Sunday, December 14, 2014

Chapter 34 - "Don't You See The Electron?": 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.

By the end of 1927, Korzybski’s general mood had sunk; he had come to feel stuck in Brooklyn. Other than an October weekend with Mira at Polakov’s cabin on Long Island, he had not had a vacation in a very long time. He got another little break from his desk at the end of November when he helped Mira put on an exhibition of her work in Manhattan. But except for occasionally going to the movies with her, he had few distractions. He and Mira did get a kitten, whom they named “Sally” in honor of their friend Sally Avery. (Because of their traveling they had to give her away the following year.) The kitten provided some amusement for Alfred as he sat at his desk. He spent most of his time working there, seven days a week.

At this point he was keeping Time-Binding: The General Theory, An Introduction to Humanology as his working-title. Keyser had previously put forward Suggestions Towards a Better Scientific Methodology, which Alfred had rejected.(1)  He thought his work had more value than just its suggestiveness. A little before, he had written to Jesse Bennett:
I do not overestimate my work, it might be all wrong I am perfectly willing to grant this to anybody, but it is a new work, an attempt to build a non-aristotelian system, and attempt to build a science of man, and apply scientific method as known in 1927 to man, and no matter how fallacious, it is the first attempt of this kind, and so I have justified my existence anyway. (2)
But however “grand” his “ideas”, as he wrote to Roy Haywood, “...these “ideas” will not write the book.”(3)  

With the start of 1928, Mira was going to have to go on the road again to make some money. He hated the long separations but, by the end of January, he was considering going away himself—specifically to Pasadena where he anticipated getting some help from E.T. Bell and others at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). If he was ever going to produce the damn book, he had to do it soon. He had just gotten a letter from a cousin of his in Warsaw, “telling me that it is imperative that I go home, my mother is seemingly getting rather weak and the business (properties) going to the dogs.” He felt “pressed like hell.”(4) In a few weeks, his plans had gelled. He wrote to Philip Graven on February 11:
The 27th of February I am sailing from N.Y. to New Orlean and from New Orlean by train to Pasadena where I will work at The California Polytechnic [sic], with such men as Bell and Bateman in mathematics and Epstein in the quantum theory. They are all world famous in their specialties...This mental solitude is beginning to affect me badly, and my nerves do not act as well as they should, I am getting too[,] something …it looks to me as the beginnings of neurasthenia or something from over work and worry. I need some change and some cooperation of men who can understand what I am talking about, the rest make me feel rotten. I am getting downhearted and unfit to carry it alone…(5) 

At the end of February after going to Washington for a few days to confer with Graven, Alfred returned to Brooklyn, said goodbye to Mira, and boarded “The Creole” of the Southern Pacific Steamship Line. With him he took some suitcases and a trunk carrying his books and a number of Anthropometers. He found the six-day ocean trip to New Orleans quite restful. The somewhat shorter train trip got him to the city of Pasadena, just northeast of Los Angeles, more than a week after he had left New York. Whatever the discomforts of traveling and then resettling in a new place, the trip had left him feeling somewhat renewed.

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. C. J. Keyser to AK, 9/16/1927. AKDA 19.47. 

2. AK to J. L. Bennett, 8/6/27. AKDA 21.586. 

3. AK to H. L. Haywood, 1/29/1928. AKDA 21.641. 

4. AK to H. L. Haywood, 1/2/1928. AKDA 21.571. 

5. AK to Philip Graven, 2/11/1928. AKDA 21.701.

> Part 2

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