The Morning Pages and the Secret Sharer’s Hat

I’ve been going over my morning pages from 2012.  The morning pages were introduced by Julie Cameron in The Artist’s Way.  Basically, you write 3 pages first thing every morning whether you feel like it or not and, after a period of time, read and annotate them with an eye toward finding  inspired or meaningful passages.  My own pages can be, by turns, inspiring, embarrassing or downright boring with my ponderous, self-centered trip.
I see I had been reading–in 2012–Joseph Conrad’s enigmatic meditation on identity and the  shifting vicissitudes of fate: The Secret Sharer.  This story tells of the narrator’s first command, and a pivotal event that marked his passage from dissolute wastrel to respectable sea captain.  He had hidden a stowaway–his mirror image, a troublesome aspect of his impulsive youth–which he must leave ashore in order to “get on” with the responsibilities his new station demands.  In the magnificent climax, the captain risks his career by sailing close to a Java cape  to jettison his double.  His ship is nearly “caught in stays” and wrecked beneath the sheer headland that looms over his limp head-sails “like the dark gates of Erebus.”  As a final gesture of compassion, the captain gives his hat to protect his “other self” from the fierce, tropic sun.  It is this hat–lost during the fugitive’s swim to shore–that provides the only visible waypoint on the dark sea; by it he accomplishes the delicate maneuver of bringing his vessel’s bow across the flukey breezes and pointed toward the the safety of deep water.
The captain’s twin is “now gone from the ship, to be hidden forever from all friendly faces, to be a fugitive and vagabond on the earth.”
The morning pages are like the Secret Sharer’s hat.  They provide a clear–albeit shifting–waypoint whereby we can weather hazardous shoals and see the secret workings that shape our lives into a meaningful pattern.  In these page’s sleepy scrawl we see our life’s dominant theme, descry our personal myth, and have the opportunity to show compassion for the errant soul who blathers on and on about the cruel hand of fate.

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