The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Book II Chapter Five — Seneca

16AB7438-C332-4871-84FF-7FE125CE417C“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.”’

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Colorized black and white photo of Albert EinstienThe Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Book II Chapter Six —  Albert Einstein will be published on Sunday, August 05, 2019.

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Book II Chapter One — Oliver Sacks

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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.”

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674BA6E3-C7D6-4BDF-8352-05DF36E3AA51 The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Book II Chapter Two — Gaston Bachelard will be published on Sunday, May 05 , 2019.

Cover Art “Aries” by   Emilee Petersmark. 

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Sixteen — Mary Oliver

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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.

It seems
ritualistic,
the way I step
across the bench,
face the sky,
squat down,
adjust my hips,
straighten my back,
and breathe deeply.
All to just sit—
and listen
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.”

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605CA080-DF8A-499C-A5D0-8A588FA846DE Book Two of The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Seventeen — Oliver Sacks will be available April 14, 2019.

Cover Art “Aries” by   Emilee Petersmark. 

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, Jauary 06, 2019.

Cover Art “Aries” by  Emilee Petersmark. 

 

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

85E45954-28E8-4929-9FA3-F1D1898277AFSometimes 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

 

85E45954-28E8-4929-9FA3-F1D1898277AFThis 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

85E45954-28E8-4929-9FA3-F1D1898277AF“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.