Dreams

DreamParty “A living person, living alive, seeks to penetrate the perpetual underlying stream of consciousness. Even when he is asleep he seeks to know and experience his dream, for it is just so, a stream of consciousness.”

Words of Paul Johnston (PJ). Artwork by PJ. Read more.

The Experience of Being Alive

Chapter 12 of Tally: An Intuitive Life, All Things That Matter Press, available on Amazon and B&N.

TheWriter_CoverPJ produced a new piece about intuition. “As you know, I’ve made a study in quest of the meaning of the word: intuition. And I came to understand that it begins in childhood unconsciously, and it is a totally unconscious process; nobody knows anything about it. In other words you’re in a situation and the issue is stated and right away your reaction is instant, and positive. But people can spend the rest of their lives trying to rationalize what they did. Did I explain that clearly?”

“You do,” I said. “Very well.”

PJ’s new definition of “intuition” as integral to human motivation and behavior interested me. He showed its operation in his own life in The Writer.

At thirty one, the young artist made a decision, known to him at the time but unknown during an interim of years until the writer reminded him of it. At that early age, when most young men are seeking a profession which will pay them well, the young man determined that he would never again work for money.

He lived by that resolution, too, while in the competitive society in which he found himself. He did later work on salary. But that was for bread, the landlord and the utilities. He lived to learn that there is no money in living “for the joy of it.”

Then youth to old age, with intuitive perception, he lived for the experience of being alive.

“This phrase, intuitive perception,” I said to PJ, “how can that work with your new concept of intuition?”

***

In the church’s front office, I picked up a book, Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker. He summarized Kierkegaard’s “lie of character” as being “built up because the child needs to adjust to the world, to the parents, and to his own existential dilemmas.”

Not very specific, but it was a summary after all. Becker went on, “It is built up before the child has a chance to learn about himself in an open or free way, and thus character defenses are automatic and unconscious.” Then the person “becomes dependent on them and comes to be encased in his own prison, and into himself … and the defenses he is using, the things that are determining his unfreedom.”

Isak Dinesen, though, said there are ways to escape this prison, this slavery to the accreted self, and create one’s self anew and form new identities at will.

PJ felt he had been forced to create new identities. In each identity he found “a clean slate.” Studying his own identity, he began to think about the adjustments children make.

“Now, presume that a child begins life innocent and amiable and feels no guilt,” he said, “until the first time someone punishes him. Then the child feels anger and guilt. Although later, he may learn to mask hostility with an amiable appearance, there will never be a time of complete amiability again. The hostility may be disguised so well that the person does not know he experiences it himself.”

“So the cause of hostility,” I said, “is that rebuke to your innocence.”

Yes, he nodded.

“Isn’t there one more ‘station’ between impulse and action?” I quoted Voltaire: “’I believe that with the slightest shift in my character, there is no crime I could not commit.’”

He smiled. There was a last stage one’s reactions go through, he said. “You see, character gives a temper point, having something to think about, argue about.”

I liked the way PJ’s theories were specific and not sterile, incorporating emotions such as love and anger, and the palpable senses of guilt and innocence.

Intuition

Chapter 10 of Tally: An Intuitive Life, by Mary Clark, published by All Things That Matter Press

PJ was wearing a tan turtleneck sweater and peaked white hat, álà Vincent Van Gogh. We seized an empty bench in Washington Square Park. Nearby, a woman had spread a blanket. Her older son was playing at the fountain’s edge and the younger one was crawling on the blanket toward him. The little one reached out and picked up a piece of broken glass.

His mother grabbed him and slapped his hand. The glass fell to the sidewalk and the boy screamed with rage as she placed him back on the blanket.

PJ acted as if he had seen nothing, but I felt him recoil when the child screamed. “That child was amiable when he was born,” PJ said after a moment. “He felt no guilt. Until someone slapped his hand and said, No, don’t do that. And he felt hostility for the first time.”

“He is angry,” I replied. “But he shouldn’t pick up glass.”

“Better that he is angry at the glass if he gets cut.”

The older boy came running to see what happened. He taunted his screaming brother and gave him a shove.

“You sit down,” the mother shouted. “Both of you behave.”

“Hostility is punished,” PJ observed. “He will learn to mask it with amiability. A laugh or a smile, a joke or a flattering word. After this, there will never be a time of complete amiability again.”

The mother and children were leaving and we watched them pass by the bench.

“The little one is beginning to make up his own intuitive program. He builds up an unconscious memory bank of positive and negative experiences. You see, now that we have computers, it can be compared to a computer, because the programmer puts in what can be taken out. And soon, we act and react with either amiability or hostility to any situation. It’s just—” He snapped his fingers, “yes or no, pro or con.”

“We react positively or negatively,” I said.

“If a child’s experiences evoke hostility and guilt for the most part, then the intuitive actions and reactions may become more often hostile than amiable.”

“I can see that.” And vice versa. Amiability: that was a desirable goal.

“And it’s already done before we know it. Most of us rationalize it afterward, even if it’s not necessary.” He smiled. “We may even come up with the right reason.” Then, reflectively, “We can’t bear the possibility of guilt, or we have so much built up, we respond with rationalization.”

PJ stood up slowly, steadying himself, and we walked back to his abode. In the following days I asked more about the “building of the intuition.”

“The cause of hostility is guilt,” he said. “And guilt is the absence of innocence, the feeling of being wrong. This sense of not being innocent is, for a reason I’ve not been able to discover, unacceptable to human beings. A person must perceive himself as innocent. He can do no wrong.”

“In The Fall,” I recalled, “Camus wrote that the ‘idea that comes most naturally to man, as if from his very nature, is the idea of his innocence.’ He said we insist on being innocent at all cost, even if we have to ‘accuse the whole human race and heaven itself.’”

“And so, Erin, we must believe our intentions are never hostile. The motives and consequences of our behavior are explained away, rationalized away in painstaking detail. Guilt is never allowed to remain in the consciousness.”

“I think you can admit you’ve done something wrong.”

“Nobody can admit to himself that he is wrong, ever. And I’ll tell you why. As you said, it’s because a human being cannot survive, I don’t know why, but he cannot survive without perceiving himself as completely innocent.”

He was sitting by his desk, the bright sun misting the ancient window and his white hair. “You see, the first compromise, a rational compromise, a child makes with what he knows is wrong—if there is such a thing as right and wrong—is not a very violent one. He doesn’t have to make a violent compromise because all he has to do is get around one contradiction. But as the contradictions of life pile up, he has to make more rationalizations.”

He elaborated, “What he learns about harming himself or other people, he may build up to a justification of harming other people, or he builds up a defense of it and a pretense of amiability. So when it comes to action and reaction, he has no moral control of what he does or says. Because it’s always done before he knows it and he has to rationalize it afterward.”

PJ picked up his glasses and shuffled through some papers. “You see, it’s rationalizing guilt that takes so much time out of most people’s lives. Because guilt has to be rationalized, it has to be put away, it has to be quieted down meticulously.”

“It’s an interesting idea …”

“When justifications and rationalizations have gone so far by the time a person reaches age twenty, he begins to wonder if he couldn’t be wrong.”

I smiled, remembering PJ had come to the Village at that age.

“But nevertheless, he’s got to be right. So then he begins twisting, he will switch around and hop around and do anything to keep from knowing he really is hostile.”

“We become conscious of our guilt.”

“No, conscience is a conscious matter, but guilt … the point is there is no guilt in the consciousness of the average person. They are saturated with repressed guilt. Until a person’s intuition becomes overloaded with guilt and hostility. In this case rationalizing becomes necessary, a way of life.”

I told him he was using words that needed to be defined.

He thought their definition was clear, but was now trying to clarify them. “To define intuition is difficult,” he answered. “The intuition’s fragments of memory and images never become conscious.”

“And what is rationalization?”

“Rationalization is the use of reason to make one seem innocent to oneself. Actually, rationalization distorts motives and behavior to make them seem innocent to the rationalizer. You see, no one knows, or can admit, that one’s intent is but good, and we lose as we rationalize any sense of what we’re doing. We lose this sense because we reverse hostility to a pretense of amiability. Many people have laid lie upon lie, compromise upon compromise, so they no longer know whether their motives are amiable or hostile.”

What a horror. Are we this imprisoned? “But is rationalization the only way to deal with guilt?”

amazon_buttonbnn_button

Death and Renascence

Excerpt from Chapter 4

Tally: An Intuitive Life, All Things That Matter Press

PJ described the hours and days that followed. “There was a terrible clacking noise beating on his eardrums. Loud. Sharp. Penetrating, like metal against metal, woke him. When it moved away it came back again, stronger, louder, more tortuous than before. How could he bear it? He cried out, ‘What is that noise? I can’t stand it. Can’t someone stop it?’”

A nurse answered, “It’s only a power mower. Someone outside is mowing the lawn.”

“Make them stop it,” he pleaded. “I can’t take it.” But already he could begin to take it. After all, it was only a power mower, a man mowing the grass. The sound became normal.

“What is this?” he cried out. “Where am I? What am I doing here? Who are you?”

With her calm and matter-of-fact voice, the nurse answered, “You were out yesterday for a long time, out cold. Now you’ve had three blood transfusions and you are alive again. Take it easy. Don’t worry, just rest.”

He thought, “How awful. Yesterday I was dead. My God, what a silly sentimental speech I made.” When he woke up and saw that he was alive, it repulsed him. “Why couldn’t they have left him alone? Why couldn’t they have let him remain dead?”

He wrote:

There was really no place in the world for him now. He was not a newborn baby. He had a man’s body, a man’s consciousness, a man’s load of experience, memory. How could he accept life?

He had died and those damned doctors were probably patting themselves on the back, bragging about how they had saved him.

Damn them. Why didn’t they let him die?

He hated with all his strength the life he would now have to begin to live. He turned his face to the wall. He was horribly shattered that he had to live again. His family could have taken more easily the consequences of his death. Now, he, himself, would have to live with them, while they lived with a man who was no longer a husband and a father, but a specter returned to harass them. He buried his face in the pillow. He did not weep, or mourn for himself, dead or alive.

“The Father and Husband died on the operating table forty years ago. I could not continue my former life, could not be the man I was before my death.”

“You said you’d lived past your destiny.”

“Yes. But I had to accept that I could not regain my death any more than deny myself alive.” He was a skeleton, but he was alive. “I had to learn to live again, and find new reasons to live.”

In “Tender Branch,” he quoted the Book of Job:

“For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down,
that it will sprout again,
and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.”

“So when I physically died on the operating table, I was reborn, innocent as a newborn baby, but with the memory of a grown man. But death had taken away all my guilt and replaced it with innocence.”

***

PJ, in yellow cut off shorts and ravaged wicker sandals, was sitting on the corner by the restaurant with his Fair Weather Gallery. People passed by and I heard one of them say, “Look, the Old Man of the Village.”

He would not put a price on the drawings and designs.

“Art is priceless,” he said. People failed to understand that when they took or received a piece of art they were supposed to offer a contribution to the artist, so the artist could keep on working. PJ continued to be mystified by people who took a piece of work and simply walked away.

I sat down on a folding chair next to him, picking up one of his paintings and resting it against my legs. Across Greenwich Avenue, where the Women’s House of Detention once stood, a garden was in full throttle. “I didn’t know if you’d be here,” I said. “I took a chance.”

“The fragile thread is woven from these intuitive acts,” PJ commented.

People sat at the sidewalk café. Again, the owner waved to PJ, who smiled back.

“Intuition is the motivating force behind our actions. It’s natural to respond and act intuitively, and unnatural to think about acting.”

PJ evoked many different responses on the street. Some people thought he was a bum, some thought he was crazy. But others, artists, printers and writers, Village residents, would stop to chat, recognizing him.

“I wanted to talk to you about The Document.”

“Do you want to ask me questions about The Document?”

“Is it a journal? What kind of thing is it, exactly?”

“The Document was begun one year and two months after he split with his wife. The purpose was to identify the ghost of Vivian’s husband because he had been reborn and didn’t have an identity. So the documentary writer decided to take this new born, fully grown baby and ‘make a man out of him.’”

“How do you identify yourself?”

“The first thing was that Vivi’s husband had an idea of one man and one woman. He didn’t know how he was going to get out of love with Vivi and he had just had a hot love affair with JJ and she had rejected him. The whole thing was a terrible mess.”

“You had an affair?”

“It was a big whoop-dee-doo affair that was supposed to take the place of losing Vivian. What it led to was a big deception on my part and on JJ’s part, too. She deceived herself that it was love and that I would marry her and things like that. The affair lasted a year and she decided she would reject me and give it up, it was a sudden thing. This was a tremendous blow to my ego. So that was when the document writer picked up and began trying to get me ordered in a line. He wrote for the ghost to read, that after all, a man could love as many women as he wanted to, as would let him and it didn’t have to mean sex in every case. That was the birth of the great lover.”

Over the years, he had created new identities, new reasons to live. He recorded all his “deaths and renascences.” Some identities were sequential and others simultaneous. Several of these identities were female. The most constant, perhaps continually renewed, were The Writer, The Artist, and the Professor of Love.

“You can die of an overload of guilt and hostility,” he summarized. “I died of an overload of guilt many times and was reborn with the innocence of a baby.”

“Didn’t N.O. Brown say something like that? About a new man, reborn into a second innocence?”

Yes, he nodded. “As one identity succumbs, a new one has to be created.”

In The Document he sought his motivations and evaluated the use of his time and the consequences of his behavior. “And in those early years I lived my life intuitively,” he said, “although I did not know it then, making choices which were completely unconscious, but which all together moved my life in a certain direction. We may not know it, but we make decisions based on what is valuable to us, and these small unconscious decisions cause us to go in one direction or another.”

amazon_button bnn_button

Tender Branch

Chapter 3 Tally: An Intuitive Life

TenderBranch_Cover (2)

Rogue read from PJ’s novel, Tender Branch, written after his divorce and subsequent hospitalization.

PJ decided to publish a chapter. It would be a chapbook. A local shop had a color copier that PJ had experimented with in reproducing his textile designs.

Rogue and I spent the weekend typing it. PJ came to Rogue’s apartment and helped Rogue sew up the binding of some of Rogue’s chapbooks while we worked. Afterwards, we ambled to outdoor cafés for ice cream, in the deep space of our own world.

“I sought death,” PJ said, “by unintentional injury—not so unintentional, of course. I was hospitalized and spent weeks in hysteria and paranoia. In my own life I have been far from conventionally pure but even in my excesses, I was always innocent. And yet my guilt came out in the paranoia in the hospital. That was all my lifetime of guilt that I had so carefully put away. Oh God, the paranoia. I remember asking my wife: what have the investigators found out about me? My secrets? Did she know? Did they tell her anything?”

Tender Branch opened with a hallucino-dream in the hospital.

“It was a far more vivid experience than the consciousness that was my life. It was a kind of super-consciousness.” He remembered sitting with his back to a wall and in front of him nothing but distance. “Behind the wall, an inclined space. There was brilliant light and to his left, several feet away, naked, sat his wife with her back to the wall.

“She was as silent as he. A voice said: ‘Shut your eyes. The first one who opens them will die.’ For a long time he sat there with his eyes tightly shut, for he did not want to die, and he hoped his wife would keep her eyes shut, for he did not want her to die.

When he could not bear it any longer, he let one eye open, then both. “He turned his head to look. His wife was not there. Surely she was not dead—and he would not die.”

He knew that this was not an episode in his life, although it was certainly a conscious experience. In this new and fantastic aspect of consciousness he understood more clearly the situation he was in.

After signing a paper he was too ill to read, everything changed. “Sometimes briefly he would see at his bedside one of those out to destroy him. Hysteria, hallucinations and dark humor prevailed. He knew he was one of a dozen who were to be the doctors’ victims. They would be used as long as they could be, in the machinations of the programs for the amusement and indulgence of the rich patrons and eventually, when they were no longer useful, they would be murdered.”

He asked his former wife if she were one of them and she said yes. “But he could not believe it. He loved his wife. Even though he knew she would leave him and he would die because he could not live without loving her.”

The major torment the doctors devised was to “open all the shut and locked doors in his mind and transmit his secret thoughts to people in the next room. Film projectors had been set up in concealed places and he could look nowhere without seeing the lurid, erotic, unimaginable images as they danced, pranced, rolling and tossing beautiful color, with the sounds of voices, hysterical laughter, musical voices making disgraceful proposals, and participants freely acting them out, no matter what sex, what age, what combinations.”

He lamented, “Not one of his most secret and buried fantasies or memories could be concealed. Now all these people knew his deepest guilt. How could he continue to live?”

“What was it like to die?”

“Nothing dramatic about it. I welcomed death as a solution of all my conflicts. I would avoid the viciousness of a life without her. She would be free to pursue her own interests.”

“Free to create her destiny.”

He smiled, his eyes winking, piercing blue. “At the same time, I welcomed death as the fulfillment of a very great life. I was content. In fact, nothing could be more right. I had the wonder of living in love with my wife. Surely, few men had ever had it so good.”

“You were aware of what was going on?”

“For a few moments I experienced an exceptional clarity. I felt no sentiment or emotion, no regret or grief. I told my wife, ‘All the happiness I’ve had in my life was due to you, recognizing you, loving you and living with you.’”

He wrote this about dying:

Death enfolded him before he could say more. Death. Silence. Absolutely nothing, if not deep unconscious peace. That is what death is. Release from all consciousness, from all guilt, from all threats of poverty or torture of riches. The dead have no responsibility. There is no ego to establish and maintain at the cost of one’s self and cruelty to others. Peace. The apotheosis of peace, of quietness, of no emotional or physical pain, no wish or seeking for praise.

But suddenly my sublime peace was disturbed. I could not move but I felt. Cold, then warm. A flow of warmth began to trickle in. What is this? The warmth moved at a snail’s pace across a line marking half a body, seeking a place where it could break through. The point was found and with the same languid force the warmth broke through until I felt every part of myself, still inert, immobile, but an eyelid, one and then the other, opened. Without interest I saw my wife sitting in a chair beside my bed, watching me with intense anxiety. From her arm extended a tube to my arm, and then I knew that the warmth I felt was her blood, her life, giving life to my body.

He fell asleep soon after. His last conscious thought was this: She is giving birth to me.

Tally: An Intuitive Life, published by All Things That Matter Press, is available in print and ebook formats.

amazon_button bnn_button

A Perceptive Review of Tally: An Intuitive Life

These words are from a review of Tally: An Intuitive Life by Marylee MacDonald, author of Montpelier Tomorrow.

When a young poet stumbles into the life of a Greenwich Village recluse, she meets a bearded old man living in a garret. Surrounded by manuscripts in which he has attempted to comprehend the meaning of life, PJ has entered a time of failing eyesight, physical frailty, and economic uncertainty. Quiet and observant, the young poet Erin, or “Eyes” as PJ soon calls her, begins to help him put his life in order.

“No one is ever conscious of what he is doing or why he is doing it,” PJ said, “even a person who is aware of everything he is doing and after pondering it, can perceive the reason or motivation for it.”

The above is just one of many sentences I underlined last February while I was doing a writing residency at the Vermont Studio Center for the Arts. Anyone who makes her or his life in the arts risks winding up like PJ, which is to say not wealthy, except in matters of the spirit.

“PJ’s long bony fingers swept over drifting stacks of books, papers, paintings, typewriter ribbons, photographs and found objets, all jumbled together, everything melting into some other form…’Dali would have had an idea of the melodramatic squalor in which I live,'” PJ told her.

PJ’s intellect and humor makes him an utterly fascinating subject. Some of his musings are brilliant; others, wildly off-the-wall.

To read the entire review, please click here.

Tally: An Intuitive Life, by Mary Clark, published by All Things That Matter Press, 2013.

amazon_button bnn_button

A Greenwich Village Christmas Story

51ezxsrbol-_uy250_This is an excerpt from Tally: An Intuitive Life, the story of Paul Johnston (PJ), a Greenwich Village artist and writer, and his young friends Rogue and Erin Yes (Eyes), published by All Things That Matter Press.

Tally: An Intuitive Life is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble in print and ebook formats.

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.”

amazon_button bnn_button

Occupational Integrity

Mary Clark:

This blog was prompted by a question from my new intellectual friend, the Australian philosopher David Turnbull (No Dangerous Thoughts), in regard to the elderly artist in my book, Tally: An Intuitive Life. My Guest Blog on Angela Lam Turpin’s site is a brief look at my own occupational life profile (still in progress thankfully!).

David Turnbull:

Tally was a Bohemian artist. That is part of his occupational form. The thing to explore is what constitutes that? What did it amount to? One would expect him to defy sexual conventions and other conventions about getting a job. He would relegate everything to his art. He may even use people for the sake of his art. He wouldn’t be “moral” in the conventional sense. So how did this get worked out occupationally?

Mary:

As you know from the book, PJ (Tally) came to Greenwich Village to study art, but after a few exhibits was disenchanted with fine art as a career. Still, he loved the hands-on experience of being an artist, experiencing that intuitive flow with which the work begins and which also defines the end of the work. He “transited” into fine press printing, as an apprentice to a printer who published books and broadsides of art and literature. In this way, PJ could remain in touch with fine art and expand his love of reading and writing.

You may have a point, one that PJ would agree with, since he said “intuition has no morality,” because he dragged his wife and small child from one place to another while pursuing this career. At the same time, he told me that he was aware of not adequately taking care of his family, and the guilt, as always repressed, was building up.

He wrote articles on fine printing and at least one book, but the monetary compensation was small. All along he doggedly followed the “intuitive thread.” Eventually, the Great Depression intervened and he took a day job as a book designer. By this time his marriage was on the rocks.

While it looks like he was going from one form of art and occupation to another, this occupational flexibility was actually all part of the same quest, that is, integrated: to work on himself and on his relationships as an artist.

David:

The idea of occupational integrity places a person’s occupation into a moral and political context. It has three aspects: (a) the occupation of the person (b) personal integrity and (c) a moral-political aspect that relates to family, community, and wider environment.

***

PJ and Occupational Integrity: A Life Profile

by Mary Clark

PJ (the Old Man, Bohemian, Tally), the subject of my book, Tally: An Intuitive Life, talked about an “intuitive thread” that led him from one seemingly different occupation to another, but in fact showed they were all connected by and expressed in action a set of values and certain interests.

PJ’s idea of “intuition” is not a kind of ESP or other paranormal activity. It is a mental/brain function that involves processing thoughts, emotions, memory, and self/identity/relationships to others and the environment. In this way, we develop an “intuitive program” or memory storage of positive and negative experiences which influence how we act and react. The building of this program is an unconscious process, and the “many, small unconscious choices” we make, beginning in childhood, guide us in one direction rather than another.

Through an expansion of consciousness, however, we can access “the subliminal stream of consciousness” and there discover our “true motivations” and the “comprehensions and contradictions” of our lives. In this level of consciousness we are always assessing the state of inner life, our behavior and the reactions of others, and our environment. As we are better able to attend to this level of consciousness, we can study and critique what is going on in our lives, and adjust our intuitive program and our behavior.

PJ was a young man in the 1920s when the ideas of the conscious and unconscious mind were popular. As an artist, he was particularly attuned to the intuitive source of his work. And as many artists feel or believe, their work enhances our mindful and spiritual life as human beings. This is usually not, as with science, a conscious contribution, or broadening of our knowledge base. One of Jung’s statements is echoed in PJ’s work: “All art intuitively apprehends coming changes in the collective unconsciousness.”

PJ’s attraction to the Bohemian, or non-traditional, culture began in his teens. He said, “I spent hours in the Atlanta Library reading the latest literary journals. I fell in love with an illustration of a woman in Bruno’s Weekly, a literary magazine published in the Village. I found The Quill there, too, so I was already following the Village in my teens.”

He came to the Village to study painting, but was soon distracted. He “transited” into the art of fine press printing, working for Egmont Arens’ Flying Stag Press. There he helped print books and portfolios of art.

He wrote:

Egmont was my first connection with the intellectual people of the time. He became a strong influence in my total life, a source of direction.

 PJ traced the influence of his interaction with the older man:

Nobody can prove that one is ever directed by an intuitive inclination. Yet before he was thirty, that young husband, with his wife, both were indicating the values of what the writer was to call consciousness of the experience of living…

 This consciousness, in its material way, must have been the outcome of the influence of Egmont Arens. … Egmont had never been the young man’s leader or mentor, but in association with the febrile perception of the older mind, the seeds of living intuitively (unconscious of it) with some perception of what was going on in life and why to keep trying for fulfillment, were planted.

 Yet Egmont was never a conscious source of direction in the young man’s life, though, more than most his age, then he was developing an intuitive self-guidance…

It was his interest in thought, literature and fine art that led him to the bookshop where Arens had his press. He soon discovered he had a talent for fine press printing, and a liking for the “abstractions of printing and typography.” Each book was a work of art, and involved working in a community of artists: writers, illustrators, typographers, papermakers, binders, and book designers.

After his marriage, he took a job for pay as a book designer for Knopf. That lasted one year and he and Knopf realized it wasn’t a match. As he wrote years later:

In terms of money, Egmont’s salary was not enough for the married man he had brought into being. A letter to Alfred Knopf brought a change, and Egmont gave him his blessing… He served his term with Knopf. But leaving the job did not help the ego of the young husband, and he determined he would never again work for money. More significantly, he decided that painting representations in imitation of objects in sight was not an occupation for a man who had a wife and child to support. All these were conscious, inner decisions, and he lived with them for the rest of his life.

PJ’s ability to self-critique is evident. This is essential for any artist, or for that matter, scientist, doctor, or other professional. It is important for artists and writers to have their work evaluated by others, including the public and critics. Critics say this is good, this is interesting, and they may be wrong, but it sets up a dialogue that brings in different views and requires clearly defining and explaining those views. PJ lived in an active and vibrant arts community, where opposing views and critical thinking were encouraged.

PJ had come to the big city at twenty, to study art, the art of painting and did so for ten years. He was exhibited in the Woodstock Art Gallery and the Whitney Studio Club. When he saw that art was a profession, he rejected himself as a painter and turned to abstractions to earn his bread, which he barely did. He never abandoned sketching and painting as the avocations he took them to be, but he never took them seriously.

 Isn’t such reasoning for a young man just past thirty years unreasonable?

 But the writer has the old man living his life conscious of all the moments of his life, built on the unconscious logic of the past.

He decided not to work for money, but he needed to support his family. Representational art as an occupation did not satisfy him intellectually and artistically. Creating “abstractions” was risky, but he had the perception to realize its intrinsic link not only to his skills, but to his values. It gave him security in his marriage, as someone worthy of his wife, and in his occupation in the Bohemian and intellectual world.

The young opportunist went to Knopf. But, separated, Egmont Arens was still a source of awareness of what was transpiring in the young man’s life. The intuitive thread that brought them together continued to hold them until Egmont’s death.

 All his life, boy, becoming conscious of sex and being alive, adolescent, man, lover, printer, and husband and father, that young man had been prompted by a strong intuitive directorate…

 He started his own press and decided to publish a literary magazine:

He called it Latterday, fathered material for it, and (bang) a keen intuition stopped him in a common amateur intellectual pursuit.

Instead he presented the idea to Random House and they hired him to print two fine press editions, one of poetry and the other prose. During the next decade he printed books and newsletters, in Greenwich Village, and Silvermine, CT, and Woodstock, New York; all three were working artists’ communities.

Egmont became entangled with Elbert Hubbard’s misconcept of technocracy. He became separated from amateur pursuits and made a good living in industrial design.

PJ rejected the commercial art world, and consumerism. He personified the highly skilled craftspeople who wanted to bring art to the widest possible audience. (All art: fine arts, literature, theater, dance, film.) This was a combination of keeping high standards and finding new ways to reach an audience. To do this without crass commercialism was a challenge. To do this cheaply enough while keeping those high standards meant being inventive. He may have hoped for a blend of fine printing with the promotional capability of major publishers. Random House, led by Bennett Cerf who had been part of the Village crowd, was the obvious choice. However, a small press could not publish large quantities of a book if the demand was made. Major publishers found cheaply produced books were selling. People did buy well-made and designed books, though, when available. Charles Boni, another Village printer and publisher, invented a high-quality, mass-produced paperback: in 1929, he began Paper Books “to place good books, well designed in carefully made, within the reach of any reader.”

The integrity of the Village experience itself went through times of realization and times of submergence to other forces, such as World Wars, the advent of modern advertising and a consumer-dependent economy, and gentrification.

For instance, during WW1 and WW2 many young men went to fight overseas. Some of these young men came from the Village, and some from the country: the latter included those who would have gravitated to the Village. In the Great Depression, the demand for art and books fell and artists and writers had to find whatever work they could, as other did, to survive.

Some, like PJ, continued with the exploration of ways to live as self-guided, positive and creative individuals, in spite of, in response to, or in opposition to societal norms and changes in these norms. To the extent possible, he did this through interaction and dialogue, or through his art and writing.

In mid-life PJ suffered a near-death experience. His “swinging Bohemian lifestyle” confronted him with questions of guilt and innocence. It is possible that the lifestyle was a good fit for the artists at first, but then became excessive, leading to moral qualms. It seems this was the case with PJ. It led him to a stark and honest evaluation of his life, especially his personal life.

His guilt came from the apprehension or knowledge that he had hurt someone else, and in particular, his family. For a long time, apparently he repressed this, so that when his personal life fell apart, all the guilt surfaced and nearly drove him crazy. After that, he was more conscious of having done harm, or being harmed, and dealt with it by a continuing, conscious evaluation of the situation.

His interest in expanding his consciousness of what he was doing, and what was going on around him, became a constant part of his life. He developed the ability, which he believed innate in all humans, to perceive, reflect, consider and critique his intentions, motivations, actions, reactions, and the consequences, holding them to a set of values that aimed at living amiably with others.

David Turnbull noted the resolution in the notion of amiability, which struck him as “a very communal idea, a kind of live and let live philosophy of life… easy to do in the easy-going Village, not so easy confronting hard-nosed politicians, militarists and industrialists.” PJ did not view amiability as passive. An amiable person understands that others can be hostile, even violent, and works to find ways to bring about dialogue. It may not be possible or productive, but the effort is made. He said his “aggressive amiability” had been too much for many people. He wanted to get to know people, and interact with them, but his nosing into their business seemed abrupt at times. An important element of amiability is a sense of humor. With this, he said, an amiable person can take a “threat of disaster and turn it into a memorable and valuable experience.”

He often said that the civilized world had come to an end before the turn of the century (1900). He believed society was in decline, corrupted by materialism. People were easily diverted by the amusements of civilization and lacked awareness and intellectual curiosity. They rationalized their behavior, so no one knew right from wrong anymore, and denied the harm they did others. Of course political leaders and corporate monopolies were suspect. Although PJ lived on the margins of society, he was not a lawbreaker. He would not have swiped anything; he had his own moral evaluative process.

As a living human being, though, of course, he had his share of mistakes and transgressions. He damaged several important relationships, in his personal and professional life, and sometimes with full consciousness. In one case a famous printer and typographer made a comment on PJ’s book about the history of printing, and asked that PJ not use it in the book. However, PJ in his evaluation of the book decided that it was too important not to use. While the relationship suffered, in retrospect, it appears that PJ’s choice may have been the correct one.

PJ’s last job as a book designer was working for someone else, but he had complete freedom to work in his own way and leave when the work was done. Past middle age, he worked for a while as a freelance textile designer, where he explored making abstract patterns using forms he had created. Later he matted some of these designs and showed them along with other work at an art gallery and on the street in what he called the “Fair Weather Gallery.” He also wrote erotica, some of which was published. This was part of his need to re-identify himself after his mid-life crisis. It may have reflected an ongoing conflict between the body and the mind/spirit, that so plagued 18th and 19th Century thinkers. For instance, he separated love from sex: love being non-physical, and sex physical. Ultimately, he arrived at a concept of amiability as the highest form of love. In his last years, he devoted himself to thinking and writing about the large questions that intrigue philosophers.

There are elements that appear in each occupation: love of beauty, design and visual presentation, substance as important as style. He went from being an art student and artist (fine arts) to an apprentice fine printer of art and literature, to an independent fine press printer (choosing literature, designing and printing the books), at the same time writing about fine printing, printers and typographers, and then to book design. Writing was common to all, but so was visual art.

More than this, though, he always remained true to the non-traditional, independent life he felt had the highest value for human beings. It was the life of “a man integrated” rather than fragmented, honest rather than dishonest, as he envisioned and tried to live in a “new world” where people were free of non-essential materialism, free to express and identify themselves, and live without fear of coercion or violence.

***

David:

Mary, this makes the reader want to read the book. By concentrating on the central theme of occupational integrity, being able to describe it in the life of one person, makes everything else in that person’s life coherent. It maps the pattern.  It is the essential form of the identity of the man.

Now this is the level of writing we want to establish. It took you many years to arrive at this standard yourself, Mary. It took your own occupational integrity to do it; far more than personal or professional. It is ethical integrity. It is about bridging the gap between the topic of your writing and the audience who reads it. It is about creating accessibility and comprehension.

Exploring the topic of occupational integrity and related topics such as “distance” is the currently emerging theoretical phase in the development of The ECHO (Enabling Communities of Human Occupation) Model.

Mary:

It was a long, long labor to try to write clearly about this man’s life, as you have noted. To put into the simplest words the complex is the art of poetry. My slight poetic talent helped me with this effort. To write about another person, who is quite different from yourself, is to fall down the rabbit hole, but you as a writer/thinker have to be able to resurface to your own reality and bring it in as well. That means keeping a distance, logically, emotionally and ethically.

Of course, there were areas of affinity between us, without which as you have said, if the world of one individual was completely different from another, then it would be impossible to bridge the gap.

David:

We need to set the context for how your piece contributes to the ECHO model and demonstrates it in practice. It does this by its contribution to level 6 (providing justification of a Bohemian artistic lifestyle, via the concept of occupational integrity with admissions of any shortcomings), and the context would be to go back up some levels and discuss the man in terms of his myth (the professor of love in Greenwich Village, for instance) and some of the discourse around his relationship with the other key identities at the time, involving the worldview of the Village, as an occupational community (a multi-faceted one).

What this analysis does is open up some future questions about how the initiatives that were made by PJ and his friends, travel to us in time, and how they open up possibilities for the future (of artistic communities in general and Bohemian ones in particular).

Mary:

So PJ’s myth was of being an artist, and this he decided was best done by living outside the directive and controlling traditions of society, pursuing intellectual freedom, and freedom of expression. From his teens on, he had a process: expanding his access to the layers of his own consciousness, and connecting to the universal stream of consciousness which he conceived of as having all the knowledge of those living and dead. He had a goal: the apex, as you call it, of making a valuable contribution to the life he had chosen to live (non-traditional artist; also living for the personal experience of it) and to the universal stream of consciousness, giving his life meaning.

I have gone further to say:

Ultimately, his stream of consciousness would mingle with the universal stream (overcoming death).

The reason I say this is taken from, and may be too much of an extrapolation, a comment of his. This conversation is in the book:

“You see, at first, you begin to get understanding, then you get really great, greater understanding, then you get complete understanding, then you begin to get realizations and then you get penultimate realization. And in my life now, I’m living with a penultimate realization. Nothing I can think about doesn’t have a quick organization into perceptible and expressive thought.”

 “You said you had entered into a particular part of the universal stream of consciousness,” I reflected, “and took that into your life. Can we tap in completely to the universal stream of consciousness?”

“That would be too much for a living person.”

“Or after we die, we return to it and our stream of consciousness mingles with all others?”

 “Even now,” PJ said, “from time to time we tap into the universal stream of consciousness. We’ve all had such epiphanies.”

He did not say “After we die,” I did. This was as close as he got to spirituality.

David:

To your explanation of PJ and his explorations of consciousness. This is spirituality. If the universe is conscious, and is infinite in complexity and depth (not in its space time materiality necessarily) it readily follows that any finite being within it would not be able to absorb or comprehend universal consciousness entirely. Consciousness is a stream, and we are part of it.  “Theories of everything” are mistaken in principle.

Tally: An Intuitive Life, Excerpt from Chapter 1

PJ_1979“But by God, two people have met in the maelstrom, by the fragile thread of human involvement, and intuitively (shall I imagine it?) become one.”

Chapter 1, Entangled

It all began with an invitation, this intersection of lives. Rogue invited me to meet him in Greenwich Village. We came together on the corner of Greenwich Avenue and West 10th Street.

Rogue’s dark eyes had a deep inner glow, his smile a wild spark. “I need to prepare you, Erin, for what you’ll see.” Rogue’s voice was hesitant but melodious. “PJ was a recluse for some time before I met him.”

Rogue took out a key and opened the side door of a three-story colonial building. Steep stairs led along the outer skin of brick wall to the upper floors. Rogue’s sandals and my sneakers fell lightly, but the stairs creaked with age and neglect. A narrow hall with a rickety wooden railing stopped at the only door on the top floor.

Rogue’s call was laughing, tongue-in-cheek, but I heard a note of euphoria. “PJ.”

I followed him into a Village garret stripped bare of any amenities.

“I’ve brought someone to meet you.”

A tall, gaunt man with a bent hawk nose and intense blue eyes peered at me. His whimsical smile was wreathed in a white beard and curving mustache. His white hair fell back from his forehead and almost to the collar of his light blue dress shirt.

The garret was every artist’s twilight nightmare. Walls were scuffed, doors scarred and furniture scourged down to the flesh. In the cluttered front room, art claimed every perspective.

PJ’s long bony fingers swept over drifting stacks of books, papers, paintings, typewriter ribbons, photographs and found objects, all jumbled together, everything melting into some other form, a rebellious lack of form. “Dali would have had an idea of the melodramatic squalor in which I live.”

I looked about in amazement and distress.

“This is how I’ll end up.” Rogue cupped his chin; his smile a concupiscence of anxiety and merriment. “I’m drawn to old age because I want to know how it all adds up, or does not add up, at the end.”

Two World War I gas masks hung from a post by PJ’s bed. I wondered aloud to Rogue, “For a pair of lovers? Or paranoid lovers?”

PJ hovered near a battered desk and primordial Royal typewriter. Behind him, bookshelves lined the long outside wall. Typewriter paper boxes were stacked on them.

I picked up one box. “What is this?” I blew the dust off.

“That’s The Document.” He passed a hand over the collection. “My lifelong stream of consciousness work.”

Inside each box were hundreds of pages of onionskin paper filled with words, single-spaced and in a tiny font.

“For the first two years,” he said, “everything I wrote was rationalization. After that I wrote to renew my innocence.”

In the aura of a fading Village, with PJ’s guidance, Rogue and I began cleaning dirt and debris away, clearing a space around PJ’s bed and desk.
As we began to make order out of the rubble, the deeper we dug the more the vivacious past leaped out. I sorted through photographs of PJ as a young man, his wife and daughter, and old postcards, pamphlets, letters and theater flyers.

I showed a small handout to Rogue:
It is raining love in Greenwich Village (one time the capital of romantic love). Like autumn leaves falling, pieces of yellow paper flutter down to settle in doorways or on sidewalks. About three inches square, they bear, printed in large letters, a dirty four-letter word. Under it is a very artistic monogram: PJ. What other can the obscene word be but: LOVE (a word of limitless obscurity.)

I was puzzled. Why is love an obscene word?

There is a rumor going ’round that anyone, collecting a thousand pieces of these litterings, on delivering them to the WORDS office will get the prize of a thousand (useless) dollars.

PJ (the provocateur of this misdemeanor) confronted with this rumor, smiled, and spoke with love: We’re out to litter the world with love. He continued with a grin, No one can deliver a thousand pieces to the WORDS office because we are underground. No office. We seek litterers all over the world. We have the small papers, printed on one side: LOVE/PJ. These may be handed out to people wherever gathered, parties, theater lobbies, bank lines, buses …

“Those are his Love Tokens,” Rogue said. “In the early 1960s, he left them around the Village, in bookstores, cafés, for anyone to pick up. It was a kind of performance art. That’s when he was the Professor of Love.”
I shifted to look at PJ. He had been watching us in silence. “Do you know how The Old Man met Rogue?”

“No,” I said, loudly, realizing he did not hear well.

He folded his long body into a straight-backed wooden chair. “One Christmas Eve I went out in a terrible snowstorm to a poetry reading at St. Mark’s Church in the Bouwerie. Rogue did the same thing, independently. And there we stood on the steps of the church and read together that the night’s reading had been cancelled.”

He invited Rogue to his garret for a glass of wine. That was how the relationship of the Aging Bohemian and his equally bearded protégé began.

“Are there coincidences in your life?”

Yes, I nodded.

“There were in mine,” PJ said. “It’s incredible how my life became entangled with others, seemed to work in and out of others.”

Summer brought Rogue and I out to the streets. We strolled through the ways and byways of the Village, east and west, spending eight or twelve hours at a time together. We were the new Bohemians.

After wine, tea or coffee at O’John’s or The Riviera, and stopping at cafés for salad or hamburgers, we visited PJ. We left him to attend poetry readings or search for delectable pieces of text in bookstores, ending the night in bars upscale or dive where poets, writers and other vagabonds played pool, parodied their own and other’s poetry, and fell down drunk.

Rogue and I became friends very fast, more rapidly than I ever had experienced before. We talked for hours about poets and poetry, and at the outdoor cafés he introduced me to poets and writers. The weeks were filled with new people, images, sensations and a feeling of lagging behind in taking it all in. I was saturated. Rogue never seemed to stop or rest.

One afternoon, we decided to meet PJ. I got off the subway and waited for Rogue. On the next corner we could see PJ sitting outside with his Fair Weather Gallery. On days when the weather was good, he set up his artwork on the street near his apartment, by the library or in the park.

“Let’s circle around,” Rogue said, “and come at him from different directions.”

So we circled around the block and walked up to PJ at the same time from opposite directions as if by coincidence.

PJ looked from one of us to the other, and laughed.

Rogue and I left PJ in his garret and went to Rogue’s place, where he made coffee and I looked through his bookcases. He read parts of a novel by PJ called World’s End. It began with: “The world’s end has come and gone, and no one is the wiser.”

The book sounded like an original folk masterpiece. It was very intellectual, but not in the scholarly sense. He detailed the history of “intellectual leadership” in the world from ancient times, to its first weakness, and current decadence.

In another piece, for modern times and minds, PJ had redefined the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They were: the hospital, the telephone company, the power company and your choice of bureaucracy.

In his late 70s, PJ was beginning to bend from the weight of so many years and thoughts warping about in his head like spaceships carrying aliens and exiles. His chest and shoulders curved from trying to turn round on himself, to go back or flee, to see what wreckage he had left behind, at the same time to advance towards death.

“I’ve lived so long, looking like death, because I keep so close to it that death forgets I am here.”

Tally: An Intuitive Life is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble: Paperback $16.95 (check for discounts)  and Kindle $5.99. Tally is in Amazon’s Matchbook program: you can buy the print book and get the Kindle for only $1.99. Barnes and Noble paperback $16.95 and Nook $5.99.

Is life a series of delusions?

Paul Johnston (PJ)

Paul Johnston (PJ)

In his Village habitat, PJ tapped his fingers on the papers piled next to his typewriter. “I’ve wondered if time moves so swiftly that we can remember only a tiny fragment of what happens,” he said. “Do we make a selection from these fragments, and if so, do these selections form a series of delusions with which we live throughout our lives?”

“That would explain my life,” I said.

Later, he wrote: “Time moves so swiftly that memory cannot retain an infinitesimal fragment and a person has to stop to make a selection consciously or unconsciously, evaluating by using an innate mental faculty, choosing what seems to enhance his inner security, but was only part of his reality, and so it was a delusion. This is the first in an uncountable number of delusions.”

“At the same time,” he said, “is it possible that each person contains all the memory of human consciousness from the beginning of human existence? How would that affect the perceptions of events, and the process of selection?”

These are excerpts from Tally: An Intuitive Life, by Mary Clark, All Things That Matter Press, available at Amazon as a print book ($16.95 or less) or Kindle ebook ($5.99). Purchase the print book and get the Kindle for just $1.99!