Siddhartha says to Govinda. “The world is not imperfect or slowly evolving along a long path to perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment: every sin already carries grace within it, all small children are potential old men, all sucklings have death within them, all dying people — eternal life. It is not possible for one person to see how far another is on the way: the Buddha exists in the robber and dice player; the robber exists in the Brahmin. Therefore, it seems to me that everything that exists is good, death as well as life, sin as well as holiness, wisdom as well as folly. Everything is necessary, everything needs only my agreement, my assent, my loving understanding; then all is well with me and nothing can harm me.”
“Yes, my dear friend Socrates. I wrote those words but they were given to me by the trees.”
..to be continued.
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration – Epilogue – Socrates Black
It is one of those mornings most only get to dream of and here I am living it every day with those who inspired and continue to be a great inspiration to me and this life I love and live, but it is time to leave. I have devoted enough time and words to this segment of my existence. There remain other worlds to discover, other mountains to climb and many experiences yet to be had.
It all started as a dream to create a space for all those in love with the creative process to inspire each other with words, art, philosophy and music in a continuation of the process. I have been able to share time, a brandy or two, hot tubs and laughter with those individuals who are most influential to my own creative processes and developing philosophies. I am forever grateful.
I have never been a fan of goodbyes and I cannot turn into a dragon like Ursula and fly away. My preference is to just disappear and so that is what I will do today. Everything here is in the best of hands and all my tasks completed. I always miss the place I am leaving until I arrive at the place I will be. The transition time is the most difficult but knowing when to leave is an art I have improved upon over the years. I see my friend Walt Whitman coming up the trail toward me.
“Good morning Socrates my old friend. You thought you could just disappear without one lasting embrace but not today my comrade,” says Walt. “You cannot disappear that easily and yet I completely understand your need to do so. I had to see my friend just one more time. I hope you understand.”
“ I do,” replies Socrates. The two men embrace and exchange in that embrace their knowledge, wisdom and love for one another.”
“Socrates,” says Walt. “It has been my great pleasure to share this time with you. I have some parting words for you to take upon your journey.”
”Good Walt. A parting verse?” Asks Socrates? “Words are much lighter than gifts and generally last much longer. What are they my friend.?”
”I did not have time to prepare a verse but I did manage to put down a few words to carry you along your continuing journeys through life.
This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
“Be well Socrates, my dearest of friends.”
”It has been my pleasure, Walt. My absolute pleasure. Thank you.”
This is the conclusion of Book Two Of The Philosopher Series.
Book One of the series, The Philosopher may be read Here.
This Aries Image was created by Emilee Petersmark