Sunday, May 31, 2015

Chapter 61 - "I Don't Care A Damn About Those Yahoos...": Part 6 - Looking Back

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.

Korzybski had begun to look back over his life and work. Recent events had likely stirred reminiscence: the Institute’s abrupt and traumatic move to Lime Rock after its years in Chicago; his concerns over the Society, the fate of the Institute, and misinterpretations of his work; Mira’s ill health and his own aches and pains and increasing age; and the recent deaths of friends. He had other reasons too for looking back. Manhood of Humanity, long out of print, had sat on the to-do list for several years. Mira had long stressed to him the significance of time-binding and, perhaps as a result of this, he had begun to more strongly reconnect to the importance of his earlier formulation as the foundation of everything he had done since 1921. The two encyclopedia articles he had written, as well as Guthrie Janssen’s work on Selections from Science and Sanity, which involved conferences between the two men, had also forced Alfred to review and reassess his lifework starting with Manhood. Now he, Kendig, and Charlotte had begun to plan for a Second Edition, for which he still had to write a new introduction. But work on Manhood would have to wait. 

Over the last year, the rate of sales of Science and Sanity had zoomed, and by the end of April 1947, the supply of the Second Edition was nearly exhausted.(31) Back orders would soon start to accumulate at the Institute (now that Science Press was going out of business as a distributor, the Institute had taken over that role). Enough had happened since 1941, over the last few years in particular, to justify putting out a Third Edition with a new Preface. That now topped his writing list. Although he could spit out something fairly quickly, getting it into publishable shape involved a much slower process for Korzybski. Completing the Preface, now gestating, couldn’t wait too long if he wanted to get S&S back in print anytime soon. But it too would have to wait a little longer since he had gotten very busy by mid-year.

Korzybski had decided to go to Georgia to visit Ken and Roberta Keyes during the period between the early June ending of the Harvard intensive seminar and the August 16 start of the seminar-workshop. Although the Keyeses had abandoned their previous plans for a GS-based foundation and school, Ken had gotten interested in writing Korzybski’s biography and had been bugging Alfred for months to come down to record his memoirs. Korzybski, although somewhat reluctant, finally agreed to go. As he wrote to Vocha Fiske just before the trip,
Dear DD:
Too rushed to write. It is about midnight and Charlotte and I have to leave in the morning for Warm Springs to visit Keyes, and of all things to work day & night on my g-d biography. I am so damned sick of myself, and to have to shout into a transcriber is a poor sense of vacation to me, but the bosses (Charlotte & Kendig) ‘decreed’ and so poor me has to obey. (32) 

On June 24, Guthrie Janssen drove him and Charlotte to New York City to catch the Atlanta train. In Atlanta Ken and Roberta met the two and drove them to Warm Springs where the Keyeses now lived. Ken, severely stricken with polio early in 1946, seemed indomitable. Although his legs were completely paralyzed and his arms showed only a flicker of activity, he was now up and about in a wheelchair. He and Roberta had moved to Warm Springs with their two children, buying a house a couple of blocks from the famous Warm Springs Foundation where Ken was receiving therapy.

With the Keyeses paying for Alfred’s and Charlotte’s trip and rooms at the Warm Springs Hotel, Alfred spent the next two weeks recounting his life into Ken’s Audograph recorder, filling up 36 acetate discs. Ken also recorded Korzybski’s “Historical Note on the Structural Differential”, took photographs of Alfred, and movies of him and Charlotte. Roberta Rymer Keyes’ transcription of the recorded biographical material amounted to 499 typed pages, taking her close to 300 hours to do.(33) Without question, Ken Keyes, Jr. had a deep interest in GS. Over the next two years, he wrote a popular book based on some of Korzybski’s methods, How to Develop Your Thinking Ability, published by McGraw-Hill in 1950. Over the next five decades, he wrote a number of other books on nutrition, futurism, and personal development. “I never got around to writing the biography, though”, he confessed in his own 1989 autobiography.(34) He eventually lost the biographical recordings, but Roberta’s transcription, an invaluable account of otherwise undocumented aspects of Korzybski’s life (especially from its first half in Europe), became a valuable source for this book.
Alfred's 68th Birthday with the Keyeses
On July 9, Korzybski and Charlotte hurriedly packed to leave Warm Springs with Ken and Roberta, who drove them to Atlanta for a jarring train ride back to New York City. Before returning to Lime Rock, they stayed for about a week in Greenwich Village near Washington Square Park at the genteel, though somewhat rundown, old Albert Hotel (both Robert Louis Stevenson and Thomas Wolfe had once stayed there). Exhausted from the trip, they could “hibernate” at the Albert while Alfred got a new eyeglass prescription filled, his dentures refitted, and tried to finish the “Preface To The Third Edition”. Although she appreciated some aspects of country living, Charlotte definitely felt the advantages of life in New York City, with its many delicatessens, restaurants, shops, museums, plays, etc., all within a short walk or ride by taxi, bus, or subway. Korzybski appreciated being away from the many distractions of the Institute house in Lime Rock; he could just concentrate on writing.(35) Over the next two years, he would return to New York City with Charlotte, now his amanuensis and chief editor, for a number of extended stays to write.

As soon as they returned to Lime Rock and unpacked, Alfred and Charlotte had to get ready for the summer seminar-workshop to be held again at the Indian Mountain School starting August 16. Despite counting as Alfred’s 57th seminar since the founding of the Institute, he still had to prepare—making notes to himself before his presentations, having his assigned student-assistant take notes during the presentation, and reviewing these with the student after the lecture. The assistant could also remind him when he ‘got lost in a footnote’ and needed a cue for where he had left off in the main body of his talk. Despite the reappearance of much material from one seminar to the next, he continued reshuffling it, as well as adding new formulations (e.g, chain indexing within the last couple of years), demonstrations (he may have started doing the ‘Atomic Mousetrap’ demo this year to illustrate exponential functions), and stories and examples from the news, his reading, etc. He would note important books for students to read; this year he recommended Philip Frank’s newly published biography, Einstein: His Life and Times, which he considered beautifully written and important for understanding his own work.

The stories Korzybski told—not to entertain, he would emphasize, but to make a point—might offend some people. By this time, he had begun telling the following one from the March 1947 Reader’s Digest. Some white African planters suddenly faced a strike by their native workers. When the planters asked the leaders to explain the reason for the strike, the leaders said they were doing it because the planters ate Negroes. The astonished planters vehemently denied it and called for their native cook to clear up the mess. As Korzybski would tell it:
‘Did you ever cook a Negro for me?’ one planter asked. ‘Of course I did,’ replied the cook. ‘What? How did you serve it? Fried, or boiled, or what?’ The cook answered, ‘Oh, they were chopped to pieces.’ And the planters, who had ordered the pancake mix picturing ‘Aunt Jemima’ on the box, could not persuade the workers that they didn’t eat Negroes. (36)
After all, didn’t the cans and boxes of food from America always come with a picture of the contents inside? Alfred began to use the story in his lectures, not to show the foolishness of African natives compared to other ‘ more enlightened’ people, but as a particularly stark example of identification, to which everyone seemed prone—whether in such gross or in more subtle forms. (Korzybski subscribed to Harry Stack Sullivan’s dictum: “We are all more human than otherwise.”)

One would hardly know that the Institute had gotten to its lowest financial ebb from the appearance of the people-packed seminar. A number of previously attending students had returned, including Ralph Hamilton, whom Korzybski asked to work at the Institute after the seminar ended on September 5: ‘Go home, arrange your affairs and come back to IGS to work as an unpaid ‘dogs body’ [to get room and board, living at the Institute]; You will get the benefit.’ Ralph went home to Ohio, bought a car, packed some belongings, and drove back to the Institute to start working there that month.(37)  

Nineteen-year old Texan, Delphus David Bourland, Jr., now a Harvard undergraduate, had come for his first Institute seminar-workshop. As a student several years before at Culver Military Academy in Indiana, he had gotten enthralled by A. E. Van Vogt’s 1945 serial, “The World of Ā”, in Astounding Science Fiction, and more enthralled when he realized there actually existed an Institute of General Semantics—not located on Korzybski Square in the City of the Machine as in Van Vogt’s story, but in Chicago. Bourland had found a copy of Manhood of Humanity in the school library, read it, and had also written to the Institute for a copy of Science and Sanity, then out of print; he had to wait impatiently, getting Institute reprints in the meantime. When he finally did get his copy, it qualified as major news. A Culver English teacher whom he liked asked him at a pre-class meeting, “What are you doing these days, Bourland?” He replied “I finally got my copy of Science and Sanity!” “Oh,” said the teacher, “I had trouble with that book; I couldn’t get beyond 50 pages.” Bourland decided that whatever else he would do, he would get past the first 50 pages; but he got nonplussed when he saw the 51-page “Introduction to the Second Edition.” He decided that he wouldn’t count it, which, as he later said, “significantly [de]creased the minimal read.”(38) 

By the time Bourland got to the 1947 seminar, he had read the book a couple of times, feeling more enthusiastic than ever about GS. He later recalled Korzybski’s lectures as interesting and coherent (feeling that his prior preparation allowed him to get more out of the course than others who hadn’t read Korzybski’s works carefully or had read only one or more popularizations). Altogether, Bourland would attend five seminars with Korzybski. He returned for the 1948 seminar-workshop as a “student assistant”; then for Korzybski’s February 1949 short seminar at Yale; then, while taking a leave from Harvard for the year, as the second and, as it turned out, last recipient of the Straus-funded Korzybski Fellowship, he attended Korzybski’s 1949 summer seminar-workshop and the 1949-1950 Holiday seminar. Korzybski and his work obviously had a great impact on him.

In September, Korzybski had the “Preface to the Third Edition” to get done, as well as the ever-waiting introduction to the Second Edition of Manhood, a Credo someone had asked him to write for an Indian publication, and continued work on Janssen’s Selections from Science and Sanity. However, he had distractions too—new people at the Institute. Ralph Hamilton was supposed to function as his personal ‘secretary’ or assistant to supplement Charlotte, taking dictation for non-personal letters (Alfred still dictated to Charlotte his letters to Mira), reading scientific books and journal articles that Alfred wanted him to pull the ‘gist’ from, organizing the library, and generally freeing up Charlotte to give more attention to the thousand and one details of administering the Institute with Kendig. Eventually Ralph, whom Alfred liked, would become a great help, but of course both men had a normal beginning period of mutual adjustment to get through. Another person, Surindar Singh Suri had come to the seminar from India, and had, with Alfred’s permission, stayed on at the Institute for further study. Alfred found him a brilliant fellow but also a burden, as one more person living at the Institute he had to deal with, with non-additive effects. (Suri shortly left, eventually going to study at the Northwestern University department of philosophy.)

On October 10, Alfred could finally write to Mira,
My preface, together with endless other materials, instructions to the printer, and so on, has finally gone to the printer yesterday. Last night we had a little 2-hour celebration after office-hours, for that finishing job. Today I took it easy, but tomorrow I have to start and finish my ‘Credo’ for that Indian publication, about which you know. Charlotte is the ‘slave-driver’, and I suspect that she is in love with Ghandi [sic], Tagore, etc., and that is why she is driving me so hard. Personally, I feel like going to bed and sleeping for a week, but of course there is no chance for it. (39) 

The new Third Edition of Science and Sanity would have a new cover as well, which had to be designed, proofed, etc. With everything else, including a new printer, the Third Edition would not appear until the following May. Korzybski’s five-page “Preface To The Third Edition 1948”, provided not only a pithy summary of his work, but for those who could read between the lines, a clear record of his and the Institute’s struggles with Hayakawa and the Society, that had come to a head over the last year. Hopefulness and pessimism seemed to naturally go together for Korzybski. In his October 10 letter to Mira, he had told her, “Yes, we both know a great deal about life and people. Neither you nor I have a very cheerful outlook. I am glad you remember how for years I insisted that human progress is extremely slow, and some situations can not be remedied short of decades.”(40) Both hopefulness and pessimism seemed reflected in the Preface, starting with the two introductory quotes he chose from Charles Saunders Peirce*:
If thinkers will only be persuaded to lay aside their prejudices and apply themselves to studying the evidences . . .I shall be fully content to await the final decision.

For the mass of mankind . . . if it is their highest impulse to be intellectual slaves, then slaves they ought to remain. 
*[Alfred had told Ken Keyes, “Peirce has been a real and very important pioneer who originated new trends in mathematics and mathematical logic, and with William James established ‘pragmatism’...If you read the suggested book of Peirce [Chance, Love, and Logic] and some of the bibliography given there, you will get a glimpse of what a ‘system’ has to offer. Peirce in his lifetime was not popular, but today he is a foundation of the scientific progress we have achieved.” [AK to Ken Keyes, Jr., 9/11/1945. IGS Archives.]

Korzybski began by noting that despite new scientific discoveries since 1933, “...the fundamental methodological issues which led even to the release of nuclear energy remain unaltered, and so this third edition requires no revision of the text.” Interest in and application of GS had continued to spread since the founding of the Institute, exemplified by the 1941 American Congress and by Douglas M. Kelley’s World War II experiences in battlefield psychiatry.
I must stress that I give no panaceas, but experience shows that when the methods of general semantics are applied, the results are usually beneficial, whether in law, medicine, business, etc., education on all levels, or personal inter-relationships, be they family, national, or international fields. If they are not applied, but merely talked about, no results can be expected.
Notably, he returned to his work’s origin in Manhood’s 1921 definition of ‘man’, its development “[t]hrough the discovery of factors of sanity in physico-mathematical methods,” and its implications for cultural evolution in the shift from an aristotelian to a non-aristotelian system of orientation.

He then devoted more than a page to what had become a significant issue for him in his conflict with Hayakawa and the Society: the confusion between ‘semantics’ and his use of ‘semantic’ as a modifier referring to ‘evaluation’.

He ended the “Preface” with a call to action that managed to give both a sober warning and a hopeful note:
It is not generally realized that with human progress, the complexities and difficulties in the world increase following an exponential function of ‘time’, with indefinitely accelerating accelerations. I am deeply convinced that these problems cannot be solved at all unless we boldly search for and revise our antiquated notions about the ‘nature of man’ and apply modern extensional methods toward their solution. ... 
We need not blind ourselves with the old dogma that ‘human nature cannot be changed’, for we find that it can be changed. We must begin to realize our potentialities as humans, then we may approach the future with some hope. We may feel with Galileo, as he stamped his foot on the ground after recanting the Copernican theory before the Holy Inquisition, ‘Eppur si muove!' The evolution of our human development may be retarded, but it cannot be stopped.
Maybe he did care about those yahoos, just a little.

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. 
31. Charlotte Schuchardt to Ken Keyes, Jr., 4/29/1947. IGS Archives. 

32. AK to Vocha Fiske, 6/23/1947. Ralph Hamilton Papers. 

33. Ken Keyes to AK, 7/18/1947. IGS Archives. 

34. Keyes, Discovering the Secret of Happiness: My Intimate Story, p. 22. 

35. Charlotte Schuchardt to MEK, 7/12/1947. AK Archives, Box 22, Folder 1.

36. Korzybski 1949, Draft Transcript, 1948-1949 Holiday Intensive Seminar, p. 1. 

37. Interviews with Ralph Hamilton, 11/21/2005 and 11/28/2005. 

38. Video Interview of D. David Bourland by Steve Stockdale, Part I of III, May 26, 1997. Accessed at on Jan. 5, 2010. 

39. AK to MEK, 10/10/1947. AK Archives, Box 22, Folder 1. 

40. Ibid. 

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