Pushing Upward
by Paul Williams
Links Books, 1973
p. 295-217

(The following conversation between Paul Williams and Mel Lyman was recorded June 8, 1969, at Thomas Hart Benton's home on Martha's Vineyard)

PAUL: What I'll do . . . what I guess I'll do, if we don't get onto anything with this, is let it go and go back and finish a lot of typing I have to do, a lot of reworking on the book - it's mostly typing work - and then come back again another time and just hang around until I get it.
MEL: Yeah, that'd be fine.
PAUL: Because the book can wait.
MEL: It's really . . . I don't know if it can happen tonight or not, I never know, it's really up to you. I mean it's really up to how much you need it to happen . . . beyond what you think. Always in interviews I react to a need in a person, rather than their questions, see what I mean?, and I just feel it. And the more they really truly want, the more is brought out of me. I've been in the damnedest situations, man, really embarrassing situations in both movies and on television, where I was asked questions the person really, for themselves, didn't want answers to.... It wasn't personal; they were asking to get a reaction, right? Here's what they think everybody wants to know, so that's the question. I've stood there for as long as an hour in silence, man, while they asked me questions and never moved, never said a word, not because . . . I mean, with all my heart I wanted to talk, but I could not, I just could not talk. I've done it at press conferences. One press conference in Germany, on German television, was just awful what happened . . . and in the movies . . . and on the radio, in radio interviews I've done it too. I've had directors, announcers, mc's, interviewers just going crazy, going crazy; why wouldn't I answer the questions, and I couldn't even tell them that. Until they really wanted to know, till they were really desperate and it got personal . . . and once it got personal, all of a sudden I found myself talking. 'Cause it was real then, it was real, it was me and you, that was it, you know, it was a relationship.
In Germany, one time it happened; they stood me up - it was a film, for German television - they stood me up with this beautiful, ornate temple behind me and they were going to ask me questions like "What is your philosophy of life?" you know. They kept asking me, man, stuff like that. And they were shooting, they were running all this expensive film off on me and all the recorders were going - kept asking me questions and I just looked at 'em with great pain in my face; I was pained because I couldn't answer the questions, and I wanted to. I always want to please; that's a natural desire, always to want to please, 'cause what you want is unity. But I just don't have the ability to lie, you know? To answer a question just to please. As much as I'd like to. And finally, in that movie, the director was just tearing his hair.... Finally he said, "What do you really want to do? What do you really want to do in life?" I said, "Be able to talk to you." 'Cause that was all I wanted to do, man, that was it! That was the whole thing, just to talk to him; that's the only reality there was to me. And when I said that, wow man, you know it took him back and suddenly he was in the reality with me; we were two people, not a movie and not a concept of communications and exchanges of cultures and things; it was two people and from then on we talked so long and so fast the two of us.... He couldn't talk English and I couldn't talk German but somehow he knew enough words and it happened and we were rolling.... The camera, they ran out of film, they all wanted to go out to lunch, the crew was walking off and he didn't even know it man, he was so wrapped up in this conversation we were having about him, really, that I had to wake him up out of it. He didn't know they'd filmed it, he didn't know they'd finished filming it, he'd lost a half an hour of his life there in intense communication, intense conversation with me.
So it's worth - Always on the stage, when I played music - well, not always, not at first, I used to get up there, I used to be able to entertain; but after a while on stage I found that I couldn't play because the audience wanted me to play, that wasn't enough anymore . . . and I've stood as long as two hours in dead silence on a stage, with an audience sitting there tearing their hair.... If there's a separation between me and an audience, which there always is initially, that separation is not going to be filled by me "entertaining" - in other words, if you entertain, it's a technique to deny the separation, to create a superficial unity, see what I mean? But if you wait, if you just wait it out, a personal unity happens. Usually they hate your guts - now that's personal, that's real. They hate you 'cause they paid their money and you're not putting out and they hate you for it, man.... Then you got something going, then you got something real, then you can talk to them.
PAUL: I don't know what my need is . . . you know, like you follow an intuitive thing.... On the surface, I've got the idea that the book is waiting.... You know, the book is done; I've finished everything, I've even written two paragraphs and a poem which will go after the rap with you if we do something, and then the book will be over. So I even know how it ends and everything. And it's not the kind of book where it would be obvious to anyone, even to me, that something belonged somewhere, you know, you can only hear it musically, it isn't like yeah now it's time for this. But . . .
MEL: The book is going to be the way you live.
PAUL: Right...
MEL: It can't be any more than that.
PAUL: And I wouldn't want it to be more, in fact if....
MEL: If it can be that much.
PAUL: Right. What I do like in a book is if it can transcend itself, in other words, if it can present everything up to the point of its existence and then somehow, toward the end, include the contradictions that are going to burst you through to the next level. Sometimes I'm satisfied with particular pieces that I write, that that happens . . . the tension is there, so the piece itself goes beyond whatever is there, it goes back into itself and then out in a new direction. And the thing is, that's one thing I've never seen anybody know how to do; you don't know how to transcend a situation.
MEL: Well, it isn't a technique. If it's a technique then it's as much as your mind is capable of working out, you know; it's a concept, you never create those concepts, you prepare for creation of those concepts, that's all. You structure, you get ready to leap off, first build the building with concepts, then you leap off the top and that's when your creation begins, when you don't know where the fuck you're going. Creation is always discovery. How can you say . . . you know, knowing what the book's gonna be like is like knowing what making love is gonna be like with a woman you've never made love with. Another thing that used to happen to me on stage, I used to use that analogy on stage, that that's why I couldn't entertain.
PAUL: 'Cause you knew what would happen if you did that?
MEL: Yeah, I'd just be repeating something that . . . It's gotta be a discovery for everybody involved, you see, and discovery is always a risk. You take the chance of getting everything or nothing. It's like film-making. I can plan a movie, set it all up and go out and do it. And before I even do it I know I can do it, so I've got a guarantee. My mind knows all those things, so I'll get a certain kind of movie. And yet if I have no plan at all, and go out just completely open in the dark, I'm liable to not get anything at all, but if I do get something it's going to be something that I couldn't have conceived of, so it's going to transcend any kind of concept, it's going to transcend me. It's gonna be God, in other words.
PAUL: Yeah, exactly. When I sit down at the typewriter . . . if I have something to say, I can't write. You know, if I just know what I have to say and I want to write it down, I just sit there, dead. If I start following something, playing with something, I may be able to get going and then suddenly something'll sneak out of me and it'll start happening. But I'm just sitting there, doing an interview or sitting at a typewriter, anything, just sort of hoping for energy-release, pushing, prodding a little at myself or at the words or . . . But I don't know what's going to spring . . .
MEL: And we have to live that way in order to create that way, in any medium.
PAUL: Life magazine says I write incoherently.
MEL: Difference in intuition & intellect. You should read a piece I wrote one time - didn't write it, it was a tape conversation between me and some people on the Hill, called "A Structure of Structure." Remember that? It's somewhere around 20, 21, 22, one of those issues. It's all about what we're talking about now. It's really good. Really really good. One of the best things that ever appeared in Avatar.  PAUL: I'll dig it out.
PAUL: I realized the obvious, as usual, just the other day, that yet another thing that the title "Pushing Upward" means to me is the first page of Autobiography of a World-Saviour, you know, the whole explanation of being sent to this planet to sound your note and raise the level....
MEL: You could almost call it "Pulling Upward."
PAUL: Right, well you see a Taurus as opposed to Aries . . . But something I don't know, and maybe you've thought about it more, is like if you take an image of moving upward through like - you know, I could think of myself as an air bubble in some sort of liquid, but I don't really have the clear feeling that I'm moving toward the surface - I mean I know I'm moving toward the surface, but I don't have this feeling necessarily that I've got to get there, that I'm moving upward through a situation or a world or whatever where there's a destination.... I only have the sensation of movement, I'm not really certain of destination at all.
MEL: To quote myself, "The only absolute is MORE." [laughter] If I live much longer that's all I'm going to do, is quote myself. I've said everything so well . . . I can't top most of it.
PAUL: Yeah, right. Why bother?
MEL: I mean, each time I arrived at a particular understanding through a particular set of circumstances, I finally brought it down to its absolute essence, I reduced it to the minimum number of words to state that truth, the essence of all those experiences. Absolutes: blong, blong, blong. Once you've created an absolute, a law, you can't break it down any more, it's like an element.... The only absolute is more, that's a law. You can't break that down into components.
PAUL: You'd just get further away from it.
MEL: Mm-hm. You can add to it but you can't take away. To add to that you could write a book! [laughter]
PAUL: Who wants to? It's like . . . I realized recently that I couldn't write a book - I mean, I realized it was all right that I haven't written any books, that um . . . because there's no earthly reason to, it's like a created thing, that somebody said "well people write books, you know people who are writers write books so why aren't you working on one?" kind of thing. . . . I'm happy that there's a form, which somebody will like publish my writings, and I can bring them together, I can use the form that already exists as some kind of arbitrary thing to organize the stuff into. . . but. . .
MEL: I wrote my book accidentally.
PAUL: How'd you write it?
MEL: First just for the hell of it I wrote a little fable one time, a little story, it was just a couple of pages long, just for some friends of mine - took it over and read it to them, they enjoyed it so much that I decided to - not make it longer, I decided to finish it, I saw it was incomplete, you know, some big gaps in it so I took it home to complete it. And then it ended up six pages. So I took it back and read it again, and they enjoyed it even more, and I saw some more gaps....
And I kept doing that, over a period of two months; I kept just filling in the gaps in this piece. And then when I was all done, I made six xerox copies of it, passed it around to my friends, and forgot about it. Jonas Mekas got ahold of it in New York, and asked me could he publish it, as a book? I said sure, gave it a name.... The whole thing happened in absolute innocence. I had no intention of writing a book. At that time I dreaded putting that title on it, 'cause I didn't want the responsibility that goes along with calling myself a world-saviour. At that time. I just didn't want to have to be that for people. But somehow, somehow I had to call it that. 'Cause it was true; it was true whether I wanted the responsibility or not. So all of a sudden it was a book, called Autobiography of a World-Saviour. I wrote it in earnest - it only started out as a fable; the first two pages was a fable but from then on I was writing in earnest, I was trying to say everything I knew in a language.... The people I was involved with at the time were into the occult science thing, and so I was trying to tell them a lot more than they knew, in their own language. They were stuck in that occult science thing - which is a very limiting language, after a certain . . . you know, you get so far in it and that's it, it doesn't go any further. And I had been through occult science and gone a whole lot further and almost forgotten about it and I was into just Now, you know, but all these people were stuck. So finally I was writing to those people, to bring 'em, to devour that language, to exhaust that language and take 'em into a greater reality, by using that language itself, by exhausting the language itself, their language.... So that's why it's written in a strange language. That isn't the way I talked, or the way I did anything, but I did have some kind of grasp of that language and felt their need.
PAUL: I've read through the book about halfway and read it, started again and gotten about halfway . . .
MEL: That happens to everybody, that happens to everybody . . . that middle part is a bitch. It happened to Dylan too. Dylan read that half but he couldn't get any further. That middle part is a bitch. I sweated my brains out writing that middle part. I was climbing the walls, man. [laughter]
PAUL: I guess when I get to it though it'll be worth it, 'cause it was so difficult....
MEL: If you can struggle through it it's worth it, man, because boy when I got through that I sure did feel relieved. I mean I got . . . I got myself into a corner and I had to write my way out of that corner; there was no just stepping out of that corner, man, I had to write my way out of that corner. Like when I'm film-making, I get in a corner and have to shoot my way out of the corner. I can't let go. Again that's a responsibility, and I have to complete it, no matter what it demands of me. But it sure was a relief, to get that book out of the way. I haven't thought of those things since I wrote that book. That freed me of a whole language that I had.... I went back to write it. It freed me of a language that I had exhausted in my own life, got tired of and gone beyond, and I had to pay the . . . yet never taught with, yet never really made use of as a vehicle, having exhausted it, for myself. And I had to go back and teach in that language; it was really a trial, really a trial.
But I'm always doing that, always doing that in my life, always going back to a vehicle that I've exhausted and discarded, and picking it up again as a vehicle to teach through instead of learn through.
PAUL: That's hard work, to teach.
MEL: But see, it's my responsibility. Once I've exhausted, once I've come to understand a certain level of existence, then it's my responsibility to teach it, you see, automatically, automatically. Until then it's just a heavy weight I carry around with me, until I've passed it on. Boy, all the time I was writing that book I just wanted to blow, I just wanted to blow, I wanted to write poetry, man, and just rest, just create, and instead I had to just grind away with those funny words . . . the abstract mind and the concrete mind and all that, levels of infinity, whatever I said. I don't know, I haven't read it since I wrote it. But I know it's a good book, because so many people have gotten so much from it, which is the only way you can ever . . . you know, judge by the fruit of your labors. What is that saying? By their . . . by their something you shall know them? There's a good line in the I Ching about that too.... But after I'd written it, I really didn't know, then, if anybody was going to be able to get anything out of it. People would read it; I'd say, "What'd you get out of it? What'd that book mean to you?" [laughter] And they'd tell me these fantastic things they'd got out of it, people were enlightened, their lives were completely changed.... So it was worth it; I was doing something. But when I'm creating, man, whenever I'm creating, I don't know if it's worthwhile or not. . . . It's always in the dark.
PAUL: I found myself doing something like that; partly out of having thought about what you were doing. I mean, my slow process of coming in contact with and beginning to feel what you were doing, saying you were God and writing these things, world-saviour and so forth.... And you know, my slow realization for myself that anybody who said he was God, or a world-saviour, was doing me a favor.... I wrote an article which is in the latest Crawdaddy!
MEL: That's still coming out?
PAUL: Yeah, Chester Anderson's doing it now. What happened is, a friend of mine wrote to me and said he was writing an article about, a paper, for theology class, about me as a prophet, and you know, wanted me to write back to him or something. And I really didn't want to . . . It was great, it pleased me, but it embarrassed me. But I had to do it. So I just sat down and started pulling at things, trying to associate with the word prophet, like . . . I knew that I had to say that I was one if he thought I was, but I had to figure out then what that meant, talking about books that I'd identified with and then things I'd done that seemed to me in that direction or, you know, trying to understand it. And then after I wrote the letter I realized that I had to get it published. I didn't want to, I was uneasy about it for a long time, I showed it to a lot of friends and tried to get their reactions, 'cause I was afraid I'd really get in trouble.... And it's finally come out, and the same feeling that you talked about, I ask people what their reaction is. And the reaction hasn't been that strongly favorable, it hasn't been negative, people have appreciated it, but mainly I've been much more uncertain than the people who read it. Because I was blackmailing myself, once I'd said I was a prophet in print then I had to keep it up. My brother, my younger brother David who's a Libra, wrote me a letter, I think the first letter he ever wrote me, in which he said he saw the article, and he liked it.... He said to be careful, not to go too far with this, uh, self-proclamation thing or whatever because "one Mel Lyman in the world is enough." [laughter]
MEL: [reading the letter] . . . I think it's very humble. [laughter]
PAUL: I do too; but I'm, uh, I'm self-conscious and scared.
MEL: [reading on] It's good you quoted that fantastic line of Wayne's.
PAUL: Oh yeah, it has to be gotten out, more and more....
MEL: [later] Yeah, you write very well.... Bach was an Aries, did you know that?
PAUL: Is he on the Pisces/Aries cusp?
MEL: Yeah, March 21, right on the day. The first day of Aries. The absolute beginning.
PAUL: God-energy.
MEL: It's all true, what you've written here. Is it much longer? I'm skipping the details, just reading the personal parts.... See, now that I've publicly announced that I'm Christ, that's the ultimate. There's nothing to say after that, I have no fears on any level at all anymore, that was the ultimate thing.
PAUL: No what?
MEL: No fears.
PAUL: Ah.
MEL: I've made the ultimate statement, I've made myself entirely vulnerable. But it took me years to work up to that. I mean, I wanted to say that thing for six or seven years; and I just wasn't man enough to say it.
PAUL: Courage is very beautiful.
MEL: And then, when I finally was man enough to say it, I found that I couldn't say it alone, I had to have a group of people who could say it with me. Because Christ isn't an individual, you see, it's a soul. So I wrote those pieces a year before they were published, those "I am Christ" pieces. And I was ready to do it then, and that's when the whole fucking thing fell apart, everything fell to pieces, man. And it took us a year to get, it took me a year to get the people, my disciples, together enough, to get a vehicle together enough to make that announcement. So those pieces sat for a year.
MEL: [still reading "Letter to Another"] I don't know why you keep apologizing for yourself.
PAUL: Tauruses are self-conscious.
MEL: If you're self-conscious enough, you become totally conscious. Go all the way on the self-conscious bit.
PAUL: Okay. [laughter]
MEL: Did you see a piece I wrote called "The Fort Hill Community"?
PAUL: Yes, I've read that many times.
MEL: Yeah, isn't that a great piece of writing? You know, man, that I wrote that piece with carbon paper? I mean . . .
PAUL: Oh, right: right off.
MEL: I wrote that straight, there was never one change, there wasn't a period or a misspelling or a punctuation . . . that was it, I took the carbon copy, man, and that was the copy they went to press on. They copied right off that. I wrote it over a period of several days. I couldn't even get to my typewriter, because I kept the carbon in there; if I took it out I could never get to the same place again. And I'd write a few paragraphs . . . I'd always stop just when it got good. 'Cause when it really hits a peak, then if you continue writing you're in a rut. You gotta lose all that and start all over again, you see what I mean? Otherwise you get into a groove, that's all. That's why the thing, every time it gets to, wow man you think I'm really going to go off in that direction that I've set, it stops; I change the subject 'cause I've stopped writing for a day or two. Then I go back and sit down with it. That's the first piece I ever wrote with carbon paper; I was that sure of what I had to say that I knew I could write it perfectly, absolutely perfectly. And that's just the way that piece is, man; it really truly wrote itself. Just an amazing piece of writing.
PAUL: Yeah, I've read it out loud.
MEL: Yeah, I have too; I used to read it to people out loud. It's beautiful to read out loud, really beautiful, such fine rhythms. Also, I didn't write it for the Avatar; I wrote it for . . . it was a commission, for a book. These psychology professors from Brandeis wanted me to write a chapter for their book and that's what I did it for, but once I finished it I realized it would never fit in a psychology book, so I printed it in the Avatar instead.
PAUL: So you just never did anything for them?
MEL: I sent them the Avatar, once it was printed; I never heard from them; I think I pissed them off. [laughter] I apologized, I told them I had written it for them but once I finished I could see that they wouldn't be able to use it; I said if they did want to use it fine, but they never answered me.
PAUL: Well, you just can't please 'em . . .
MEL: All of the people all of the time . . .
PAUL: How does it affect the Fort Hill Community, do you think, that you're here on the Vineyard and not at four and a half?
MEL: I've been preparing for this for months. I didn't just pick up and leave; I passed my government on.
PAUL: How does the government work now?
MEL: Well, it's a true democracy now; before it was an autocracy. Or, it was an aristocracy, truly, is what it was, me and Jessie and Faith, the three people who are here. Truly. I made the laws and they carried them out. And it was very simple and very effective. Very effective. And very just. And we raised the children, and when they were finally old enough to, you know, try to make it on their own, we gracefully withdrew. And of course at first there was a lot of chaos and injustice and everybody was at each other's throats, and gradually they started getting to know each other better and developing systems.... When an aristocracy withdraws, it always becomes a bureaucracy. 'Cause all the people then try and make it work and they don't have the power of personality to make it work so they have to devise systems. And that's all right. Bureaucracy - you know they have all kinds of meetings and things like that and they hang out and that's slowly changing into a truly organic democracy, where the will of the people is truly represented by every individual. So . . . I prepared for it. I did pretty much the same kind of thing De Gaulle did. It was time for France to. . . he was the powerful personality, and he was France. He was more than France. So France didn't get a chance to find out what it was, 'cause he was doing it all for 'em, you see, and he had to go; he knew what he was doing; he knew it was time for those people to, you know, get to know each other, get to find out what they really were.... That's when a parent should always withdraw. A true parent isn't possessive. He does his best for his children, and when he sees that it's time, in one way or another, for them to make it on their own, then he releases them. But a selfish parent doesn't; he keeps, he wants a piece for himself, he wants a piece of the action. I did the same thing with the Avatar; I mean I've been preparing it to create itself without me having to always set the direction.
PAUL: That happened once before, with the Boston paper.
MEL: Yeah, I left prematurely one time. But you never know; you've got to try, you know, and I figured then they were ready. I pulled out and the whole thing collapsed. So I had to come back and pick up the pieces and build it all over again. I've been waiting, man, to pass that responsibility on for a long time....
PAUL: So you're out here rebuilding your body?
MEL: Yeah, and starting a new community too.
PAUL: Right now it's just the three of you and some of the children living here all the time?
MEL: Yeah. And we've got this house, and Faith's got a house about a half mile from here she'll be moving into in a few days, and then we've got this property and these other two houses here that are rented this summer but maybe next summer we'll . . . And we're planning on building guest houses and things and just . . . We're starting a new community, that's all. And I'll go back and live at Fort Hill, in the winters, fall and winter, all the cold season; but it won't be the same anymore. By the time I get back they'll be running without me, you see, which'll give me a lot more freedom than I ever had before, there. I won't have to worry about all the details, and all the little injustices, you know.... I was sending out bulletins, I was writing out rules and things, stuff like that, I really had it down to complete control, I was telling people how to live. Just like a child, raised by parents, doesn't want to go to bed and that's what I was doing up there. And I didn't want to be doing it, but it was my job. It was my job because I was the oldest, and I was the wisest....
PAUL: And you'd taken it on.
MEL: Well, I was capable of it; that's why I took it on. I didn't go asking for the job. You're in a situation with a group full of people; somebody there realizes, more than anybody else, realizes the potential of that group of people. I put that in my Fort Hill Community piece; I said the leader is the one who realizes the potential of a group of people and how to bring it into actuality. But you gotta realize both; just knowing potential's nothing unless you're gonna bring it down to earth and make it practical. And always in every situation there's one person who has a greater scope, a greater grasp of the situation than anybody else, and he's automatically the leader. In that group of people I just saw a lot of things that weren't right, and knew how to right 'em. And even though I . . . I resisted it at first, 'cause those are my friends, I don't want to tell 'em what to do. But finally I just couldn't bear it. And once you finally say one time, "Look, this has got to change," then you're committed, 'cause if you say this has got to change and then it changes and then everybody realizes what an improvement that is, from then on, man, they're going to go to you to find out what happens next. And as long as you know what happens next, your stature increases all the time. And their dependence increases and that's good, that's good. The only time it isn't good is if you limit 'em, you know, if you try and make them something they're not. But if you're continuing to make them something that they have the potential to be, you see, then life is a creative process.
It's very touchy, leadership, it's very very touchy; it's walking a mighty thin line. And you learn how to lead from, you know, following the people you're leading.
PAUL: You don't do it alone; you do it with the people you're leading.
MEL: Yeah, you look at 'em and you're with them and you come to understand them; you come to love them and you come to feel their needs and you search yourself to see what you can do about it.... The same as with raising children; I can't help but make that analogy, it's perfect; always my kids, when I had kids, I discovered what they really were, and then attempted to bring that out. Not try and make them something I'd like them to be, 'cause there's nothing I'd like them to be except what they really were, you see, so that's what I work with.
PAUL: People ask me how many people are in the community, and I don't know how to answer, 'cause I don't really know where to draw lines or even how to give them an impression....
MEL: Yeah, you can't . . . You can tell them that there's about forty adults in the immediate community, about forty adults and I don't know how many kids, must be close to twenty kids.... There may be fifty adults now; there probably are 'cause people keep moving up....
PAUL: And then there's people living on the fringes of the energy, right?
MEL: Yeah, there's people that commute. [pause] That's a good start. I mean, it's not just fifty people; it's fifty people united, man, who know each other on every level, have been through every kind of personal experience with each other. So it's fifty people really as one person. That's why the Avatar has such continuity in it; fifty people come together and create together and there's as much integration as one artist painting a picture by himself. That's what I mean by group soul. It's gotta be, now. Christ before could be one man. But that's been done. And Christ himself said, "You'll do more than I did." So that's been done. And you can't say you're Christ now until you've got a whole group who represent one soul; not just one individual. That's why I had to wait a year, to put that issue out.
PAUL: Something that I think ties in with that: I did a lot of sort of playing around in my mind, thinking about this business of giving birth, and, you know, being concerned with the ecological thing brings you into contact with people who are rapping about the population explosion, right? And uh, I wrote a piece, which is in this book, about that, in which I talked about my desire to give birth, to people and to words, and the changes that all the women I know are going through of nor really wanting to take pills, that sort of back-and-forth thing, and how it was obvious that we didn't have it worked out at all, that like birth control wasn't working, and I was talking about trying to read this book about the population explosion, called The Population Bomb, and how I couldn't read it, you know, and meanwhile a baby was being born in our family, and I kept trying to read this book 'cause I thought I ought to have some perspective on the macro, and I couldn't get it. And I wrote that piece with a contradiction inside. And just in the last few days I've started feeling . . . well, I said the other day, the um, the solution to the population problem is to break on through to the other side. I can't totally accept it yet, but I feel more and more in my body that what we have to do is whatever feels right, which in this case is to have more and more children....
MEL: The world has to go on a diet eventually, just like any fat person, it's got too many cells. I mean, I see the world, the earth, as just one body, a body that isn't together at all, but is always in the process of getting more and more together.
PAUL: So for us immediately, you see, I'm beginning to have the feeling that having children is absolutely the thing to do, because it furthers the body getting together. I mean for me to have children or for you to have children . . . anybody who doesn't want to obviously shouldn't, but. . . it's like I have a totally new vision now, the whole population problem game is played with statistics and projections and like . . .
MEL: And again, there is no area of life that doesn't require discrimination; that's what you have to remember. You have to be discriminating about how much you eat and what you eat, or, if you get too skinny or too fat, or too heavy on one thing and too light on another, you get sick. It's all just discrimination. In other words, there is a need for discrimination on that subject, how many people; there is a maximum number of people in God's plan who can live harmoniously together in this one body. Just like a number of cells.
PAUL: I'm beginning to suspect that as the number of people grows . . .
MEL: It's not anything for me to worry about or you to worry about, but there are people who, their lives will be dedicated to that, to developing discrimination on those levels.
PAUL: The vision I see now is that we'll keep growing, like the statistics show that there's just no possible way to slow down....
MEL: Oh, there's nowhere near the maximum number of people yet.
PAUL: And when we cross a certain line . . . like there're a certain number of people . . . a friend of mine was saying there's sixty billion cells in the human brain, so like when there's sixty billion people, suddenly - bang! - there'll be one....
MEL: Right.
PAUL: And it won't matter if some of them go away.
MEL: The more people there are, the more each individual has to struggle to learn how to live in harmony with his neighbor, 'cause he just can't get that far away anymore, you see. The more order there's gotta be on every single level . . . there'll have to be more order in farming; ecology will really blossom then. That's what's creating ecology. Ecology, the science of ecology, the fulfillment of ecology will be when the planet Earth is one perfect body, with all the parts working harmoniously, as they should, together. Completely interdependent. And at that point there won't be any more earthquakes, and forest fires - and all this chaos which is just carelessness, it's a lack of care, it's a lack of discrimination, it's a lack of self-control....
PAUL: We're new here.
MEL: Oh yeah, we're babies, man, tromping around, busting things up, breaking up our toys you know, breaking up our little house.... But the more people there are the more pressure there's going to be to have to learn how to live harmoniously on every level. And there's nowhere near that number yet.
PAUL: At the beginning of the 1950's, Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote 2001, wrote a science fiction novel called Childhood's End, which had the basic vision of the human race as we know it, as we have known it, coming to an end because it's just, you know, a larva going on to the next thing, like the children . . . The parents are left behind and the planet dies, and the children form some sort of group-mind and wander off into the stars. Which doesn't explain the power of the book, that's not . . . But somehow the book makes you feel the pain of what you're leaving behind and the fact of a whole new future in which it's not even the same race; it's not man anymore, you see, like we're going to lose man, and yet Faulkner is going to be right, man will prevail. Did you ever read that, the Nobel Prize acceptance speech? It's very far out; William Faulkner rants and raves, you know, in about 1950, about this whole generation scared of the bomb and everything, and he says that, he hammers, he says at the end of his speech, man will not only endure, he will prevail. He talks very well; I can't remember his words, but he lays down a very very heavy, strong trip, which very few people will do nowadays, that it is absolutely criminal to suggest that anything could possibly happen but that man will . . .
MEL: Man is God's highest creation, goodness sakes; if that's not going to prevail, God's not going to prevail.
PAUL: Which is sacrilege, right?
MEL: It's inconceivable! [much laughter]
PAUL: We're doing okay.
MEL: Oh yeah, you've got good stuff on there, man.
PAUL: I like it.
MEL: Most of it, most of it from the very beginning, man, I'd use.
PAUL: Yeah, it's always easy to tell; I never have any trouble editing once I get onto it. .
MEL: Yeah. Once you go back and listen to it. You'll even hear some little things that were said that you didn't notice at the time, that are really appropriate. Like what I said about overeating, having too many cells on your body, that person has to learn how to discriminate. It was very pertinent at the time but it kind of, you know, it didn't quite sink in. But you'll hear it on the tape. That's the kind of stuff that makes good, good transcript.
PAUL: To me it's just like movie-making.
MEL: Oh yeah. In fact, you could - if anything else doesn't happen, you could end it on that last thing, when you said it's sacrilegious, and I said it's inconceivable! What a beautiful way to end the book! Nothing to say after that, really. Talk about something else.
PAUL: Actually, the book ends with me waking up. Sort of . . . like one more dream under my belt. .
It's funny, what amazes me when I think about myself as a writer is the things that I don't talk about, you know, that I can't talk about yet. There's just so much stuff that you don't say....
MEL: Uh-huh. Well, you have to give it time, man, to get itself together inside you. Things come out when they're ripe. It's when they fall off the tree . . .


Mel Lyman