Sunday, June 21, 2015

Chapter 64 - Hardly A Day Off: Part 5 - Incommunicado

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.

With the Cooper Union lecture out of the way, Korzybski originally intended to stay in New York for a couple of weeks to devote his full attention to Manhood, and then to go to Chicago for about a week to see Mira. However, by the second week of April he again decided to put off his visit. Recovering from the ‘bug’, he was resting and sleeping a lot, and he hadn’t gotten a lot of work done. (Charlotte was recovering from a cold too, so they had both slowed down.) Charlotte was stuffing him with vitamins and felt somewhat concerned about his vulnerability to colds. She didn’t worry that he had a serious illness but it seemed clear he suffered from overwork. She wrote to Kendig that in her opinion he could do with a long rest, somewhere with a warm climate like New Mexico or Arizona—clearly a pipe dream. With the Congress coming up, he felt more hard-pressed than ever to get Manhood out. A good long rest anywhere seemed out of the question. He and Charlotte would remain in New York, ‘holed up’ at Hotel 33 for most of the next three months. 

Supposedly ‘incommunicado’ in order to work on Manhood, they had plenty of interruptions. In addition to visitors, they had to deal with a steady stream of correspondence—as well as occasional phone conversations—with Kendig. The Institute had entered an especially hectic period, only partly due to the looming Congress and its mounting details of contributor’s papers, program organization, and general conference arrangements. Kendig had primary responsibility for managing all this, but Korzybski and Charlotte served as consultants. However much it distracted them, if Kendig needed their input they needed to respond.

A huge distraction came in early April with a sudden offer Kendig got for the sale of her house. Since the end of 1948, a man who was planning to buy the Lime Rock Lodge and the nearby Old Mill building had indicated interest in buying her house to live in with his wife and six children. Kendig would have a chance to recover her investment in the house and to make a small profit besides. Charlotte and Alfred both told her earlier in the year that she should do it if she could. The Institute’s contract with her to rent the house had ended in September 1948 and it was now paying her on a month-to-month basis. She didn’t feel she had much financial security and when the man finally agreed to her asking price after months of dickering, she felt tempted but also faced a dilemma. Where would the Institute go?

Some trustees and other Institute supporters already had suggestions or made offers to help move the Institute to other states. Kendig didn’t consider any of these options viable, since a number of Institute personnel whom she considered essential for present operations lived in Lime Rock or Lakeville and would not find it easy to move. Even if the Institute moved somewhere relatively close-by in Connecticut or upstate New York, Kendig didn’t think they could afford to lose the Lakeville post office address for the immediate future. And even a local move promised to disturb plans for the Congress and the general activities of the Institute to some extent. She had to decide what to do. If she sold the house, the Institute would have to move by May 15. After a considerable flurry of activity on her part in the first week of April, including a 13-page memorandum on the issue that she wrote and sent out to Trustees for their advice; she declined the offer. She couldn’t see disrupting the Institute’s affairs solely for her personal benefit. The Institute of General Semantics would remain at the house in Lime Rock until the early 1980s.

With the issue of the house settled, Kendig could focus on the Congress. She needed all the help she could get. Unfortunately for her, David Levine would be leaving the Institute in a few months to return to graduate school, just as he had gotten really useful to her. With the complex administrative details of the Congress accumulating, she needed a competent person at once, and hired E. Lindley Gates, a former newspaper reporter with editing skills, for the job. “Lynn” Gates, in his late twenties, had served in the Navy from 1942 to 1946, and then returned to reporting, and had opened a duplicating and direct mail business in Johnstown, Pennsylvania before coming to the Institute. Besides helping Kendig with administrative tasks, he would soon take charge of the production end of Institute publications, among other jobs. David Levine got to know him and described him as,
...a hard-drinking fellow, a habit he had developed to keep in step with the other “drinking” reporters...[but] He seemed able to hold his liquor without showing much, unless you knew what to look for...He had a slow gentle way about him, very thoughtful, and very careful about the way he interacted with people. Kendig took an instant liking to him.  
He shortly became a valuable member of the Institute staff...Lynn later, in the early nineteen fifties, became very much attached to Kendig, and they were married. Although Lynn was Kendig’s junior by over a score of years [29 years], they seemed to bridge that gap very well and were very obviously fond of one another. (23) 

Also in April, David Bourland, taking time off from his undergraduate studies at Harvard, began working at the Institute as an assistant. Given his legal status as a minor (he would have his 21st birthday in June), the Institute required his parent’s permission for him to work there. He had a variety of jobs to perform including emptying garbage cans, filling kerosene heaters, maintaining the Institute car, and taking care of the library. He would soon begin helping with the Congress, taking care of some of the Institute correspondence and editing publications, as well as assisting Korzybski in upcoming seminars.

Meanwhile in New York City, Charlotte and Alfred were getting done whatever they could in relation to Manhood—other than the Introduction. Getting everything else to the printer as soon as possible would increase their chances of having the rest of the book ready to print while they worked on that last, most difficult part. They might still get the book out in time for the Congress. They were including three new appendices with material Alfred seemed likely to refer to in his Introduction: his paper on Graicunas’ work, his “Author’s Note” from Selections from Science and Sanity, and his credo “What I Believe”, which—though written the year before—needed some finishing touches. The book would end with Keyser’s final chapter from Mathematical Philosophy, “Korzybski’s Concept of Man”. They were planning to print “What I Believe” as a separate booklet as well, so at the very least they would have that ready for the Congress. For the cover, they would continue with the blue color originally used for Science and Sanity that had become an IGS tradition. As the cover graphic behind the text, they were using a vertical spiral expanding at the top, inspired by some art work that Mira had sent to Alfred in January—an old portrait by her of the two of them to which she had added a spirally ascending ‘whirlwind’ in the background. Alfred had used the spiral in Appendix II of the First Edition to model how the exponential process of time-binding operates, and further discussed the ‘spiral theory’ of time-binding in Science and Sanity. Over the last few years the development of cybernetics, with the notion of feedback and the increasing recognition of exponential functions and non-linear processes in this and other areas, seemed to him to corroborate his spiral theory. Putting a spiral on the cover definitely seemed fitting as symbol for his work.**
**[Accompanying Mira's 'spiral portrait' was a note to Alfred, which said in part: "January 16 + 17, 1949 The spiraling recognition of your work is the most precious birthday gift to your loving Mira." [MEK to AK, MEK Archives, Box 22, Folder 2.]

Mira's new 'spiral portrait' of herself and Alfred, 1948-1949

On April 21 Charlotte (and Alfred) wrote to Kendig:
The [Graicunas] diagram arrived this a.m. with your note. Thanks. I can imagine how overwhelmed you must be, and our sympathies. At this front, we are ploughing ahead. At this moment we are finishing all the laborious details for the printer, Manhood with all corrections, paper selections, etc., various instructions to the printer, etc., etc. (and if there has been a comma or period missed it isn’t our fault!) Anyway, in a few minutes I hope to take it all* in hand over to the printer, or rather the NY office, which fortunately is only a few blocks away. 

*all, alas, but the new introduction, which we have now to settle down to finish. But I feel hopeful, determined, and grim. You and I know what is still ahead. However, we do nothing but work. The ‘g-d delousing’ seems never to end. (24) 
To finish the new introduction—indeed. They already had lots of notes along with several drafts, unsatisfactory as they seemed to Alfred, and as they began to work they developed a somewhat satisfactory outline of important points to cover after the opening section. (25)

They ploughed ahead. Through reading and research—including self-observation, Korzybski had developed an understanding of the role of unconscious processes in creation and discovery, which he consciously applied to his own creative work. His process of writing involved a lot of preliminary out-loud formulating, spitting things out on the typewriter, and multiple rounds of editing, re-writing, and that ‘g-d delousing’. During any part of this process—even after mostly completing a piece of work—he might return to talking out various issues in order to refine what he wanted to say. And he liked to have someone to talk things out to. During the writing of his two books, Mira had fulfilled that role, which long since had descended to Charlotte. His formulating might lead into areas that would never reach print; although some interesting digressions could also lead to new and important insights to bring out. As she took dictation, Charlotte helped Alfred to corral his formulating with queries, questions, and doubts. If only they could eliminate the ‘g-d distractions’.

May started out with a huge one—a surprise dropped on them by Hayakawa. Annual election time for the International Society had arrived and Hayakawa had decided to run for the Presidency against Francis Chisholm, the current President running for re-election. Chisholm had been planning with Kendig to get the two organizations working more in synch by bringing them together as divisions within a “foundation for G.S. with possible advantages public relations-wise, better opportunities for securing financial and other support for the G.S. program of training, publication, directing rigor and developing of discipline, etc.”(26) They had gotten a general consensus from both organizations to pursue this plan at the October 1948 joint meeting in Chicago, with Kendig and Kelley representing the Institute and six representatives from the Society Board, including Hayakawa and Rapoport who together stood in sole opposition to the project. Within his next term, Chisholm hoped to begin working out the details to bring the general plan into fruition. By becoming President, Hayakawa sought to maintain the status quo. Understandably so; since his control over the day-to-day management of the ISGS office in Chicago (observed by David Levine who had worked there in 1948), his autonomy in running ETC., and his ability to present general semantics there in whatever way he saw fit, seemed unlikely to continue under a new organizational structure.

The ISGS election ballots didn’t get sent out to members until the end of the month, with a due date for returning them by June 24. But Hayakawa had already started campaigning in early May, sending letters to various leaders of the major local GS societies explaining his reasons for running. His May 9 letter to Robert L. Read of the Los Angeles group seemed particularly revealing. Read, a supporter of Chisholm and friendly with Korzybski, conveyed Hayakawa’s letter to the Institute (a copy of an excerpt of this and other Hayakawa letters and related correspondence is in the IGS 1949 scrapbook). Kendig, Korzybski, Charlotte, and others likely read it with dismay. Hayakawa wrote:
...The Society, because it is not run by the Institute, is acquiring prestige and scientific acceptance for general semantics. ETC. is being ever more widely quoted as an authoritative source of information and theory, and is being regularly abstracted by the technical journals of psychology, education, etc. This is happening because we have succeeded so far in avoiding the public relations errors that IGS has a genius for...I can hardly tell you how often...I have been made heartsick by AK’s unconscious sabotage of general semantics. Also Kendig. Also the whole Institute. AK telling dirty stories before strange audiences not yet oriented to his ways; Kendig infuriating women’s clubs; AK talking to the American Sociological Society and the American Psychiatric Assn. as if they were school children. There is an incredible list of worse than faux pas extending back for decades...The latest is Yale, where I should not be surprised if AK hasn’t done as much harm as good for GS. For example, he kept calling Professor Leonard Doob—a very big bigshot in the social sciences—Professor Boob. This little joke has probably cost us the support of the Social Science Research Council for the next twenty years...The Society is run, and has been run, on the right track. It must continue following such policies as we have evolved. ...I do not need to tell you, of course, that none of the foregoing beefs reduces in any respect my enthusiasm for general semantics and my determination to see it operative on a wider and wider scale, to the enhancement of Korzybski’s prestige and fame which he richly deserves. (27)
Dealing just with Hayakawa’s claim that Korzybski called Leonard Doob ‘Professor Boob’ at Yale: how could Hayakawa have known, if he himself didn’t directly hear it? He didn’t. So did someone else who did hear or thought he heard it tell Hayakawa? Or did someone who heard the story from someone else who heard it from someone else..., etc., etc., etc.? David Levine, who did attend as Korzybski’s assistant, recalled no such remark.(28) In the Yale lecture transcripts, Korzybski criticized Doob’s colloquium presentation without referring to him by name (p. 132). Whether or not Korzybski called Doob ‘Boob’ (I surmise not), what justified Hayakawa repeating this story about Korzybski in order to influence the election? What happened to the ethics of time-binding Hayakawa had written about?

It’s hard to say how upset Korzybski got as a result of Hayakawa’s negative campaigning and the possible negative election outcome for the Institute. However by this time, Hayakawa’s behavior couldn’t have totally surprised him. At any rate, he and his colleagues at the Institute hoped to counteract Hayakawa’s campaigning with some of their own. They sent copies of Korzybski’s 1947 protest letter to a number of people among the leadership of the large local GS groups in Los Angeles, New York, and Boston, asking them to oppose Hayakawa and vote for Chisholm. (The Chicago group seemed split about 50-50, from a rough survey Kendig took.) The presidents of the three other groups, who strongly supported the Institute and the plans for its unification with the Society, sent out letters to their chapter members in support of Chisholm. But by the end of June it seemed clear that despite their efforts, Hayakawa was going to win. Most of the 1800 or so International Society members who could vote had neither studied with Korzybski nor read his books nor knew of the controversies between the two men. Hayakawa, as the editor of ETC., and the nationally known author of a popular book supposedly based on Korzybski’s work, was going to win what amounted to a popularity contest. Chisholm threw in the towel on July 1 with a letter to the Executive Secretary of the ISGS. Chisholm still hoped that greater cooperation between the two organizations was possible. But any plans for unification had effectively been dashed. For better or worse, the separation of the two organizations—with their at times competing functions—that Hayakawa wished to preserve, would remain in effect for many years to come.

With this going on, Charlotte and Korzybski continued working on Manhood. Alfred, wanting to get every detail of fact as correct and up to date as he could, wondered what had happened to Walter Polakov. He planned to refer to him in the Introduction, but hadn’t heard from his old friend for quite some time. Charlotte wrote to Mira to- find out if she knew whether Walter was even alive or not. If not, Alfred would have to write ‘the late Walter Polakov’. Mira wrote back that she had last heard from Walter about a year before when he was living in Berkeley on a $100 a month pension from the United Mine Workers Union. As far as she knew he was still alive. Alfred would have to go with that until he heard otherwise. (28a)

By the middle of May, Charlotte wrote to Kendig:
I don’t know what to say about Manhood. If only A. did not think he had to say ‘everything’ in a nutshell, if only he would not have the feeling that this is the most important thing he has ever written and would not worry so much about it, it would be so much easier. It is still very rough. I suppose if we do come back right away that would be the end of it. If he would only write 4 or 5 pages and not try to say so much. Well, I just try to do the very best I can, and I must say, he does too. It has possibilities of being very good, if it ever gets done. (29)
Two weeks later, she gave Kendig this ‘progress’ note about “the intro. situation”:
Sometimes I am pessimistic, sometimes optimistic. Right now I am rather optimistic. Needless to say, the book will not be out before the Congress. But we will have the Credo reprints anyway. About the book, the printer did some changing of dates, but of course I can’t get too angry because we haven’t finished our job I suspect (he is supposed to call me this pm) some time the first week in June would be the deadline for the intro. Whether true or not, I’ll tell them to give us the date of, say, June 6. Then maybe it will be ready soon after.

In A.’s words, whatever we have written so far is lousy. Besides, it isn’t put together right. If A.’s present mood keeps up, I believe he will be psycho-logically ready to put it together later today or tomorrow. It is the structure that bothers. We can go on adding, cutting out, revising, talking about, but very soon that has to stop and it has to be clinched into a structure. I just honestly don’t know what to say, as sometimes I think we should return immediately to Lime Rock, as there must be so many things there to be done, and for your sake; then it seems rather a pity, when so much money has been spent, and time consumed, and the possibility, if not the probability, of being so close to the end and finally getting it done – I just don’t know what to do. I know A. wants very much to finish in a few days. And I hate to squelch that, even if I actually do have doubts. We cannot stay here indefinitely. I rather hope that the printer’s date will spur the energy for the final spurt. However, if you believe it is urgent for us to return now, let me know. (30)
Several days later, she wrote:
Our dear MK – 
A note while sitting glued to my chair. We do nothing but work at Intro. for past days, every waking moment. At last it is getting a satisfactory structure [and] A. is enthusiastic. I also believe it has fine possibilities. Hope we can finish tonight putting together.

A. says we will finish this week. I have my doubts, knowing the process of de-lousing. (31)
Charlotte managed to get out of the hotel more than Alfred, but she also managed to cajole him to leave his room occasionally for some recreation. On June 7, she wrote that Allen Walker Read, the President of the New York Society for General Semantics, of whom both she and Alfred had become very fond, “went with us to Hamlet yesterday. A. sort of enjoyed it, but not as much as I had hoped. Anyway, it was a good thing for him to get out.” One day past the printer’s deadline date, they still seemed far from completing the introduction:
If we can just get it that it is in a semi-final form, I will be happy. No one I suppose has been more set in strong hopes of seeing Manhood than I; that is, I have had my heart set on it, as have you too, and Alfred. The psycho-logical difficulties have been great, and I shall ask for no more now than to have it in a somewhat finished form, to which he can go back relatively easily in Lime Rock after the seminar. This would mean a tremendous lot for him, and also will help to clarify his speech for the Congress. I believe he expects to finish it pronto, however, and I have not mentioned anything otherwise to him. (32)

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. 
23. D.A. Linwood [Levine]. Institute of General Semantics –1945 to 1950 – A Personal History. Unpublished. 

24. AK & Charlotte Schuchardt to M. Kendig, 4/21/1949. IGS Archives. 

25. AK Manhood Notes, ND. IGS Archives. 

26. M. Kendig in “Memorandum to IGS Officers and Trustees of Finance Committee on Proposed Sale of IGS Building”. 4/2-3/1949. IGS Archives. 

27. “Excerpt from a letter from S.I. Hayakawa to Robert L. Read”, 5/5/1949. AKDA, IGS Scrapbook 6.218-220. 

28. David Linwood [Levine] to BIK, Personal Communication. 

28a. Australian labor historian Di Kelly who has written about Polakov and is working on his biography recently (Feb. 24, 2015) sent me this information on Polakov's death:

San Mateo Times (Newspaper) - Tues. December 21, 1948, San Mateo, California Death Claims Bridegroom, 69, PALO ALTO, Dec. death of a 69-year-old bridegroom at the Palo Alto hospital last night ended a "June and December" marriage after exactly one month. Dr. Walter Polakov, Russian born industrial engineer who married Mrs. Yvonne B. Higgles, 24, on November 20 after taking out a license in San Mateo county, succumbed to an illness at 11 p. m. last night. Much interest was evinced in the marriage after Polakov, even then on crutches, was assisted up court house steps in Redwood City by his bride-to-be, the mother of a 7-year- old daughter by a previous marriage. Both gave their addresses then as 626 Middlefield road, Palo Alto, and they have continued to live at that address. Until recently Polakov had been consulting engineer for the United Mine Workers. Funeral arrangements are to be announced later by Tinney and Sons of Palo Alto.

29. Charlotte Schuchardt to Kendig, 5/13/1949. IGS Archives. 

30. Charlotte Schuchardt to Kendig, 5/27/1949. IGS Archives. 

31. Charlotte Schuchardt to Kendig, 5/31/1949. IGS Archives. 

32. Charlotte Schuchardt to Kendig, 6/7/1949. IGS Archives.

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