Henry Miller’s Notice to Visitors
By Maria Popova
Fame comes with a vexing flipside — the constant barrage of requests and, in the pre-digital days, the common offense of unannounced in-person visits to the famed person’s home or workspace. Managing this onslaught of generally well-meaning but suffocating adulation with the right balance of graciousness and firmness, the kind that both honors the admiration and protects one’s creative space and regimen, is an art unto itself. Hardly anyone has mastered it with more humor and heart than the great Henry Miller — he of profound cosmic insight, great wisdom about life, and creative discipline worth protecting. Shortly after he moved to California’s Big Sur in 1940 in search for a haven to write, as his literary fame and notoriety were gathering momentum in America, Miller hung the following delightful and inimitably Millerian handwritten note on his front door, included in his altogether fantastic 1971 autobiography, My Life and Times (public library):
The undersigned wishes to inform all and sundry that he has long since left the Abode of Peace, that he no longer has any comfort or inspiration to offer, and that even the migratory birds avoid this spot. Prayers are offered up daily — without charge. The garden has been transformed into an open air Vespasienne. Look toward Nepenthe when you water the flowers. If you are seeking Truth travel a little farther south: you will find it at Ojai Chez Krishnamurti. Be kind to the children — they abide. For a metaphysical treat stop at the Big Sur Inn which is also a haven for stray cats and dogs. Life along the South Coast is just a bed of roses, with a few thorns and nettles interspersed. The life class meets every Monday regardless. Refreshments are served when demanded. Those interested in celestial navigation are advised to first obtain a rudimentary knowledge of integral calculus, phlebotomy, astral physics and related subjects. The use of liquor is strictly forbidden on interplanetary flights.
When you come please be so kind as to check your neuroses and psychoses at the gate. Gossip may be exchanged during the wee hours of the morning when the gremlins have left. Please bear in mind that this is a small community and news travels fast. (Carrier pigeons are provided when necessary.) Fans and other obnoxious pests would do well to maintain silence. Questions relating to work-in-progress will be answered in stereotype fashion in the columns of the Big Sur Guide at the usual space rates. God is Love — and in the ultimate Love will prevail. Remember, man is the ruler, not Saturn! Let us do our best, even if it gets us nowhere. In the midst of darkness there is light. “I am the light of the world,” said Jesus. He said a mouthful. Light, more light!
Published May 27, 2013