Monday, October 31, 2005

Colonoscopy at GW

Colonoscopy at GW by Dr. M. Amir Ali.  No polyps.  Diverticulosis.

(posted 11/2/10)

Monday, April 18, 2005

Return of the Native

The following essay is largely a paraphrase of a biographical note about Hermann Hesse by the novelist, Thomas Mann.  The note is included as a foreword in some editions of Hesse's novel, Demian.

April 18, 2005


Hey, buddy.

Well, we met again on familiar territory on Friday April 15, 2005. I returned to the library. It wasn’t all I expected. It was really rather depressing, actually. I felt nervous and agitated. I experienced a bemused alienation and disconnection from what had been a second home for me these many – perhaps, too many years. Maybe I had spent too much time in the library in years past.

In any event, on Friday, you may have noticed that I logged on to the computer, but I left before my computer time arrived. I just couldn’t stand being in those surroundings anymore. I felt, perhaps, the way Captain Dreyfus might have felt upon his return to France after years of tormented exile on Devil’s Island. It was all too, too much.

For the last year I had arrayed myself as comfortably as possible like Robinson Crusoe on my lonely island. When I look back at that lonely year from the perplexities and pressure of the present, it seems to me like a beautiful and heroic era, oddly enough. The splendid isolation was not lacking in advantages and in charms; I was free to do as I chose; I read what I fancied in bare feet; and I didn’t have to put up with the blare of screaming children, as one must in the library. I was subject to no influences, and no pressure was brought to bear on me. I learned to feast on my solitude and I honed my skills as a letter writer.

If the truth be told I am not suited for the practicalities of life; my mind floats in otherworldly dreams, more preoccupied with the potential of the spirit than with everyday vicissitudes. I love language, books, and music, and the most splendid moments of my uneventful existence have been the few operas I have attended, or the books I have perused in isolation from my fellows. I treasure every detail of the times I have spent in isolation. As I read I imagine every sentence, every page and every chapter as a mirror of my life, my passions and my afflictions. I take refuge in this extravagant, romantic atmosphere whenever I feel weighed down by the vulgarity of life.

I am an artist, really. Or at least I am an individual with an artistic temperament. My moments of highest joy are those I have spent alone. And that is the triumph and tragedy of my existence. Despite the gratifications afforded by my splendid isolation I still long for the Other in my loneliness: the Other who might complete me. Failing to find that Other I live in perpetual disillusion and frustration.

I am a rebel individualist divorced from established dogma and institutions, a lonely incorrigible seeker of new norms. For me life presents itself as a struggle for individualism; I experience my life at times as humorously petulant and at other times as a mystically yearning estrangement from the world and the times. I sometimes feel, in my grandiose moments, that I belong to the highest and purest spiritual aspirations and labors of our epoch.

My spiritual and emotional struggles can be traced to my alienation from my family in childhood. The roots of my estrangement from established institutions and settled norms began in the peculiarities of my early family life. Like most parents mine were no help with the new problems of puberty to which no reference was ever made. All they did was take endless trouble in supporting my hopeless attempts to deny reality and to continue dwelling in a childhood world that was becoming more and more unreal. I have no idea whether parents can be of help, and I do not blame mine. It was my own affair to come to terms with myself and to find my own way, and like most well-brought up children, I managed badly. My parents seemed wedded to some vague suggestions of old-world, Victorian morality with its belief in the inherent sinfulness of man, in the necessity of breaking the will of the individual, and with its uncompromising renunciation of all that is of this world. My family was the first of many social structures which were to rouse the rebel in me.

I was a hypersensitive, imaginative, lively and extremely headstrong child, and proved to be a constant source of despair and annoyance to my parents and my teachers. School held as little attraction for me as it did for any incorrigible. Hardly had the fourth year of high school begun before I became delinquent and was almost dismissed.

College and law school were meant to end the morbid estheticism into which I had allowed myself to drift. I hoped thereby to become an established, respected member of society. This hope was never realized. Except for the first few years, my law school education did not alleviate my feeling that life is essentially meaningless, nor could my idyllic retreat into academia long contain my inherent restlessness. By 1984, upon completion of my LL.M. program at American University, the life in the law had lost any meaning at all. It had become quite apparent to me that I could not be both a creative dreamer and a "solid citizen," a Phantasiemensch and a Burger, as the Germans would put it.

I am but a gifted misfit. My life has long been restive and discontented. I am unable to bear a comfortable, established mode of existence for any period of time. My life is grim and I live in endless mental agony.

I live the life of a romantic vagabond, forever exhausted and distraught in my quest for solitude. Before life can ever become meaningful for me, I must find and come to terms with myself. I am forever taking painful stock of myself and devote myself assiduously to solitary pleasures. I live like a hermit in my emotional and financial poverty and for years now, I have rarely left my apartment for more than routine outings.

In 1993 I began a writing that was to occupy me for the next ten years. That writing would be my autobiography, “Significant Moments.” The writing reflected my relentless quest for my self, and it assumed a fresh impetus and a new stylistic direction from my restless spirit during those years. I became an uninhibited and exciting innovator. The autobiography was really a tense psychological study and reflected the intoxicating emotional release of a Buddha-like search for the basic unity and meaningfulness of life. I am sure if it were ever to be published it would be greeted with a curious mixture of awe, bewilderment, antagonism, and disgust. My own uninhibited self-exposure would no doubt trouble even the staunchest of my supporters. I must remind you, my friend, that my new literary venture was not an irresponsible deviation but a necessary culmination in my self-quest. It has always been my belief that repressions had to be exposed, even at the price of unpleasant notoriety.

The letters I have written to you, my friend, are actually an article of faith and not a document of despair. Yes, I wallow in despair but I live in faith, a faith in the ultimate meaningfulness of life. For me, life has never become the perplexing absurdity it was for Franz Kafka or the Sisyphean monotonous senselessness it was to become for Albert Camus. As I like to say, there is always tomorrow.

I am oppressed by my personal life, but also by the times we live in. Our era is for me one of moral depravity and intellectual mediocrity; of surface glitter, smug comfort, sham conventionality, and foolish optimism. Man has lost his soul in the world of money, machines and distrust. He has exchanged his spiritual peace for physical comfort. All vital rapport with God and nature has been lost, reason has supplanted faith and society has forgotten the individual. I’m starting to sound like His Holiness, the late Pope John Paul II!

But the fact remains that the middle-class core of our civilization has never ceased to be the butt of my ire. The bourgeois represents all that is negative. A stalwart and stodgy nonentity, he is governed in all his ideals and pursuits solely by the impulse of self- preservation. He fears individualism, and deliberately sacrifices the precarious but precious intensities of life for comfort and security. He is the characterless Philistine who epitomizes mediocrity, cowardice, compromise, irresponsibility, and servility. He is the strapping, insensitive, physical specimen who enjoys health and wealth but lacks all culture. He has a sound appetite but no taste, a good deal of confidence but no ideals. He possess a surfeit of zeal and diligence but has no lofty aspirations or worthy goals. It is to him that the world belongs, while persons like me -- the sensitive worshippers of beauty and the earnest seekers after truth and the meaning of life -- are misfits and outcasts.

Every day for me is an effort. A seemingly senseless effort to survive. So much of my day is marked more by strained effort than by spontaneity, more by futile persistence than by passion, and more by recollection than by new horizons. I relive the past day-by-day.

There has always been a very close relationship between the circumstances of my life and my artistic aspirations. Each represents a different stage in my struggle with myself and with life at large, and each reflects a correspondingly different phase in both the substance and the form of my art. My writings are replete with uncertainty and vague presentiment. I live as a sensitive outsider who cannot cope directly with my particular problem of existence. I resort instead to fantasy and withdraw into the realm of beauty there to indulge in the extremes of late esthetic gratification. My world is one of perfumed melancholy. It is characterized by exclamatory remarks and rhetorical questions, by sensuous adjectives and adverbs in languid cadence.

The form of my autobiography is loose: a random succession of vignettes and dramatic monologues, held together primarily by their common spirit of decadent romanticism. A Hoffmanesque fusion of fantasy and reality, which is both cynical and morbidly intimate. You, no doubt, would call it the work of a talented beginner whose world of experience is still too limited, and whose imagination is entranced by the facile flow of beautiful language. In the absence of discipline and restraint, I fear that the whole is sacrificed to the part, and what is meant to be art fails to become more than picturesque patter.

In the last year, in my extreme isolation, my writing has become more human and less shadowy; inertia and desperation yield to movement and humor. My prose has achieved a more narrative style, and my language has become leaner, crisper and more forceful.

And yet, despite the emotional gratifications of my splendid isolation in the past year, I was forced to face the overwhelming accumulation of tensions. I was compelled to realize that in my desire to make existence less painful I had been avoiding a close look at the true nature of my inner discord, and had blindsided myself to the morally and spiritually impoverished world around me. In my imagination I left the comfortable fold of the bourgeois world, which had never afforded me the security I had hoped it might, and accepted the more difficult existence of an outsider. Did I have a choice in the matter, my friend? In a desperate and determined effort to find myself, I began systematically to diagnose my inner conflicts, to go my long-shunned inward path. Only now did I finally come to grips with the intrinsic problems of human existence -- and of my place in the human world.

In my isolation escape became quest, and in quest my inner problems resolved themselves into the basic malaise humain, into the tension between the spiritual and the physical. For the past year I oscillated between these poles, acclaiming first one, then the other, then neither. I never ceased hoping for a harmonious accord, though well aware that for me this was impossible. I acclaim spirit, stressing self-knowledge and self realization with a Nietzschean emphasis upon the superior being. But spirit as a guiding principle of life can only mean greater individuation and more painful isolation. I still lack the firm conviction and the inner fortitude necessary to endure these consequences. The immediate reaction has been as extreme as the initial impulse. My assertive Nietzschean activism has yielded suddenly to a Schopenhauer-like passivity, a restless quest to a quietistic acceptance, and self-realization to a yearning for self-obliteration.

In the sober tone of acceptance which is evident in the present letter, I realize that despite all efforts to the contrary, my existence will probably continue as a restless tension, a constant oscillation between life's opposing poles.

My path to myself has reached its climax in a fascinating confusion of symbol and irony, fantasy and realism.

It is only now that I at last have found the peace of sincere self-affirmation and life affirmation. The individual must take and continue along that path which the predominant aspect of his nature impels him to choose. Each, whether given to the senses or to the spirit, must be prepared to suffer the lot of his kind; to attempt in curiosity or desperation to do otherwise is to foster a perpetual dissension of the divided self.

My center is the individual, opposed to society, its mores, and its institutions. And that individual is myself. I recall, nostalgically, the simpler years of childhood. I re-experience youth with its excruciating years of awakening. I think about modern man, the intellectual and the artist in particular, within the framework of a declining culture.

It is in this, its intimately egocentric nature, that my artistic temperament bears the stamp of its age, an age of cultural decline, of spiritual and moral distress, and of extreme loneliness.

I am predominantly an esthete who lives only in dreams, hopes, and anticipation, and who shrinks before realization. I am a self-preoccupied, temperamental artist who vainly seeks a kindred soul. I am paralyzed by chronic indecision and indulge in romantic morbidity. I am an outsider consumed by my own hopelessness and loneliness -- a misfit, to whom the art of life and the art of love are foreign, a timid soul who asks too little of life and expects too much of it. I live in perpetual frustration and disillusionment.

This is what the past year has taught me about myself. The past twelve months that I spent in exile from the library were not wasted months. I learned many things about myself and in these letters I have tried to memorialize my discoveries and share them with you, my friend.

Check you out next week, buddy.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Confessions of a Psychoanalyst


Hey, buddy. I haven't seen you in some time. That may change. I'm thinking more and more along the lines of returning to the Cleveland Park Library on the one-year anniversary of "The Catastrophe," that is, the ban you imposed last April 21. I think that would be fitting and proper. I talked to my psychologist, Dr. Bash, about returning as a patron to CPK, and she raised no objections. In fact, for some time, she had been suggesting that I return to my neighborhood library.

I'm taking a new antipsychotic medication, Geodon. It's great. The old antipsychotic I was on, Zyprexa, was a disaster. It had somnolent properties and it raised my serum lipid levels. It also caused weight gain. My cholesterol was off the charts, at 296. My triglycerides were 90 points too high, also. (Of course, I was also eating a lot of yogurt. But it was nonfat.) As I mentioned last week, I was sleeping about 14 hours per day on the Zyprexa. Do you see why I wasn't taking my medication last year? It's really a form of cruel and unusual chemical therapy, so to speak.
But the Geodon is a great med. It does everything Zyprexa does therapeutically, but with none of the side effects. You may wonder why a doctor would prescribe Zyprexa. Well, for one thing, some people can't take Geodon. It's contraindicated for people with heart disease. People with Q-wave problems, and so forth. You know, the sinus node and all that. I guess President Clinton would have to stick to Zyprexa if he were to develop delusions about a vast right-wing conspiracy.

I feel like I've got my groove back. I'm able to work out at almost my old level. Also, I've been considering getting a part-time job to supplement my scam operation on Social Security. Would you believe it? Social Security actually buys that crap that I'm mentally disturbed. Now, really. Just because I have no social life, I believe I'm under surveillance, and I believe I have special mental powers -- like the ability to pick up and interpret social cues that other people can't see.
I saw William at the CVS on Saturday. "Gary!" he called out to me. It's Mr. Freedman to him, by the way. (Not that I have anything against William. At least I don't have any more of a grudge against William than I have against any other DC employee. But that's an entirely different suburb.) I just have a problem with too much familiarity. People lose respect for you when you get too friendly. At least that was President Nixon's belief. (Richard Nixon was apparently oblivious to the possibility that paying no federal income taxes or obstructing justice might impair a public official's ability to garner respect. But he was concerned about the consequences of too much familarity. And they say I have mental problems!)

Tell William that he may address me as Der Freedman (as Craig the Embalmer used to do). Or he may address me as Mr. President. But watch the "Gary" crap. I don't want to lose respect with the masses. William asked me if I was taking any day trips. Yea. Right. I take day trips through my own inner fantasy world. It's great. No frequent flyer miles, but you don't have to take your shoes off at the airports. At least I don't. Actually, I didn't tell William that. I told him I was just hanging out. (I wish I had a buddy to hang out with. A real buddy, that is.) Of course, I did take a day trip last October to the psych ward of DC General, courtesy of the Metro DC Police. And wasn't that a dream come true?

I told William I was on a sabbatical from the library. He said, "I know." I guess he would know. How could he not know?

Be that as it may.

I have another archival document for you to peruse. What you historians call a "primary source document." Back in the year 1991 I saw Dr. Lawrence C. Sack, a psychiatrist/psychoanalyst, for treatment. Dr. Sack was a really great guy -- and supersmart. He had a bachelors degree as well as a medical degree from Harvard University. And he graduated first in his high school class. Really great guy. Unfortunately, he died in 2003 (August 5 or August 6, I can't remember). I saw him three times in May 1991. (The first consult was on May 13, 1991. I remember that because it was the anniversary of Sigmund Freud's circumcision. The "bris," as Jerry Seinfeld would say.) At the conclusion of the first consult I asked Dr. Sack, seeking reassurance, "Do you think I'm psychotic?" Dr. Sack replied: "We're all psychotic when we dream." That hardly put my mind at ease.

An odd detail: Dr. Sack used to take his shoes off during consultations. It reminded me of the story of Moses and the Burning Bush, when Moses was instructed to take his shoes off. "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." An odd association, don't you think? Dr. Sack had a portrait of Sigmund Freud on a wall in his office. Freud's image glowered down on me during the sessions, adding a touch of solemnity to the proceedings.

In any event, I had to quit the treatment because I believed Dr. Sack was talking to Malcolm and Earl. Though that, in reality, was a rationalization. I had to quit because I liked Dr. Sack too much. I can only sustain a relationship with people about whom I have strong ambivalent feelings. Dr. Palombo -- now, Dr. Palombo I loved, but I also despised him. It was a real love/hate relationship. That's familiar and safe mental territory for me. Craig the Embalmer was another person who I both loved and hated. My investment in Bob Strauss is also ambivalent.
And, of course, there's you, buddy. Though I can't say I love you. It's more like a "like/hate" relationship I have with you. Der Raben -- well, Der Raben I really didn't know that well. But from what I could gather he wasn't a really hatable kind of guy. I don't think Der Raben and I could ever be good friends. There just wasn't the correct "love/hate valence." Better friendships through chemistry, as they say.

Same thing with Dr. Sack. You couldn't hate the guy. So, I quit my therapy after only three sessions. I used the excuse that I thought he was talking to Malcolm and Earl -- it was as if I had to invent a grievance against Dr. Sack.

So, the basic story is I can only befriend people who I both love and hate. -- And Social Security thinks I'm mentally unbalanced. Go figure!

In any event, Dr. Sack's son, Robert Sack, MD -- also a psychiatrist -- was kind enough to let me have a copy of his father's clinical notes of my three consults with his father. I typed them up, so you can see what a seasoned analyst had to say about me. The document really just confirms what I've already written about. But I thought you'd be interested.

The Autobiography of Lawrence Carlton Sack


A troublesome -- aren't they all? -- new patient, thirty-seven years old, raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father had a typical petty bourgeois Jewish Orthodox background. The patient's mother was a Polish-Catholic. He is highly intelligent, a compulsive talker, extremely narcissistic and exhibitionistic. He hides his intellectual arrogance behind ironic self-deprecation. He cannot stop his diarrhea of talk, because it is his way of denying his essential constipation -- his total inability to give of himself. His working for a large, prestigious law firm in the capacity of a paralegal (the patient trained as a lawyer) is not only a denial of his own failure to assume responsibilities, but reflects his inner feeling of guilt that only in a state of misery can he find a perverse fulfillment in life.

He gave me no chance to explain what psychoanalysis is all about, claimed to be very familiar with it, and proceeded to show that he lacks even the slightest understanding. He seems to think psychoanalysis is a self-serving rattling off of complaints and accusations leveled at others and oneself, instead of recognizing the serious introspection and contemplation it ought to evoke. He is capable of neither of the latter, because he feels he is so worthless that he cannot be serious about anything that touches him -- not his own self, nor his family, nor those he works with.
He wants to do everything himself without any relation to, or contribution by, another person, in a typical masturbatory phallic fixation. He permits no one, including me, to make any contributions to his life. Obviously, he has spent years at his self-justifying ruminations, where even his self-criticism is meant only to show how shrewd and honest he is about himself. Mainly the self-criticism serves to let him go on exactly as before without internalizing his guilt to the degree that he would need to do something about it; it serves him to avoid any need to change. He is convinced that to rattle off in this way becomes psychoanalysis when he does it aloud with me listening.

Despite his long account of all that went wrong in his life beginning with infancy (!), there is absolutely no realization of his sickness -- his complete inability to relate to another person. How can he, when all he sees of the world is his own projections, which he is certain are true pictures of reality?

He sees psychoanalysis as one vast catharsis, without the need for any deeper insight or internalization. Everything is just one huge ejaculation. I doubt if he can establish even the minimal transference that would enable him to analyze. Probably his selecting me for an analyst typifies his unwillingness to give up his bondage to his Jewish past. I wonder if I should have insisted that he go to a gentile analyst. I may still have to transfer him to one.

In our brief talk before treatment began, I asked him why, given his feeling that his troubles originate, in part, with his identification with his father's Orthodox Jewish background, he selected me, as his analyst. He could not understand my point, saying that no gentile analyst could ever understand him. He speaks as if the issue were finding an analyst whose sympathy and understanding are endless, as were his parents' -- not his own coming to understand himself. His selection of me for an analyst suggests that deep down he does not want to transcend his own background, and so chose an analyst who will not alienate him from what he pretends to hate, but without which he feels there would be nothing left for him or his life. It remains to be seen whether we can overcome this handicap.

Since he thinks his need is to spill out, uninterruptedly, I shall let him, for a full week. Then we shall see if he can stop the spilling long enough for analysis to be possible.

He carries on as if to convince me that all the cliches of a spoiled Jewish boyhood are indeed valid: the overpowering, overindulgent, overprotective mother and the ineffectual father. Essentially the hour was one long alibi. I am to understand that if he cannot meet life, cannot relate to another human being, it's not how he construes things, but because of his parents and their background, along with two specific traumata.

He is a master of the alibi, and like the clever lawyer that he is, he plays both sides of the street. He blames his misery on both kinds of trauma: the physical (an injury to his oral cavity -- at age two-and-one-half!!) and the psychological (his mother's lack of empathy). He must be certain I will see him as the suffering victim, no matter what kind of theories I hold about physical or emotional trauma as causing behavior like his. Actually, it is not traumata, but only his disgust with himself, that forces him to defeat all those who love him (his parents, his potential friends, etc.).

The tirade against his parents, especially his mother, is uninterruptible. A few times I indicated the wish to say something, but he only talked on more furiously. His spiel was like a satire on the complaints of most of my patients, and on the tenets of psychoanalysis: a satire on the dominating and castrating father, and a mother too involved in herself and her own life to pay much attention to her son. This extremely intelligent young Jew (or half-Jew) does not recognize what he is trying to do -- by reversing the oedipal situation, he is trying to make fun of me as he does of everyone, thus asserting his superiority over me and psychoanalysis itself. His overpowering love for his mother is turned into a negative projection, so that what becomes overpowering is the mother's love for him. Overtly he complains that she would never let him alone, was all intrusive -- behind which lies an incredibly deep disappointment that she was not even more exclusively preoccupied with him. While consciously he experienced everything she did as destructive, behind this claim is an incredible wish for more, more, more. His is an insatiable orality which is denied and turned into the opposite by his continuous scream of its being much too much.

Even the most ordinary, everyday request from his mother, such as her reminding him to send a card on his father’s sixty-sixth birthday, is experienced by him as the most unreasonable demand, forcing on him a life of guilt and indebtedness to his parents. Whatever the mother did for him was always too little; the smallest thing she requested was always too much.

After listening all day to the endless complaints of patients about mothers who were never interested in whether they did or did not eat, whether or not they defecated, whether or not they succeeded in school, it should have been refreshing to listen to an hour of complaints about a mother who did exactly all that -- but it was not. It was so obvious that he felt cheated at not being given enough. No doubt he is tortured by memories of his past, and by his present inability to be a man and enjoy normal sex. But he certainly makes the most of it, and nowhere do I see any effort on his part to free himself of this bondage to the past. Obviously be expects my magic and that of psychoanalysis to do this for him.

An important clue, to be followed up later: he is fascinated by his father's constipation, which is so stark a contrast with his excessive masturbation and incessant, diarrhea-like talk. This seem like an interesting fixation at the phallic level, as though the father's constipation has made him so anxious about his own ability to produce that to compensate, he produces without interruption -- whether by masturbating, talking, writing letters, or intellectual productions and achievements. If he does not learn to hold in and store, but continues this indiscriminate discharge, analysis will certainly fail.

If I were to give a name to this patient after this first hour, I would call him "The most unforgettable character I've met." This is not because the patient thinks this designation is true of his mother, as he sees her (as is so of everyone and his mother) but because, while he wishes to believe the foregoing, his major effort is to impress me with himself as "the most unforgettable character I've ever met." Poor soul. Instead of trying to get from me the help he so desperately needs, he tries to impress me with his uniqueness. Everything he accuses his mother of, he is himself, in the extreme. She exploited him because she loved him so much. He exploits everyone because he loves no one.


Despite the same incessant stream of talk little new material. Speculations arrived at by the end of the last hour seem borne out today. As a child, he masturbated, preferably on the toilet, in line with his father's constipation which emerges ever more as a central experience leading to a negative identification. The father cannot let go. The son cannot hold anything in, or hold onto anyone. The father, out of incessant fear for the future, chose and stuck to his job in a garment factory. This influence is internalized by the son as fear about his masculinity. For this he finds only one defense: the excessive masturbation which seems to prove his body is working, but at the price of self-disgust. Because this patient wants not a penis that gives pleasure, but an instrument that expels its contents; he feels a self-assurance which his masturbation cannot give him.

Otherwise it was a repetition of the first hour's contents. In the deliberately vulgar language of the patient, I would entitle this session "Whacking Off." He uses much obscenity to impress others and fools himself into thinking he is liberated, while actually he is expressing his loathing for himself.


It becomes increasingly clear that this patient has read too much about psychoanalysis while understanding nothing -- for example about castration anxiety. What he does not see is how desperately he wishes he had a castrating father, and how deeply disappointed he is because what he encounters instead is only what he experiences as a castrating mother. But even as he complains of how castrating she is, he cannot help admiring her inner strength, which alone seems to sustain the entire family. One gets the feeling that he has to see her as castrating, because he needs to see her as being strong enough to protect him. It becomes also more clear that his true sickness is the refusal to recognize his parents' deep love for him, because that would mean the obligation to love them back, and later, other human beings. Instead, he clings to his vision of all human relations as exploitative power platys. All this gives my patient the particular "Jewish Blues" that formed the leitmotif of this session.

[Following this session, the patient terminated the analysis. The patient’s paranoid fears about revealing himself were transformed into the fear that I was disclosing the contents of his sessions to his employer. LCS]

In fact, Brian, the above material is drawn from “Portnoy Psychoanalyzed,” by Bruno Bettelheim. Bettelheim wrote the tongue-in-cheek analysis of “Portnoy’s Complaint” (by Philip Roth) in 1969. The paper was first published in Midstream Magazine and later reprinted in “Surviving and Other Essays.”

Check you out next week, buddy. By the way, have you taken up gargling. Has the little lady ever discovered you gargling in the bathroom?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Who's on First?

(The following letter is a parody of a New York Times Op-Ed piece, written by the novelist Michael Chabon, about baseball legends Jose Canseco and Roberto Clemente, published in March 2005.)


March 21, 2005

Hey, buddy. Are you ready to step up to the plate? Not a lunch plate or home plate, but the plate of the Game of Life. Do you consider yourself ready? Do you have the guts and the will to expand your awareness of yourself and your world?

I believe I do. I believe I can look dispassionately at who I am. I fancy that I am able to assess myself and others objectively and with insight.

But what of my writer's block, you ask? Do I still struggle with that epistolary malady? Indeed I do. In fact, during the past week I hit a real slump of inspiration: not a batter's slump, to be sure, but a writer's slump. I thought long and hard about the problem, and I could see only two alternative solutions. Either I throw in the bat, so to speak, or resort to performance enhancers. I took the latter course. Yes, I confess, I use performance enhancers: the occasional plagiarized idea or borrowed phrase is better than no idea or phrase at all. Would it surprise you to learn that I've even been known on occasion to resort to assorted thesauri (if you'll pardon the term)? Well, in fact I do. But hey, at least I'm honest and out front about it.

In the spirit of openness and disclosure (as is ever my way) I offer the following portrait of myself -- warts and all, so the saying goes. In the words of Jeremiah (the soothsayer, not the bullfrog), I trust that the Lord will heal my "backsliding."

Confessions of a Roguish Schizoid
In a book "The Moral Society: A Rational Alternative to Death," John David Garcia presents a revolutionary ethical theory much in the spirit of Spinoza. The author shows that through the ethical development of art, science and technology man can achieve far more than the advocates of supernatural Utopias ever imagined.

What is the "Game of Life?" According to the author it is a game in which we are the pieces as well as the players. It is a game in which the stakes are ever-increasing awareness. The Game of Life is the pivotal point between good and evil, life and death. The Game of Life is the basis of all evolution. To play the Game of Life is to increase awareness. To deliberately play the Game of Life is to increase awareness as best we can for the rest of our life.

Is there another Game? The author would say yes, and point to the Game of Pleasure. The Game of Pleasure is a game which serves only to increase happiness, never awareness. Persons who play the Game of Pleasure are the major source of entropy (disorder and chaos) for the human race. Players of the Game of Pleasure make themselves and others increasingly unethical until they become immoral.

Apparently, the author, John David Garcia, is a lot of fun at parties.

In the author's view, the philosopher Baruch Spinoza is the ultimate player of the Game of Life. Indeed, "Spinoza is the ultimate Jewish philosopher. In Spinoza Judaism reached its logical conclusion by becoming totally abstract and depersonalizing God into the cosmic force. The philosophy is devoid of ideology and attempts to prove everything deductively from axioms and scientific laws. Spinoza's philosophy is a logical failure that was ethically successful. It freed ethical behavior from supernatural imperatives. Like Maimonides, Spinoza was not readily acceptable to the Jews because he was extremely radical. Indeed, he was so much more radical than Maimonides that Spinoza was excommunicated by the Jewish community and is still considered an apostate by the orthodox. However, Spinoza laid the philosophical basis for Reform Judaism and the Reform Jews have almost completely incorporated the ethical teachings of Spinoza, Most of the Jews in the world today are de facto Reform or agnostics."

Be that as it may.

Before I start arguing that it's muddleheaded, and misses the point, to disparage the greatness of a great and noble thinker for his want of goodness as a man -- before I rise to the defense of myself -- let me begin by offering one example of my own muddleheadedness in this regard.

A big part of what I have always admired about Baruch Spinoza as a master of the Game of Life is what a good, strong, thoughtful man he seems to have been -- his stoic dignity in the face of the ignorance and bigotry of the Orthodox Jewish community of seventeenth-century Amsterdam, for example, and how he died penniless in a rented room in pursuit of the ultimate axiom, and so forth. I choose to view Spinoza's grace on the field of the Game of Life as reflecting and being reflected by the graceful way in which he conducted his public life (when one has demonstrably nothing to do with the other), and both together as lasting proof of some private gracefulness as a man, when I have no way of ever really knowing what form the true, secret conduct of his life may have taken.

I have no idea what Spinoza's feelings would have been about academic performance enhancers like slide rules, pocket calculators, Cliff Notes, assorted varieties of thesauri, and Bartlett's Quotations, not to mention paraphrasing and outright plagiarism, but I would like to think that he would have viewed them with disfavor, and that -- had he married -- he would have been faithful to his wife, temperate in his habits and modest about his accomplishments. Yes, I would like to think that -- because instinctively, I'm just foolish and mistaken enough to think that great philosophers must also be good men.

There is no question that sometimes I myself have approached greatness as a thinker, that I have even brushed greatness as a player of the Game of Life. If you have any doubt about that, you weren't paying attention to me on the days, during the years I used to visit The Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library, when I paid attention to the Game -- and that's hard to imagine since, like Spinoza, I arrested the eye of The Powers that Be, held their attention like a shard of mirror dangling from a wire in the sunshine, even when I was just standing around waiting to get onto the public access computer or just waiting for something to happen next.

But I'm not going to get into that here. The question of my greatness or lack thereof can be debated endlessly, with statistics, such as SAT scores, IQ scores and the like and assorted anecdotes to support both sides.

And God knows I have no intention of claiming that I qualify as a good man, according to the conventions of my own garden-variety standards of morality: consistent effort, altruism and personal integrity defined as the keeping of one's promises to other people. My want of goodness on those terms is also arguable, I suppose, though not by me, of course.

But I will go out on a limb and venture that any list of the 100 greatest players of the Game of Life who ever lived would conform to the pattern for our species, and therefore contain a sizable number of men who spend most of their lives fumbling with an inherent tendency to slack off, ignore the sufferings of others, tell lies and evade responsibility. Playing the Game of Life well does not make you a better person, any more than writing well does.

The illusion that lures us into the error of confounding Spinoza's goodness as a man with his greatness as a philosopher is that when a man is playing the Game of Life well, as when a man is writing well, he seems to himself, in that moment, to be a better person than he really is. He puts it all together, he has all the tools, in a way that is impossible outside the lines of the playing field of the Game of Life or the margins of the page. He shines, and we catch the reflected glint, and extend the "shining one" a credit for overall luminosity that almost nobody could merit. Spinoza, I think, did; he shone with the grace and integrity of his thinking even when he was not on the field of the Game of Life.

Permit me to digress at this point and venture into the realm of myth and symbol. For the ancient Greeks who depicted abstract concepts in the persona of their gods, the gloriously divine figure of Apollo was said to embody a special radiance, as Nietzsche says in Section 1 of "The Birth of Tragedy." "Apollo, the god of all plastic energies, is at the same time the soothsaying god. He, who (as the etymology of the name indicates) is 'the shining one,' the deity of light, is also ruler over the beautiful illusion of the inner world of fantasy. The higher truth, the perfection of these states in contrast to the incompletely intelligible everyday world, this deep consciousness of nature, healing and helping in sleep and dreams, is at the same time the symbolical analogue of the soothsaying faculty and of the arts generally, which make life possible and worth living." Thus Spake Friedrich Nietzsche.

In any event, Baruch Spinoza was a hero, in other words, and I, by the above definition, am not. By my own admission, I have slacked off and hurt people and lied and broken a lot of promises, large and small. And used performance enhancers: paraphrasing and plagiarizing with wanton abandon. And therefore, many people seem to feel, I am not to be admired -- neither in the past, during my brief heyday, so that you must retroactively rescind your delight in my style and your amazement at my prowess, put an asterisk beside your memory of the pleasure of my company over the course of a few long years; nor in the present, not even when I step forward to tell the truth, a big, meaningful dolorous truth that most of you, measured by your own standards of heroism, would have a hard time bringing yourselves to tell.

I can't possibly be a hero to anyone -- I laid down that burden many years and near-arrests and screw-ups ago -- and furthermore (goes the rap) there is nothing remotely admirable about my allegation of widespread, inveterate use of paraphrasing and plagiarism, by myself and by other players of The Game of Life, like the historians Stephen Ambrose or Doris Kearns Goodwin, who have a readier claim on our admiration, and shoulder more naturally its weight.

I, we are informed by psychiatrists, by former employers, and former coworkers am only looking to turn a buck by my confessions past and present. If lying would have paid better than telling the truth, then I would have lied (and some have suggested that I have). I am greedy, faithless, selfish, embittered, scornful and everlastingly a showboat. I am a bad man ("a very, very bad man"), and that makes me, retrospectively (except among those who claim always to have felt this way) a bad player of the Game of Life. Not to mention a bad writer.

I don't know what is to be done about the mess I have made of my life, and neither do you. At times I even wonder how I can still live with myself.

And yet, and yet . . .

I find myself admirable. Not in the way I admire Spinoza -- not even remotely, which says something about what an ambiguous thing admiration can be. Like all showboats, I court the simpler kind of admiration, starting in the mirror each morning. I am slick (I drive other people mad with my slickness), I am nine feet tall and four feet wide and walk with a roosterish swagger. But there has always been something about me, about my style of play, my sense of self-mocking humor, my way of looking at you looking at me (Remember: "When you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you"), that goes beyond vanity and self-aggrandizement, or being a world-class jerk.

I have been described as a charmer, and a clown, but in fact I am a rogue, a genuine one, and genuine rogues are rare, inside the Game of Life and out. To be a rogue, it's not enough to flout the law, break promises, shirk responsibilities, cheat. You must also, at least some of the time, and with the same abandon, do your best, play by the rules, keep faith with your creditors and dependents, obey orders, and speaking metaphorically (but not only metaphorically), throw out the runner at home plate with a dead strike from deep right field. (Bob Strauss detests sports metaphors, and my resort to one in this instance is itself an act of roguishness, I suppose). A petty consistency (it is said) -- whether it be the consistency of the consistently virtuous or the consistency of the consistently miscreant -- is the hobgoblin of little minds. And the genuine rogue is anything but small-minded (at least not in his own mind).

Above all I must at times be less-than-virtuous, just as at other times I neglect to be less-than-virtuous, for no particular reason, because I feel like it or do not, because nothing matters, and everything's a joke, and nobody knows anything, and most of all, as Rhett Butler once codified it for rogues everywhere, because you don't give a damn.

As for claims that I lie: give me a break. I don't need to lie. What would be the point? I don't care what you think of me; if anything, I derive a hair more pleasure from your scorn and contumely than I do from your useless admiration. It's not that I have nothing to lose, as some of my critics have claimed, by coming forward now to peel back the nasty bandage on my writerly conscience. A man like me never has anything to lose, or to gain, but my life and the pleasure I take from it.

I have style. Yes, I -- unlike most people -- have style. Only people who don't give a damn have style.

There was a time, though, when men like me, without taking anything from the luster of men like Baruch Spinoza, could also be accounted as heroes. They were the ones, the Ulysses and Sinbads and Raleighs, who sailed to places we couldn't imagine and returned, after a career of wonder and calamity and chagrin, not one whit better as men they were when they left. And no better, surely, than we -- possibly worse. And yet, in the end, they were the only ones fit to make the voyage, and when they came back they were laden with a truth that no one else would be clown enough, and rogue enough, and hero enough, to speak.

Yes, men like Ulysses, Sinbad and Raleigh wore the sign of distinction; they were the ones who might justly be considered "odd" by the world -- yes, even crazy, and dangerous. They were AWARE or in the process of becoming aware and their striving was directed toward achieving a more and more complete state of awareness while the striving of the others was a quest aimed at binding their opinions, ideals, duties, their lives and fortunes more and more closely to those of the herd. There, too, was striving, there, too, were power and greatness. But whereas we, who were marked, believed that we represented the will of Nature to something new, to the individualism of the future, the others sought to perpetuate the status quo. Humanity -- which they loved as we did -- was for them something complete that must be maintained and protected. For us, humanity was a distant goal toward which all men were moving, whose image no one knew, whose laws were nowhere written down.

Check you out next week, buddy. "Bliss in possession will not last; remembered joys are never past." Another quote, my friend. Sometimes you just can't kick a habit.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Crimes Against the State: The Autobiography of Brian P. Brown

February 21, 2005


Hey, buddy. Que pasa? Have you ever had paella? I mean good paella? Ooo paella! Have you ever had really, really good Paella? Oh it's an orgiastic feast for the senses. The want and the festival, the sights, sounds, and colors and mmmummumm mumm!! It's a Spanish dish. It's a melange of fish, and meat with rice. Very tasty.

They say it was The Grand Inquisitor's favorite non-Lenten meal.

I cooked up a paella of literary quotes. It's a feast for the eyes and mind. I've tried to make the quotes as cohesive as possible, so that the writing reads like a uniform narrative. The writing is a fantasia on my relationship with you, buddy, vis-a-vis The Powers That Be.

In a certain sense the writing is a parody of Gertrude Stein's biography, "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas." That work is actually Gertrude Stein's autobiography written in the third person.

I call my narrative --

The Autobiography of Brian P. Brown

To begin with I wish to disclaim the possession of those high gifts of imagination and expression which would have enabled my pen to create for the reader the personality of the man who called himself Gary Freedman.

If I have ever had these gifts in any sort of living form they have been smothered out of existence a long time ago under a wilderness of words. Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality. I have been for many years a librarian. It is an occupation which at length becomes fatal to whatever share of imagination, observation, and insight an ordinary person may be heir to. To a librarian there comes a time when the world is but a place of many words and man appears a mere talking animal not much more wonderful than a parrot.

This being so, I could not have observed Mr. Freedman or guessed at his reality by the force of insight, much less have imagined him as he was. Even to invent the mere bald facts of his life would have been utterly beyond my powers. But I think that without this declaration the readers of these pages will be able to detect in the story the marks of documentary evidence. And that is perfectly correct. It is based on a document, or more precisely, those portions of a document of which I have a certain knowledge: all I have brought to it is my knowledge of the human species, which is sufficient for what is attempted here.

"Words, words, words," so Hamlet said.

Mr. Freedman was a lover of words, a lover of language. We spoke to each other infrequently. But those few exchanges we had were enough to convince me that he was always happy to talk; he was a "word-child," hyperarticulate. Fully formed paragraphs issued forth in conversation with a hypnotic, limpid ease. Sooner or later, his would-be debater would be charmed and silenced.

There was an element of the demoniacal in his tireless search for just the right word to round a sentence into its proper unity, for the exact juxtaposition of words and movement that would slyly lead the reader or listener along the periphery of a story to its turning point and then propel them effortlessly to its climax. . . . No moment, however small, seemed unimportant enough to escape his almost fierce attention, and his grasp of a social situation's latent values was immediate and complete. My eyes and ears were opened anew each day to the thousand-and-one endless details that go to make up the subtle and infinitely fragile clockwork of an anecdote's interior mechanism, and to the slow cultivation of its subsoil that gradually makes it blossom into something vital and alive. I watched and listened with the consecration of a yogi.

Early in our relationship I sensed that Mr. Freedman was a lonely man, an isolated man. He seemed desperate for a kind of friendliness that he could not achieve naturally and spontaneously and he found that closeness -- or at least he imagined that he found that closeness -- in the person of his local librarian. On occasion he shared with me his views on the world: he talked about politics, literature, the arts, and science. It was his gift for language that held my interest, no matter what the topic. His knowledge of these various fields was not remarkable. Yet with his gift for words he could turn the most commonplace observations into arresting remarks.

I can give you an example. "Every man is born a Faust," he said, "a Faust with a longing to grasp and experience and express everything in the world. Faust became a scientist thanks to the mistakes of his predecessors and contemporaries. Progress in science is governed by the laws of repulsion, every step forward is made by refutation of prevalent errors and false theories. Faust was an artist thanks to the inspiring example of his teachers. Forward steps in art are governed by the law of attraction, are the result of the imitation of an admiration for beloved predecessors." Well, I ask you: is there anything novel in that observation? Not in the least. But what Mr. Freedman managed to do was to get to the core of the matter: the structural dialectic inherent in the Faust story was laid bare by Mr. Freedman's use of an appealing, aphoristic turn of phrase.

Mr. Freedman was an eccentric (I don't think he'd mind my saying so) and a self-styled genius.

He spent much of the day, every day, at the library. I didn't know how he subsisted, and I never inquired.

Mr. Freedman used to sit in the reading room of the library, where he perused newly-arrived books and magazines. He read the newspaper everyday. The reading room had several windows and could seat about a hundred people. Long tables stood in rows that ended by the windows. The library closed at sunset; in the spring Moscow had no lighting. Mr. Freedman left before dark. Of his life before he began visiting the library I know nothing.

I wish to state quite definitely that it is by no means out of any wish to bring my own personality into the foreground that I preface with a few words about myself and my own affairs this report on Mr. Freedman. What I here set down are my impressions of Mr. Freedman. I intrude myself, of course, only in order that the reader -- I might better say the future reader, for at this moment there exists not the smallest prospect that my manuscript will ever see the light of day unless, by some miracle, it were to escape the scrutiny of the party and bring to those without some breath of the secrets of our prison-house (for has not our entire country become a kind of prison?) -- to resume: only because I consider that future readers will wish to know who and what the author is do I preface these disclosures with a few notes about myself.

I have been employed, since the Revolution, as head librarian of Public Library no. 18. The work has been agreeable. From time to time party functionaries visit to inquire about a specific patron. "What does he read?" "Does he follow a set routine of arrival and departure?" "Does the patron speak to you?" "What about?" I never fail to provide information that might be useful to the party. It has not been an infrequent occurrence that after speaking with a party official about a patron, I would never see that individual again at the library. Yes, I have been useful to the party and to the work of social reconstruction that the party has been carrying out.
God Bless the Communist Party of the Soviet Union!

I and my two assistants sit on a dais in a recess in the wall opposite the window, separated from the rest of the room by a high counter. From this vantage point little that goes on in the reading room escapes our attention.

From the outset, Mr. Freedman's demeanor set him apart from other patrons of Public Library no. 18. During the early years of his daily visits he read quietly, and but for the fact that he took a seat adjacent to my post -- which occasioned a good many chance encounters, we should have remained practically unacquainted. For he was not a sociable man. Indeed, he was unsociable to a degree I had never before experienced in anybody. He was, in fact, as he called himself, a real wolf of the Steppes, a strange, wild, shy -- very shy -- being from another world than mine. How deep the loneliness into which his life had drifted on account of his disposition and destiny and how consciously he accepted this loneliness as his destiny, I certainly did not know until I read the records he left behind him (that is, the documentary evidence to which I referred above). Yet, before that, from our occasional talks and encounters, I became gradually acquainted with him, and I found that the portrait in his records was in substantial agreement with the paler and less complete one that our personal acquaintance had given me.

He gave at the very first glance the impression of a significant, an uncommon, and unusually gifted man. His face was intellectual, and the abnormally delicate and mobile play of his features reflected a soul of extremely emotional and unusually delicate sensitivity. When one spoke to him and he, as was not always the case, dropped conventionalities, and said personal and individual things that came out of his own alien world, then a man like myself came under his spell on the spot. He had thought more than other men, and in matters of the intellect he had that calm objectivity, that certainty of thought and knowledge, such as only really intellectual men have, who have no axe to grind, who never wish to shine, or to
talk others down, or to appear always in the right.

What I know of him is little enough. Indeed, of his past life and origins I know nothing at all. Yet the impression left by his personality has remained, in spite of all, a deep and sympathetic one.

I mentioned that Mr. Freedman's conduct in the library set him apart from other patrons. For years I had observed him retrieving books from the shelves. He read these books, or passages from them, with a special intensity of expression. In truth the intensity of his emotions while occupied in this fashion, the exquisite sensitivity of his face, far exceed what I had ever experienced while talking to him. He appeared to reserve his deepest emotions for books, ideas, and the act of writing. Mr. Freedman took copious notes as he read. He appeared to be working on a kind of manifesto -- well, that's what I imagined. At times I feared for his personal safety. I knew many intellectuals. I knew how easily it was for intellectuals, for writers, to fail to heed the boundaries of conformity set by the party. As a class, intellectuals tended to be rebellious nonconformists who, not infrequently, seemed oblivious of the consequences of their independent spirit. After all, there exists a certain Communist style. Few people measure up to it. But no one seems to flout that way of life and thought as openly as do intellectuals. Why they have to flirt with danger, I can't imagine. The free thinker is a mockery of the whole world of conformity, a walking insult to it. If at least one's past is one's own secret -- but, as is often the case, there are people in the party who know such renegades inside out.

For many months, Mr. Freedman had been working ferociously on the manuscript that he hoped would finally make his literary reputation, or so I imagined. From what I could gather, both in my brief conversations with him and from my first-hand observation of him at work, he appeared to have grand visions for his manifesto. But I must say, I never really became acquainted with the content of the document in its entirety. My knowledge of the text was limited to what I gleaned from occasional scraps of notes that he discarded, from chance comments Mr. Freedman made, and from the books he borrowed from the library.

I got on well with Mr. Freedman. As is sometimes the way with men whose natures are really quite opposed, we got on very well. During our brief exchanges I would hold forth gregariously on topics that interested me: German Romanticism, the state of the poor, the struggle to find one's own private truth consistent with the common good, and so forth. Mr. Freedman, thin, angular, and restrained, listened more than he spoke, and when he talked -- of contemporary politics, or social reform, or the importance of education -- he did so with Euclidean clarity and a modesty that tended to obscure the firmness of his convictions.

As I say, I knew little of the content of Mr. Freedman's manifesto, and it was not in my power to verify the truth of the experiences related in his manuscript. I have no doubt that they are for the most part fictitious, not, however, in the sense of arbitrary invention. They are rather the deeply lived spiritual events which he has attempted to express by giving them the form of tangible experiences. The partly fantastic occurrences in Mr. Freedman's fiction come presumably from the later period of his patronage of the library, and I have no doubt that even they have some basis in real occurrence. At that time Mr. Freedman did not in fact change very much in behavior and in appearance.

Overall I had a favorable impression of Mr. Freedman. Many held contrary views. Mr. Freedman was not universally loved. In truth, Mr. Freedman presented layer upon layer of difficulty to disentangle. His neighbors said of him that after an hour you love him, after a week you hate him, and after ten years you start to understand him. One of the local shopkeepers said that if you didn't have a personality conflict with Mr. Freedman, you didn't have a personality. Those who had known of Mr. Freedman's past said that he was a combination of Machiavelli and Mr. Rogers: "The conventional image of an engaging man is one who is hard on the outside and soft on the inside. Mr. Freedman is just the opposite." Part of his mystique for some was his careful and successful positioning as someone "above the fray." He gave off an air that he was too good for others, or certainly better than the rest of his peers.

According to some he was a maddeningly-contradictory figure. An avatar of morality and truthfulness, Mr. Freedman bent the truth and had a singularly nasty side to his character that ultimately contributed to his difficulties with other people. One patron warned me: "Despite his intelligence, he has a vindictive streak, a mean streak, that surfaced frequently and antagonized people." Another patron said that Mr. Freedman liked to carve up an opponent, make others laugh at him, and then call it a joke. He stretched the truth to the point where it became dishonest to call it exaggeration." I heard someone say that Mr. Freedman was "a hyperbole addict." I must confess that generally not a week would go by when I didn't hear some criticism of Mr. Freedman. "He usually claimed the moral and ethical high ground" but "practiced an interpersonal style based on exaggeration, disingenuousness, and at times outright deception." It was said of Mr. Freedman that he seldom, if ever, repented of his nastiness or asked forgiveness. Instead, when called out for an egregious personal attack, he displayed the advanced skills of evasion that made him such an effective manipulator. All in all the picture that emerged was one of "narcissistic loner." Mr. Freedman was never a regular guy, the sum of his parts never quite added up to that. He talked his way through life, yet in some profound way he never learned the language of men.

Small wonder that friendship -- lasting and meaningful friendship -- eluded Mr. Freedman. He seemed, as I've already said, desperate for a kind of friendliness that he could not achieve spontaneously and naturally. He once asked me: "Are you familiar, Comrade Brown, with the small German ceremony called 'Duzen'? The ritual calls for two friends, each holding a glass of wine or beer, to entwine arms, thus bringing each other physically close, and to drink up after making a promise of eternal brotherhood with the word Bruderschaft. When it's over, the friends will have passed from a relationship that requires the formal 'Sie' mode of address to the
familiar 'Du.'"

I recoiled at Mr. Freedman's remarks. It was as if Mr. Freedman were making a personal proposal of some kind to me. I must admit I found Mr. Freedman's innuendo revolting. That degree of closeness between two men seemed to me unnatural. I ended the conversation abruptly.

My impression of Mr. Freedman was that of a man who was desperately lonely, who lived in deep emotional pain, and who lacked the means or motivation to change his life.

I often wondered: "What must the sleepless nights of such a man be like? What occupied his thoughts?"

Be that as it may.

I will now tell you about the significant and fantastic events that transpired on an early spring day in the year 19--. Mr. Freedman -- or Comrade Freedman, as he had been known (as we all had been known) officially since the Revolution -- had set out alone from his house in Prince Alexei Street, Moscow, for an extended walk. It was a spring afternoon in that year of 19--, when Russia was just beginning to emerge from the ravages of the Great War and the Revolution and its aftermath. He was overwrought by a morning of hard, nerve-taxing work, work which had not ceased to exact its uttermost in the way of sustained concentration, conscientiousness, and tact; and after the noon meal found himself powerless to check the onward sweep of the productive mechanism within him, that motus animi continuus in which, according to Cicero, eloquence resides. He had sought but not found relaxation in sleep -- though the wear and tear upon his system had come to make a daily nap more and more imperative -- and now undertook a walk, in the hope that air and exercise might send him back refreshed to a good evening's work.

April had passed its midpoint, and after weeks of cold and wet a mock summer had set in. Mr. Freedman had barely begun his walk when he was accosted by two uniformed men. The two men stopped Mr. Freedman and inquired of his identity. It was a mere formality; they knew it was Mr. Freedman. The two men were party functionaries: pallid and plump bureaucrats in the employ of the governing regime.

"Tenth-rate old actors they send for me," said Mr. Freedman, glancing round again to confirm the impression. "They want to finish me off cheaply." He turned abruptly toward the men and asked: "What theater are you playing at?" "Theater?" said one, the corners of his mouth twitching as he looked for advice to the other, who acted as if he were a dumb man struggling to overcome a stubborn disability. "They're not prepared to answer questions," said Mr. Freedman to himself and walked on with the men. "Just follow us," said one officer. "And remain quiet," said the other. "Nothing will happen to you if you cooperate with us. No harm will come to you if you follow orders." Mr. Freedman accompanied his two warders in

Someone must have traduced Mr. Freedman, for without having done anything wrong -- as he saw it -- he was arrested on that fine morning in April 19--, as the noon hour approached.

Mr. Freedman, a 50-year-old unemployed attorney, was eventually brought to the maximum security ward of the Moscow Central Institute for Forensic Psychiatry. I later learned through my contacts in the party that four months earlier, while searching the house of an acquaintance, the KGB agents discovered a book -- or rough draft of a book -- written by Mr. Freedman, that was critical of the Soviet social system. In this book Mr. Freedman defined himself as a "Marxist partisan" and a patriot of his country. He used language indistinguishable from that of the "official" and "approved" concepts current in Soviet social and political thought. However, the book was an impassioned argument for reform of the state in order to bring about greater prosperity and free expression in the country.

Mr. Freedman was arrested and charged with "antigovernment propaganda and agitation harmful to the interests of the Socialist state." Because he was uncooperative during his detention, he was referred for a psychiatric evaluation by a KGB investigator, who wrote in the referring document that "There are strong reasons to suspect that this detainee suffers from chronic mental illness, which is responsible for his behavior and has resulted in serious crimes against the state, with which he is charged."

The prisoner arrived in handcuffs, looking anxious and fearful. At the beginning of his admission report, the forensic psychiatrist, Comrade Dr. Martin, took note of "burning and penetrating eyes and an unearthly calm."

During the interview the prisoner insisted on his right to take notes and to write down the questions asked him; when this was denied, he refused to participate in the evaluation interview. On the ward, surrounded by seriously ill offenders, he kept to himself, and was described as "withdrawn, with long staring spells, and persistent refusal to discuss his thoughts and feelings." The ward staff was puzzled by his "excessive wariness, and his belief that something had been put into his food was described in ward notes as 'paranoid.'"

By the end of the first week, the prisoner was demanding to see the medical director of the hospital; when the director obliged, the prisoner confronted him with an accusation of "collaborating in crimes against humanity." The prisoner categorically denied the criminal nature of his activity and claimed that he pursued his chosen profession in writing a book about legal guarantees for freedom of expression.

From the information provided by the secret police investigator and summaries of treatment obtained from the local health center and the district mental health clinic, the forensic psychiatrist learned that the patient had "a stormy adolescence," during which he pursued, with abandon, the study of his country's history, literature, and art. He was described by his teachers as "stubborn, oppositional, and obsessed with his ideas." His principal wrote: "This young man is far too sensitive and intense for his age. He is negative about everything our country stands for and his tastes in art and music are bizarre. However, he is a highly intelligent young man, and with proper guidance and education, can be an asset to our country."

The records of the local employment board revealed that the prisoner was relieved from compulsory employment because of a diagnosis of "psychoneurosis" established by a psychiatrist at the district mental health clinic. The records from the clinic described a man who was "moody, preoccupied with his interest in history, precise and compulsive in his habits with some excessive concern about his health."

By the end of the third week, the prisoner was forcibly given small doses of a medication. He became weak and apathetic, complained of dryness of the mouth, increased appetite, and grogginess throughout the day, and an increasingly troublesome tremor. This was described in the record as "paranoid refusal to believe in the good intentions of the medical personnel, and inability to develop insight into his condition and his own needs."

When medication produced no change in the prisoner's attitude except for obvious side effects, it was discontinued. One week after this, the prisoner was looking more cheerful, and finally agreed to cooperate with the expert committee, consisting of three forensic psychiatrists. When the committee saw the prisoner, none of its members had had a chance to read the manuscript that brought the man to the attention of the authorities. During the interview, the prisoner was attentive and guarded, and later was described by one of the members as "hypervigilant" with obvious "ideas of reference." The committee unanimously agreed on the diagnosis offered by the forensic psychiatrist: schizophrenia. The committee recommended compulsive psychiatric treatment for Mr. Freedman "because of his inability to have a critical attitude toward his own condition and circumstances and failure to cooperate with necessary medical treatment."

The KGB investigator knew that the state world have considerable difficulty in prosecuting Mr. Freedman since it would have had to prove that he had a malicious intent to "undermine and harm the interests of the Socialist State." Because Mr. Freedman is articulate and persuasive, a public trial would have been embarrassing to the government. Knowing that Mr. Freedman had been given a psychiatric diagnosis that exempted him from compulsory employment, the KGB investigator reasoned that a trial would be unnecessary and that the credibility of Mr. Freedman's ideas would be undermined if his behavior could be attributed to a mental disorder.

The forensic psychiatrist was given inadequate and biased information, had no access to his "patient's" family or former colleagues, and had to deal with a frightened and unwilling man. Practicing within a social system with an extremely narrow range of "permissible" behavior and within a profession that uses an extraordinarily broad concept of schizophrenia, the forensic psychiatrist could very well have been sincere in considering Mr. Freedman mentally ill. It is also possible that the psychiatrist was cynically using his power to make diagnoses, hospitalize, and treat in order to satisfy an implicit request from the KGB to take this "troublesome" man off their hands.

Whether or not the forensic psychiatrist actually believed that Mr. Freedman was ill, he probably justified his diagnoses as follows: The onset of Mr. Freedman's schizophrenia was, as is usual in this illness, at the time of adolescent transition to adult life. He exhibited overvalued ideas, instability of mood, inappropriately intense and single minded pursuit of interests unusual for boys of his age, and obsessive compulsive personality traits. He developed a system of rationalized obsessive preoccupations with seeking reforms in Soviet society. His tragic world view is evidence of chronic dysphoria and anhedonia. His belief that he can make a contribution to the social theory and well-being of his country is evidence of an overvalued idea that has progressed into a fantastic delusion of reform. His cautious attitude toward authorities and state-appointed physicians is an expression of paranoid and self-referential perceptions.

In any event, we heard about Mr. Freedman's arrest at the Public Library. I, for one, was not surprised. For years I had feared for Mr. Freedman's safety, given the unusual nature of his ideas and his passionate investment in the act of putting his ideas in writing. But was Mr. Freedman truly mentally ill? Is it possible that the decision to arrest Mr. Freedman was unjustified? Is it not possible to view his difficulties as the result of the interaction between his personality traits and the prevailing political and social norms? Perhaps in another society Mr. Freedman's personality traits might not cause any particular difficulties -- indeed, might even be rewarded. Of course, I dare not make these sentiments public knowledge. The party deals harshly with those who question the correctness of its actions. Still, one wonders.

I have not seen Mr. Freedman since the day of his arrest. No, I am sure he has not taken his life. If he has been discharged from the hospital I am sure he still goes wearily up and down the streets somewhere in Moscow, sits for days in libraries, or lies on a hired sofa, listens to the world beneath his window and the hum of human life from which he knows that he is excluded. But he has not killed himself, for a glimmer of belief still tells him that he is to drink this frightful suffering in his heart to the dregs and that it is of this suffering he must die. I think of him often. He has not made life lighter for me. He had not the gift of fostering strength and joy in me. On the contrary! But I am not he, and I live my own life, a narrow middle-class life, but a solid one, filled with duties. And so we can think of Mr. Freedman peacefully and affectionately, William and I.

Mr. Freedman belongs to those who have been caught between two ages, who are outside of all security and simple acquiescence. He belongs to those whose fate it is to live the whole riddle of human destiny heightened to the pitch of a personal torture, a personal hell.

I neither approve nor condemn Mr. Freedman. Let every reader of these notes do as his conscience bids him.

/s/ Comrade Brian P. Brown

Check you out next week, buddy. Give my regards to The Ambassador.

Monday, January 31, 2005

An Enemy of the People


January 31, 2005
Hey, buddy. Or should I say "Hi, Brian!" Or High Brian, perhaps. What was college like for you? Did I ever ask you that question? Was it a transforming experience -- socially and intellectually -- or was it a wasteland? Not that the two conditions, desolation and transformation, are mutually exclusive. They say that if you are going to inhabit a wasteland, you might as well be thoroughly wasted, which is itself a transformation -- transcendental or otherwise. One can be both wasted and transformed. Were you prone to transformed states in college? Put another way, did you -- shall I say, inhale? Or was your preferred intoxicant contained in a bottle?

Today I am perched somewhat precariously on a high tower. It is my refuge, my retreat. From my height -- on a cold winter's day -- I inhale the chilled but bracing air that surrounds me. From my bird's eye view above the city, I observe the hubbub below, which enlivens my day. My tower provides sanctuary and protection. I have removed myself from ordinary life. It is a precious and solitary moment. I am by myself and beside myself in my exhilaration. I stand like a puppeteer above his puppets, and in my imagination I manipulate the people I see below me, like a puppet master who animates the passive instruments under his control. I stand alone and disturb the people below me, or so I fancy.

Words, words, words . . . on some days, I have the gift . . . I can make love out of words as a potter makes cups out of clay, love that overthrows empires, love that binds two hearts together come hellfire and brimstone . . . I can cause a riot in a nunnery -- a disturbance not to be dismissed . . . but on other days . . . I feel that I have lost my gift. It's as if my quill had broken. As if the organ of the imagination has dried up. As if the proud tower of my narrative talents has collapsed. Nothing comes. And my spirits suffer.

I live to observe and to express. My capacity for vigilant scrutiny and my talent for words, for felicitous locution, enlarge my inner repository of sensual experience and permit me to make that repository accessible to my audience.

Whether my published communications unite me with others or disturb the equilibrium of their world, my own inner states are transformed thereby.

Today I am in a reflective mood. I've been thinking about desolation and transformation. I have been thinking about my current condition: my lone battle with the people, the critics, in my environment and beyond. I think about my loneliness, which rises to the level of despair at times, but, fortunately does not defeat me. I revel in my lonely struggle. I revel in my ability to disturb my immediate environment and the world beyond my imagination. I view my isolation and my defiance as virtues, the tests and marks of a higher morality. My emotional inertness pains me, but my capacity to endure my suffering and my ability to transform my distress by means of expression, by means of words, emboldens my spirit.

Something in my past must have disposed me to suffering, but at the same time prepared me to endure that very torment.

Like the proverbial professor in an academic ivory tower I have probed my problem in isolation for the past several days, ruminating about its meaning. And with the professorial pretensions that are ever my wont, I now share with you -- proud didactic adventurer that I am -- a distillation of my current thoughts.

A measure of a person's creativity, so the psychoanalysts say, is the ability to transcend the slings and arrows of outrageous critics. To be able to form a work of art out of the rubble left by such an attack is, of course, not the only way in which creative abilities can show themselves, but it is one way. I chose my view of creativity, the capacity to turn a humiliating rebuff into a triumph, for two reasons. First, it has been proposed as a developmental ideal in that it signals one of the transformations of archaic narcissism. Second, it is of particular relevance in providing a glimpse into my creative process. Specifically, I refer to my response to the criticisms and rejections of my former employer, the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, by writing my autobiography, which I titled Significant Moments. In focusing on this view of creativity, I necessarily ignore other factors that contribute to artistic creativity.

I transcended my reaction to the devastating job termination and its aftermath by creatively transforming that experience in Significant Moments. At Akin Gump I confronted central themes that had been haunting me since childhood, ghosts from the past in their purest, boldest form: my search for an idealizable father-figure (in the person of Robert Strauss), social rejection, the jealousy of coworkers (symbolic siblings), allegations that I posed a physical danger to others, the lack of empathy of peers and superiors, the appearance of anti-Semitism, and the vague impression of a corrupt organization. Having suffered for three-and-one-half years in a difficult job situation, I was in a particularly vulnerable position when attacked by the employer and ignored by potential supporters. In Significant Moments, I depicted my outrage at my former employer and coworkers, redressing the narcissistic injury I had sustained. I triumphed over my detractors through a complex self-restorative solution. I argued for an extreme, defiant, uncompromising stance through which the artist can defy social pressure and withstand ridicule and isolation; in my creative transformation I displaced my personal conflicts -- both intrapsychic and interpersonal -- onto societal conditions.

True to the best in the Jewish tradition, the conscious acceptable "enemy" for me -- as it had been for the American playwright, Clifford Odets -- would become an impersonal set of unjust and corrupt societal conditions, and the means of battle would be waged largely in words within the controllable arena of social conscience within a work of art.

My thesis is that one function of the creative process is to transform one's depleted self-state in response to a narcissistic injury. I propose that my own self-state transformation was based on motivations encapsulated in a model scene, which I inferred from a selection of recollections. A discussion of self-states and model scenes follows. The model scene links organizing themes inferred from my life and my book with the self-state I attempted to recapture after the narcissistic injury incurred by the job termination.


My use of the term self-state draws on contributions from several sources: Stern's and Sander's discussions of state transformation and the self-regulating other and Kohut's discussion of self-states as noted in self-state dreams.

When used by infant researchers, state refers specifically to variations in sleep and wakefulness that occur as the infant passes between crying and alert or quiet activity, drowsiness and sleep, wet discomfort and dry discomfort, hunger and satiation. Different states affect how things are perceived, how those perceptions are integrated, and how such information is processed.

State transformations in early life accrue to both the child's self-regulation and to the expectation that mutual regulation with the caretakers will facilitate or interfere in regulating one's affects and states. Thus, early state transformations are associated with mastery or control over one's own experience, and expectations that affect regulation can (or cannot) be shared with the self-regulating other.

With the advent of symbolic capacities and increasing elaboration upon one's subjective experience, self-states in the child and adult include the domain of the self in a psychological sense. Post infancy self-state transformations may increase a sense of control, mastery, or agency, but in the case of traumatic self-state transformations, such states as devastation, outrage, or fragmentation may become dominant.

The subjective discomfort of painful self-states provides an impetus for finding means by which such states can be transformed. A creative endeavor, one means of transforming one's self-state, enhances the range of the self-regulation. Furthermore, in the context of mutual regulations, expectations of a responsive environment shift the state of the self along the dimension of fragmentation-intactness toward greater cohesion and along the dimension of depletion-vitality toward an increased sense of efficacy.

Kohut described self-state dreams in which the imagery is undisguised or only minimally disguised, depicting the dreamer's sense of self. Kohut likened these dreams to Freud's discussion of dreams in traumatic neuroses, in which a traumatic event is realistically depicted. For example, a self-state may be depicted in a dream as a barren countryside, reflecting a sense of devastation and such self experiences as depression, despair, or hopelessness.

My use of self-state is broader than Stern's since I extend my perspective into adult life, and my use of the term is not confined to the dream imagery described by Kohut. Dream imagery provides a glimpse into a person's feelings of devastation and outrage, but the imagery of narratives can also convey self-states.

To construct the model scene that depicts the self-state that I attempted to recapture after I was subjected to devastating criticism in the form of job harassment and job termination, I combined facets of my life history.

For the first several years of my development, I experienced a childhood characterized by an overprotective but unempathic mother and a distant, but at times harsh, father. My father was a highly-intelligent man who settled for far less in life than he was capable. He had quit an academic high school restricted to college-bound students in the tenth grade, and worked at a factory job. Though he was raised in a strictly Orthodox Jewish family, he was the only one of seven children to marry outside the Jewish faith, in 1946. My mother was a Polish-Catholic whose father, an immigrant coal miner, died in the great swine flu epidemic following World War I. My father suffered both overt and covert anti-Semitism from my mother's family during the marriage -- itself a form of criticism. My father coped with the attacks directed at him by relying on a deeply-rooted sense of his cultural and religious superiority.

My mother doted on me, but paradoxically, had a tendency to negligent, even reckless, caretaking. At age three I developed scarlet fever, an unusual bacterial disease. I was late in being weaned from the bottle. Though I ate solid food by age three, of course, my mother indulged my desire to drink milk that had gone sour in the bottle. The pediatrician, Dr. Bloom, who diagnosed the illness attributed it to the sour milk. "And why is he still drinking from a bottle? He's too old to be drinking milk from a bottle," the doctor said. (Dr. Bloom! "Just who does Dr. Bloom think he is?"). My father was very angry, and chastised my mother bitterly for "spoiling" me, in the doctor's presence. I felt humiliated and helpless in the face of the charges leveled at me. My secret oral perversion had been discovered! The secret was out! The doctor advised my parents that scarlet fever was considered a serious public health concern, and that he was bound by law to report my illness to the city health department. Several days later, the health department posted a quarantine notice on the front door of our home (1957). My private act led to unforeseeable consequences in the form of intervention by a government authority. In effect, at age three the government had determined that I was already "potentially dangerous."

The scarlet fever incident contributed to the centrality of solitary self-experience for me. From an experience of pleasure (in drinking sour milk from the bottle), I was suddenly transformed to a state of loss and an inexplicable sense of guilt. I felt like a felon and, if you will excuse the hyperbole, "would hide when the constable approached the house." The illness ushered in transformation from a positive, pleasurable, self-absorbed state to a secret state marked by guilt and a personal blame for wrongdoing. I did not find solace for my loss. On my own, I bore both my guilt and the surprising, disturbing impact I could have on others in my immediate world and beyond: indeed, reaching out to a world beyond my imagination, in the form of governmental authorities. The illness also signaled another transformation in the direction of having to regulate painful states on my own without the support of others. Both parents were concerned with public embarrassment, rather than with the state of their child. I propose that the model scene I have constructed organized my experience as a solitary, impactful onlooker: someone whose private actions could even trigger the intervention of government authorities. It is an experience that few three-year-olds have. An emotionally porous three-year-old who is "hypersensitive to the goings-on in his environment," cf. Freedman v. D.C. Dept. of Human Rights, DCCA 96-CV-961 (Sept. 1998), will be affected by that experience.

This letter, and particularly the above anecdote, is a metaphorical bridge of speculation that connects mystery to mystery, the known with the unknown. That bridge is like a single plank that requires the support of others to form a firm foundation. I offer the following thought. My age upon contracting scarlet fever, which resulted from my mother's indulgence of my dependency needs -- age three or three-and-a-half -- is the same age my mother was when her father died of a communicable disease, influenza: in an influenza epidemic that, because of its magnitude, had evoked a vigorous public health response by government authorities nationwide. Is it possible that my "good" mother was instrumental in setting me up for serious illness? Was my mother's seeming indulgence really an expression of a strong unconscious ambivalence toward me that was a derivative of her emotional reaction to her own father's death?

Incidentally, the anecdote above parallels themes in several plays by Henrick Ibsen. In Ghosts a mother provides poison to her son to enable the son's suicide in expiation of his father's sins; An Enemy of the People pits a truth-fanatic (who discovers that the waters of a spa town are polluted) against the town's mayor and its citizens; and in The Master Builder a mother, out of a perverse sense of duty, kills her twins -- she contracted a fever because she could not stand the cold, but, despite the fever, she insisted on breast-feeding the twins, who died from her poisoned milk.

Note that I was the only male child in the family. Oddly, when I was a young boy, my older sister created the fiction that my middle name was "Stanley," my mother's father's name. I actually came to believe at one point in childhood that my name was "Gary Stanley Freedman."

Be that as it may.

My mother had a passionate interest in motion pictures and, in childhood, was fond of playing with dolls. I picked up on these interests in a way. In early adolescence I developed a fanatic attraction to the Wagner operas, and I had an interest in the craft of play writing. In high school and college I took elective courses in drama and theater. At age thirteen I staged (after a fashion), in the basement of our family home, a highly-abbreviated version (to say the least) of Wagner's four-opera Ring Cycle for the entertainment of my parents -- though, in reality, my parents were uninterested, if not hostile to my effort.

My father was subject to bouts of depression and sometimes became bitter and brutal toward my family, but he took no steps to change his situation, other than threatening, from time to time, to leave my mother. He was frequently morose and withdrawn. I reacted to my father throughout childhood with a range of irreconcilable emotions: idealization, sympathy, anger, and fear. Sound familiar, buddy?

Taken as a unity, to be spelled out below, these accounts suggest that, for me, self-states and affects had to be regulated alone, by myself. In later life, I transformed my despondent state after my critical rebuff at Akin Gump by drawing on the themes encapsulated in the model scenes.

In psychoanalytic treatment, analyst and patient construct model scenes to convey, in graphic and metaphoric forms, significant events and repeated occurrences in the analysand's life. The information used to form model scenes can be drawn from a variety of sources, including a patient's narrative and recollections. Model scenes highlight and encapsulate experiences at any age, not only early childhood, and are representative of salient conscious and unconscious motivational themes. The concept of model scenes is broader than and includes screen memories, which Freud equated with the manifest dream content dream, in that they point toward something important that they disguise. The memory itself and its "indifferent" content are to be discarded as the analyst recovers and reconstructs the significant, concealed childhood event or fixation. Whereas screen memories focus on reconstructing what has happened, model scenes pay equal attention to what is happening, whether it is in the analytic transference or in the person's life. For me, the model scene is based on recollections that capture my solitary self-regulation, self-restoration, and my triumph over my detractors.

The book is unusual in structure. It is drawn exclusively from published literature -- it is a collection of quotations, really -- with the quotes woven together to form a cohesive narrative, comparable in a sense to the structure of T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland." A single, cohesive narrator or hero does not appear in the book. Rather, the author manipulates the quotations; he hovers overhead, as it were, like a puppet master, pulling all the strings. I am represented, through my identification with various literary and historical figures, by identity elements or identity fragments, which are the quotations. The themes of the book are numerous and diverse. The themes include anti-Semitism, the craft of writing, opera production, communicable disease, genetics, inheritance, the discovery of a secret that brings ruin on the discoverer, scientific discovery, truth seekers, critical response by peers, defiance of peers and authorities, banishment and social isolation, the absence of an empathic or supportive environment, the self-regulation of affects, the death of fathers, the intervention of government authorities into the private domain of citizens, the seductive or destructive mother, alleged corruption and cover-up, among other topics.

The negative response I received upon my job termination and its aftermath was diffuse. It came from the employer, psychiatrists (doctors), and government authorities. If I were asked why I began to write my autobiography in April 1993, four months after I had received the employer's responsive pleadings in a legal action I had initiated against the employer, I would have said: "I had to write my autobiography."

In Significant Moments, "the hero" (who appears in various guises, or is represented by various identity elements) makes a discovery that results in his being pitted against "the powers that be." The detractors of "the hero" are mocked and exposed as mean-spirited and unprincipled. I thereby expressed my distrust of the capacity of the "majority" to discriminate the "true" from the "false" and to exercise sound judgment. I showed "the powers that be" to be swayed by self-interest and incapable of distinguishing scientifically backed findings from self-serving rationalizations.

There is no decent, supportive public in Significant Moments. "The hero" naively values the support of "the powers that be" at the opening of the book. He believes that they will be responsive to truth and evidence. Before the book's end, "the hero" could rightly say that the most dangerous enemy of truth and freedom amongst us is the solid majority. "The majority is never right! . . . The minority is always right!" The minority to which "the hero" refers is himself. By the end of the book, he can trust nothing but his own values, perceptions, and beliefs.
Wounded by the shortsighted managers at Akin Gump, I asserted that the creative artist stands alone, a minority of one, to maintain his integrity and the purity of his vision. In Significant Moments I spoke with one uncompromising, solitary voice clearly depicted in "the hero," who loses all support and ends alone. "The strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone." Increasing isolation drives "the hero" to proclaim, "I want to expose the evils that sooner or later must come to light."

To explore and to react aversively are dominant motivations for "the hero." He is uncompromising to the end, a man who does not mean to settle for rapprochement with the majority. He was ready to bring ruin upon himself and others rather than "flourish because of a lie."

In my response to the critics, I presented my hero as totally decent and honest, but naive with respect to political wheeling and dealing. His decency and goodness are contrasted with the narrow-mindedness of the majority. They are devoid of a sense of morality of their own and led by authorities who are rigid, unimaginative, self-serving, and bureaucratic -- banal at best and corrupt ("poisoned") at worst.

I had to write Significant Moments. The themes of that book, father-son tensions (real or symbolic), living a lie, the effects of learning "the truth," inheritance (in my case, the transmission of parental strengths and weaknesses), all manifestly rooted in my early life, are taken up in my book. In so doing, I addressed my compelling, burning, residual issue from my past and depicted it as a metaphor for my society as well. Significant Moments thus combines painful memories with a devastating social critique. Personally, I expressed my disillusionment at my father's legacy of academic, occupational, and marital failure, as well as my quest for an idealizable father of whom I could be proud.

Apparently I felt compelled to bare myself in a barely disguised form. I gathered together my past grievances and projected them on to "The Freud Archives Board." In them I embodied the lies, hypocrisy, deception, and duplicity that I hated in society. So long as they typified "the powers that be" and its "opinions," there could be no compromise. My uncompromising depiction of the "sins of the father," the "ghosts" that demand placing duty and public appearances above self-expression and individual freedom, expresses my long-held convictions in the purest, boldest form.

At the center of Significant Moments lies my determination to explore two sides of deception. Some self-deception is held necessary to maintain hope and to survive, yet there is also a pernicious self-deception that erodes ethics and undermines morality. Both Nietzsche and Jeffrey Masson were compelled to counter, respectively, Wagner's and The Freud Archives' deceptions of themselves and others. "The Heroes'" (Nietzsche's and Masson's) duty-bound rejection was felt by "the powers that be" (Wagner and Dr. Eissler) as both a rejection of their ideals and a personal betrayal.

I was shocked by my sudden job termination in late October 1991; but later (in April 1993), within four months of receiving the employer's responsive pleadings in the agency complaint I filed, I began work on Significant Moments. With my self-confidence shattered, if there was a moment when the capacity to transform shattered narcissism into artistic creativity was called for, this was it. The book became my response to the devastating experience of my termination and its aftermath. Note that it was only upon my receipt in late December 1992 of the employer's pleadings that I learned that the employer had allegedly determined that I was potentially violent -- that is, a physical danger to others: an allegation that must have resonated with my memory that at age three I had been determined by a municipal authority to pose a public health risk.

In Significant Moments moral integrity on one side is pitted against deception, greed, and narrow self-interests on the other. The battle lines are drawn clearly. Perhaps in outrage, all gloves are off. I myself step upon the stage and drag my enemy, conventional wisdom, front and center with me.

The hero pays the price for his naive belief in truth; he is socially totally isolated, but he remains undaunted. Throughout the book, he remains loyal to the idea that truth will win the day. He utters the line (through playwright Arthur Miller) that embodies "the hero's" defiance of the "majority" and defines the state in which he feels himself to be: independent, invulnerable, and exquisitely self-contained. "The strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone!"

To me, the artist's strength lays in an undaunted capacity to maintain a vision in the face of opposition and to "cleanse and decontaminate the whole community." I must disturb, be perpetually misunderstood, and walk alone. Yet I would call Significant Moments an expression of the "comedy of life" in that it expresses my recognition that the creative artist cannot totally stand alone. Ultimately, he needs an audience to respond to him.

The artist accepts isolation as a consequence of his superior, unique vision of the world. He depicts his ideal, to follow the dictates of his artistic integrity, irrespective of the consequences. Compromise means accommodating to societal pressures, hypocrisy, and deception.

In Significant Moments the tyranny of conventional wisdom, the legacy of father to son, and the strength inherent in one's solitary loyalty to the "ideal" of truth appear on an unadorned stage.

It is always risky, when discussing an artist, to draw inferences about his life from his creative output. Nonetheless, parallels do exist between the artist's life and his creative work.

Traumatic, painful, or humiliating life experiences sometimes provide the context for an artist's work. To some extent, the creative product is the transformation by the artist of the effects of his painful past and narcissistically injurious experiences. Here, transformation refers to self-regulated alterations, the capacity to alter one's self-state, when, for example, it is characterized by guilt or shame, stirred by feelings of defeat and, when exposed to contempt, derision, or ridicule. To turn painful self-states into a sense of triumph requires transforming narcissistic injuries, often though not invariably, via narcissistic rage, into a sense of having righted a wrong, avenged a slur, or seized self-"intactness" from the jaws of injury.

Significant Moments is a self-revelation. As the book proceeds headlong toward its tragic denouement, the passages that describe the weather and the lighting are psychologically revealing. Thus, the portion of the writing that describes the high point of the Wagner-Nietzsche relationship refers to the brilliance of the sun. While the last meeting of Wagner and Nietzsche takes place on a cold, drizzly evening -- the night of a dinner party. Artists, including myself, often depict self-states of the characters through, for example, reference to weather. Changes in the weather foreshadow, just as a dream of a barren countryside may reveal and foreshadow, the state of the self.

The book also contains numerous biblical allusions and quotations. In adult years I have stood alone against my critics, who have usually been stronger and more numerous than my defenders. The source of my strength -- my ability to stand alone, undaunted -- I believe, is ultimately a positive inheritance from my father: namely, my father's ego-strengthening identification with the historical struggle of the Jewish people for survival. My ambivalence toward my father now becomes more understandable. My "inheritance" did not only include my father's failings, but contained a substantial quantum of support from him as well. My solitary faith in myself and my eventual triumph, coupled with my memory of my father's loyalty to the best in the Jewish tradition, may have provided the strength that has enabled me to stand alone and continue my struggle without the aid or presence of another.

After my disappointing job termination in 1991, my self-state could be characterized as enraged by new disappointments, as well as the revival of the old hurts and disillusionments. I sought refuge through the transformation of my painful state to one that may also have been an enduring legacy of my childhood, a state devoid of impingements from others and free of the disappointment I felt in my father. I sought a sense of supremacy, alone and at peace. Akin to a puppeteer, I longed to be above the critics and the mundane world, without concern for social status, economics, or prestige.

In any event, that's the bird's eye view.

Check you out next week, buddy. You might want to look up Bruce S. Linenberg, who was in my high school graduating class. He was supersmart and supercool. He's now a psychologist.

P.S. This letter is, for the most part, a paraphrase of a technical paper: "Ibsen: Criticism, Creativity, and Self-State Transformations," by Frank M. Lachmann and Annette Lachmann, published in The Annual of Psychoanalysis, vol. 24, 1996.

Frank M. Lachmann, Ph.D., is a member of the Founding Faculty of the Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity; Clinical Assistant Professor, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, and Training and Supervising Analyst, Postgraduate Center for Mental Health. He is author or co-author of more than 80 publications. His most recent works include Transforming Aggression: Psychotherapy with the Difficult-to-Treat Patient (Aronson, 2001); with Beatrice Beebe he is co-author of Infant Research and Adult Treatment: Co-Constructing Interactions (Analytic Press, 2002) and with Joseph Lichtenberg and James Fosshage he is co-author of three books, including A Spirit of Inquiry: Communication in Psychoanalysis (Analytic Press, 2002).

APPENDIX: Brief excerpt from Significant Moments, an autobiographical study.

Those with an intimate acquaintance of Hebrew texts will recognize immediately that this one is written entirely in melitzah, a mosaic of fragments and phrases from the Hebrew Bible as well as from rabbinic literature or the liturgy, fitted together to form a new statement of what the author intends to express at the moment. Melitzah, in effect, recalls Walter Benjamin's desire to someday write a work composed entirely of quotations. At any rate, it was a literary device employed widely in medieval Hebrew poetry and prose, then through . . .
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Freud's Moses.. . .the movement known as Haskalah, Hebrew for “enlightenment,”. . .
Herbert Kupferberg, The Mendelssohns: Three Generations of Genius.. . . and even among nineteenth-century writers both modern and traditional.
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Freud's Moses.What is so special about this particular . . .
Adam Baer, The Music Language.. . . literary device?
Ken Ham, Where are you, metaphor?In melitzah the sentences compounded out of quotations mean what they say; but below and beyond the surface they reverberate with associations to the original texts, and this is what makes them psychologically so interesting and valuable. In the transposition of a quotation from the original (in this case canonical) text to a new one, the meaning of the original context may be retained, altered, or subverted. In any case the original context trails along as an invisible interlinear presence, and the readers, like the writer, must be aware of these associations if they are to savor the new text to the full. A partial analogy may be found in Eliot's use of quotations in The Waste Land.
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Freud's Moses.If he is successful in . . .
Donald P. Spence, Narrative Truth and Historical Truth: Meaning and Interpretation in Psychoanalysis.. . . his use of melitzah, . . .
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Freud’s Moses.. . . the Author . . .
Bill Moyers, Genesis: A Living Conversation.. . . will arouse in the reader a particular set of images and associations which will add a certain texture and tone to what is being described—the chordal accompaniment, so to speak, to the melodic line.
Donald P. Spence, Narrative Truth and Historical Truth: Meaning and Interpretation in Psychoanalysis._____________________________________________________________

I have resolved on an enterprise which has no precedent, and which, once complete, will have no imitator. My purpose is to display to my kind a portrait in every way true to nature, and the man I shall portray will be myself. Simply myself.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions.If I have written much of it in the third person, well, that is because such an obsessive account of . . .
Richard Selzer, Raising the Dead.. . . my intrusion into this valley of suffering . . .
Arthur Rubinstein, My Young Years.. . . forces one, like Dorian Gray, to confront his own "devilish, furtive, ingrown" self-portrait. The pronoun he gives a blessed bit of distance between myself and a too fresh ordeal in which the use of I would be rather like picking off a scab only to find that the wound had not completely healed.
Richard Selzer, Raising the Dead.In the career of the most unliterary of writers, in the sense that literary ambition had never entered the world of his imagination, the coming into existence of the first book is quite an inexplicable event. In my own case I cannot trace it back to any mental or psychological cause which one could point out and hold to. The greatest of my gifts being a consummate capacity for doing nothing, I cannot even point to boredom as a rational stimulus for taking up a pen.
Joseph Conrad, A Personal Record.What kind of person am I? What is so special about me?
Richard Wagner, Letter to King Ludwig II of Bavaria.I am an assimilated Jew, content to be assimilated, relieved to be religiously unobservant. I don't know any Hebrew, or have forgotten the little I once learned.
Wayne Koestenbaum, Listening to Schwarzkopf: The Reich and the Soprano.Speaking personally, I find that the American experience of being an assimilated grandchild of Orthodox immigrants has tended to make me an ill-informed, nonbelieving, non-observant Orthodox Jew, haunted by nostalgia for the peculiar music of the shul, for the Judaism I do not practice. And this adds still another puzzling iridescence to my Jewishness and to the tantalizing opportunities of my writer's divided self.
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.. . . since these pages, if they survive me, may be the last testament of my brief and insignificant passage through the world, let me scrawl out the main facts.
Herman Wouk, War and Remembrance."I come from an unbroken line of infidel Jews. My father was a Voltairian. My mother was pious, but one day my father took me out for a walk . . .
Sigmund Freud, Conversation with Thornton Wilder.. . . a walk in a little neighboring wood . . .
Voltaire, Candide.. . . I can remember it perfectly, and explained to me that there was no way we could know that there is a God; that it didn't do any good to trouble one's head about such; but to live and do one's duty among one's fellow men"
Sigmund Freud, Conversation with Thornton Wilder.I know my own heart and understand my fellow man. But I am made unlike any one I have ever met; I will even venture to say that I am like no one in the whole world. I may be no better, but at least I am different. Whether Nature did well or ill in breaking the mould in which she formed me, is a question which can only be resolved after reading my book.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions.____________________________________________________________

We writers live in the limbo between expression and communication. And we do not need theology or metaphysics to remind us that as writers we cannot avoid the effort, or the temptation, to serve two masters—ourselves, what is within us, and our reader, our conjectural clients outside.
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men's lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me. Perhaps these pages are more particularly addressed to poor students. As for the rest of my readers, they will accept such portions as apply to them. I trust that none will stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do good service to whom it fits.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden.By an ironic twist in the history of western literature, in this very age of unprecedented temptations to literary populism, an age of the sovereign and increasingly demanding public, there developed a fertile new sense of Personal Conscience. The private consciousness took on a new life and became a wondrous new literary resource. In modern transformation, conscience, an ancient laboratory of theological hairsplitting and a modern arena of ephemeral public taste, became inward, experimental, and biographical.
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra’s Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.But more. But infinitely more.—
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner.As prophet and pundit . . .
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination.. . . as devilish, dangerous, a rebel, and yet also a martyr and sacrifice . . .
Frederick Karl, Franz Kafka: Representative Man.. . . the writer has become . . .
Ramakant Rath, Has Literature a Future?. . . the bad conscience of our whole era, . . .
Cosima Wagner’s Diaries (Monday, December 13, 1869).. . . and in so doing indeed . . .
Henry James, Confidence.. . . he has come perilously close to defining the modern . . .
Frederick Karl, Franz Kafka: Representative Man.. . . antihero who rejects received tenets of behaviour and stays true to his individuality . . .
Youssef Rakha, Review of A Sun Which Leaves No Shadows.. . . in an always alien society.
Frederick Karl, Franz Kafka: Representative Man.To think of the writer as conscience of the world is only to recognize that the writer, . . .
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.. . . as we shall see, . . .
Edward R. Tannenbaum, 1900: The Generation Before the Great War.. . . is inevitably a divided self, condemned at the same time to express and to communicate, to speak for the writer and speak to others.
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.The orator yields to the inspiration of a transient occasion, and speaks to the mob before him, to those who can hear him; but the writer, whose more equable life is his occasion, and who would be distracted by the event and the crowd which inspire the orator, speaks to the intellect and heart of mankind, to all in any age who can understand him.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden.Western literature offers us countless different ways in which authors have dealt with this divided self. I will provide only a sample from some of my favorite writers that may suggest the perils that beset writers who pretend to be the world's arbiters.
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, . . .
Richard M. Ashbrook and Michael W. Torello, Preserving Community in a Technological Age: Toward the Constructive Incorporation of Technology in Higher Education.. . . Hermann Hesse . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.—one of my favorites—
Christina Olson Spiesel, The One Who Loved My Work: A Meditation on Art Criticism.. . . embodied those divisions of his age which have left their mark on our culture. . . . In a manner unique among writers, he wove his immediate experiences into his books to portray many of the dilemmas and historic crises of his time. . . . It was this finely tuned interaction between his psychological conflict and historical events that was to make him a poet of crisis. . . .
Hesse's stories—like the dreams he collected in special notebooks—are told from both conscious and unconscious experience and therefore reveal and conceal events, encounters, and feelings from himself, his friends, his public. The way Hesse lived and wrote about his life, constantly aware of his conflicting impulses as part of the tension of his art, made this revelation and concealment permeate all his writings. . . .
He made himself into an example for his readers, just as Rousseau, by no means a stranger to the art of disclosure and concealment, had presented himself in his Confessions. With its "pole" and "counterpole," Hesse's work became an ongoing act of instruction even as it took the shape of a continuous novel.
Ralph Freedman, Hermann Hesse: Pilgrim of Crisis.____________________________________________________________

The popular literary form . . .
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.—as opposed to the sequestered academic one—is always straining at the inbuilt inertia of a society that always wants to deny change and the pain it necessarily involves. But it is in this effort that the musculature of important work is developed.
Arthur Miller, Timebends.Hesse's literary career was closely interwoven with his personal fortunes as well as with his philosophical interests. His works before his disillusionment in World War I reflect the German literary traditions of romanticism and regionalism.
Encyclopedia Americana.In this tradition, we are dealing with a line of thought that frames . . .
Ghent Urban Studies Team, The Urban Condition: Space, Community, and Self in the Contemporary Metropolis.. . . clear-cut distinctions between good and evil, prudence and folly, reality and fantasy.
Edward R. Tannenbaum, 1900: The Generation before the Great War.At any rate, in . . .
Erik H. Erikson, Young Man Luther.. . . accord with his original artistic nature, . . .
Paul Roazen, Erik H. Erikson: The Power and Limits of a Vision.. . . and at a time when . . .
Michael Nightingale, Smallpox: Why All The Fuss?. . . in his youth . . .
Erik H. Erikson, Young Man Luther.. . . he has not yet seen any of his illusions dissipated, . . .
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.. . . Hesse’s . . .
Ralph Freedman, Hermann Hesse: Pilgrim of Crisis.. . . generally lower-middle-class heroes work hard, though rarely successfully, at adjusting to . . .
Encyclopedia Americana.. . . the technological and social change . . .
Erik H. Erikson, Young Man Luther.. . . of urban industrial society.
Edward R. Tannenbaum, 1900: The Generation Before the Great War.
By the time . . .
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.. . . the Great War ended, however, . . .
W. Thomas White, Working Life: The Big Strike.. . . the world had undergone a complete transformation . . .
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.. . . and the consequences for . . .
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.. . . Hesse . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.. . . himself were far greater than he could ever have foreseen.
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.Somehow events in his life were coming to a head, but he felt that he was being lived by them, rather than living them.
Erik H. Erikson, Young Man Luther.He became uncertain whether good and bad, right and wrong, had any absolute existence at all. Perhaps the voice of one’s own conscience was ultimately the only valid judge, and if that were so, then . . .
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.Each man had only one genuine vocation—to find the way to himself. He might end up as poet or madman, as prophet or criminal—that was not his affair, ultimately it was of no concern. His task was to discover his own destiny—not an arbitrary one—and live it out wholly and resolutely within himself. Everything else was only a would-be existence, an attempt at evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of one’s own inwardness.
Hermann Hesse, Demian.What more need I say?
Mohandas K. Gandhi, Indian Home Rule.Beginning with Demian (1919), . . .
Encyclopedia Americana.—if we may be permitted to anticipate our story . . .
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.. . . his heroes no longer try to conform but . . .
Encyclopedia Americana.. . . force themselves almost against their own wills to insist, at the price of isolation, on finding an original way of . . .
Erik H. Erikson, Young Man Luther.. . . participating in . . .
H.G. Wells, The World Set Free.. . . a new age of human involvement and commitment.
Encyclopedia Americana.