Monday, March 29, 2010

Notes To Myself - Hugh Prather

I, for one, do not have patience nor regards for any work of art that’s not ‘created’ but ‘constructed’ – that too for a market and with the primary objective of selling.
exploiting the easy availability of ‘simplicity‘ to cover up lack of talent, using ‘simplicity’ as a substitute for hard work and research needed to produce rich and profound work and giving into the temptation of easy money and quick success instead of waiting in patience for long years in search of depth are all things that have plagued the creative world of today.

But this is a book that’s written with sincerity and sincerity is touching. Sincerity is never clichéd. Sincerity is always original no matter how old the subject. Sincerity is always profound, not matter how simple the message.

Perhaps this is a book on psychology for it provides insights into the workings of the human mind.
Perhaps it’s a book on spiritualism, for almost all throughout, it talks about being in touch with oneself, knowing oneself.
Perhaps it’s a book on self-help for it tells you how to deal with yourself, your emotions and feelings.

153 pages but without the printed numbers. It was I who gave every page a number as I turned each leaf. The numbers haven’t been given because there is no story and hence no sequence. Each page contains a personal note and is complete in itself. This is what it is and it does not pretend to be anything else.

The cover is unique. Simple. Neat. And the byline beneath the title, ‘My struggle to become a person’ is very apt.
Two leaves, in two shades of green, heart shaped, not maple, whether or not symbolic of something, look very pretty.

The author’s choice of words reflects his amazing clarity in thinking; necessary and sufficient, to convey what he wishes to convey.

The choice of topics too, is a very interesting; it’s not the general, high-level evangelism of motivational literature. Very specific aspects and nuances of human thinking and behaviour are explained and dissected.

That’s how you avoid cliché. This world is such an old place there can be nothing original in what you do or say. The ‘bottom lines’ or generalizations are already known to all.
Getting specific is what you need to do. Illustrations from the everyday lives of common men are what we need more of. Because they are always original. Times change, people change, cultures change and lifestyles change. There are new occupations, new preoccupations, new socio-psychological arrangements, new challenges to deal with and new problems. A specific illustration therefore, is a new picture that’s never been painted before although the canvas remains the same old.

The author in this book discusses very specific thinking and behavioural patterns that he has discovered in himself. There are a very few people in this world who understand themselves – how they feel and why they feel what they feel.

The writing is extremely candid.

Some of the notes question the major premises of interpersonal communication, as in the quote below.

The comment ‘you’re lucky; it could have been worse’, is the kind of helpfulness I can do without. It also could have been better, or actually, it couldn’t have been any other way than the way it was.

Another note, explains a known phenomena in a new language, from a new angle. For example,
'Most decisions, possibly all, have already been made on some deeper level and my going through a reasoning process to arrive at them seems at least redundant.'

The above note is really talking about ‘verification of preconception’.

He has an eye for detail.
Just one of those lines could open your eyes to some aspect of your own behaviour, you had never paid attention to all your life.

The entire content is narrated in first person. Knowingly or unknowingly, the author has been safe. And wise. If it were otherwise, I mean, if it were not in first person, it might have sounded dictatorial, as if the author were laying down theories, ideas and implying their universal applicability.
Since this work is in 1st person, you neither have the choice to agree-disagree, nor the choice to judge, for the author is talking about HIS experience, ideas and learning.

As the author says himself,
If you tell me the way you see it rather than the way it is, then this helps me to more fully discover the way I see it.

The only choice you are left with is to ask a question - whether you feel the same, whether your experience is similar to the writer’s; and most importantly, have you evolved as a person to be able to understand and see clearly the truth of what he is being said?
Where have you reached in your struggle to become a person?

If only I had Microsoft Dictation software, I would have quoted many more lines. But anyway, here are a few.

What did I do to deserve birth? It was gift.

Today, I don’t want to live for. I want to live.

The most realistic attitude for me to have toward future consequences is ‘it will be interesting to see what happens’. Excitement, dejection and boredom assume a knowledge of results that I cannot have.

My trouble is, I analyse life instead of live it.

Happiness is a present attitude and not a future condition.

The bully in me always bullies in the name of principle or in the name of rules. The bully in me always has a reason for its actions and that reason is always idealistic. This part of me is a sissy-it hides behind ‘what is right’, so I won’t have to admit my desire to hurt.

My feelings do change and that I can have a hand in changing them. They change simply by my becoming aware of them. When I acknowledge my feelings, they become more positive. And they change when I express them. For example, if I tell a man I don’t like him, I usually like him better.

The configuration of most situations implies through tradition, a corresponding emotion. E.g., your wife goes out on you therefore you are enraged (when actually you might be aroused). I often respond the way I should feel rather than the way I do feel. Confusion or indecision is a good thing this is happening.

If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing then the desire is not to write.

Whenever I find myself arguing for something with great passion, I can be certain I’m not convinced.

When someone disagrees with me, I do not have to immediately start revising what I just said.

I choose to use my own mind. I do not need your mind. I want to experience you, listen to you - not to myself. I have already heard everything I have to say. You are what is novel about this conversation.

If a man takes off his sunglasses I can hear him better.

Hugh Prather, July, 1970, Chama, New Mexico


Niva said...

" if I tell a man I don’t like him, I usually like him better." , how's this possible ?
"If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing then the desire is not to write." - hmm, I do not think so...
sounds a nice read,I guess will check it out :)..

Sowmya said...

Welcome back Niva after a long long time :)

" if I tell a man I don’t like him, I usually like him better." , how's this possible ?
S- When you get it off your chest, you always feel better.
when you tell someone you dont like him, you have poured out some of your venom, you have the satisfaction of hurting/annoying/disturbing him a little. That's how I guess...

The second quote - It means you dont have a strong desire... yet

notgogol said...

I do not read intense pieces (well rarely do) but this is really engaging.
"If a man takes off his sunglasses I can hear him better." Brilliant!
And also "I have already heard everything I have to say."

When it comes to your pieces, you are one very eclectic person.

Sowmya said...

Thanks Notgogol :)

This is why I love to quote from books. When you give a glimpse to the brilliance of a book, you inspires others to pick up the book.

Also, I dont have to read a book a second time when I feel like going back to it. I only have to read its review on my own blog.

Arti Honrao said...

just read the book & reached ur blog thru google. surprisingly you have quoted the same text what I have marked in the book with red ink.
I believe I hv not reached where I m intended 2 b or hv become wht I want 2 b but yes, I hv come a long way...

my most fav line -
"My trouble is, I analyse life instead of live it."


Kunal Kapoor said...

Brilliant write up. I am sure, this book will not say anything new to me, which other people + teachers + books, have not already narrated to me, but i think if i pick up this book, eventually, it will be for 2 reasons, which have been quoted by you .. 1. sincere writing, and 2. no page numbers given to the write ups.