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 Four — Martin L King

16AB7438-C332-4871-84FF-7FE125CE417CI sit in quiet meditation looking out from my space at the trees and greenery around me, the river, the peacefulness of being. I have no need to know what day or time it is as neither has any relevance to existence here. If only the world was so. 

I imagine those who sought to rule the world at various times thought the same. Those responsible for this space created a world without anger and hate. Love and respect are the central themes here.

I am waiting for my dear friend Martin to join me this morning. We have been bumping into one another around the grounds and finally made a plan to meet.

“Good morning Socrates. I am honored to be a guest in your space.”

“It is my pleasure to have you here Martin. Please come in and have a seat.”

Martin and I are comfortable with one another. We have shared many wonderful and insightful conversations.

“It has been too long Socrates. Much too long.”

“I have been thinking about my college days Martin and the beginnings of your peaceful, non violence approach to real life everyday terror. Nothing has changed Martin. Racism still exists.”

“Some see it that way but there can be no gainsaying of the fact that a great revolution is taking place in the world today… it is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle. The disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality… Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

“That is true Martin and in light of this racism you continue to believe in a philosophy of love and nonviolence.”

“I think we can be sure that the vast majority of us who engage in the demonstrations and who understand the nonviolent philosophy will be able to face dogs and all of the other brutal methods that are used without retaliating with violence, because we understand that one of the first principles of nonviolence is a willingness to be the recipient of violence, while never inflicting violence on another.”

“In my younger days Martin, I considered myself a soldier for the cause but I did not know how many times I could turn the other cheek and love my enemy.”

“Well, I don’t think of love as, in this context, as emotional bosh, but I think of love as something strong and that organizes itself into powerful direct action. This is what I have tried to teach in the struggle in the South, that we are not engaged in a struggle that means we sit down and do nothing. There is a great deal of difference between nonresistance to evil and nonviolent resistance.”

“You speak of love in the same way Jesus speaks of love.”

“Yes, Socrates. I equate love with agape. Agape means understanding, redeeming good will for all men. It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative. It is not set in motion by any quality or function of its object… Agape is disinterested love. It is a love in which the individual seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes. It is an entirely “neighbor-regarding concern for others,” which discovers the neighbor in every man it meets. Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friends and enemy; it is directed toward both.”

“Love thy neighbor as thy friend?”

“Yes. If one loves an individual merely on account of his friendliness, he loves him for the sake of the benefits to be gained from the friendship, rather than for the friend’s own sake. Consequently, the best way to assure oneself that love is disinterested is to have love for the enemy-neighbor from whom you can expect no good in return, but only hostility and persecution.”

“So the good and decent become the sacrificial lambs of the fierce and waring.”

“No Socrates. That is not what I met. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. But before we continue, why don’t we move to your hot tub? My aging body could use a good soak.”

“That sounds perfect Martin. It would be my pleasure.”

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72000040-024B-43AC-92C9-3DDD1ED4AB88 The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Book II Chapter Five —  Seneca will be published on Sunday, July 14, 2019.

Cover Art “Aries” by   Emilee Petersmark. 

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The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Book II Chapter Three — Susan Sontag

85E45954-28E8-4929-9FA3-F1D1898277AFIt is raining this morning, what some people might refer to as dreary, but I cherish these moments of solitude, walking to the rhythm of the soft falling rain. There is a lightness to my step and joy in my soul as if some hidden burden had been lifted. I am happy.

I am headed to the Library. The path is empty this early except for the singing birds and the occasional fish taking to air over the lake. There is a peacefulness around a library. Knowledge patiently waiting to be found for all those who seek it.

I open the massive wooden doors and close them as quietly as possible although I think I am the only one here this early today.

“Good morning Socrates. Would you care to join me for a cafe and a bit of brandy?

The voice surprises me as my eyes adjust to the dim light.

“It is me, Susan. I am over in Alcove #3. Please join me.”

“Yes. Good morning Susan. I would love to join you. The cafe with brandy sounds like a good tonic with which to engage the day. How glad I am to see you. Thank you again for your enchanting evening talk. I was inspired to start writing again after my brief rest period. Your words about the things you believe writers ought to do…”

“O’ you mean. ‘Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world… A writer is a professional observer.’”

“Yes, exactly. I am an introvert who loves to observe life happening and it is happening all the time, everywhere. The great experience of being here is the choice to observe or participate is always one’s own. Like you. I love to get inside words, pay attention to its inflection and usage. Paying attention to the word, and to the world are equally important for the writer.”

“I agree Socrates. The nature of moral judgments depends on our capacity for paying attention — a capacity that, inevitably, has its limits but whose limits can be stretched…But perhaps the beginning of wisdom, and humility, is to acknowledge, and bow one’s head, before the thought, the devastating thought, of the simultaneity of everything, and the incapacity of our moral understanding to take this in.”

“Because of the infinite vastness of time and space?” I ask.

“Time exists in order that everything doesn’t happen all at once … and space exists so that it doesn’t all happen to you.” Susan replies.

“I will have to ponder that one a bit Susan, but thank you for the insight.”

Our cafes with brandy arrive and we both sit back in our chairs enjoying the aromatic blend of the two aromas.

“I watched you this morning from the window walking along the path. You appeared so light and happy as a butterfly. I silently called to you and asked you to join me.”

“That then is why I am here. How may I be of service?”

“There is an essential … distinction between stories, on the one hand, which have, as their goal, an end, completeness, closure, and, on the other hand, information, which is always, by definition, partial, incomplete, fragmentary.”

“Yes…?

“I left so many fragments behind Socrates that in looking back I wish I had closed. My task is not to find the maximum amount of content in a work of art, much less to squeeze more content out of the work than is already there. My task is to cut back content so that I can see the thing at all.”

“Are we speaking about art Susan?”

“Well art and love. I miss Annie. I would never acknowledge that publicly while I was alive and now wish I had shared our love with the world. There was more than enough there.”

“Yes, I can see that Susan.”

“I grew up in a time when the modus operandi was the ‘open secret’. I’m used to that, and quite OK with it. Intellectually, I know why I haven’t spoken more about my sexuality, but I do wonder if I haven’t repressed something there to my detriment. Maybe I could have given comfort to some people if I had dealt with the subject of my private sexuality more, but it’s never been my prime mission to give comfort, unless somebody’s in drastic need. I’d rather give pleasure, or shake things up.”

“And with your own words, you solved your dilemma. ‘Private sexuality.’ There is no need to confess your sexuality to anyone except yourself and your lover(s). You know Annie and I believe she knows you equally. No injustice or disservice was done by your privacy. I know for a fact she is still OK with your privacy even as she has ended her own silence on your relationship.”

“She has?”

“Yes! She used the word, ‘lovers.’

“How do you know this Socrates. O’ it does not matter. What is important now is to recover my senses. I must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more… O’ thank you Socrates for this gift of your wisdom and time.”

“It is my pleasure, Susan. Always.”

“What about you Socrates? As I watched you walking the path earlier, I saw a very handsome fulfilled man. I bet you have lots of stories to share.”

“Well, there is one I want to share with you but first let’s get another cafe and brandy.”

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3851BB30-8548-48FE-A828-C109BCE92168.jpeg The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Book II Chapter Four —  Martin L King will be published on Sunday, June 23, 2019.

Cover Art “Aries” by   Emilee Petersmark. Eee 

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Book II Chapter Two — Gaston Bachelard

85E45954-28E8-4929-9FA3-F1D1898277AFI am in a somewhat bewildered state this morning as I walk through the garden and past the lake toward the hot springs. It feels like a Sunday morning so it must be, but I have no way of knowing as time does not exist here. I know it does not matter, but every once in a while I have dreams which place me in different times and places than here. These dreams come during the day as well as night and appear and sensually seem as real as this place is to me. I ponder how that is possible. I sit down on one of the carved benches on the far side of the lake. After only a few minutes of solitude, I hear footsteps on the path.

“O’ please forgive me Socrates. I interrupted your meditation.”

“No Gaston. No apology required. I am just sitting here thinking about, well, consciousness I suppose. I have been having dreams while both asleep and awake, and in all of them I feel conscious…of a great love.”

“I completely understand Socrates,” replies Gaston. “Consciousness rejuvenates everything, giving a quality of beginning to the most everyday actions.”

“That is true Gaston. Each conscious experience is as a rebirth. Each thing I do is a new experience no matter how many times I have done it at different times before. I wait for the pendulum to swing in the other direction as it must.”

“If our heart were large enough to love life in all its detail, Socrates, we would see that every instant is at once a giver and a plunderer.”

“It is that fine balance upon which life teeters my friend. Right now I feel this great love inside of me and an emptiness equally as large. A new life ahead when I have already lived so many years. Who is dreaming my dreams?”

“I know Socrates. Sometimes a dream can be so strange that it seems that another subject has come to dream with us.”

“Exactly! It is as if I am being visited by the dream rather than its creator.”

“‘A dream visited me.’” That is certainly the formula which indicates the passivity of great nocturnal dreams. To convince ourselves that they are really ours, we must reinhabit these dreams. Afterwards we make up accounts of them, stories from another time, adventures from another world… The teller of dreams sometimes enjoys his dream as an original work. In it he experiences a delegated originality; and hence he is very much surprised when a psychoanalyst tells him that another dreamer has known the same originality.” 

“But tell me Gaston. What about my daydreams when I am wide awake? Just walking up the path this morning I experienced half a dozen different realms, each as real to me as the other.”

“Can you recall any of those realms now Socrates?”

“Well no, but I know I had the experience of each,” I reply.

“In contrast to a dream Socrates a reverie cannot be recounted. To be communicated, it must be written, written with emotion and taste, being relived all the more strongly because it is being written down. Are you a poet Socrates.”

“Yes. I am Gaston. I know the power of poetry.”

“Great Socrates because reverie gives us the world of a soul and a poetic image bears witness to a soul which is discovering its world, the world where it would like to live and where it deserves to live… Poetry forms the dreamer and his world at the same time.”

“I understand Gaston but how does one account for the reality of these reveries all taking place now? I am in the place I want to be. My life is open to every possibility and yet I dream of them.”

“There is a transition occurring Socrates. Cosmic reveries separate us from project reveries. You are experiencing cosmic reveries. They situate us in a world and not in a society. The cosmic reveries like you experience possess a sort of stability or tranquility. It helps us escape time. It is a state. Let us get to the bottom of its essence: it is a state of mind… Poetry supplies us with documents for a phenomenology of the soul. The entire soul is presented in the poetic universe of the poet.”

“My worlds, your worlds, like the universe and love are constantly expanding. They come and go so quickly.”

“You are expanding Socrates. You are free of life’s burden. Write down your words of love. Written love … is going out of fashion, but the benefits remain. There are still souls for whom love is the contact of two poetries, the fusion of two reveries… To tell a love, one must write… Love is never finished expressing itself, and it expresses itself better the more poetically it is dreamed. The reveries of two solitary souls prepare the sweetness of loving… The reality of love is mutilated when it is detached from all its unrealness.”

“Amen my dear friend Gaston. Amen,”

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F5E961CA-F8CC-49B3-873A-D34D4C7B6E8F The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Book II Chapter Three —  Susan Sontag will be published on Sunday, June 02, 2019.

Cover Art “Aries” by   Emilee Petersmark. 

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

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

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 Fifteen — Steve Jobs

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I am walking through the art studio at the far end of the lake. The visual artists love this area. They create freely here from their own inspiration and that of their fellow guests. Picasso is in one corner painting an abstract portrait of his mistress, Adriana. I have never understood his art but I have great respect and admiration for his creativity and imagination. I think he must add a little something to his tea throughout the day to see the world as he does, but that does not matter. He graciously nods at my presence before returning to his task at hand. Unless asked for my opinion, I do not disturbe an artist in the mist of his/her work.

I walk out into the garden. The white Easter Lillys are in full display swaying gently in the warm breeze. The small creek is full of tadpoles anxious to become frogs and turtles who bask in the sun on an old fallen tree branch. I notice Steve Jobs sitting quietly in one of the forest alcoves. He waves for me to come over.

“Good morning Socrates. What a beautiful day.”

Yes it is Steve. How are you doing?

I am well Socrates. Thank you. I have been completely free of any physical pain since my arrival… Socrates. May I ask you a question and will you answer truthfully?

“Yes and yes.”

“I know I did not want to die. No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. “

“That is all true Steve, but what is your question.”

“Socrates. Am I dead?”

I paused for a moment before answering because I realize Steve’s fragility, as he is newly arrived here. “Yes Steve your body is dead.” Before I can explain further, Steve interrupts.

“What of this body?” Steve pounds his chest. “It is solid and healthy. I am pain free for the first time in…” Steve stops in mid sentence. “How long have I been here?”

“Time is not measured here Steve so I am unable to answer your last question. You are in transition. The pain free body you have now is based on the memories of your body from when you were still alive. You are your same consciousness but in a transitional body.”

“The last thing I remember was being surrounded by Laurene and the kids. I tried to remain conscious despite the medications. Remembering that I will be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that I am going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking I had something to lose. There is no reason for one not to follow his own heart.”

“And that is exactly what you did Steve. You changed the world by following your heart. I had a similar experience myself during a recent heart attack. You realize nothing else really matters in the pursuit of your life. Everyone else is a guest in your life. You assign their roles and importance.”

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward but you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

“That simple approach to life is still true here Steve. We can only understand life by looking backwards, through it.”

“Where is here, Socrates?”

“This place is not a location. You are a guest at the Inn of Inspiration so you might continue with your creativity and expand upon your imagination. As you know all of the guests here are very creative in different fields of art, music, literature, politics, and science like yourself.”

“I know creativity is just a matter of connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”

“You helped many creative individuals realize that truth Steve. You inspired and provided the tools for inspiration to an entire planet of people. You helped connected the citizens of the planet with the same interconnected circuitry you used in the tools you developed.”

“I realized when I got ill how my time on earth is limited so I refused to waste it living someone else’s life. I refused to be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. I refused to let the noise of others’ opinions drown out my own inner voice. And most important, I had the courage to follow my heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

“Exactly Steve, exactly.”

“One more thing Socrates if you don’t mind. How long can I stay at this beautiful Inn sharing time with so many gifted and talented individuals.”

“As I am the Gate Keeper here at the Inn Steve and you are here at my invitation, you are free to stay until you are ready to transition solely into spirit.”

“Thank you for your time and insights Socrates. I made plans to meet with Picasso and Adriana for tea and I see they are waiting by the lake. I would not like to keep them waiting any longer. Why don’t you join us. I understand Picasso makes a “spirited” cup of tea.

“Thank you Steve. It will be my pleasure.”

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fa30726e-80c4-46be-a93b-c86437e7d8e2 The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Sixteen — Mary Oliver will be published on Sunday, February 03, 2019.

Cover Art “Aries” by   Emilee Petersmark.