William James, why are you stalking me?

“An idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with the force of revelation.


Odd date. Odd day. Though I think I am misstating it when I use the word odd lately, but I am without another suitable adjective at the moment. I suppose I could go with freakishly synchronous – as I do love synchronicity (when it is real…) Or perhaps, it was just another day.

Here is January 11:

  • I received a really nice email from my step-dad with an attachment to Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac.” He noted that he thought I might enjoy this newsletter (I do very much) and that he thought that on that day I would especially appreciate the words about William James. January 11 is the date of birth of the philosopher/psychologist/writer. I did not read the entry until later in the day.
  • On the ferry, I began to re-read the novel 2666 by Roberto Bolaño. Please make no mistake in believing I am reading this 900-page behemoth for a second time, it is just that I started it a couple of months ago and am just now having the time to really attack it so I decided to start again, at the beginning. On introducing one of the characters, Liz Norton, Bolaño tells us that “If volition is bound to social imperatives, as William James believed, and it’s therefore easier to go to war than it is to quit smoking, one could say that Liz Norton was a woman who found it easier to quit smoking that to go to war… This was something she’d been told once when she was a student, and she loved it, although it didn’t make her read William James, then or ever.”
  • On arriving at the office I saw that I had a lesson with one of my IB Literature student who is working on the novel Portrait of  a Lady, by William’s brother, Henry James. This is a story about Isabel Archer, an American woman, “confronting her destiny” and it “explores the conflict between the individual and society by examining the life of a young woman who must choose between her independent spirit and the demands of social convention.” How totally UNfamiliar.

That was an interesting trifecta. So, of course I went and read the words from Keillor’s Almanac.

He wrote a lot about the psychology of pragmatism. He argued that a person’s beliefs were true if they were useful to that person. And he said, “Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.”

You don’t say.

He hung out with Freud, Jung, Helen Keller, Mark Twain, Bertrand Russell, and many other intellectuals. He once said, “Wherever you are, it is your own friends who make your world.” And he said, “Properly speaking a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him.”

Sounds like he might have been on to something. Now I have a whole new philosopher to invite to my daily luncheon of mental musings. Fantastic.

As if I wasn’t already odd enough. 8)

Belief creates the actual fact.


About Amanda

I am repatriating expatriate trying to work it all out. Well, to work some of it out anyhow. I am writing here for sanity, focus and general over-sharing.
This entry was posted in Books, Perception, Philosophical Underpinnings, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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