Existent Death

Chapter 8 of Tally: An Intuitive Life, All Things That Matter Press

At PJ’s the three convened to work on Tender Branch [an excerpt of PJ’s account of his “death and renascence” in mid-life]. Whenever Rogue and I talked about PJ’s invented words, odd style and his way of separating sentences with three dots, PJ looked annoyed. Rogue was curious about PJ’s “new” words, engaging in word play with him, while I tended to accept them whole.

It was hot inside his apartment, with only a fan to cool the three of us, and when we were almost finished editing, Rogue and I decided to go outside and enjoy the day. PJ, reluctantly, let us go.

Coming back from the park, PJ met us on the corner and ambled back with us to the street-level door. Rogue waved and went on his way. I followed PJ upstairs.

“Rogue is deliberately taking you away from the work,” he fumed, “because he does not want The Old Man to accomplish anything.” He went on to say that Rogue wanted him to remain handicapped and helpless. “The Company, he could see, would never work, because Rogue was determined to subvert it.”

I assured him that Rogue said he would finish the typing later that night. But PJ felt Rogue would find some reason not to do it. “He’ll find one excuse or another, because it has never been his intention to help PJ.”

His assault on Rogue appalled me. If he kept harassing Rogue, wouldn’t he leave?

As soon as Rogue came back, PJ attacked him. Rogue shrugged it off. He took the pages home to type. Leaving PJ’s apartment, he and I agreed that it was “all exhausting.”

PJ said that Rogue was attracted to handicapped people. In PJ, the handicap was his age and illness, his “decrepit body.”

I received a letter from PJ:

The old man gave the kids their freedom after dinner and came to his squalor, was lonely, far too, went out into a light drizzle. Sixth Avenue had become a street theater. Couple guitarists, amplified, and a wailing sounding instrument were blasting country music; seated in a shelter, a large circle had gathered for audience and the guitar case was full of coins and bills. Good for the old man. He could hear every note, feel the rhythm. A young woman in street clothes danced, her feet, body and arms punctuating the sound. The old man felt an anguish of pleasure, stayed and watched for an hour.

The dancer was a cripple, at last she took an abandoned cane and shopping bag and limped away. So, we’re the existent dead. Moments of diversion, sound in the rain, then back to our evasion (however) of life. The old man returned to his lonely bed, after pills, with a wish for sleep/death.

“I don’t think you’re one of the existent dead.”

“No,” he said, but at times he experienced it. He handed me several pages.

I read, “Existent death is a phase of variable lengths of time. The existent dead live without consciousness and completely through rationalization, a thought process by which we evade evaluating what is happening in our lives. Everyone goes through periods of existent death, and of being renewed, into times when we are more conscious of what we are doing and pursuing what is valuable to us.”

He wrote what I thought was succinct, with a provocative ending:

Existent death is a state of being in a functioning body, by one’s self and in relation to others, but evading consciousness of experience, especially the memory of eternity in the present instant.

PJ stayed up late cutting the pages and pasting them up for his booklet. Coming in I saw him lying on the bed in a state of exhaustion. At the work table Rogue and I had set up with its strong overhead lamp to aid his poor eyesight, I looked through the pages. Some were slightly crooked, but easily fixed. I had to admire the job he did.

At the bottom of the title page, though, he had cut off the last lines. I told him and he nodded, yes, he thought so. He wasn’t sure, because his eyesight was so poor.

He had asked me to make a number of copies of each page in case he made errors, and I selected the best one of that page and cut it carefully and correctly, aware that he had done this as a professional in his earlier life.

My assistance made him look dejected, but simultaneously hopeful. When I finished he barely glanced at the work, as if to say I know it’s all right, but I couldn’t do it, don’t rub it in. So I moved on quickly. He acted resigned, but as we collated the pages he livened up.

We put the cover on the mock-up and he was enthusiastic again.

“The old man has been thinking we three might promote the publication of PJ’s million words.”

Tender Branch was out, he said, and before that a blurb on “World’s End.” The writer had hundreds of pieces. The three of us could print, bind by hand, and mail them.

He wrote to me:

The old man’s efforts at promoting the writer had been weak, for the lack of concept how to. Tender Branch had shown the way.

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Abstracting an Abstract

Chapter 7 of Tally: An Intuitive Life, All Things That Matter Press

PJ_Impression1Talking about his artwork, PJ said, “You have to get away from the idea of creating work out of your head or out of the objects you see.”

Rogue held one of PJ’s “Impressions,” running his fingers over the braised surface of cloth, paper and matte background. “Purely by chance. These are purely by chance.”

“No, No.” PJ reset his words. “I worked ten years as an art student, painting and so on, and the first exhibition I had was at the Woodstock Art Gallery and Whitney Studio Club in New York. But right away, I didn’t want any more paintings. I didn’t know what I wanted. And it took, well, I was in my forties, when I was working on the PJ Impressions.”

Rogue nodded, his eyes following PJ’s train of thought.

“And finally, I got the basis of abstracting an abstract.” PJ laughed an infectious quick laugh. “I got the abstraction from which any number of new forms could be produced. It was reduced to a sort of a scale, like a musical scale, there were instructions of what I should do to get a form at all and my surprise at what I got. So that applied to the textile design.”

“You did textile designs?” I was surprised that he would be involved in such a commercial enterprise.

“For about five years. When you see any home décor, take time to look at the patterns, the geometrical shapes or the flowing shapes, and colors. Someone designed that.”

I nodded, wondering at an artist spending creative energy on these things. But then again, Andy Warhol showed that commercial art could be far more.

“The point is,” PJ regained momentum, “Leonardo’s influence extends to today when you go into a store and any package that you see has a Leonardo-like rendition of what the contents of the package are, all printed up in beautiful colors and likely forms. Today I was thinking abstract art has no object. It has nothing to sell. It is simply form and depth and movement. And that’s what these are.”

“How did you come up with the idea?”

“I have an idea about how I got these things. But having got them in that way I can’t make up my mind I’ll do it again and get the same sort of results. It was an unintentional organization of color and form. It can’t be imitated.”

“Didn’t the pop artists have a similar method,” I said. “Or were they consciously directing their work before they did it, while they did it?”

“The best let the designs formulate themselves, using certain elements. Warhol had a sense of play in his work. And he developed a method of replicating designs so that each one surprises. It’s always a fresh experience.”

“Capturing the moment,” I said. “Which one is the truth, the original, the flawed one?”

Rogue rested the artwork against others. “Do you think Warhol was mocking us?”

“I think he loved his subjects, but he may have taken advantage of the commercial world and also meant it as a rebuke.”

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Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen (Part 1)

In this “docu-memoir” I re-collect my first years in the midtown neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen (officially as Clinton). In the beginning I worked at St. Clement’s Church in the theater and poetry program as a volunteer. Later I ran the Poetry Festival at St. Clement’s, begun by poet and small press publisher Richard Spiegel a year or so before my arrival. From 1978 to 1983 the Poetry Festival was a great part of my life, as it still is: something we come to know as we grow older is that the past is always part of the present. Many poets, actors, and other artists appeared in PoFest productions. While I was working at the church, I came to know some of the neighbors and began attending local group meetings. Into The Fire is the story of how I found a place to call home.

This is an excerpt from Into The Fire, Part 1: 1978-1979

Upstairs in St. Clement’s sanctuary’s vast open space, rows of tall arched windows resembled trees, and their stained glass mosaics formed branches, flowers and leaves. The peaked roof with hewn beams two stories high was Noah’s Ark come to rest upside down on Manhattan Island, filled with seminal winds and sounds of the flood.

A red carpet on the stairs and in the offices was worn but still warmed to the glow from the windows’ mosaics. These mosaics were not primary colors and depictions of saints or scenes from the Bible, but Longfellow’s forest primeval—lichen green on fallen trees, earthy orange, and clouds streaking into blue.

Watty Strouss, a member of the church’s Board of Managers, said, “Oh, they’re actually not stained glass. They’re leaded glass.”

“There’s beauty under the grime.”

“We’d like to restore them, but it’s very expensive. Each piece needs to be cleaned and re-set with new binding.”

A heavy wire mesh covered all the street-front windows, crisscrossing the muted mosaics. The protective mesh made the church look almost medieval.

“Oh,” Watty said, the word “oh” a major part of his vocabulary and depending on the inflection, having different meanings like the Chinese language. “Someone didn’t like our being an anti-war church and threw a Molotov cocktail through an upstairs window.”

In the 1960s, he told me, Joan Baez was married in the church. Later she referred to it as “that funky little peace church on the West Side.” Watty sighed. “She couldn’t remember our name.”

The upstairs space was both the Sanctuary where services were held and a theater. In the 1960s it had been remodeled to accommodate the American Place Theater. After American Place left for new digs in the basement of a high-rise on West 46th between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, another Theater at St. Clement’s was born. That incarnation had a good run, but collapsed amid questions of missing funds. The current Theater at St. Clement’s started in the early 1970s and operated in the downstairs space, which was also called the downstairs theater.

The church’s main income came from renting the Upstairs Space to outside theater groups. Every Sunday church services were held onstage, making use of the current play’s set to match the sermon’s theme. Vestry members with corduroy jeans beneath their robes rolled out the altar and pulpit and lowered a large crystal cross from its station in the light grid high in the beams.

So, the Upstairs Space had several names as well, depending on its current use and who was using it: the Upstairs Space, the Sanctuary, and the Upstairs Theater.

Alone at the massive gray metal desk in the front office I heard sounds in the church: voices, stories, pieces of song, wind in the sanctuary, birds in the oak tree, the organist practicing hymns, tales of the flower fund and the trust for burying the poor.

From where I stood on the church steps, I could see lines of tenements come riding out of the setting sun, full-tilt railroad flats roaring toward midtown Manhattan. Skyscrapers rose in Pyrrhic tower after tower, the Hudson River sang through the streets of its power; scarlet mist filled the air, diffusing over playgrounds and bars, vacant lots, delis, schools and cars. Fire escapes flared the red of steel mill fires, and flames slashed across tenement faces.

I walked into the street:

This is the fire, this is the glow
as flames rise in the core,
heat rises ethereal, takes on new forms,
along fire escapes: angels, angels

walking on ladders of flame

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.

Literary Consciousness

An Interview with Author Mary Clark

Posted on January 28, 2014 by Johanna Rigby, on Gatewood Journal (Supporting the vision and voice of the independent thinker): Mary Clark’s latest book Tally: An Intuitive Life lets us watch the ever-evolving philosophy of Bohemian artist Tally, a character based on the life of printer/artist Paul “PJ” Johnston who was active in Greenwich Village and Woodstock. PJ explored his ideas about life and awareness in “The Document,” his stream-of-consciousness journal which ran to thousands of single-spaced typed pages.

In an e-mail interview, Mary discusses her book, the current state of writing and publishing, and what it’s like to be an independent author in the twenty-first century.

– Read more at: Literary Consciousness

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.

Tally: An Intuitive Life

TALLYFRONT

Tally: An Intuitive Life, published by All Things That Matter Press

Available at Amazon/Kindle and BarnesandNoble.com/Nook

An unlikely friendship between a young woman and an elderly man becomes a journey into identity, aging, and the meaning of life. The young Erin Yes is intrigued by the 79 year-old Greenwich Village artist Paul Johnston (PJ).

Erin Yes, called Eyes and Eyart by PJ, learns of his early days in the 1920s Village, and his career as a fine printer, book designer and writer. But in mid-life, PJ tells her, he and his wife split up, and he fell ill. He died in the hospital, and accepted “this death as the fulfillment of a very great life.” To his consternation, he is brought back to life to find he is receiving a blood transfusion from his estranged wife.

After this “death and renascence” he realized he is a “ghost of the father, the husband, the printer” he had been. At the same time, he has been purged of all the guilt of his previous life. Still, he  is not a baby, but reborn or “re-based” in the skeleton of a man with the mind and memory of an adult. He has to re-identify himself and “find new reasons to live.” Over the years, he creates several identities: The Writer, The Artist, The Professor of Love, and The Old Man.

Throughout the second half of his life, he re-creates himself anew, each time returning to innocence. He begins to write a daily journal, tapping into several levels or layers of consciousness, where he finds “all the comprehensions and contradictions” of life. He evaluates his intent, motives and behavior, and in this way, is able to adjust his intuition so that he can act and react in an amiable and positive way.

Erin is intrigued by his concepts of intuition in life and art, of guilt and innocence, and the transforming role of consciousness. Erin and PJ’s friendship is an emotional and intellectual adventure, often testing the limits of their relationship. Erin comes to realize PJ is more than a teacher and friend.

Will you think of me, and love me,

As you did once long ago?

Review excerpts:

“Unexpectedly, I found myself very moved by the book’s ending, feeling the question: how can we be sure we have influenced someone as significantly as they have influenced us?” – Diane M. Denton, author of A House Near Luccoli

“PJ’s intellect and humor makes him an utterly fascinating subject. Some of his musings are brilliant; others, wildly off-the-wall. … It’s not a book you can race through, but one that will make you think a lot about how anyone assembles the flotsam of life into a coherent story. Lest you think PJ was some kind of eccentric and amusing kook, a chapter near the end will prove you wrong.” – Marylee MacDonald, author of Montpelier Tomorrow