Changes Are Coming

I’ll be changing my blog in the New Year. There will be shorter pieces: poems and musings, and new things: more photos and videos, and links to articles with short comments on why I find them interesting, and some reblogs. Like the sun coming out after a good soaking rain, I hope there will be new flowers, fruit and seeds.

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Talking Into The Night

Excerpt from Tally: An Intuitive Life

Paul Johnston (PJ) the Bohemian artist in Washington Square Park

Paul Johnston (PJ) the Bohemian artist in Washington Square Park

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

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

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

5-Star Review of Tally: An Intuitive Life

Review by Diane M. Denton

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

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

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

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

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

Read more on  Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com or Goodreads.


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

Human Beings are Rogue Agents of Change

What if we are all in a dream, and it is just a phase, a phase that must not be interrupted, but allowed to run its course, or the promise will be unfulfilled? That’s the idea that informs Waking God, Book 1, by Philip F. Harris and Brian L. Doe, All Things That Matter Press. The main characters, Andrew and Mara, carry the godseed that can bring forth a new Being equal to or even greater than its Creator. “They shall be as gods, for that is their design. The dormant gene shall emerge.”

Harris and Doe give flesh and blood to this theme. Andrew, a professor, is on a quest: “To discover the unified secret, both lost and perhaps conspiratorially hidden, that lay behind man’s spiritual existence. If he could close the circle, science and religion would once again merge.”

Not only is there a conspiracy to keep Man from knowing, there is this impetus behind all scientific and spiritual search:

“If you knew the reason for everything as it happened, you would stagnate. Man is not yet all-knowing. If he were, there would be no purpose for any of this. Not having all the answers at one’s fingertips puts us on the path of discovery. It is how we evolve.”

“While physicists were exploring a more real world theory of a unified universe, Andrew felt that such a hypothesis would never truly answer all of life’s greatest questions. Intuitively, he knew that quarks, neutrinos, packets of photons, vibrating strings of energy, dark matter were but half of the “grand equation. …What was different, [Andrew] often queried, between the transcendental notion that an event in one part of the universe rippled throughout all of reality, and the current quantum string theory?”

In the search for “the unified secret,” all the cards in the deck are reshuffled. What has been promulgated as “good” is revealed to be an attempt to prevent human beings from waking from the dream-state and discovering their true potential. God is undefined, appearing to be an aloof and mystical causal agent (reminiscent of the Holy Ghost). While many of the traditions, organizations and symbols are Christian in this book, there are episodes where other spiritual traditions and religions come into the story.

If there is a divide between Man and God, what side would the angels be on? It turns out their loyalty would be divided, and a battle has been playing out since ancient times. What gives human beings hope that they will wake from the dream-state is the force of consciousness

Of interest to me is the notion that every human being is an agent of change. We are, I believe, not only agents of change, but rogue agents, a disrupting force in the universe. As disruptive causal agents, our influences and interactions can become disruptive causes in themselves. So the interactions may initiate series (are they chains?) of actions and reactions. We push the known limits of being and becoming. Some say this is to become more like our creator, attracted by unity; others that we will realize our full potential and become the equal of or greater than our creator.

Why would the god-principle create a force that could, once it wakes up, challenge all other forces or agents and even become dominant? One possible answer is that it would be natural for a causal agent to create more than harmonious effects or results (the Garden of Eden, for instance), but other causal agents (Adam and Eve). The god-principle, as the creator of all causal agents, is the greatest of them. But can this god-principle be subject to being overtaken by its own creations?

Our role in the universe may be to keep being and becoming alive, both by creating and developing and by breaking patterns or rearranging them, even to the extent of destroying (changing matter and energy in one form to another distinct form), or making chaotic what has become too stable. These are precipitating events, another theme of Waking God.

All the while, we view ourselves as rational beings, with a desire for order. Camus said rebellion, which is disruptive, was at base a call for unity, the most positive form of order.

In our quest to fully develop our potential, at some point, we will reach a level where transformation to a higher form takes place. In a sense our current condition is a dream state; we are not truly awake to what we are becoming, or could become.

It is this vision that Waking God explores.

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

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