Monday, December 20, 2010

Significant Moments: The Chemistry of Human Relations

Albert Rothenberg, M.D. first described or discovered a process he termed "homospatial thinking," which consists of actively conceiving two or more discrete entities occupying the same space, a conception leading to the articulation of new identities. Homospatial thinking has a salient role in the creative process in the following wide variety of fields: literature, the visual arts, music, science, and mathematics. This cognitive factor, along with "Janusian thinking," clarifies the nature of creative thinking as a highly adaptive and primarily nonregressive form of functioning.

There is a section of my book Significant Moments whose manifest content discusses the relationship between Richard Wagner and his protege Friedrich Nietzsche. Superimposed on the text is the (trite) metaphor of chemistry -- the chemistry of human relations. Goethe's novel Elective Affinities employs the metaphor of chemistry and is quoted in this text.

My book was originally dedicated to Ethel B. Fischer, my high school chemistry teacher. She displayed the dedication to her profession that a federal judge has to hers. Mrs. Fischer consistently gave me the grade of D, but she was one of my favorite teachers. I don't hold a grudge against teachers -- or judges -- who don't recognize my talents. I'm not that narcissistically disturbed.

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The reader, at this point, will have realized for some time now that this is not a chemical treatise: my presumption does not reach so far—"ma voix est foible, et meme un peu profane." Nor is it an autobiography, save in the partial and symbolic limits in which every piece of writing is autobiographical, indeed every human work; but it is in some fashion a . . .
Primo Levi, The Periodic Table.
. . . poetic endeavor . . .
Kirsten Wille, Poetic License.
. . . whose aim it is to elucidate . . .
Irvin Goldman, Abductory Inference, Communication Theory and Subjective Science.
. . . the mysterious chemistry of the mind and . . .
Ernest Newman, The Life of Richard Wagner.
. . . of human woes, passions and felicities.
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
Now our interest is in this human content.
Sigmund Freud, The Theme of the Three Caskets.
And yet, do not those very endeavors speak for the fact that . . .
Sigmund Freud, The Moses of Michelangelo.
. . . it happens also in chemistry as in . . .
Primo Levi, The Periodic Table.
. . . the man-world that . . .
Jack London, The Valley of the Moon.
. . . attraction and relatedness . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Elective Affinities.
. . . play their . . .
Upton Sinclair, The Jungle.
. . . fateful roles
Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Man's Soul.
Permit me to clarify the situation by a metaphor.
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.
Now the molecules of inorganic matter . . .
Carole Angier, The Double Bond: Primo Levi, A Biography.
. . . as I have learned, . . .
Anthony Trollope, The Last Chronicle of Barset.
. . . attach to each other at one point only, making long but stable chains. Organic molecules, by contrast, have a double bond: they attach to each other at two or even more points, making possible richer but also less stable combinations.
Carole Angier, The Double Bond: Primo Levi, A Biography.
To continue:
Leo Tolstoy, Resurrection.
The hydrogen bond is only a twentieth as strong as the bonds that usually hold atoms together within a molecule. It is strong enough, even so, to hold the two strands . . .
Isaac Asimov, The Wellsprings of Life.
. . . of DNA code . . .
Richard Preston, The Cobra Event: A Novel.
. . . in place. Yet it is also weak enough to break and allow the two chains to separate on occasion . . .
Isaac Asimov, The Wellsprings of Life.
At present I should have to put you off with dreadful technical terms which would still give you no idea of what is happening. One has to have these entities before one's eyes, and see how, although they appear to be lifeless, they are in fact perpetually ready to spring into activity; . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Elective Affinities.
. . . but if . . .
Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams.
. . . to comprehend is the same as forming an image, we will never form an image of a happening whose scale is a millionth of a millimeter, whose rhythm is a millionth of a second, and whose protagonists are in their essence invisible. Every verbal description must be inadequate, and one will be as good as the next, so let us settle for the following description.
Primo Levi, The Periodic Table.
Atoms attract one another, atoms repel one another.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace.
It needs little imagination . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Elective Affinities.
. . . to see reflected in . . .
Anna Katherine Green, The Woman in the Alcove.
. . . the record of the friendship of Wagner and Nietzsche . . .
Ernest Newman, The Life of Richard Wagner.
. . . a metaphor from which we may extract . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Elective Affinities.
. . . a lesson that . . .
Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams.
. . . is neither remote nor metaphysical:
Primo Levi, The Periodic Table.
So long as each seemed to the other to be just a factor in his own egoistic . . .
Ernest Newman, The Life of Richard Wagner.
. . . development, a . . .
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables.
. . . chemical alter ego . . .
Primo Levi, The Periodic Table.
. . . their mutual attraction was stronger than their repulsion. But from the moment that this . . .
Ernest Newman, The Life of Richard Wagner.
. . . anarchy of atoms, . . .
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner.
. . . this always unstable equilibrium became still more unstable by reason of Nietzsche's gradual realisation of what he was in himself, and his own illimitable self-esteem, his sense of his mission, his lust for power, his inability to suffer contradiction clashed with a similar complex of forces in Wagner, a breach between the two men was inevitable.
Ernest Newman, The Life of Richard Wagner.

3 comments:

Libb Thims said...

When was this book written? Can you elaborate on the above section, i.e. what you meant by the "chemistry of human relations" in regards to the above book section?

Gary Freedman said...

That's a very broad question. I am referring to the fact that people have complementary personality characteristics -- like atoms (individuals) in a molecule (a group of 2 or more persons).

Libb Thims said...

Sound's life Primo Levi describing his Jewish ancestors as being like argon to the surrounding Christian population. And the book was written when?