A Greenwich Village Christmas Story

Excerpt from Tally: An Intuitive Life, the story of Paul Johnston (PJ), a Village artist and writer, and his young friend Erin Yes, All Things That Matter Press 2013

We argued over this, and finally he said, “It’s a good thing our friendship doesn’t depend on mutual agreement.”
Finally, I was able to go about his place freely, pick up anything, move it, throw it away, read it or take it home with me. I put his papers in files I had set up in his garret.
He insisted we were together in love, in amiable affection, as we worked on a piece of graphic art for one of his booklets.
“In the gloaming,” PJ sang, “oh my darling, when the lights are dim and low.”
I shook my head, confused at the note of happiness in his voice, on guard against any dip into despair. “In the gloaming, oh, my darling. Think not bitterly of me.”
Before I left to visit my parents for Christmas, I stopped by PJ’s. He was smiling broadly, and after a cup of hot cider and cookies, he handed me an envelope. I opened it and there was five dollars.
“I had gone to the hospital to try to get some relief,” he told me. “And on the way back, turning onto Greenwich Avenue, there she was, walking toward me, arms outstretched. The old man tried to see her, but could not clearly, except to see a form tall and plain with an eager expression on her face. May I offer you some Christmas cheer? Oh yes, the old man said, of course, I need it and am grateful.”
“Are you giving me all of it? You need it, too.”
“The Third Party, God or whatever it is that arranges things,” he said, “sent this gift to me to give to you. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was a Christmas present for you.”
And of course he had to write a letter with it, only one page with his monogram on it. Across the top he had typed, “Vanish gloom and melancholy, Tra lala, la, lala la la …” At the end he concluded, “The old man is strictly a catalyst in this deal. Last Christmas he did not know you. This Christmas he was grateful that he has met you. Thank you, Third Party.”

Tally is available on Amazon/Kindle and Barnesandnoble.

Talking Into The Night

Excerpt from Tally: An Intuitive Life

PJ was in the kitchen wrapped in a blanket with the oven on, heat blasting from its door. This room was warm, but the radiators couldn’t heat the large front room with all its drafty windows. Making dinner restored his fire. We talked into the night. The heat was mine and his, an intensity hard to define.
“I have my prior occupation with innocence and affection and those are the two things I’m going to try to develop as I go on with my writing,” he said. “Affection is particularly beautiful because it is the logic of love, you see. Every other definition of love has about a hundred different varieties. But affection is affection, you can’t change it. It’s a very solid word. And it means affection, it means love.”
“People think affection is a lesser kind of love.”
“You see, affection and innocence go hand in hand. Those are the two themes that I want to work on for the rest of my life to see if I can clarify them. Because innocence is a very essential characteristic of human beings.”

Tally: An Intuitive Life, by Mary Clark, All Things That Matter Press, is available on Amazon/Kindle and Barnesandnoble.com

Tally is an unvarnished story of an elderly man in the last years of his life, looking back and looking forward, distilling and continuously examining and evolving his thoughts on love, innocence, amiability and hostility, aging and mortality, time, memory, intuition, conscious living, and the influence we have on one another even after death.

A New Definition of Intuition

In our modern scientific world, the idea that great thoughts and insights can come from a person who simply uses his mental capacity to study and gain understanding of human nature (or the human condition) has receded into the realm of legend: Aristotle, Socrates, Plato (The Greek pantheon), Rousseau and the French pantheon, Hume and the English/Scottish philosophers, Laozi, and countless others from many parts of the world.

In the 1960s through the late 1980s, Paul Johnson (PJ), a Greenwich Village artist and writer, made his own journey to study the way in which we develop our intuition, how we use our perception and intellect, and how we relate to one another based on these.

PJ discovered that the “intuition” is not ESP, or some magical process, but a rational one. In the “building of the intuition” the use of reason is elemental. Beginning before consciousness or at least consciousness of memory, a child interacts with his body, other people and the environment, beginning to learn of the effects of his actions and reactions.

There is a qualitative value assigned to each experience. At its most fundamental, this can be expressed as either positive or negative. Human beings’ interactions with others and the environment are fraught with emotions, impacts on self-development and image, and one’s sense of “being a good person,” that is, innocent. Placed in a compendium are both the positive or amiable, and the negative or hostile experiences.

Thinking of his childhood and observing others, PJ was able to describe how the “intuitive program” begins. Seeing a child punished in the park for picking up a piece of glass, he said, “That child was amiable when he was born. He felt no guilt. Until someone slapped his hand and said, No, don’t do that! And he felt hostility for the first time.”

“The little one is beginning to make up his own program. He builds up an unconscious memory bank of what would do him the least harm of his actions and reactions.”

This collection, or breviary, of amiable and hostile experiences may be given the name: intuition. The intuition, PJ explained, determines one’s response to a situation as either an amiable or a hostile one. This response is instantaneous and unconscious (although one can become more attuned to it). The intuition is only an intermediary between stimulus and response. It directs the nature of the response.

All of this happens below the level of consciousness. British professor Guy Claxton states that the intuition is “a mental process which is non-conscious, but nevertheless rational.” That is, it follows certain implicit rules. 1 (Claxton uses the word “non-conscious” to separate it from the Freudian concept of the “unconscious.”)

As PJ did, Claxton recognizes the levels of consciousness, and the need as well as the ability to access these levels. PJ came to his conclusions through “tapping into the subliminal stream of consciousness.” In this way he was able to discover his motivations, and to evaluate his actions and their consequences.

This paper will be followed by others on Memory and Intuition, Guilt and Innocence, and Perceptive Intellect.

PJ’s story is told in Tally: An Intuitive Life, All Things That Matter Press, 2013. Available on Amazon (print/Kindle) and Barnes and Noble (print).

1 Han Baltussen, 2007. Did Aristotle have a concept of ‘intuition’? Some thoughts on translating ‘nous’. In E. Close, M. Tsianikas and G. Couvalis (eds.) “Greek Research in Australia: Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial International Conference of Greek Studies, Flinders University June 2005,” Flinders University Department of Languages – Modern Greek: Adelaide, 53-62. Archived at Flinders University: dspace.flinders.edu.au. This paper is available on academia.edu

5-Star Review of Tally: An Intuitive Life

Review by Diane M. Denton

‘Tally: An Intuitive Life’ celebrates questioning and follows the thread of discourse to illustrate how self-discovery is made by way of life’s journey passing through many destinations.

Wandering along a narrative rich with compelling philosophical conversations and very personal events, this remembrance of Bohemian artist, Paul Johnson (PJ), transports the reader to avant-garde Greenwich Village in the 1970’s and 80’s and further back through his earlier history. Much of the book allows the reader to have a `fly-on-the-wall’ look into the solitary, collaborative and transformational experiences of the creative, eccentric, needy yet detached `intuitively conscious’ PJ; and the absorbing, if often ambiguous, connection he makes with the sensitive, curious, compassionate and intelligent young poet and community organizer, Erin.

I was especially drawn in by the novel’s main storyline of youth intersecting with old age on a basis of shared pursuits and exploration of ideas. In today’s society, there is often separation of the young and the elderly, as if one is offensive or even a threat to the other. It’s usually assumed they have nothing in common or to cultivate with each other.

The young can put a lot of time and energy into longing and looking for external experiences to shape their lives; even those who are creative tend to expect inspiration, knowledge and fulfillment to come from somewhere outside of their own abilities, feelings and instincts. In its best scenario, aging makes us weary of life’s pursuits, necessitating reflection over action; so we become less frantic and more self-realized and consciously alive at eighty than we were at twenty.

PJ can `speak’ for himself on this: “Let it cease. I have created many new identities. I have found new reasons to live. I have lived through phases of bliss, of romantic love, phases of death of consciousness, of depression and aspirations beyond achieving, and the fullness of the joy of being alive.”

Read more on  Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com or Goodreads.


This review is by Diane M. Denton, author of A House Near Luccoli, All Things That Matter Press, available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com. Her forthcoming book, To A Strange Somewhere Fled, is a sequel that continues the adventures of the shy but curious (in more ways than one) Donatellla. Visit her blog, bardessdmdenton-prose, poetry and painting.

Win a Signed Copy of Tally: An Intuitive Life

I’m giving away two signed print copies of my book, Tally: An Intuitive Life, published by All Things That Matter Press. To enter, visit my Facebook Author Page and post your most creative request. It can be words only in the post, or a link to a photo, artwork, poem, etc. as long as it’s by you. Giveaway Contest, Tally: An Intuitive Life Contest ended midnight July 28, 2014.

July 29, 2014

Congratulations to the two winners! Here are their entries:

Ailsa Abraham
Dear Mary. I am Rev Mother Griselda Goldenpaws of St Ursula’s Orphanage for homeless teddy bears. As a bit of a scribbler myself, the orphans are used to having a story read to them and they love to look at the covers (which means most are a bit sticky with honey).
They have heard all my tales many times but as a charity we cannot afford to buy books and being in France, English books are hard to come by. Perhaps this request will find favour and you will send us one of your books – their tastes are very eclectic (Lulu Peru never has a book out of her paws having taught herself to read).

Ailsa Abraham Author's photo.
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Please take a look at Ailsa Abraham’s books on Amazon. ~ MC
and:
Salvatore Buttaci
I’d like to add your book to the top 25 I will take with me on a boat ride in the event I’m shipwrecked and marooned on an island ripe for leisure reading.
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~ Please check out Sal Buttaci’s books on Amazon (also Barnes and Noble). ~ MC 

Have You Applied Your Ethics Today?

Alexander McCall Smith’s Famous Female Characters

We can think and act ethically in various ways. In his two series featuring female characters, Alexander McCall Smith illustrates this. One approach, in the Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries series, is to “stop and think” before acting. This creates an interruption in the flow of events. The other, in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, involves a continuous evaluation and adjustment which can become almost seamless.

There are problems with the “stop and think” ethics, as McCall Smith notes. Isabel Dalhousie often makes the right decision for the wrong reasons. This happens because she doesn’t, and can’t know all the information about another person and the particular situation they’re in. In the last book of the series, she doesn’t have an important piece of information, but the person, Jane, she’s helping does. Jane learns that her supposed father is infertile. The other part that Isabel has not taken into account is Jane’s psychological processes. All Isabel knows is what Jane told her: she wants to find her father. Isabel doesn’t put herself into the other’s shoes, that is, an act of consciousness, and so she doesn’t imagine other possibilities. Now, this is not always true; sometimes she imagines other scenarios, but these are based on a reworking of the facts and perhaps a few psychological clues. These imaginings are usually far-fetched, almost artificially-induced, one might say, rather than organic (nurtured without artificial methods). So she is caught unaware of Jane’s acceptance of the “false” father and her re-focus on her mother. In time, this may not be enough for Jane, as McCall Smith hints. David Hume said that philosophical statements, ideas, theories would be best linked to psychological processes. This is what Isabel is missing, what she struggles with. In fact, she struggles with empathy.

Isabel’s quick, unexamined assessment of others has led her to be uncharitable. When she learns to “stop and think” it keeps her from jumping to conclusions, based on assumptions. She learns to question her assumptions. She grants, cerebrally, that others have a point of view and that their reasoning may be plausible. This helps her begin to develop a sense of what might be going on with other people. It’s a poor substitute for empathy, or compassion, but in her case leads toward developing these capacities.

There’s another way to become more just and charitable toward oneself and others. McCall Smith comes closer to this with Mma Ramotswe in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Mma Ramotswe is alert to, aware of, what is going on within herself and with the people around her. She is continuously evaluating and re-evaluating her thoughts, feelings, actions and their consequences, and information gained from her relationships. She is naturally empathetic, but has learned to use her reasoning ability to temper her emotions and perceptions. She monitors her subliminal stream of consciousness, as well as her conscious thoughts. With her the process of stop and think is not one of interruption. Her reflection and evaluation, and then adjustment, is ongoing, and integrated into the flow. It appears to be natural, or intuitive.

What causes this difference in the two characters? David Turnbull (No Dangerous Thoughts) points out that Isabel is alienated from other people. Isabel is “part of the privileged wealthy class who don’t have to work to make a living. Part of her problem is that it doesn’t come naturally to her to live ethically and her musings about that are part of her effort to overcome her basic alienation.”Mma Ramotswe, however, is “very attuned to the people around her.” Her thoughts are not only ethical, but often spiritual.

Mma Ramotswe grew up in a village, and goes out in the world to deal with people every day. She has suffered through an abusive relationship and the death of a child, both events that could have left her alienated, but her father’s compassion enables her to re-establish her self-respect and purpose again. Mma Ramotswe is integrated in her own life, while Isabel is not — or not yet, because she is striving for the integration of love, community, work, and purpose that  make life worth living.