Thursday, October 2, 2014

Chapter 22 - "Just Work, Work, Work": Part 5 - Monkeying with the Octopuses

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.

At the end of October, Alfred and Mira found themselves in a rush of packing and last minute planning for their trip to Southern California. They also busied themselves saying goodbye to friends. President Barrow of the University of California gave a party in their honor, one last time for them to see many of the people they had met at Berkeley. Finally, in the first week of November 1921, trunks and suitcases in tow, they took the train to Los Angeles. 

Alfred and Mira felt exhausted when they arrived. Anticipating some time to rest, they were instead subjected to phone calls, newspaper interviews, and gatherings in their honor. But they put up with the attention. Of course, the newspaper stories could lead to confusion. Many of the stories misconstued Alfred’s claim “Man is not an animal”, implying that he opposed Darwin’s theory of evolution. The headline of one story about him in the Friday, November 4 issue of the L.A. Examiner read “Darwin Downed! Count In L. A. Denies Man Is Animal[.] World Famed Polish Nobleman and Philosopher Tells of Discoveries”.(19) He certainly had no wish to down Darwin.
AKDA 3.47
"Man Time-Binder, Says Count, Declares He Unites Past, Future, in Now",
Los Angeles Express, Sat., Nov. 5, 1921
The couple settled into the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles where Mira would stay on for awhile after Alfred went south. Alfred was not expected by Ritter until the following week so they had some time to do at least a little sightseeing which included visiting the Goldwyn Picture Studios in Culver City, where they met writer/director Rupert Hughes, watched a movie being made, and got their picture in the paper once again. Alfred planned to visit with Ritter in La Jolla, and perhaps get some speaking engagements around San Diego, sell some books, and get some work done on his next book. Meanwhile Mira explored opportunities to paint in Los Angeles and Pasadena while also doing what she could to promote Alfred’s work. What they thought would involve a few weeks before heading east would turn into several months. People praised Alfred’s book and went to exhibitions of Mira’s paintings, but paying engagements—at least for any significant amount of money—were few and far between. They would not leave Southern California until April of the following year, 1922.

On November 11, Alfred took a train from Los Angeles to the Delmar station where Ritter had arranged to meet him.(20) Soon, Alfred had settled himself and his bags into beachfront Cabin #3 at the Scripps Institute of Biological Research in La Jolla. Alfred’s three-room, furnished cottage with a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom cost him 12 dollars a month, plus a few dollars for gas and electricity. With a bus stop near the Institute, which stood on a bluff above the beach, he could get to San Diego when he wanted. One could find worse places to spend the winter.
At La Jolla, California, The Scripps Biological Research Station,
on steps of cottage where Korzybski spent winter of 1921-1922

But to begin with he was not in the best of moods. For one thing, he had arrived at La Jolla with a bad cold.(21) The parties, the packing, the rush, the newspaper interviews, etc., over the last few weeks had left him feeling tired and bothered. For all the attention he received, he didn’t like being trotted out like a zoo specimen for exhibition. He disliked the exaggerations by journalists in their headlines and articles (“world’s greatest philosopher”, “war hero”, etc.).

He also felt pressed by worries. Mira had spent most of her adult life with no fixed home. One of her friends in Los Angeles once referred to her as a “beloved vagabond”. But Alfred—who had lived as a vagabond since the start of the war seven years earlier—yearned to be settled at home in Poland. Money concerned him. The question of how he and Mira were going to make ends meet once they left for Poland formed a constant nagging concern, especially since they were even having trouble making ends meet in the United States.(22) 

And his efforts to write his next book—about how time-binding worked—had opened up new problems. He felt pressed to make sense of his endless reading. He struggled with his writing. How did the foundations of mathematics, relativity theory, and now Ritter’s biology, among other things, all connect to each other in terms of the mechanism of time-binding? What was their practical import for living life? He could see the outline of something important ahead but it was still shrouded in a great deal of fog. As he wrote to his friend Robert Wolf, “There is a lot of troubles with ideas if we want them to be correct.”(23) He was glad to finally have some time to be alone and think. He hoped his meetings with Ritter and others at Scripps would give him the opportunity to gain some added clarity.

Alfred set up his work table so he could look out to the Pacific from a window. He loved the “music of the ocean”, and watching the “endless waves” helped him forget his troubles. He looked forward to a good storm.(24) He had brought with him a number of books on mathematical logic and relativity to study.

For recreation, he swam in the ocean. As he had first learned to swim in the cold water of the drainage pond of his family’s farm in Poland, the chilly Pacific waters did not dissuade him. As he later recalled:
I enjoyed in the meantime the Pacific and I bathed there and I don’t know, monkeyed with the octopuses,…and I don’t know what not...(25)  
We had a colony of seals and we were good friends and so I liked to swim with them. They didn’t approve my company, but I didn’t care. I did my swimming. I had to deal with all those squids, rays,… I had to be very careful not to put my foot in an abalone because they would bite my foot off...So, I swam a lot there alone, means without supervision, and I went quite far in the Pacific, but I returned somehow successfully. (26) 

He would also see more than one good storm. At the end of December, when he had been at La Jolla for more than a month, he wrote good-humoredly to Keyser that:
We had what they call here “golden rain.” I was impressed as a “diamond” rain at least. We had ghastly storms for several days, and terrible muds, of course bridges have gone mails have stopped etcetc. A large piece of the shore where my cabin stands has gone several more of such storms and my cabin will go. Than I will write to you from “somewhere in the Pacific” buy buy [bye bye] in the meantime, still in America (27) 

Getting carried away in a storm could not be entirely dismissed. The cabin was certainly small enough. Once, when Mira was staying with him there, it stormed while they were sleeping. The window near the bed kept blowing open. Alfred didn’t want to get out of bed any more than he already had to; he held the window closed with one foot, sticking out from under the covers.(28)

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. 
19. “Darwin Downed! Count In LA Denies Man Is Animal[.] World Famed Polish Nobleman and Philosopher Tells of Discoveries”. L.A. Examiner, Friday, November 4, 1921. AKDA 3.46. 

20. Telegram, W. E. Ritter to AK, 11/9/1921. AKDA 11.747. 

21. AK to Luella Twining, 11/12/1921. AKDA 11.702. 

22. AK to Amy Edgerly Rush and Minnie Edgerly Russell, 12/22/1921. AKDA 11.581. 

23. AK to Robert Wolf, 11/12/1921. AKDA 11.710.

24. AK to Cora Williams, 11/12/1921. AKDA 11.711. 

25. Korzybski 1947, p. 224. 

26. Ibid., p. 423. 

27. AK to C. J. Keyser, 12/22/1921. AKDA 11.595. 

28. Korzybski 1947, p. 224.

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