Entry In Leonard Salby's Journal, July 17 1988
Am filled with energy today. Have thus begun on the obverse part of Chscrt. Had worried that I was tiring and my task would be left half incomplete. But oh the Mundum has given me a lucky break today. Must now state some things clear to me but not yet written down about Mundum etc., for peace of mind mainly so that they are out of my head and can work even more clearly than I have been.
Will not assume some prev. stated backgrnd so that this is more complete as mission statement etc. for Chscrt.
Chscrt. is of course reflection of my sense of life, possessed since early childhood. Cf. various childhood narratives (again need to form index for these). Sense of life concerns living within Mundum. Mundum = world as it presents itself to me, meaning, not vale of tears precisely, but vale of responsibility.
Was 7 ? and sitting in pew when I realized that God could be wrong and if God was wrong I would still have to be right. This was I think first Touch of Mundum = great oppressive weight upon me bc God or father or mamma could be wrong. Remember I talked for hours w Nancy about it and she couldn't get it and I despaired.
Human behavior as reported by friends, family, newspaper seems to me filled w great errors as it is driven largely by frantic attempts to evade Mundum which can't be evaded. This is an especially disheartening age bc we have once again decided upon self-assertion rather than God as the evasion technique. Once we said "Mundum is there and oppressive but God will sort it out" which was wrong bc God can be wrong but there was at least acknowledge of Mundum there. Now we say "I can assert myself fully, take heed of no one else and look no God or other strikes me down w lightning." Saying this over and over again so many people reveals of course the desperate franticness that shows they really feel Mundum bearing down on them just like I always have and they think they can escape. We are moving in the wrong direction and few understand. I have tried to get Nancy to understand many times and she won't and now thinks I have lost my head and I think Peter and Elena do too. Hard to tell anyone the truth these days.
We have always been asking what to make of our moral sentiments since we've clearly had them since dawn of time. Many attempts to theorize and reduce (Moses Jesus Buddha Confucius et al) which have led so very very many astray. Often we take a stab and get "Golden Rule" = "treat others how you would want to be treated" which doesn't cover it bc MUNDUM IS BIGGER THAN DESIRE. We have been feeling this forever and Golden Rule evades it as does more modern, degraded theories e.g. Mill and other similar morons.
This is a very simple pt. and we are always evading it even me although I've tried my whole life since that day in the pew not to. Golden Rule and Mill etc. say "placate Mundum by imagining what would please the other person and then do that." But think of what happens when one pleases you. Being pleased is a small thing. We know this, I think even Nancy and all the people I've tried to argue this w for years know this, that being satisfied is not a thing of the same species as the feelings produced by Mundum. That is when I worry I am not FULFILLING MY RESPONSIBILITY I "feel" (I wish wish wish there were another word than this! will have to invent one) a kind of "pain" (need a new word again!) but it is not the same as if someone had hit me or made me starve. Hit me or made me starve can be suffered through but it lacks DEFINITE WRONGNESS -- that is the sort of wrongness which God nor Mill nor Christ nor orgasm nor Nancy or father or mamma or ANYONE can make right by saying so.
This is not understood. Definite wrongness is a fact of the matter as much as the color of your hair is blonde and your height is 162 cm is a fact of the matter. How does one know? (The theorists ask, hoping for a miracle) One knows bc one can tell the relative importance of things by presentation of relative importance of things in the theatre of the conscious mind. This is a RULE bc if we refuse to grant it as a rule all falls apart. Imagine: "I might as well let my child die for after all who am I to say that my feelings of care for my child mean my child is important." Nonsense. But Mundum presents itself, if not always loudly (for we plug our ears so very very hard) then always more profoundly, on a higher tier of profundity, than any child or God or so forth. Mundum says "here is definite wrongness" and if we are willing to listen we understand that definite wrongness is a fact and a thing above and beyond the life of our child, worship of our God etc. much less the proper sort of orgasms, exercise of "rights" and all the other things the Grauniad would like to tell me about today.
For many thousand years we have been devising ways to ignore the speech of Mundum and so we have become quite adept at the game by now. The trick (Golden Rule or such) by which Mundum's speech is converted into something about satisfaction is a v clever one bc at root we don't REALLY think satisfaction is so profound (give me a garden and a shapely wife and a winsome little son oh please is THIS the whole of the law?) and for that reason we lead ourselves to say morality isn't so important after all. Of course we make many noises about its great importance (another diversion tactic) but in our heart of hearts we know this is a paltry thing and so we can go home at last satisfied that it doesn't really matter much anyway. And as we try to fall asleep we hear Mundum whispering in our ears but we remind ourselves of the axioms which convert it into our garden and shapely wife and winsome little son and thus can say "oh, shush, you are unimportant." And our sleep is untroubled.
But what does Mundum say if we let it speak?
Well one of the things it says, and one we have been trying to avoid, is: "the task is never done."
We do not want to hear this. Surely men such as there are now do not want to: we have learned that this is the cry of the neurotic who merely needs Dr Freud to tell him that he feels his task is never done bc the task is really congress w his mother (DESIRE again!). I have often fancied that men of old understood what Mundum was telling them. But in fact when I read of them I always find that every man who is attuned fully to his task either dies or becomes some sort of king or retiree. I worry about the meaning of this. At age 69 I feel the voice of Mundum as heavily as at 7 but I worry perhaps there is a thing in most of us which makes it wane over time. And this is contrary to its ways, since it ways say, "the task is never done."
The task is never done. No one else can shoulder it for us. The task cannot be theorized into parts such as desire or satisfaction. Instead it presents itself in a complete bolus of absolute responsibility. Each moment we have the choice: perform the duty, or evade the duty. Society as it has existed for millennia is a set of structures mainly aimed at rationalizing the second of these choices. Mundum says: DO. And we may either do or not do. And all the theories, all the structures, all the kings and all the ballot booths, are ways of saying, "but perhaps we can choose not to do." No.
I was on a walk the other day. The sun was setting and I saw, in the dimming light, a man and a woman walking along the same path and holding hands. And my heart sank for somehow I knew that these were modern beings, who had reduced Mundum's voice to a gentle trickle, which their own voices, chattering back and forth carefree on an evening walk, could easily drown out. And I wanted, selfishly, because I am old and I have been trying to say these things since I was 7, to accost them and tell them, in whatever words I could muster, being a "professional writer" (not of course the following ones): "please, for the love of all that is worthy in this world, heed the voice of Mundum!"
But Mundum told me: your duty is not to do this. So I did not.
I should perhaps make certain clarifications here in case anyone who does not share my sense of life happens upon this notebook (who knows what may happen) and is liable to get the wrong impression. I must sound quite ill. As a matter of fact, I have, of my own volition, sought the advice of so-called psychiatric experts (as descendants, in one way or another, of Dr Freud I distrust their "expertise" but that is of no importance here). I have been given a bill of good health. I appear to have no delusional or neurotic illness. I have what, and I quote, has been called "an obsessive fixation on moral concerns" (what an age in which this is worthy of note!) which nonetheless "does not seem to obstruct Mr Salby in the course of independent living, or hinder his ability to perform as children's author of note." Observations were however made upon my "inconsistencies of performance" on certain "tests of cognitive function," but as these (whatever they may be) do not obstruct my performance as a children's author of note &c they were deemed of no clinical import.
So how is it that I come to know so much about Mundum? If my purported knowledge of Mundum were a delusion I would be quite ready to accept that I am delusional, but the doctors tell me it is not and they (I am told) have the last word in such matters. And yet I feel that I know Mundum as few have. What explains this? I first felt its touch in a pew as a young boy; many young boys have been in pews; some piece here is missing.
Perhaps there are others? More than there appear to be?
That is where Chscrt. comes into the picture.
Mundum has been telling me since childhood that I have the responsibility to in some way disseminate what I know of it and others seem to have avoided. There are various ways this might be accomplished. I might have tried to squeeze Mundum into one or another religious creed and preach; -- but I am a terribly awkward and fumbling speaker (as the psychological experts dutifully noted). I might try to squeeze it into the strictures of what we call moral philosophy; -- but as moral philosophy is one great attempt to evade it, I imagine my views would be ill received, and success would mean the dissolution of the very podium I would have built for myself, a self-contradiction not favorable for one wanting to present oneself as standing firm (as Mundum surely does). Yet I do seem to have some verbal faculty (contra ? the psychiatric experts who report that my "verbal function" is "inconsistent" -- or perhaps that is what they are calling verbal faculty these days!), and use of that faculty, in one way or another, seemed my most promising route to the prophethood w which I was tasked.
Thus, I became an artist. Because one can say in art what is impermissible in the public square, and resort whenever attacked, in any manner whatsoever, to the armory of obfuscatory defenses that our fallen culture has accustomed itself to accepting.
In Chscrt. I say in plain view what I mean but surround it with many fancies so that the Mundum-deniers do not come to batter my door down. I began with Thornbush, a story for children, so as to prepare a receptive audience for my message in fuller form; having done so, I simply set out the world as I saw it, the vale of responsibility, and devised a cast of characters, as charismatic as I could make them and with all the gleaming oddities without which fiction today is deemed arid. I made these characters obey, simply and without straying, the voice of Mundum, never mentioning that hidden protagonist explicitly but directing all action bluntly by its command.
Chscrt. was a success -- though not as I had wished. For I had done too well: those who could not tell Mundum's divine chant from the latest advertising jingle were all too taken in by my cheap knockoffs of the Inklings, my funny talking animals, and my mirthful old ladies, and my reams of lore invented only to make moral action difficult and thus in keeping with reality. I sought then to strain out those in my audience who did not understand. I made my heroes rise to duties which no one ignorant of Mundum would find palatable. I veered and darted in ways I thought would shake off those in search of a good story.
Have I succeeded? I do not know. The press has grown almost uniformly negative, which is a good sign. I have met a few who treasure my books, such as Elena's brother-in-law, and if there is evidence of Mundum in them it is invisible to me.
BUT THERE IS ANOTHER LINK IN THE CHAIN. Mundum has another side, which is even less often heard, but which speaks to me equally. The life dictated to me has two sides, and in Chscrt. I have only expressed one. In my new novel I seek to express the other. AND THIS I THINK WILL EITHER FAIL DECISIVELY, OR SUCCEED. Those who share my sense of life will recognize IMMEDIATELY what it is I am doing. Those who do not will find NOTHING to sustain them, and look away. At last I will know my false friends from true.
The question is: what does one RECEIVE IN RETURN for doing one's duty?
This is another question on which we have been trying to deceive ourselves for 3000 years or more. We say a life well lived is its own reward, perhaps. Or we buy into the HEAVEN myth (variants in Nirvana etc.) which tells us that no matter HOW abysmal our world may be at rewarding virtue, the next world lacks this defect.
Nonsense. What does one receive in return for obeying Mundum? The other, obverse face of Mundum. I have called this thing "Mundum" bc it is the world, the real world, when one strips away the defenses one has become accustomed to employing. And one face of the real world consists not of matter but of responsibility. The other face consists -- not quite of matter -- but of the RESULTS of responsibility well executed, which are --
How can I say it? One does not listen to Mundum in expectation of reward. At least not reward in the sense of DESIRE AND SATISFACTION, those paltry things. One listens to Mundum, obeys, and receives THE WHOLE BLEAK ENDLESS WORLD in return. One wishes that one's duty is over because it is thankless -- or rather, thanked in the coin of THE WHOLE BLEAK ENDLESS WORLD. But one's duty is never over. The reverse side of Mundum, what I have been above calling Mundum tout court, the inner world of pure responsibility and definite wrongness, tells one that one's duty is never over. The OBVERSE face tells one that in addition to a vale of responsibility the true reality is a vale of NON-REWARD -- not in the modern sense of DESIRES UNSATISFIED but in the deepest sense, that Mundum never fulfills itself and makes of itself a plenum like a heaven in which we can sit in harmony with it & our selves.
Believing that we act to CORRECT definite wrongness -- to "redeem the world" as the liars say Christ did -- is another species of civilized error. Definite wrongness is a constant without which Mundum could not be; it is the very stuff of Mundum's obverse face, which we see in front of us every moment until we die. Obeying Mundum, we execute our duty and do not participate in definite wrongness, -- BUT DEFINITE WRONGNESS IS NOT THUS REDUCED, and the only plenum there is is this one, not made of matter, nor of responsibility, but of definite wrongness. THE WHOLE BLEAK ENDLESS WORLD. It does not end, -- and this is what we have been trying to avoid, by telling ourselves of Christs.
The next Chscrt. book will be superficially quite different from the others so I imagine it will produce quite a stir. However those who know will look at it and smile, saying, "yes, Salby knew, as I always suspected he knew; he is continuing the thread." My heroes have heeded Mundum; let them now reap its rewards, which is to say, a world which when we remove our illusions is a vale of definite wrongness not reduced by moral action.
Oh, I am so filled with energy! This has been long but I could write for pages and pages more. But this is enough I think. Better to channel onto the page what I know & feel.