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Ernest Hemingway on Success

Leaned against a tree after a long hunt through the Green Hills of Africa, searching for Kudu, Ernest Hemingway, speaking to his travel companion, made a statement about pursuing an objective until its been complete. This statement rings in the heart of anyone fighting for a life that goes against the world they’ve seen, and anyone locked in the long battle between quitting and finding meaning in the fight. I’ve watched my peers allow doubt to creep into their lives and prevent them from becoming entrepreneurs, Ifa priestesses, writers, playwrights, and all those other occupations that are considered unserious. Ernest Hemingway on Success helps us see that even our heroes encountered doubts.

Similar to Hemingway who watched his peers give up their dreams of becoming writers, painters, and sculptors after two years, and with a drooped head, return to America and work in their parents’ shop. These people settle for a life of comfortable discomfort over a life of often chaotic authentic independence. However, there are some that continue the fight and release the imposing nature of time that haunts our youth-Hemingway speaks on the pleasure of the hunt that is, at its root, a metaphor for all creative activity saying:

The way to hunt is for as long as you live against as long as there is such and such an animal; just as the way to paint is as long as there is you and colours and canvas, and to write as long as you can live and there is pencil and paper or ink or any machine to do it with, or anything you care to write about, and you feel a fool, and you are a fool, to do it any other way.

Ernest Hemingway on Success
Ernest Hemingway on Success

Hemingway hunted for a language that reflected his existence; every great writer aims at using the world around him to inspire, encourage, and decipher the confusion for the people of his particular age. For a yogi postures are the weapons for the hunt, the pen becomes the weapon for the writer; as a writer speaks on behalf of the people he/she becomes a model for the determination and wisdom necessary for all endeavors. We become elevated to the status of mystics such as Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Amari Baraka, and even Ernest Hemingway himself. This mystification is far from idolization, but a deep appreciation for the strength and fortitude required to accomplish their mission.

Hemingway’s travel companion asks him “Who is America’s Thomas Mann? Who are your greatest writers?” James Baldwin says, something similar to Hemingway’s response, “Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all, endurance. … If you are going to be a writer there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you’re not going to be a writer nothing I can say will help you.” We have been told, from the way we treat our artists, that writing, yoga, and music are unserious occupations, and this affects the seriousness we approach the art–Hemingway speaks on the reasons we have so few great writers:

“We do not have great writers,’ I said. ‘Something happens to our good writers at a certain age. I can explain but it is quite long and may bore you. Well,’ I said, ‘we have had, in America, skillful writers. Poe is a skillful writer. It is skillful, marvelously constructed, and it is dead.

Occasionally it is there, alone, unwrapped in pudding, and it is good. This is Melville. But the people who praise it, praise it for the rhetoric which is not important. They put a mystery in which is not there. Thoreau. I cannot tell you about it because I have not yet been able to read it. But that means nothing because I cannot read other naturalists unless they are being extremely accurate and not literary. Naturalists should all work alone and some one else should correlate their findings for them.

Writers should work alone. Otherwise they become like writers in New York. All angleworms in a bottle, trying to derive knowledge and nourishment from their own contact and from the bottle. But once they are in the bottle they stay there.

Ernest Hemingway on Success
Ernest Hemingway on Success

The conversation slowly turned into an interview. This impromptu interviewer asked a question that we all must ask ourselves continuously throughout our journey, “And what do you want?” Hemingway’s response shows the reason his writing was so intensely prolific and nuanced. As we are hunting goals small and large we must be intentional about every reason behind our desire. Hemingway beautifully, and simply, says:

“To write as well as I can and learn as I go along. At the same time I have my life which I enjoy and which is a damned good life.

Ernest Hemingway on Success
Ernest Hemingway on Success

Our response to our failures determine our success. We must pursue our crafts honestly, authentically, and persistently. Rather than give into the fear that always creeping into our work. Learning to overcome the shame of failure through the embrace of it. Honesty becomes a loyal companion on our path to mastery for the aspiring artist, entrepreneur, and visionary. We can never fool ourselves about our devotion, commitment, discipline, and ingenuity. But our greatest responsibility in this world is to prevent ourselves from becoming shameful about our failures. Hemingway understood the massive amount of facts that allows that contribute to our success–Ernest Hemingway on Success says:

The reason everyone now tries to avoid it, to deny that it is important, to make it seem vain to try to do it, is because it is so difficult. Too many factors must combine to make it possible.’

‘What is this now?’

‘The kind of writing that can be done. How far prose can be carried if anyone is serious enough and has luck. There is a fourth and fifth dimension that can be gotten.’

‘You believe it?’

‘I know it.’

‘And if a writer can get this?’

‘Then nothing else matters. It is more important than anything he can do. The chances are, of course, that he will fail. But there is a chance that he succeeds.’

But that is poetry you are talking about.’

‘No. It is much more difficult than poetry. It is a prose that has never been written. But it can be written, without tricks and without cheating. With nothing that will go bad afterwards.’

‘And why has it not been written?’

First, there must be talent, much talent. Talent such as Kipling had. Then there must be discipline. The discipline of Flaubert. Then there must be the conception of what it can be and an absolute conscience as unchanging as the standard meter in Paris, to prevent faking. Then the writer must be intelligent and disinterested and above all he must survive. Try to get all these in one person and have him come through all the influences that press on a writer. The hardest thing, because time is so short, is for him to survive and get his work done. But I would like us to have such a writer and to read what he would write. What do you say? Should we talk about something else?”

We are all on the hunt for a state of being that will fulfill us, but we must never forget that regardless of our successes life will eternally contain the duality that rules the universe. All throughout Green Hills of Africa Ernest Hemingway lays the groundwork for self-discovery, and shows the art behind hunting. Continue reading The Tibetan Yoga Of Dreams and Sleep on Karma.

Ernest Hemingway on Success
Ernest Hemingway on Success