Monday, March 2, 2015

Chapter 52 - "Recognition But Very Little Money": Part 4 - "Do You See Red?"

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.

As Alfred was putting the finishing touches on his presentation in early May, grim news continued to come out of Europe. Poles who had escaped to the West had already told of the widespread destruction inflicted on their country by both Nazi and Soviet invaders.(12) In Scandanavia, the Germans were wrapping up a spring offensive against Norway and Denmark and moving into Luxemburg, Holland, and Belgium, which soon fell. In June, Alfred got his U.S. citizenship and may have quietly celebrated by going out to eat at a fish and chips place with Mira.(13) As the month progressed, when he was not teaching or writing, the news of the fall of France absorbed him. In an astonishingly short period of time, the Germans—moving down from Belgium—had simply gone around, and to some extent through, the major portion of the “Maginot Line”, the extensive series of defense fortifications the French had built along the German and Italian borders with great confidence that they could hold back the Nazi advance. By the end of June, Germany occupied the northern half of France while a collaborationist French puppet government was establishing itself in the south with its capital in Vichy. Korzybski expressed his disgust in part 1 of section H of the “Introduction” which he entitled ‘Maginot Line Mentalities’:
Present day scientific researches and historical world developments show there is no doubt that the old aristotelian epoch of human evolution is dying...I doubt if in the whole of human history there is a more accentuated illustration than the tragic and sudden collapse, in the summer of 1940, of the French government and army, and eventually of French culture and ‘democracy’...We test the freshness or deterioration of fishes by smelling the head end, and as we know at the date of this writing, the head ends of the French ‘democracy’ have a putrid odor...The ‘Maginot line mentality’ will become a historical classic, and will be applied quite appropriately to other than military fields. It means a thoughtless, self-deceptive, etc., ‘security’ in antiquated systems as matched by modern methods of 1940. (14)  
However demoralized he may have felt, he didn’t mope. His typical style of coping consisted of staying busy and getting busier, working as hard as he possibly could. He was teaching an Intensive Seminar and trying to finish his “Introduction to the Second Edition”. In June, one of his tasks in relation to that included writing to a number of scholars, luminaries, and others whom he knew, for examples of over/under defined terms in their fields. In July he started an evening seminar and in August another intensive. By the end of that month, he finished the first draft of the Introduction and began editing it with Kendig, Charlotte, and Pearl. Meanwhile, the main text for the new edition of the book was being printed.

With all this activity, he only saw Mira occasionally, talked with her on the phone perhaps once a week, and wrote an occasional letter (she wrote to him more often). Pearl and to some extent Charlotte, had become significant intermediaries between the two of them. Mira was becoming quite friendly with them. While she found the infrequent contact with Alfred unsatisfactory, she kept busy with other things. She was living and painting in her studio apartment on the Near North Side. In July, she had gone to Kansas City to visit her sisters. Minnie now had a room in a rest home that seems to have functioned much like an “assisted living facility”. Amy was thinking of giving up her farm and joining Minnie. When Mira returned from her trip, she busied herself with elaborating her notes from the IGS seminars she had audited with Alfred’s permission. For years, she had had a tremendous involvement with Alfred’s work. She had always given it the highest importance. Now despite the troubles of recent years between them, despite her promises to not involve herself with the Institute and with his work, she had gotten re-engaged.

On August 16, Mira sent a blue presentation folder to Alfred. The first of the twenty-six collated pages, obviously the title page, had the following in large type at its center: “When Where and How do you see RED? ask ME one of the Million”. The word “RED” was printed in red. As she later explained to Alfred, she was not presenting this as anything more than her rough ruminations. In a note to him that accompanied the manuscript, she wrote that a wealthy woman she had met in the course of her work had gotten interested in GS through discussions with her and had paid to get Mira’s crude typing neatly mimeographed. Mira also gave copies to one or two friends, besides this woman and Alfred. On the bottom right of the title page was typed “Copyright 1940” with “Mira Edgerly” below that. On the bottom left, was typed “Witness:" with a blank line below it.

Inside were the results of Mira’s ponderings as she had studied her seminar notes and considered the war in Europe and Asia. GS, for her, gave a new and important slant to the age-old theme, “the pen is mightier than the sword”. The opening page shows a deep and heartfelt understanding of her husband’s work and a clear talent for expressing it, albeit in an amateurish way:
“The Pen is Mightier than the Sword”

“Whose Pen?”
Read and see for yourself.
This pen, with which my hand is making these dark marks on this white paper; these word-marks, as objects, or as recorded language is of no living-value to any living-being. For, what is under my hand is neither edible...clothable...sleepable...sit-onable. I ask you to eat, to dress, to sleep or to sit-on this piece of paper: What then is it, in any pen that is mightier than the sword?

It is in the fact that when, and only when these pen-marks are taken as tools for communication, these tools which I now am using and with which I am now trying to convey what is going-on inside my skin to inside your skin; namely, their living-value to you depends entirely on how much alive you are to the neurological processes involved. These pen-marks are an extension onto this paper of what is going on inside my skin and its living-value to you, inside your skin, is entirely in proportion as to how your living nervous system reacts to those pen-marks and what you make out of them, inside your skin...(15)
When he read the manuscript, Alfred ‘saw red’ alright. On August 18, he wrote to C.B. Congdon:
Dear C. B.,
I am deeply distressed by my wife’s latest episode in mimeographing. It looks to me very similar to the episode she had around 1936. ...This episode lasted for a pretty long time, and as you know, did endless harm to me and my work. 
After her South American trip she seemingly recovered. Now seemingly she has another episode which most probably will be more harmful to our work and me than the first one. 
The enclosed latest verbalistic outburst I am afraid shows clearly the symptoms of another forthcoming episode. I am afraid I made a mistake to let her attend my seminars, in spite of the fact that I insisted on her attending as a student, not as a wife. It seems that it only supplied her with material for some worthless verbalism. By now I know that my direct dealing with her leads nowhere. 
I did my best for 21 years and I admit I see no results. 
I will be very grateful to you if you would see her, diagnose her case, and give her some stern advices which perhaps would be more effective than whatever I may say...
...I telephoned to my wife, roughly telling her the content of this letter, asking her to stop distributing her mimeographed episodes, and I am sending to her a copy of this letter. My seeing her personally would do no good and I believe should be avoided. (16) 
Alfred not only phoned Mira, he apparently visited her the previous day. Neither conversation could have been a happy one. In a note dated then—Saturday, August 17—Mira wrote: “Doubtless you had a taste of the flood – I had over the phone – after you left – today.” Above this she had copied down the following limerick, which seems easy to read, in this context, as a testament of the shame she must have felt:
“How happy is the moron,
he doesn’t give a damn.
I wish I were a moron,
My gosh, perhaps I am.”(17) 
Alfred finished his letter to Congdon with further complaints about Mira’s spending habits and the trouble her ‘episode’ had caused him. He already had a mixed reputation in the academic/scientific community around Chicago and was not totally unconcerned about what people might think.

Allen Walker Read could testify to the academic resistance of many at the University of Chicago. An English language scholar and lexicographer, he would not attend his first Korzybski seminar until the 1941 Winter Intensive, but he had already become one of Korzybski’s most solid students and supporters. Born in Minnesota in 1906, Read grew up in Iowa where his father worked as the one-man science faculty of Iowa State Teacher’s College in Cedar Falls. With a love of the English language inspired by H. L. Mencken’s The American Language, Read had decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and take up an academic career studying English as a scientist. With a 1926 M.A. in English from the University of Iowa, he taught English at the University of Missouri before being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship for study at Oxford University from 1928 to 1932 where he specialized in descriptive linguistics and lexicography. His extensional attitude and down-to-earth interest in how people talk had already led him in the late 1920s to collect material, i.e., men’s room graffiti, that others did not consider suitable for academic study in English. His resulting book on ‘nasty’ words, Lexical Evidence From Folk Epigraphy In Western North America: A Glossarial Study of the Low Element in the English Vocabulary had to be privately published in Paris in 1935 in a limited edition of 75 copies. (It was reprinted in 1977 by Maledicta Press under the title, Classic American Graffiti.) In 1932, Read had come to work at the University of Chicago as a research associate and as an Assistant Editor of the Dictionary of American English. He first heard of Korzybski in 1936, read Science and Sanity at that time, and found that Korzybski’s system provided a congenial, scientific orientation for his own studies. “It struck me as exemplifying the rigorous intellectual discipline that I was looking for.”(18) Read had left Chicago for England in 1938 on a Guggenheim fellowship. Unable to stay there when the war started in the fall of 1939, he returned to the U.S. where he finished out his fellowship in 1940 by studying at the New York City Public Library. He returned to Chicago in 1941, to become a colleague of S. I. Hayakawa at the Armour Institute of Technology as an instructor of English. He would also come to know Korzybski and become friends with Kendig, and Charlotte Schuchardt (whom he would marry in 1953).
Allen Walker Read Photo by Charlotte Schuchardt Read, 1954(19)
Even before his return to Chicago, Read had had a chance to observe the responses to Korzybski in the academic community there:
...Intellectual interests were very much polarized by the new young president, Robert Maynard Hutchins, and by his henchman Mortimer Adler. They espoused the “Great Books” movement, which seemed to many of us to be backward-looking and in opposition to experimental science... (20)  
Korzybski...was not much accepted by the University community. There were several reasons for this. He was regarded as “over-eager”—pushing his own worth too zealously. Then he used the word “non-Aristotelian” to describe his work, and the defenders of Aristotle’s greatness took offense. Any amount of explaining that Korzybski respected and even venerated Aristotle did not suffice. Furthermore, Korzybski did not come up from a specialized discipline, as one is supposed to do, but burst forth as a full-blown generalist. And he was scornful of the traditional philosophers. I have even heard him use the callow word-play “foolosophers,” and no wonder the foolosophers boycotted him. (21)
Mira certainly did not want to give ammunition to the ‘foolosophers’. She had not intended her missive to be taken too seriously—even with her mention of ‘copyright’ on the first page and of the ‘publisher’ in the text. She had only given copies to a few interested friends and to Alfred. But Alfred did have a certain point in believing he couldn’t afford to have her playing around like that. People would tend to judge her—as his wife—by different, more stringent standards and would, in turn, be likely to judge him by her behavior.

Mira regretted what she had done. But Alfred’s severity disturbed her. She felt he was making too much of the whole thing—to the point of gross unfairness. She felt, as she told him, that he had still not acknowledged his own part in their ongoing vicious circle. Since she had returned from South America at the end of 1938, Mira had felt increasingly cut off from Alfred by his request not to involve herself with his work and with the Institute. Since the founding of the Institute, and especially with the beginning of that year’s financial crisis, he had become even more single-focused on his work. As a result he had almost no time left for her and she yearned for more contact. Besides, his request for her to not get involved with his work had become impossible for her to follow. She had always felt interested, and her attendance at the seminars (with his permission) had awakened her interest still further. She had also felt unduly constrained by his request for her to avoid communicating with people at the University of Chicago and others whom she knew, who were somehow connected to his work. Now, Alfred trusted her even less.

Mira felt she couldn’t win. When she tried to explain and to document her side of things to Congdon, Alfred accused her of broadcasting their private life again. (Congdon may have talked to Mira a few times and received some letters from her but otherwise seems to have wisely avoided getting himself caught in the middle of the dispute.) Alfred also complained about her spending habits over the last year. In 1939 he had agreed to her spending extra money in order to set up her painting studio/apartment. This amount was over and above the regular amount Alfred was giving to her as a monthly stipend for her rent and daily expenses. (She got extra money as well from Alfred’s book royalties, which he considered her due.) She had intended to pay back this ‘loan’ within the next year and she did. She felt Alfred had no right to complain.

With all their problems, they didn’t stop communicating. When Mira wouldn’t answer the phone for fear of a tirade from Alfred, he would write to her. Pearl would also call or come by to take her to the bank, give her news of the Institute, or drop off something Alfred wanted her to see. In the first week of October Pearl dropped off a draft of Alfred’s “Introduction” for Mira to read. Alfred wanted to rub in the point, as he wrote in a letter to her then, that she had very little understanding of what serious writing entailed. He would not dare to publish anything he had not painstakingly edited first. This, the tenth draft, still didn’t satisfy him. (By this time, the text of the Second Edition was already printed and the “Introduction”, the manuscript of which he finally sent off to Science Press in mid-November, remained the chief thing to be done.)

Mira could admit that Alfred had some reasonable points to make about her behavior. But did he have to be so hard on her? He threw up to her things she had previously said and done that he might better have forgiven and forgotten. He blamed her for other things too. For example, he wrote to her that her 1936 ‘broadcast’ had been responsible for their current financial mess by planting a seed of alienation in Campbell and—through him—in Crane. But did responsibility for what happened in 1936 lay solely on Mira’s shoulders? And how could he know that Crane’s withdrawal from the Institute had anything much to do with that whole sorry episode? Worrying about money and how he was going to keep a roof over either of their heads, Alfred seemed too distressingly busy as 1940 came to a close, to be able to hear Mira’s side of things. It didn’t help that he wasn’t feeling well. What seemed like a bad cold turned into pneumonia. It laid him low and lingered on into the spring of 1941, though for the most part he kept on working.

The Institute’s problems at the end of the year were not due to lack of recognition. The response of the psychiatric and mental health communities had been outstanding. New university courses incorporating GS continued to get organized. Articles about Korzybski and his work were being published in professional journals, magazines, and the daily press. The 1940 version of Hayakawa’s Language in Action had gotten favorable reviews. 

In June a short book by Aldous Huxley, Words And Their Meanings, had come out which gave more attention to Korzybski’s work. Huxley, a resident of Los Angeles, had first read Science and Sanity in 1938. He wrote then to his brother Julian:
“Have you read Korzybski’s Science and Sanity? If not, I think you shd—in spite of the fact that the author is maddening and his book 800 pp long. For he does seem to have said things about ‘Semantics’—the relation of words to things and events—which are of the highest importance. And incidentally he seems to have read practically everything.” (22) 
In Los Angeles, the movie world had also discovered Korzybski. In 1939 screenwriter and producer Robert Lord had read Science and Sanity, written some articles about it in Rob Wagner’s Script, a Los Angeles-based magazine along the lines of The New Yorker, and had attended the 1939 Winter Intensive seminar. Lord was helping the Institute with a monthly donation and, along with some of Korzybski’s other Los Angeles students, may have been one of those responsible for getting a number of Hollywood actors and actresses interested as well. 

Korzybski’s work figured prominently in Oliver Reiser’s book The Promise of Scientific Humanism, published at year’s end. Topping the 1940 publicity for the Institute, the national magazine Newsweek published an article “A Healer of Mental Muddles” with a photograph of Korzybski in the “Education” section of its December 30 issue.

Unfortunately all this publicity had so far not translated into adequate funding and Korzybski was struggling just to keep the Institute afloat. As he wrote to Mrs. Dewing, “...we have got more recognition than could possibly be expected, except that most of the people we are dealing with are of very limited means, so we have recognition but very little money.”(23) As for the muddle between him and Mira, it seemed anything but healed. By the beginning of 1941, Mira wanted no more of her no-win situation with Alfred. She decided to leave Chicago. 

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. 
11. AK to Cornelius Crane, 6/3/1939. IGS Archives. 

12. “Poles Gather Data On ‘Pillage’ By Foes”, New York Times, Jan. 19, 1940. 

13. MEK to AK, 6/13/1940. AK Archives, Box 22, Folder 6.491. 

14. Korzybski 1994 (1933). “Introduction To The Second Edition 1941”, p. lxix. 

15. “When Where and How do you see Red?” AK Archives, Box 22, Folder 4. 

16. AK to C.B. Congdon, 8/18/1940. IGS Archives. 

17. MEK to AK, 8/17/1940. AK Archives, Box 22.6.467. 

18. Allen Walker Read. “Changing Attitudes Toward Korzybski’s General Semantics”. General Semantics Bulletin 51, p. 12. 

19. Allen Walker Read having tea at “The Honeypot”, Pevensey Bay, England, July 11, 1954. Photograph by Charlotte Schuchardt Read. IGS Archives. 

20. Allen Walker Read. “A Personal Journey Through Linguistics” in Allen Walker Read 2002, p. 307. 

21. Ibid., p. 309. 

22. Aldous Huxley to Julian Huxley, July 22, 1938. in Smith 1969, p. 436. 

23. AK to F. Dewing, 9/10/1940. IGS Archives.

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