Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Significant Moments: The Outsider

In a previous post I presented an excerpt from my book Significant Moments: a passage concerning the Biblical tale of the sacrifice of Isaac that included a discussion about a learned rabbi who took lessons from a heretic:

I remember that when as a child I read the Midrash, I came across a story and a description of a scene which gripped my imagination.
Isaac Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jew and Other Essays.
It reminded me of . . .
Jack London, The Sea Wolf.
. . . the problem of . . .
Franz Kafka, Letters to Milena.
. . . . the Creator and His Creations;
Cynthia Ozick, The Impious Impatience of Job.
. . . the problem of . . .
Franz Kafka, Letters to Milena.
. . . visioning and revisioning, . . .
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, The Anatomy of Prejudices.
—and finally, . . .
Mark Twain, Roughing It.
. . . of all things! . . .
Zane Grey, The Spirit of the Border.
. . . the sacrifice of Isaac—
Alice Miller, The Untouched Key.
It was the story of Rabbi Meir, the great saint and sage, the pillar of Mosaic orthodoxy, and co-author of the Mishnah, who took lessons in theology from a heretic, Elisha ben Abiyuh, called Akher (The Stranger).
Isaac Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jew and Other Essays.
One day while . . .
Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters.
. . . Rabbi Meir . . .
Isaac Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jew and Other Essays.
. . . was working . . .
Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters.
. . . Akher . . .
Isaac Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jew and Other Essays.
. . . The Stranger . . .
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . stood beside him, watching with engrossment. He was scratching out one . . .
Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters.
. . . Word . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust.
. . .after another . . .
Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters.
. . . as the new formulations were sketched, trimmed, contoured, synthesized.
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, The Anatomy of Prejudices.
The stranger said tranquilly:—
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables.
. . . Rabbi Meir, . . .
Isaac Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jew and Other Essays.
. . . ‘I would not like to be a . . .
Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters.
. . . word.’
Anthony Trollope, The Last Chronicle of Barset.
‘Why not?’ he asked. ‘Because then you might scratch me out . . .
Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters.
. . . as a sacrifice . . .
Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage.
. . . and blow me away.’
Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters.
___________________

God's command to Abraham that he offer as a sacrifice his son Isaac is a metaphor for an employer's decision to terminate an employee.  The tale of the learned Rabbi Meir taking lessons from a heretic named Akher, The Stranger, is a metaphor for the senior psychoanalyst K.R. Eissler elevating the near novice Jeffrey Masson to the post of Projects Director of the Sigmund Freud Archives.  Dr. Eissler eventually terminated -- or "sacrificed" -- Masson at the command of the Freud Archives Board.  Masson was a heretical psychoanalyst who questioned a major tenet of orthodox analysis: namely, that in most cases, female patients' analytical narratives of childhood sexual abuse were in fact fantasies determined by the patients' unconscious sexual and aggressive impulses, a theory postulated by Freud.

A section of the book that discusses Masson's termination features extensive quotes from Albert Camus' novel L'Etranger -- rendered in English as The Stranger or The OutsiderThe Stranger presents Camus' view of the absurdity of life, a major theme of existentialist philosophy, and expounds the theme of determinism (which parallels the psychoanalytical concepts of psychological determinism and the compulsion to repeat).  The main character in the novel shoots and kills a man and is sentenced to death.  (The word "firing" has a double meaning.  In The Stranger "firing" refers to the shooting of a gun.  In my book I use the word "firing" to refer to a job termination.  Coincidentally, there is a character in The Stranger named Masson.)

The quotations in Significant Moments from Camus' novel The Stranger in the context of the discussion of Jeffrey Masson's job termination are an allusion to the earlier passage in my book (reproduced above) concerning the sacrifice of Isaac as well as the tale of Rabbi Meir and the heretic named Akher, The Stranger.

Coincidentally, former Akin Gump partner Kay Tatum, Esq. has a Ph.D. in French literature.  Dr. Tatum is now a partner at Wiley Rein, LLP.
_____________________

For us, a man is a hero and deserves special interest only if his nature and his education have rendered him able to let his individuality be almost perfectly absorbed in its hierarchic function, without at the same time forfeiting the vigorous, fresh, admirable impetus which make for the savor and worth of the individual. And if conflicts arise between the individual and the hierarchy, we regard these very conflicts as a touchstone for the stature of the personality. We do not approve of the rebel who is driven by his desires and passions to infringements upon law and order; we find all the more worthy of our reverence the memory of those who tragically sacrificed themselves for the greater whole. These latter are the heroes.
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game quoted in K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
Masson’s . . .
Leonard Shengold, Soul Murder.
. . . firing . . .
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . could also be looked upon as a tactful concession to . . .
Emile Zola, Germinal.
. . . many analysts, . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Assault on Truth: Freud’s Suppression of the Seduction Theory.
. . . who bitterly hated him.
Emile Zola, Germinal.
"Every day I get many calls, from all over the world about how awful you are. . . ."
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis.
He looked right at me.
Monica Crowley, Nixon in Winter.
I keep seeing the look on his face . . . . The repetition of the memory is as insistent as the look itself was.
David Evanier, The Man Who Refused to Watch the Academy Awards.
Eissler's rage knew no bounds. He did not like being harassed by other analysts. "Just today Masud Khan . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis.
. . . who was a trustee . . .
William Faulkner, Light in August (Chapter 11).
. . . called me from London and asked me to dismiss you from the Archives. The board members, all of them, or at least most of them, are asking for the same."
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis.
Political prudence dictated . . .
Emile Zola, Germinal.
—why, I still don’t know—that . . .
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . . this kind of purge. . . .
Emile Zola, Germinal.
. . . be executed.
William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus.
It was a foregone conclusion.
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
Discussing the board meeting at which he was fired, . . .
Amanda Vaill, Seduction on Trial.
. . . Masson said . . .
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . that Eissler pressured him not to retaliate and "poison Anna Freud's last days," but instead to "live with . . .
Amanda Vaill, Seduction on Trial.
. . . the dismissal . . .
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . in silence . . . because it is the honorable thing to do."
Amanda Vaill, Seduction on Trial.
Otherwise . . .
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . said Eissler . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis.
. . . there would be no end to litigation.
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
At which Masson, according to . . .
Amanda Vaill, Seduction on Trial.
. . . the press . . .
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . commented, "Well, he had the wrong man."
Amanda Vaill, Seduction on Trial.
What arrogance!
Irvin D. Yalom, Love's Executioner.
There seems hardly any doubt that, once . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
. . . the old man . . .
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . had been seriously disappointed by an individual's personal conduct, it was often difficult for him to forgive . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
. . . and Masson . . .
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . must have been . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
. . . over and over again, . . .
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . a source of disappointment. If actions of the sort . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
.
. . I am attempting to describe . . .
Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus.
. . . actually did occur, then I do not see how . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
. . . the doctor could . . .
Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native.
. . . have helped deeply regretting that he had ever accepted . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
. . . a much younger man than his colleagues . . .
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . into the . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
. . . inner circle of psychoanalysis.
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis.
It was a bitter blow . . .
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.
. . . an unsettling experience . . .
Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time.
.
. . to a man of this sort . . .
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.
. . . a man among those who stood at the head of the movement.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov.
Years later he himself commented on this matter:
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.
It has not been the first or last experience to reinforce my disgust with . . .
Sigmund Freud, Letter to James Jackson Putnam.
. . . young men who have nothing but talent.
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.
Rightly, one may say that . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
The entire affair had been a lot of people performing a play . . .
Gilbert J. Rose, William Faulkner's Light in August: The Orchestration of Time In the Psychology of Artistic Style.
. . . an absurd . . .
Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus.
. . . play and now at last they had all played out the parts which had been allotted them.
Gilbert J. Rose, William Faulkner's Light in August: The Orchestration of Time In the Psychology of Artistic Style.
What's past is . . .
William Shakespeare, The Tempest.
. . . eternally present, and therefore . . .
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.
. . . would seem to present material for an instructive prologue.
Lawrence J. Friedman, Identity's Architect: A Biography of Erik H. Erikson.
It was uncanny to observe how the persons drawn into the imbroglio were forced to pursue the acting out, almost as if they were . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
. . . grotesques, moving puppetlike . . .
Robert W. Gutman, Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music.
. . . under the dominance of . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
. . . an unseen Player who . . .
Gilbert J. Rose, William Faulkner's Light in August: The Orchestration of Time In the Psychology of Artistic Style.
. . . acted through them—
Steven R. Latham, System and Responsibility: Three Readings of the Institute of Medicine Report on Medical Error.
But in the end . . .
Henry James, The American.
. . . dear friends, . . .
William Shakespeare, Hamlet.
. . . you know well that life is full of infinite absurdities, which, strangely enough, do not even need to appear plausible, since they are true.
Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author.

4 comments:

Gary Freedman said...

Just today Randy Levine, who is a trustee, called me.

Gary Freedman said...

Sigmund Freud's classical theory of psychoanalysis is based on the philosophies of naturalism and the sort of determinism which "excludes the possibility of free will and sees current behavior as entirely determined by the environment or past events."

Gary Freedman said...

The theme and outlook of Camus' novel The Stranger are often cited as examples of existentialism, though Camus did not consider himself an existentialist; in fact, its content explores various philosophical schools of thought, including (most prominently and specifically) absurdism, as well as determinism, nihilism, naturalism, and stoicism.

Gary Freedman said...

Unfortunately for President Bush NBC's David Gregory speaks fluent French:





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRflK7kQQMo