Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Divine Breath

Nadya's apples (growing in a village near the Volga, in Russia)


The Divine Breath?   I found an interesting passage in Maslow.

.... it looks as if there were a single ultimate value for mankind, a far goal toward which all men strive. This is called variously by different authors self-actualization, self-realization, integration, psychological health, individuation, autonomy, creativity, productivity, but they all agree that this amounts to realizing the potentialities of the person, that is to say, becoming fully human, everything that the person can become... 1
 He says that some of the objectively describable and measurable characteristics of the healthy human specimen are:

1. Clearer, more efficient perception of reality2***

That’s all I’m doing, becoming the best person I can be. To do that, I must attend to my intuitive sense of what it is possible for me to do and to be. I must do my best, not run away or have false modesty.

Both Dante and Proust had had major visions–perhaps coming to them a little at a time–and the unconscious or Muse was giving it to them. They had, originally, in some sense, "seen" the whole.

That has happened to me, too, now, and is why I’m writing these books. What else can I say about that? What is it like? How is it different from my poems and my novels and how I’ve written them?

I was thirteen when I began self-consciously to write about my feelings–poems and diary–when I felt inside like a writer, when it became less of a choice and more of a necessity. I still didn’t fully believe I was a writer until my mid-twenties, when I resolved it by saying, "A writer is one who writes."

Now I know that a "great" writer is one with a vision, with a "call" so strong that other things must take second place, while I do, as Proust believed, "what only I can do." It is also one with a "hexis," as Jacques Maritain calls it, or a Muse: an inner state of being, a Gift as Lewis Hyde names it, or in Maslow’s framework, now that I have this ability to create, I must use it, and that is far more urgent than publishing it, or even typing it, and also more urgent than political activity or most of my social life.

I don’t know what will be in each chapter. I wonder if Dante knew who would be in each circle of hell before he wrote it. Maybe. Proust seems to have had a design for his cathedral book. I can’t say that I have a specific design. I’ve chosen titles for the books and the chapters, sometimes before I knew what would be in them. I never knew exactly. I take a phrase sometimes from a poem. I’ve done that a lot with this book.

When I wrote "The Divine Breath" as the title for this Chapter Twenty-One, I didn’t know what I’d write about for sure. My whole activity here is because of a mysterious and divine "breath," spirit, wisdom, deeply planted in me, which knows better than I do what I need to write about, what I have to say, and what other people need me to say. I need to write these things, and I trust that other people need me to write them for them. I am a messenger of this "divine breath" or Muse/Understanding/Flow of Words and Insight.

The Breath fills me and spills over. It makes me happy. I have been happy a lot and supremely happy on many occasions, but this is a fairly rare kind of happiness. I’ve felt happy before, and often, when words flowed, when enlightenment came to me as a gift, I had no way of predicting or forcing. I could only listen and wait, but when the words came to me, I must write them down. It was easy to rejoice and be fed by the experience itself, as well as by the new insights.

Sometimes it happened when writing a short poem. Sometimes, when writing a longer work, a diary novel, or a scene in a novel. What’s different now is that it’s bigger and more inclusive. It’s also a fusion of my daily life, including some of the interruptions, worries, reassuring moments, and surprises I experience day to day with a whole lifetime’s accumulated way of framing my experience and seeing the world. I can’t evaluate it from the outside, but, I guess, Proust couldn’t either, and his book got rejected by all the publishers, so he paid to have it printed, and then he won the prestigious Goncourt Prize, and Gide, one of the editors who’d rejected it, realized his mistake, his very stupid mistake.

I can’t know if other people will appreciate what I’ve done, and appreciate, I mean, in Henry James’s sense, to "appropriate, to make one’s own."

But I can do what I feel I have to do, which I have my whole life long. I’ve made errors because of inexperience or trusting people I shouldn’t have trusted, or because I was blinded by my own suffering, but I have followed my heart, my deepest sense of what I should do, even when it made no rational sense to me, even when it flew in the face of other people’s advice or pressure or attempts to control or change me.

Now I am rewarded. My whole experience and the wisdom that has accrued from it rests like a kind of sunken Atlantis in my mind, and I am writing it out, lifting it into the light of day, floating it a little at a time, and relatively effortlessly, to the surface, where everyone can see it–a task not unlike Proust’s or Dante’s, and yet my very own.

As I said before, I am now that writer I wanted to be. This may take me years, but the work is very worthwhile.
Excerpted from Proust and Pears: The Fourth Farm Book (unpublished)

2. More openness to experience.
3. Increased integration, wholeness, and unity of the person.
4. Increased spontaneity, expressiveness; full functioning; aliveness.
5. A real self; a firm identity; autonomy; uniqueness.
6. Increased objectivity, detachment, transcendence of self.
7. Recovery of creativeness.
8. Ability to fuse concreteness and abstractness.
9. Democratic character structure.
10. Ability to love, etc.

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