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.”

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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.

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Human Beings: A Search for Understanding the Mystery

What is our essential being? What are our motivations, our ways of thinking and relating? Can we change or adjust our intent and behavior, and guide our lives? Where can our abilities take us? Taking on these daunting questions, PJ, an aging Bohemian, and Erin Yes, a young writer, held a dialogue on the nature of being human. This is presented in Tally: An Intuitive Life, by Mary Clark, All Things That Matter Press 2013.

Transformative Consciousness and Transcendence

PJ believed human beings are “born equally innocent.” He also thought we have a need to always perceive ourselves as innocent, “for a reason I have not yet discovered.”

This has been a subject of speculation: to reunite with God, the Life Force, or the Spark of Creation, or to regain the purity of a newborn. Perhaps it is in nature to be directed by one’s essential quality.

PJ was a successful book designer and writer on fine printing. Living in Greenwich Village in the 1920s, he and his wife were part of the Bohemian culture. For years they lived unconventionally, until it all came crashing down. PJ and his wife separated. He became ill from “an overload of guilt.” After dying in a hospital, he was brought back to life by a transfusion of his wife’s blood. He woke to find he was a ghost in a skeleton’s body, with no identity.

PJ began to study his stream of consciousness, and discovered a “subliminal stream that runs beneath.” He became “more aware of life as I was living it, or as nearly as one can, and I began to discover the true motives and consequences of my actions.”

Through his writing, he saw that he was reborn, or re-based, into a second innocence. All of the corruption and guilt that came with that previous life had been purged from him by his illness and death experience. He was as innocent as a newborn baby.

This made him think of what happens in childhood. “A child begins to form his own intuitive program” based on his amiable and hostile experiences with the world. As we grow older, we come to act and react instantaneously, and unconsciously, to any given situation with either amiability or hostility.

“If one has a healthy, amiable intuition, one responds innocently, and life continues. If one has a hostile intuition, because of that quirk in human nature, the need to perceive oneself as innocent: I cannot be wrong, one responds with hostility, but disguised as amiability.”

There is a way, he said, to deal with guilt without rationalization or justification. Human beings possess a faculty he called “perceptive intellect.” This gives us the ability to evaluate our behavior and its consequences honestly, that is, without defensiveness and self-righteousness.

“Perceptive intellect gives us the ability to consciously evaluate our actions and reactions, and adjust our intuition to be more amiable.” In other words, “we have the innate ability to move closer and closer to innocence all the time.”

Once a situation has been vetted, the perceptive intellect (pi) forms a concept and develops a course of action. This is a conscious state in which a transformation of reality can take place.

Starting a new venture can be experienced as a kind of birth, or rebirth, or rejuvenation. It can also cause anxiety and a thrill at the same time. How closely we keep in touch with the amiable intuition and our transformative consciousness, often manifest as a physical feeling, is reflected in the ease of the task, a sense of well-being, and ultimately, success of the endeavor.

All the experience of humankind, those living and those who have died, becomes part of “the universal stream of consciousness.” He felt that he had entered into “a particular part of the universal stream of consciousness” in his quest, and taken that into his life. It is “too much for a living person to tap in completely” but “even now, from time to time we tap into the universal stream of consciousness. We’ve all had such epiphanies.”

PJ’s theory moves from the particular to the universal: beginning with the building blocks of the Intuition, to the keen insight and organizing of Perceptive Intellect, to the universal sweep of Consciousness.

Through this transformative process, we may achieve a form of transcendence—one that enables us, as individuals and as a species, to guide our own evolution, and to create our destiny. Beyond this, we have the ability through intellect and the perception to guide it, our amiable intuition, and levels of consciousness, to explore the universe, and the Great Mystery itself.

Mary Clark, author of Tally: An Intuitive Life, All Things That Matter Press, available on Amazon, and Children of Light, on Scribd.com (Ten Penny Players).  To download, print or imbed “Human Beings: A Search for Understanding the Mystery,”  click here.

Tally: An Intuitive Life, Review by David Turnbull

“It constitutes a remarkable piece of discourse in its own right, a book worth reading opening up a distinctive view of the world.”

Mary Clark’s book, Tally, an intuitive life, describes how a friend of the writer named Rogue, introduced Erin (as Mary herself) into the life of Tally, an iconic figure in Greenwich Village. My interest in this book stems from my own work in enabling communities of human occupation in a rural and remote region of Australia. Many such communities are microcosmic in scale and are frequently unnoticed across the more widely publicised political landscapes of the world.

Together, Erin, Rogue and Tally formed a unique community. The focus of that community was organising Tally’s writings and manuscripts into a work that could be accessed by a wider audience separated in time and space from the bold and risky social experiments in art and life that characterised Greenwich Village.

This microcosmic community exemplifies writing as a means of enabling communities of human occupation in a number of ways. First it ensures that Tally’s work is not silenced by his personal death. Second it leaps across the chasm of mere litany or polemics. By that I mean it does not relegate Tally to having “a wasted life”, relegated to the dustbin of romanticism. Third it explores the social world of Bohemian culture in America and contributes to an understanding of its influence on American society. Fourth it constitutes a remarkable piece of discourse in its own right, a book worth reading opening up a distinctive view of the world. Fifth it poses the interesting question in the mind of at least some readers as to the extent to which life can become art, and how a life devoted to art can be sustained in the modern world. “Life-as-art” is the essential metaphor in this community.

To read more of his review, click here.

— David Turnbull’s review of Tally: An Intuitive Life , illuminates the artist’s life in the modern world, and the importance of forming “occupational communities” and enabling dialogue. Transformative consciousness is essential not only to the artist, but to the human species if it hopes to adapt to global changes in communication, diversity, community, economics, political structures and environment. David Turnbull coaches occupational communities, with a focus on enhancing dialogue among very different people. His blog is No Dangerous Thoughts

Tally: An Intuitive Life, All Things That Matter Press, 2013.

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