Book II Chapter One — Oliver Sacks
I am relaxing in quiet meditation in my cave, soaking in the waters of the hot spring. I have decided to make this cave my home-space and entertain my guests here. I will continue to use my office at the Inn for GateKeeper business. After all, everyone here is invited by me because each is a person I would love to sit down with in conversation over a bottle of wine or a pot of tea. One’s privacy is respected here and I do not wish to hide this view of the world from others’ eyes any longer. I do not consider this cave my home. It belongs to nature. I am just permitted to occupy it for a while, very much like my body. It is just dust on loan to me from the Providers. When I or any being chooses to leave the body to become spirit, payment on the loan is made.
The Providers created this Inn to allow invitees to function in an environment supportive of creativity through imagination. To mix, to mingle, and to share ideas and imagination without the confines of time. I was given the position of GateKeeper in a dream along with the task of inviting those individuals I would like to share time with to be a part of this creative realm. The problem is many of the individuals I wish to share time with are from different time frames in the creative development of the planet. This is not a problem for the Providers because time as we normally think of it does not exist here. There is only this moment.
I hear a knocking sound but because no one has ever knocked on the door to my cave before I do not realize where the sound is coming from.
“Socrates. It’s me, Oliver.”
“Just a second Oliver.” I quickly grab a towel and tie it around my waist as I head toward the door.
“Am I early?”
“No. Your timing is perfect. Please come in. I was relaxing in the hot spring. Would you care to join me there?”
“Yes. That sounds perfect after my two mile swim upriver. You know Socrates, I have walked past to spot many times and I never saw this cave. Did it just appear overnight?”
“Well, yes. It has just recently become visible to the guests. It has to do with my quest for finding home. I realize it is not the walls or views that make a home, but what is created in the space within those walls and views that is the real home. It’s about space and what we do with it.”
As Oliver removes his clothing and hangs it on the rack near the stream, he turns toward Socrates who has already returned to the hot spring. “It might have to do with your identity Socrates.”
“You might be on to something there Oliver. As I realize the growing strength of my creativity and inspiration from these extraordinary guests, my previous dependence upon the physical becomes less of a factor in my identity.”
“We have, each of us, a life-story, an inner narrative — whose continuity, whose sense, is our lives. It might be said that each of us constructs and lives, a “narrative,” and that this narrative is us, our identities. If we wish to know about a man, we ask “what is his story — his real, inmost story?” — for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us — through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives — we are each of us unique.”
“It is Oliver that uniqueness of the individual I wish to discuss with you today regarding the creative process. Where or when is creativity borne?
“Creativity involves not only years of conscious preparation and training but unconscious preparation as well…This incubation period is essential to allow the subconscious assimilation and incorporation of one’s influences and sources, to reorganize and synthesize them into something of one’s own.”
“Is anything ever truly our own? Just before you arrived I was thinking about this cave. It is not mine. I do not own it. It is not my home. I fill only the space contained within, with furniture, light, guests, and memories.”
“All of us, to some extent, borrow from others, from the culture around us. Ideas are in the air, and we may appropriate, often without realizing, the phrases and language of the times. We borrow language itself; we did not invent it. We found it, we grew up into it, though we may use it, interpret it, in very individual ways. What is at issue is not the fact of “borrowing” or “imitating,” of being “derivative,” being “influenced,” but what one does with what is borrowed or imitated or derived; how deeply one assimilates it, takes it into oneself, compounds it with one’s own experiences and thoughts and feelings, places it in relation to oneself, and expresses it in a new way, one’s own. All young artists seek models in their apprentice years, models whose style, technical mastery, and innovations can teach them. Young painters may haunt the galleries of the Met or the Louvre; young composers may go to concerts or study scores. All art, in this sense, starts out as “derivative,” highly influenced by, if not a direct imitation or paraphrase of, the admired and emulated models.”
“In light of this revelation, I Socrates Black, doth proclaim the space enclosed within the natural walls of this cave as my own.”
Oliver cheers while they both laugh in solidarity.
“It is a huge leap for you to now make yourself, I mean your cave, open to observation Socrates. It takes a special energy, over and above one’s creative potential, a special audacity or subversiveness, to strike out in a new direction once one is settled. It is a gamble as all creative projects must be, for the new direction may not turn out to be productive at all.”
“Maybe it is my inner voice who guides these decisions Oliver. So far she has taken good care of me. I tend to land on my feet more than my head. I feel free of something. A weight, a burden. I do not yet have a name for it. I write about it the best I can.”
“The most we can do is to write — intelligently, creatively, evocatively — about what it is like living in the world at this time.”
“With each of us being unique as you say. What is our common factor?”
“I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”
“I think you are preaching to the choir here reverend one. We have both lived our lives in our own way. I would like to think our humanity is our commonness, but it has not worked so far in bring all life together.”
“We are all creatures of our upbringings, our cultures, our times. And I have needed to remind myself, repeatedly, that my mother was born in the 1890s and had an Orthodox upbringing and that in England in the 1950s homosexual behavior was treated not only as a perversion but as a criminal offense. I have to remember, too, that sex is one of those areas – like religion and politics – where otherwise decent and rational people may have intense, irrational feelings.”
“That is very true my friend. Is death then the common factor all of life shares? And, if this is true, why do we fear death?”
“I cannot pretend I was without fear of death. But my predominant feeling has always been one of gratitude for life. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. I say I love writing but really it is thinking I love — the rush of thoughts — new connections in the brain being made. And it comes out of the blue…In such moments: I feel such love of the world.”
“I too know that feeling Oliver. Love for all of life. Especially here and now in this place.”
“From here Socrates I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts.”
“That is why each of the guests here was invited. To share in the connectedness of our common humanity and I can think of no better why to do so than through the inspiration and sharing of our creative natures.”
“I must agree Socrates, but before we continue with our dialogue might I impose upon you for a glass of ice tea?”
“Certainly my friend. It will be my pleasure.”
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Book II Chapter Two — Gaston Bachelard will be published on Sunday, April 07, 2019.