Monday, February 16, 2015

Chapter 47 - One Weary Man: Part 4 - One Weary Man

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

By August 2, Alfred wrote to Walter Polakov, “Most probably an institute for General Semantics will be financed in Chicago. In the meantime, ‘I don’t know, let’s see.’”(21) He had been invited to give a seminar to the GS class at Marlboro State Hospital from November 18 to December 12. By that time, the plans for an institute had become more definite. After the Marlboro seminar, he planned to return to Cambridge and begin packing at once for the move to Chicago.

Without question Mira’s absence continued to affect Alfred. Every so often they would end up writing to each other about the issues that had led to her leaving. These continued as sore spots for both of them. Alfred didn’t seem able to acknowledge how his own attitudes and behavior may have contributed to the troubles in their relationship. And Mira, while admitting her mistakes, no longer felt willing to take all of the responsibility for their vicious circle. Her attempts to correct what she saw as his misevaluations of her behavior and motives met with fierce resistance from him. She had an intense interest in general semantics and demonstrated her life-use of it in her letters. She had suggestions for making his work easier and for promoting it. But as far as he was concerned, she didn’t know a thing about it. He treated her thoughts about GS as so much ‘blah, blah, trah, trah’; if she would only just pipe down, listen to him, and do what he told her, everything would be all right. Although none of their fundamental differences had gotten resolved, her time away had left her feeling stronger in dealing with him. Still, she would try her best to accommodate his wishes. She recognized his burdens and didn’t want to add to them. She missed him and she wanted to come home.

He missed her too and, as he wrote to her at the end of the year, desperately missed having the personal life away from his work that he knew he could only have with her. But he felt that at this point, it would be better for both of them if she remained in Argentina, letting him pack and move to Chicago by himself. And he wanted her to stay away until he had established the Institute and set up a home for them. She reluctantly agreed.

Although his work seemed to be progressing quite well and was apparently going to get funded, a sad, lonely, even pessimistic tone came forth in his letters from this time. On December 10, he wrote to Helen L. Evans:
Am after the hospital seminars a sadder and older man. It’s pathetic how similar seminar-reaction[s] are in hospitals of confined “insane” and colleges of non-confined un-sane. As long as the seminars lasted, everything went well, but the results will be except a few cases just as effective as on the majority of the Olivet group,... Please realize that the main value of G.S. is preventive, not trying to “cure” “incurable” cases. (22) 
A week later he wrote to her again,
“Lonely”, well if anyone knows the meaning of this word it is me. I am always lonely even in crowds and with students as they usually are so far off the mark. (23)
While working with him during the Olivet seminar earlier in the year, Helen had already observed those qualities in him. In a letter to him near the end of the seminar, she wrote:
June 9, 1937
Count Korzybski — 
I am aware you do not want either gratitude nor compliments, but from my studies and your conferences so much has been gained it would be strange if I had remained entirely unaware of the ‘mind’ and personality responsible for such a work.  
Your courage in facing before-hand the obstacles that General Semantics has to meet, and in meeting your own personal problems is clear in the lines of suffering in your face. The fact that you understood and experienced so much probably accounts for the confidence you are able to inspire in others.  
The enclosed is a feeble attempt to paint your portrait in outline as it has appeared to me. Please accept it without sentiment. 
The next page contained the following poem. After the date and the title, the script suddenly slanted to the left (unlike the letter) in a way that appeared to have been written by someone writing left-handed:
Portrait in Outline
One can but guess the depth or breadth of mind
Whose sad, ironic certainty predicts our woe
Before we speak, so keen to find
Some common thing to ease the flow
Of thought — awaken thus an unresponsive world;
One weary man who sits alone, with tender hand
Upon the pulse of sodden lives we meet...
Eager to give, content to feel, like a strand
Of Polish music in some sunlit street
Against our smug, complacent faces hurled. (24)

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
21. AK to Walter Polakov, 8/2/1937. IGS Archives. 

22. AK to Helen Evans, 12/10/1937. IGS Archives. 

23. AK to Helen Evans, 12/17/1937. IGS Archives. 

24. Helen Evans to AK, 6/9/1937. IGS Archives.

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