Friday, August 26, 2011

Significant Moments: On Keeping Your Mouth Shut

     Time past and time future
     What might have been and what has been
     Point to one end, which is always present.
T.S. Eliot, Excerpt from Burnt Norton.
     For Freud, who seemed to use every hour productively, the momentary present was almost hidden between past and future.  The present took its meaning from the larger perspective, the non-present, from which Freud derived his higher motive, his drive for success and permanence.
E. James Lieberman, Acts of Will: The Life and Work of Otto Rank.
     It is impossible to date with any precision the time that Freud began his momentous self-scrutiny.  By 1893 or, at the latest, 1894, the pressure for generalization always active within him had brought him to the recognition that the mental activities his patients reported to him strikingly resembled his own fantasies, thoughts, and wishes.
Peter Gay, Freud: For the Marble Tablet.
     Within that same decade, Freud, a neurologist fascinated by hypnosis, created the science and art of psychoanalysis.  He introduced the term in 1896, borrowing “analysis” from chemistry.
E. James Lieberman, Acts of Will: The Life and Work of Otto Rank.
     During these years . . .
Erik H. Erikson, Insight and Responsibility.
       . . . the seemingly stable days of the 1890's . . .
Donald A. Wollheim, Introduction to H.G. Wells, The Time Machine.
         . . . Freud at times expressed some despair and confessed to some neurotic symptoms which reveal phenomological aspects of a creative crisis.  He suffered from a “railroad phobia” and from acute fears of an early death—both symptoms of an over-concern with the all too rapid passage of time.  “Railroad phobia” is an awkwardly clinical way of translating Reisefieber—a feverish combination of pleasant excitement and anxiety.  But it all meant, it seems, on more than one level that he was “coming too late,” that he was “missing the train,” that he would perish before reaching some “promised land.”  He could not see how he could complete what he had visualized if every single step took so much "work, time and error."            
Erik H. Erikson, Insight and Responsibility.
     Every now and again he . . .
Anthony Trollope, La Vendee.
       . . . thought of the problems in school arithmetic in which you are asked how soon and in what order trains, starting at different times and going at different speeds, get to their destinations; he tried to remember the general method of solving them, but it escaped him and he went on from these school memories to
others and to still more complicated speculations. He tried to imagine several people whose lives run parallel and close together but move at different speeds, and he wondered in what circumstances some of them would overtake and survive others.  Something like a theory of relativity governing the hippodrome of life occurred to him, but he became confused and gave up his analogies.
Boris Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago.
     He was obviously, I believe, hiding the weaknesses in his nature, covering the areas which were most vulnerable to hurt, concealing the vast but vague designs shaping in his dreams.  One of the weaknesses most noticeable and most significant was that lateness to arrive at the various stages of maturity.  This had the effect of making much that went on about him slightly incomprehensible.   He knew that certain things happened and would happen, but he was not quite certain why.  And he did not want this insufficiency to be known.  He went to great lengths to keep it hidden.  That repository of concealment by now begins to seem
Rexford G. Tugwell, The Democratic Roosevelt.
     At this time, Freud speaks of his discoveries with the anguish of one who has seen a promised land which he must not set foot on:
Erik H. Erikson, Insight and Responsibility.
     I am beginning now to fear that I must wait a lifetime. . . .
     If that is so, it remains for us to live as though it were not so.  But to me the future is still black and blank—
H.G. Wells, The Time Machine.
     We look back on these . . .
George Steiner, In Bluebeard's Castle.
       . . . self-appraisals . . .
Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time.
          . . . now with bewildered irony.
George Steiner, In Bluebeard's Castle.       

DENNIS M. RACE:  We have decided to terminate your employment.

FREEDMAN: [silence.]


For the chapter: Sometimes it's best to keep your mouth shut

HIRING PARTNER: So, Mr. Roosevelt, I see that you didn't earn your law degree.

FDR: No.  I completed my course work.  But I didn't sit for exams in my final semester.  As you know, the New York Bar does not require an applicant to have earned a law degree.

HIRING PARTNER:  Well, some people take the trouble to sit for final exams.

FDR:  I'm not "some people."

HIRING PARTNER:  Roosevelt.  That's an impressive name.  Are you related to Theodore Roosevelt?

FDR:  Yes, he is a distant cousin.

HIRING PARTNER:  Have you thought about a career in politics?

FDR:  As a matter of fact I have.  I have it all mapped out in my mind.  Governor of New York.  Then I plan to run for President of the United States.  I plan to be the first three-term president.

HIRING PARTNER:  Three-term president?  Why not four terms?

FDR:  Indeed!  Why NOT four terms!!

HIRING PARTNER: Just what would you like to accomplish in your career?

FDR:  Well, as President of the United States, I plan to totally revolutionize the political and economic basis of our society.  America won't be the same once I've completed my three terms.

HIRING PARTNER:  Any other plans, Mr. Roosevelt?

FDR:  Yes.  As president I plan to finance a program to develop a weapon of mass destruction that could eventually annihilate the planet.

HIRING PARTNER:  I've enjoyed our chat, Mr. Roosevelt.  I'll let you know what we decide.


Gary Freedman said...

I thought of this post on the train ride from Atlantic City to Washington, DC on Friday August 26, 2011.

Gary Freedman said...

Reisefieber (travel fever) from Richard Strauss opera, Intermezzo.

Gary Freedman said...

"lateness to arrive" might be a symbolic reference to ejaculatory delay (or am I attaching a negative sexual meaning to a trivial event?)