Sunday, October 26, 2014

Chapter 26 - "Fate And Freedom": Part 1 - Introduction

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.

Alfred would bring Mira to Poland with him as his “war bride”. And Mira would bring with her ‘everything’ she had acquired over her years as a freelance artist. ‘Everything’ amounted to a lot.(1) Her belongings included clothing (much of which she had made herself); various velvets, brocades, silks, and other materials she had gathered in her travels; as well as art supplies, art work, genuine jewelry, costume jewelry, assorted tchotchkes, books, scrapbooks, photographs, written records, etc. In a later unpublished memoir, she described how she had ended up with the many trunks now in storage:
For several years I had the custom of, for instance, being in Scotland and would suddenly discover a desirable client was on the Riviera…or Hamburg. I would buy a trunk to store my tweeds in, and buy another trunk for my other costumes, and have them…put in the Manhattan Storage…the number of trunks I had accumulated made a truckload. (2)
On their return to New York City, they had found an apartment on East 22nd Street, a couple of blocks north of Gramercy Park and the National Arts Club. But it didn’t give them the space they needed to spread out and sort through all this stuff and pack what they were going to take. Luckily, within a couple of weeks they saw a sign one block away announcing “Basement for Rent”. They moved in for $10 a month. They found the basement at 30 East 22nd Street a “very large, warm, and comfortable place to pack, repack and crate” their trunks and suitcases. Someone they knew, an administrator at one of the New York City hospitals, was able to get a large brass bed from the hospital for them to use. In a sub-basement area, Alfred found a nice big mahogany desk he could use for writing. They were set.

Mira called the Manhattan Storage Company and her truckload of trunks was delivered forthwith—well, actually not so forthwith. Mira called later in the morning to find out about the delay. She was told the driver had indeed arrived at the expected delivery time, taken one look at the basement apartment entrance, and decided the elegant trunks he had brought with him did not belong in such an unfashionable place. He drove his loaded truck back to the warehouse. With the second delivery later that day, the Korzybskis had over 20 trunks and several hundred bags and suitcases spread out on the basement floor.(3) When Mira decided not to return to Chicago in October, the Drake Hotel manager sent them several more of her trunks and bags which were added to the collection. Alfred’s contribution to this accumulation consisted mostly of books, over 100 volumes, which could be packed tightly in trunks amongst various other items, and his minimal (compared to Mira) amount of clothing— mostly khakis, one or two suits, etc.(4) 

Alfred and Mira put up lines of picture-wire across the basement ceiling so that Mira could take out her clothes to hang, examine, and sort. Meanwhile Alfred was dragging trunks, suitcases, and bags around the basement, consolidating smaller items to put into larger wooden crates which he would nail shut. It was hard work. He joked about his “rather foolish habit to hit once the nail, once my hand”.(5) Their activities in the basement apartment drew some outside interest. They had met a sidewalk coffee vendor who had a lunch wagon on the street above their front entryway. They had also introduced themselves to the policeman who worked the neighborhood beat. Apparently, it was easy from their apartment to hear the two men conversing. Early one morning, as Mira related it,
…I heard the voice of that policeman…say to the coffee vendor in a low voice “That couple in the back look damn queer to me, I wonder if they’re smugglers.” The doors in our basement were so old that a mild puff and huff would separate them from the hinges. To offset that effect Alfred had put on a large brass padlock on the door, while in the rear we only stuck in an old iron fork...Alfred was at his desk when I heard a man’s boots tiptoeing down the hall. I attracted Alfred’s attention, held my lips tight together to indicate silence, and motioned to the back door. Very quietly Alfred went there, swung it open, and there was the policeman kneeling to get his ear to the keyhole. Alfred invited him in to enjoy the hearty laughter over glasses of wine. (6)
Alfred and Mira had initially thought they could leave for Poland within a month. But packing was taking much more time than they had anticipated. By the beginning of October, they pushed back leaving for another month or so. In the meantime, Alfred was getting more publicity and finding more interest in his work. Manhood continued to get reviews. Then the September and October issues of the National Brain Power Monthly featured a two-part article by Alfred and Walter’s friend Charles W. Wood. The piece managed to discuss Alfred’s work through the unlikely-sounding topic of “Let’s Abolish Death: An Interview with Walter N. Polakov, America’s Leading Engineer, in Which He Nearly Frightens Us to Death by Saying that Death Itself is a Habit, and that if We Choose to Do so We May Go on Living Forever Right Here on This Planet”.(7) 

Walter was also getting the Time-Binding Club started again with a plan to have Alfred give a weekly talk at his studio. And Alfred was not only anticipating the publication of “The Brotherhood of Doctrines” in The Builder, he was planning to do his own little publicity campaign by distributing, via mail and in person, the 1000 reprints of the article he had ordered. Surprises awaited. First, the National Masonic Research Society mailed him 2000 reprints instead of 1000. Then he discovered they had not printed the last page with the logical fate diagram. The Society office quickly corrected the error. They printed and sent him the 2000 extra pages. After placing the missing page inside each reprint, he started to send them out to people on his mailing list. He soon began to get thank you letters with comments, which provided grist for further formulating. When November rolled around Alfred got another surprise from The Builder, this time from Haywood. Publication of the article had already been delayed twice. Now Haywood’s boss, who seldom interfered with editorial decisions, asked him not to publish Korzybski’s piece at all. Probably having seen one of the reprints ‘floating around’, he considered the article too ‘highbrow’ and not sufficiently related to Freemasonry. There was little that Haywood, who felt his job might be at stake, could do. Alfred felt disappointed. If the original would not see print, at least he had the ‘reprints’ to use. (Haywood finally did manage to get “The Brotherhood of Doctrines” published in The Builder, but only more than a year later, in the April 1924 issue.)

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. 
1. AK to Scudder Klyce, 12/9/1922. AKDA 9.286-7. 

2. MEK., Autobiographical Memoir (Unpublished), p. 38, IGS Archives. 

3. AK to Scudder Klyce, 12/9/1922. AKDA 9.286-7; AK to Harvey O’Higgins, 12/7/1922. AKDA 9.300. 

4. AK Personal Notebooks. AKDA 37. 

5. AK to Harvey O’Higgins, 12/7/1922. AKDA 9.300. 

6. MEK, Autobiographical Memoir (Unpublished), p. 42, IGS Archives. 

7. “Let’s Abolish Death...”. AKDA 3.140-141. 

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