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Arguably the First Writer: To Use the 'F' Word


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This afternoon I had the pleasure of listening to a Radio National program based on the correspondence between Henry Miller(1891-1980) and Lawrence Durrell.1 Neither of these writers are well known, probably hardly known, by most of those immersed in the print and image-glut of popular culture. After listening on my radio to their letters being read and the commentary, I wrote the following, and made this collection of prose-poetic pieces for some internet site or two.--Ron Price with thanks to 1 ABC Radio National, 1:05 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., 14/4/’13.

“When the destruction brought about by the Second World War is complete another set of destruction will set in. And it will be far more drastic, far more terrible than the destruction which we are now witnessing in the midst of this global war. The whole planet will be in the throes of revolution. And the fires will rage until the very foundations of the present world crumble.”-Henry Miller in The Phoenix and the Ashes, Geoffrey Nash, George Ronald, Oxford, 1984, p.55.

Some of Carl Von Clausewitz’s observations on war have applied in this new ‘far more drastic, far more terrible’ destruction. Some military strategists argue that his was the first written effort to systematize the principles of conflict. His essays appeared from 1817 to 1828 and were published in On War(Princeton UP, 1976). He said “everything in strategy is simple but not easy”(p.656) and “there is no higher or simpler law...than keeping one’s forces concentrated.”(p.664). Both principles apply, I often think, in the kind of war that we in the West who never go to war, but have to deal with the battles of the interpersonal domain in our families, our workplaces and in what you could call the private sphere of one’s inner life. -Ron Price, comment on Clausewitz’s On War.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs, Updated on 14 April 2013.

After that superficial propriety of mine
was given a good hard kick in the teeth
by raucous rock-and-roll which woke us up
from our day-dream of Mr Clean, Doris Day,
General Ike, no negroes or genitalia: the war
started and I had no idea that it had begun!!

I had just moved to Dundas at the time; it
was a little town in the Golden Horseshoe.
I call it travelling-pioneering now; that was
back in ’62. I had just taken my first steps.

The battle has been on ever since on so
many fronts: running across two very wide
continents, caught in cross-fires that left me
bleeding raw, wounded, slowly recovered,
found the right prophylactic, taking it slowly
now, walking, hands in my pockets, and just
watching the fires burning, harrowing up the
souls of billions in an orgy of violence—of such
complexity and confusion, bewildering and so
often a silent agony that insinutates itself into
the very soul, mind and spirit of men's children:
but it is an agony that our print and image-glut
gives us this silent, protective, comforting sleep.

Ron Price
13/1/’96 to 14/4/’13.

“All of Henry Miller’s work,” writes Jay Morten, “constitutes the autobiography of his legend, not of his life.”1 In his writings this American writer(1891-1980) gives expression to his real self—or so some argue—to his created, other, self, an imaginative construct which involves an “obliteration or at least a masking of self.”1 Morten sees Miller inventing himself with the result that a strong aroma of Miller’s personality hovers about his writings, impressing readers with an assurance of authenticity. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Jay Morten, Always Merry and Bright: The Life of Henry Miller-An Unauthorized Biography, Capra Press, Santa Barbara, 1978, p.vii.

You say, Henry, that you don’t tell
the whole story of your life, never have so little of it down
on paper and you even lie to throw
all the bastards off track, eh Henry?

Elaborate webs of guesswork, sheer
invention and dubious assumptions
about the information-giving ability
of fiction, friends know fragments of
your life—and that with them—such
small fragments they all have Henry,
eh? Oh to drive beneath and beyond
the façade into the chambers of hearts,
the corridors of imagination, eh Henry?

No work of biography, no few hundred
pages can recreate a life, eh Henry? eh?
You wanted none of this writing business,
this writing as if someone knew about you.

And so I cling to the moment, the mundane
trifle, rooms, streets, houses, those tentative
gropings toward self-understanding, try to
stay as close to the life lived, to catch myself
at the point just before my imagination buries
its origins……As you once said Henry, you had
a thousand faces, all of them very genuine, eh?

Motives, perspective, awkward, tangled reality
of life, as Gibbon once said, are far too complex
to penetrate below the surface.1 How did your
mind work, Henry? Who are you Henry Miller?

1 David Womersley, The Transformation of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1988, p. 280.

Ron Price
17/11/’08 to 14/4/’13.

Henry Miller wrote: "At the last desperate moment-when one can suffer no more!-something happens which is in the nature of a miracle. The great open wound which was draining the blood of life closes up, the organism blossoms like a rose."1 In 1992, after a series of tests and trials going as far back, perhaps, as 1962, there was, it seems to me now in retrospect, the beginning of a blossoming like a rose. That blossoming was poetry.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Henry Miller in The Happiest Man Alive: A Biography of Henry Miller, Mary Dearborn, Harper and Collins, London, 1991, p.248.

Henry Miller wrote1 that he was reaching out for life, for something to attach himself to, when he reached out for June. June became his second wife. But, he says, he was left high and dry from his effort to grasp life in this way. In the process he found something he had not been looking for--himself.

It seems to me, as I look back over those first fifty years of travelling-pioneering for the Canadian Baha’i community, from 1962 to 2012, that I too was often reaching out for life, for something to grasp on to, something to attach myself to. I always found something. It turned out, as I gaze in retrospect at the events in that half-century, that I found a series of stimulating pacifiers and meaning constructs: (i) the women in my life, who took the edge off loneliness and made me feel good; (ii) the academic life and its translation into a career, the teaching profession and a host of jobs; (iii) the Baha'i Faith and its intellectual and spiritual resources.

With each of these 'attachments,' these 'meaning and activity systems,' I did find survival mechanisms and pleasure, purpose and the ability to live another day, and so much more. Like Henry Miller, too, I found myself by sensible and insensible turns of the tide of experience, by 1992, by 2002, and even more-so by 2012, that I was able to express this process in prose and poetry.

The process involved a finding that was also a losing, a sense of power that was also a sense of powerlessness, a sense of meaning and richness and a sense of bone-dry weariness that came back again and again. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Henry Miller in Mary Dearborn, The Happiest Man in the World: A Biography of Henry Miller, Harper Collins, London, 1991, p.310.
Mary Dearborn is an American biographer and author. Dearborn has published biographies of Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, Peggy Guggenheim, and others. She received a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 1984. In her biography of Miller she states that he walked a narrow line between acceptance and rebellion, rejoicing and disgust. Perhaps we all do, each in our own way; some are more conscious of it than others; for some the extremes are not as sharp, not as demarcated.

My bi-polar illness and the simple consciousness of my failings, my sins of omission and commission, have perhaps made me more conscious of this same narrow line. I am certainly conscious of this line as I survey my own experience as a traveller-pioneer as far back as 1962 when my parents and I moved to the next town, and helped form the first Baha’i locally elected body in that little town in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe.

I was a matriculation student at the time, in ’62, had just finished my last season on the mound. I can look back and see the lines and sinews of that narrow line even into my early childhood in the late 1940s. I try in so many different ways in my writing, in my poetry, to focus on the forging of my soul, my spirit, my life, on the anvil of experience and suffering. I also write, though, of many other topics and themes; for there has been so much more than suffering in my 7 decades on this earth. There has been joy and the rich cultural attainments of the mind. -Ron Price with thanks to Mary Dearborn, The Happiest Man Alive: A Biography of Henry Miller, Harper and Collins, London, 1991, p. 311.

Your program today, Philip, stimulated the prose-poem below, written before my evening meal today and after LNL---4:05 to 5:00 p.m. I am an optimist, too, like Rose, but the tempest ahead, as Henry Miller points out in my quotation from him below, is going to do a great deal of blowing in the decades ahead. Such is my view which I send to you for your possible reading pleasure.

Thanking you yet again

Ron Price
George Town Tasmania

Stanley Hoffmann(192:cool:, the founder of Harvard's Centre for European Studies in 1968, said in his review of The Clash of Ideas in World Politics: Transnational Networks, States and Regime /Change(2011) by John Owen that: “This volume is far more ambitious and proves that--as in world politics itself--ideas and historical understanding are more important than accumulations of numbers."

Another book about “the clash of ideas” is an eBook, a collection of essays, entitled: The Clash of Ideas-The Ideological Battles that Made the Modern World--And Will Shape the Future. It is drawn from the archives of Foreign Affairs published by the Council on Foreign Relations since 1922. These essays trace the ideological battles of the past century and the evolution of the modern order. The authors include: Harold Laski, Victor Chernov, Paul Scheffer, William Henry Chamberlin, Giovanni Gentile, Erich Koch-Weser, Hamilton Fish Armstrong, Isaiah Berlin, Benedetto Croce, Leon Trotsky, C. H. McIlwain, Alvin Hansen and C. P. Kindleberger, Geoffrey Crowther, David Saposs, G. John Ikenberry, Azar Gat, Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, and Nancy Birdsall and Francis Fukuyama.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, also founded in 1922, as The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, is a leading independent, nonpartisan organization committed to influencing the discourse on global issues through contributions to opinion and policy formation, leadership dialogue, and public learning.-Ron Price with thanks to Philip Adams for his interview with Gideon Rose editor of Foreign Affairs magazine on “LNL,” ABC Radio National, 8 February 2012.

The sea was not calm to-night.
The tide was full and the moon
was fair.1 The Sea of Faith was
full of the worst with an endless
passionate intensity; the best still
lacked all conviction, & ignorant
armies still clashed at night & day.

1922 was a very big year seeing
as it did the routinization of that
charismatic Force as Max Weber
called it in his complex but fresh
sociology of religion about 1910
when Virginia Woolf said the old
world ended little did she know.

That latest of Abrahamic religions,2
little did they know, so quietly, so
unobtrusively, except in old Iran
where one of modern history’s
many blood baths took place,
lending a special poignancy to
a new Centre, as all old centres
would not hold over time, those3
outworn shibboleths, and that
planetization of the ancient land
evolved sensibly & insensibly, a
curious inevitability while we, ill-
equipped to interpret the social
commotion at play throughout the
globe as it sank deeper into that
slough of despond which, as C.W.
Mills said so long ago,4 liberalism
and socialism could not in any way
save us from that tempest ahead.5

1 Mathew Arnold’s poem Dover Beach
2 The Baha’i Faith
3 W.B. Yeats’ prophetic poem of 1920 The Second Coming about the centre not holding among other topics.
3 C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, 1959.
4 “When the destruction brought about by the Second World War is complete,” wrote American writer Henry Miller in 1941, “another set of destructions will set in. And it will be far more drastic, far more terrible, than the destruction which we are now witnessing in the midst of this global war. The whole planet will be in the throes of revolution. And the fires will rage until the very foundations of the present world crumble.”1-Ron Price with thanks to 1Henry Miller in The Phoenix and the Ashes, Geoffrey Nash, George Ronald, Oxford, 1984, p.55.


The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson called for a literature of "diaries and autobiographies"1 instead of novels. The twentieth century American writer, Henry Miller, endorsed this idea in an effort to open himself to the "whole dammed current of life". Miller was trying to make of the chaos about him "an order which was his own." He was also trying to affirm the inner light of selfhood against the darkness, the slaughterhouse, the cancer of the world, the collapse of traditions, the breakdown of connections between the self and the great and complex social milieu, as well as the disappearance of modes of authority outside the self.

This "inner light" and "order" which Miller sought and affirmed is also at the centre of my work, but the light and order that I seek and manifest are derived from "the verses of God that have been received"2 by me over some 60 years. Emerson's call for 'diaries and autobiographies' at the dawn of the Baha'i Era has not gone unheeded. The last 170 years has seen a plethora of these genres. My literary effort is part of the response to Emerson's call, my desire to open myself to the whole "damned current of life." -Ron Price with thanks to 1Christopher Lasch, The Minimal Self:" Psychic Survival in Troubled Times, WW Norton, NY, 1984, p.134; and 2 Baha'u'llah, Baha'i Prayers, USA, 1985, frontispiece.

Inventorying and stylizing myself,
daily events, life's events, the dizzy
world going by, a manipulation of
details with the status of facts, & no
bare chronicle of fact, creating…and
defining, self, world and my religion.

In the end I’m producing my life by an
infinite chain of signifiers & constructs:
therapeutic self-discovery, just spinning
a yarn,1 as it were, in the current of life.
1 Lynda Scott, "Similarities Between Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing," Deep South, Vol.3 No.2, Winter 1997.

Ron Price
13/5/’01 to 14/4/’13.


Henry Miller wrote that “only when we are truly alone does the fullness and richness of life reveal itself to us.”1 I would add that the presence, the existence, of the social side of life makes for the value of the solitary side. There is an essential polarity that is at the core of the experience of oneness. There are also other essential realities that are part of this same experience of oneness: the abstract nature of life, the interrelatedness of all creatures, the omnipresence of life, transcendence, the notion of germination and the concept of divinity.

Guy Murchie describes these several ‘mysteries of life’ in a rich texture of analysis and example.2 These mysteries are part of my progression toward a felt unity; they are the underpinnings, the context, of my woes and tribulations. For one of the great principles through which these mysteries are manifested is suffering: with fire We test the gold.3 Part of this unity, too, is the sense of common purpose arrived at individually. Finally, I have created what for me is a new life in this prose and poetry.

I can create more. I can understand more. But I feel it can come to an end at any time, as can my life. I cling to it no more. I have made of myself, as Gordon writes, a work of art. -Ron Price with thanks to 1 Henry Miller in The Mind and Art of Henry Miller, William Gordon, Jonathan Cape, London, 1968, p. 193; 2 Guy Murchie, The Seven Mysteries of Life, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1978; 3 Baha’u’llah, The Baha’i Writings; and 4 William Gordon, op.cit., p.191.

And I pass from my art to my life,
for art is only a means to life, & it
points the way, a necessary means,
as I learn to think, to feel, in a new
way, an educated way, in my own
way which took many many years
to form as I slowly threw myself
into a poetic current, voluntarily,
perhaps of necessity, giving myself
up to the experience as it became so
automatic, with a new certitude, and
a new anchorage which is difficult to
describe yet subsists and exudes from
everything that I have lived & written.
Ron Price
14/8/’00 to 14/4/’13.
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