The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Thirteen — Virginia Woolf

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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 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 your 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.”

1D1B4FEB-F353-495B-A03F-ED62E5EB2F50.jpeg The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Fourteen — William Blake will be published on Sunday, December 30, 2018.

Cover Art “Aries” by  Emilee Petersmark. 

 

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Twelve — William James

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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.

585DC05E-15F0-4BD2-A6E2-7511152FF190.jpeg The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Thirteen — Virginia Woolf will be published on Sunday, December 16, 2018.

Cover Art “Aries” by  Emilee Petersmark. 

 

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Eleven — Ursula K Le Guin

F5C6A1E1-7063-4DBD-B7E0-F740681F3554 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.”

EE5C31C3-72F7-464F-9630-CD01018F7A35 The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Twelve — William James will be published on Sunday, December 02, 2018.

Cover Art “Aries” by  Emilee Petersmark. 

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Ten — May Sarton

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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 want 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.”

BC2D532E-CC4F-40F1-8D15-C56F89FE74FB.jpeg The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Eleven — Ursula K Le Guin will be published on Sunday, November 11, 2018.

Cover Art “Aries” by Emilee Petersmark.

 

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Nine — Henry Miller

F5C6A1E1-7063-4DBD-B7E0-F740681F3554“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:

“Let’s go!”

“Yes.”

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.”

3368035B-4D36-4163-8381-8B40940711E1 The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Ten — May Sarton will be published on Sunday, October 28, 2018.

Cover Art “Aries” by Emilee Petersmark.

 

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Eight — James Baldwin

F5C6A1E1-7063-4DBD-B7E0-F740681F3554It 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.”

2AA7885A-4F9A-4363-98BB-5209385BB635.jpeg The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Nine — Henry Miller will be published on Sunday, October 14, 2018.

Cover Art “Aries” by Emilee Petersmark.

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Seven — Stanley Kunitz

F5C6A1E1-7063-4DBD-B7E0-F740681F3554I 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.”

3B924A21-57BE-4583-956F-DB4D42404DFB.jpeg The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Eight — James Baldwin will be published on Sunday, September 30, 2018.

Cover Art “Aries” by Emilee Petersmark.