After this, his pertinent life, was completed and he graduated from High School, the best that the Babe could expect from anyone who had formal qualifications to write a letter of recommendation, perhaps a half-dozen people, would go something like this:
Dear ________________________: (fill in name)
I am pleased to recommend Alfred Joseph de Grazia, Jr., for (_______________________ fill in). He has consistently been near the top of his class and has been awarded a gold honor pin. He is especially strong in academic subjects, including History and Social Studies. He speaks well, writes well and is liked by his classmates. He is a leading member of the Concert Band and Orchestra, and a member of the Latin Club. He is young for his class. He works hard and has a serious attitude.
This would scarcely be what the Babe would want engraved as an epitaph upon his tombstone. The Babe wanted to be unique but universal, common to and with all mankind -- at the same moment, and without a sense of contradiction. He wished to be all things to all people while being peculiarly himself.
Also he wanted to be fully autonomous, self-determined, while being determined, this being accomplished (mentally at least) at a tender age in exactly the way that Karl Marx achieved his Historical Dialectic, whereby universal communism must come, as a law of historical development, but the individual must, in view of this, freely choose the cause and work for it. (Nor was Immanuel Kant far off from this form of logic.)
Thus did the Babe wish and do whatever he wanted when he could, but at the same time believed that the world was shaped to his desires and was going his way and no other way and could not help but do so, even though Evil might try to block the great Good way.
This form of thought is of great importance to man as he stumbles along in eccentric self-consciousness: it shows how immense a factor is narcissism, which makes little man autonomous precisely because the world is determined by him, but he insists that the world and he are both determined.
One can see how Marx never left Hegel, his early inspiration, while believing that he had destroyed his philosophical position, for Marx, too, made out the "World as Mind." Philosophers may be but children.
As if this were not enough, the Babe was preoccupied with moral principles and ideals, seeking like Immanuel Kant, of whom he knew nothing, to follow a moral law that was unconditional and absolute for all agents, the validity or claim of which does not depend upon any ulterior motive or end.
He was truly Kantian in that only "kindness" was absolute for him. Thus, he would not regard "Thou shalt not steal" as a categorical imperative. But he In Fact, In Behavior, agreed with Kant to "Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." This was the phrase he strove for, phrased as "How would you like it if others did this to you?" or "How would you like it if everyone acted like this?" Then, too, specifically he would agree with Kant to "so act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in another, always as an end, and never as only a means."
The Babe here approached a contradiction but never foundered on it: he was Machiavellian and self-consciously so, but he could never let himself "go beyond limits" in treating anybody or any living thing wholly as a means. Usually the living thing itself, by expressing objections to such treatment, would stop his action, but anyhow he was internally compelled to cease and desist. He was appalled and disturbed at witnessing or hearing of others who did not or could not limit themselves according to Kant's imperative. Even so, he could not justify entirely the imperative.
Methinks the Reader will pause here and warn me that he can only tolerate so much of this reading of great ideas into the mind of a youngster. He might as well go back to reading Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys, who have big ideas that you can See, like Gas Balloons and Faster Motor Cars. He will say, too, that so far as he recalls he had the same thoughts and that did not make a Kant or Marx (Thank God!) out of him.
My reply is, yes, indeed, you were a Kant, just as Moliere's Bourgeois-Gentilhomme talked in prose all his life without knowing so. Take, if you will, the formidable-looking textbook on logic and the scientific method of Cohen and Nagel, present it to your favorite bartender, and ask him to read it, then see whether he will not come back to you with it, surprised at how it was just common sense when you got down to it. I am not saying that philosophy is nonsense, au contraire, although much of it is nonsense... But here! I am straying from the story of the Babe, perhaps the effect of getting toward the end of it.
The Babe was of two minds about riddles, the hiding of evidence, the using of words ambiguously; he wanted everything out in the open; he felt there was enough hidden to begin with, enough needing clarification, enough straight questions asking for answers. But he was enough of a scholastic to consider puzzles such as "What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable body?" He might also give some attention to the question of "Why does a chicken cross the road?" and vehemently opposed the answer "to get to the other side," because he wanted a deterministic answer.
He was a child prone to enlist multiple causative factors. He would be, if such a test were to be given children, ready for a Pre- Law examination in which one could offer several contradictory propositions in defense of an action: viz., "My client was not at the scene of the accident; if he was, he had nothing to do with it; if he did, it was the fault of the other guy; further, no damage was caused; if it was, it was not the fault of my client... etc."
The concept of infinity bemused him. It seemed logical and in accord with the evidence that the farther one could look up and down, the more one saw of existence. However, he was, we recall, intent upon controlling the universe, hence in principle could not accept the notion of infinity. For infinity implied necessarily that there would always be something beyond our ken and control.
He was a pre-forming linguist, but his teachers were strict constructionists and could not carry him very far. He wondered how words were formed and sailed off into another world of schizoid mentation by repeating words aloud or reading them over and over, until they would become weird-looking and weird-sounding, and he would no longer know what they meant; he reduced them thus to surreality.
It disturbed him slightly, too, that words could be censored: say a tabooed word, what is it? What does it mean by itself? Is it alright to use a new word, to make up one? Who makes up slang? Why should some low-brow, uneducated, probably wicked, anonymous non-entity be able to make up a word and have everybody in the country using it? Why can't a smart boy like the Babe make up a word and get people to use it?
Actually the Babe had no illusions about getting smarter as he grew older. He had the feeling that he had reached a peak around five or six years of age, and his principal problem was one of growing the stature and muscle and assembling the resources to manage the world.
I am rather inclined to think the same. It is admitted that a child of 5 can be a better painter and sculptor than a youth of 15; certainly then better than a person of 25 or 35 or 80 (at which point one would become more talented, I suspect). Why is it not admitted that a child of five can be more logical, imaginative, profound, and therefore philosophical than a youth or older person?
It is now generally accepted in psychology that the child is father to the man, but in the limited sense that the child's traits continue to develop in the adult. Is it not permitted to advance the proposition that the traits, as developed by the adult, are at least as inferior as they are superior to the traits of the child as child?
The Babe's thinking became more concrete when it came to the virtues that were treated in the press, movies, radio and novels. He in fact gave more thought to heroics than to dialectics. To return yet again to his early war games, he would often have a hero and a heroic few prevail against improbable odds. Usually he designated a hero in advance but sometimes he would wait until there would be only one soldier alive in his hand and this soldier would be named the hero of the day, even if he were the sole survivor! Thus the world would be a fair world but it would also be the world dominated by heroes. The hero was part of his wish to be Right and to Win, to Win in the Cause of Right.
Fairness meant much to him; it probably came from trying to get a fair shake from Bro Bus, so much the older and more experienced, but as soon as he had acquired enough lead soldiers to engage in considerable battles he would ensure fairness as well as he could, regardless of nationality and his own preferences. He would grab blindly two handfuls of both sides and shaking his hands let some slip out without controlling the slippage so that both friend and foe were casualties regardless of his will (up to a point).
He spent too much time in his fantastic operations. In consequence, and because of his willfulness too, he was not the most prudent of children: he gave his opinion too boldly and often. He was too insistent in maintaining a position physically as well as morally; nor did he hide his views or his information; he was remarkably open, anti-secretive, which violates the principles of prudence and competition, but he couldn't help himself, for he was rather vain and this took the form of exposing what he knew, which may go back to his attempting from the beginning to impress himself on his brother and others older than himself; it's a special kind of pathetic vanity, the opposite of contemptuous vanity.
All along, his ambitiousness had been marked. He had to be ambitious if he was to be anything, because he had nothing, he was not rich, did not stand to inherit, had no important class position, had only very modest connections, and had little interest in money. His ambition came from his Father, for the Dad had frequently talked in terms and within the structure of the highest human achievements without pretending in any way to have accomplished much himself, in music, art, literature, politics and law; what he said was commonplace, not at all brilliant, but grave and sincere; he was there; he liked to spend time in the house of greatness; that was what he was saying and that was what he imparted, without saying much. He would most like to have been Richard Wagner: soaring music; prolonged, infinite detail; crazy to give ultimate messages to the universe about gods and heroes.
The Dad could follow a score of twenty lines at a time and observe and guide sixty instrumentalists, catching a slight mistake anywhere along the line, so that a high intelligence and a fast mind had to be operating there. But the Mom had an even faster mind, or she was more clever. And the Babe had a fast mind as well. As to what causes a fast mind, I offer both the usual genetic answer, of which we know so little that it is no answer at all, but only a blank space to be filled in later; and then a psychiatric suggestion: some people have a mind that seems to race along and have faster physical responses. The Babe had both.
He began to practice both at an early age. One of his favorite tricks as soon as he began school was to complete a class assignment or a test in the shortest possible time and be the first to turn in his paper. This relates to his already mentioned competitiveness and desire for recognition. He tried to establish and maintain a championship, that may not have been officially recognized; it was nowhere on the report card -- yet was unofficially meaningful and public. If he wasn't allowed to walk prominently to the front of the room while the rest of the class sat tightly with knitted brow, he would stretch his body, squeak his desk, and lay down his tools noisily, which made the same effect. Only rarely were the teachers clever enough to assign endless questions so that his crowing would not be heard until the pupils met in the corridors afterwards: "How many questions did you answer? I finished nineteen!"
He raced against all kinds of imaginary opponents in all regards, whether in tying his shoes or in running home, gobbling down peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and running back to school, in ever shorter time. You might call this living-in-short-time, halving the norm. Logically and psychologically it doubled the hours of his life that were spent in this fashion. "Beware of burning your candle at both ends," warned his benevolent and worried English teacher at Lake View, Ruth Moore. When we spoke of how he spent the hours of his life, we did not count his cut-time, the time of the true child of the jazz-age; yet it must have had considerable effect on the quality of his time expenditure. I allowed him only the same number of hours of life as a child that I allowed to everyone else, but very few children got so much done with their time, with speedy reading, speedy homework, and speedy point-to-point travel.
He had another way of fast living, which could be called double- time. He divorced his mind from his activity, not only when the activity was quite routine, as when making his bed or jogging, this being rather easy to come by, but also when fairly complicated operations were being performed, such as reading or taking part in gatherings or listening to what a person was saying. He would, for example, do a drawing while conversing, or conquer the Empire one step ahead of Alexander as the teacher read of it, or prepare homework mentally while playing with his railroad system.
Basically this conduct is not unusual, especially among the fast- driven folk of urban society, so its extent and sophistication are important to know. Let me say that he took more mental risks; given a split second to move from one mental operation to another, he would execute leap grace notes, a swift improvisation between the operations that might fling him into another world and then right back. The ability to land back unerringly on track and on time was the toughest part of the gymnastic; if he did not connect exactly, he would have been guilty of mind-wandering or be called distractable, neither of which terms was ever directed at him. Thus he would obtain two hours for the price of one.
The fact that the Babe held on to his games and play-world both physically and then visually (internally, that is), and persisted in internal visual enactments, and then was being propelled rapidly via double-promotions through the lower school system and into associations with older children, meant that, when the time came to abandon visual fantasy and "put away childish things," he in effect refused to do so, and instead began to perfect their scenarios until little by little they came to be written in the realm of the logical and possible (granted the power and skills to carry them out).
He would vary the parameters, the plot, of his mental scenarios quickly and often, so that, as with a twitch of the kaleidoscope, all the elements fell into slightly new positions, and the whole plot and its outcome were altered. That is, he did not "spell out" logically and arithmetically a new line of development of a scenario (fantasy), but moved immediately into a new "motion picture" from which new outcomes emerged almost instantly out of new considerations.
This quality of mind gave him fast answers, often, that were incredible to others who took longer routes to find answers; it gave him more options, too, such as they had to labor to spell out. It primed him to develop holistic rather than fragmentary or uni- dimensional thought in human and physical affairs, and let him reach, to begin with, solutions, which were as valid as most solutions are, and thereafter to fill in the pieces of the mosaic. But of course the process and lightning-like results led him to laziness in regard to elaboration and details. Following the general solution, he tended to lose interest in the proceedings.
Incidentally, two important mental dynamics evolved: the power of association and analogy was developed and strengthened, useful both for humanistic and scientific thought, because brain routes would be laid between otherwise unconnected lines of thought and these new lines could come in handy later on. Further, words were by-passed in favor of visual imagery; insofar as thoughts are grouped words, their speed of formation and dissolution increased if the mind did not await the slow assembly and demobilization of words and instead used gestalt and intuitive and visual forms.
As expected corollaries, he did his reading in groups of words and he could remember faces better than names and was not good at rote or random memorization; moreover, this may have impeded his learning of mathematics, except visual concepts as in geometry, because algebra and its derivatives required the precise spacing out of all the factors in which the operator was engaged, while his mind was persistently trying to group and bunch the factors involved in a problem.
He was fast at arithmetic, but this was probably because of that mental condition of general intelligence and mental energy that we are trying to analyze to the point where we can dispense with its merely vague meaning. In the end, he gained epistemologically by his double time. He was preserved, too, from boredom, always a menace to an impatient clever youngster.
It is rare that an autobiographer essays seriously the analysis of the origins of his mental processes, and I would therefore allude to that of Jean-Paul Sartre, who, very much unlike the Babe, lived in a closed world of grandparents and mother as a young child, but was let to play with his grandfather's books and acquired a fascination for words and their meanings before ever seeing and otherwise experiencing the objects for which the words stood, the unique objects, because the word is a class of unique objects.
This early accomplishment, Sartre wrote, made a true platonist of him, for he thought that the Idea represented by the Word was the true reality and therefore got surprise after surprise as he encountered examples of the Word in true life. Recovery from this mode of thought, centering upon the Word, took him, he said, thirty years, by which time he was approaching the ideas of existentialism, that turned out to be a kind of pragmatism or instrumentalism.
Meanwhile the Babe, partly because his experiential world was more fully occupied with people and externalia of all kinds such as war games and sports, held no sacral regard for and investment in the Word itself or the Idea behind the Word, the Category or Class, but could manipulate words pliably, and when it came to discover means of cutting time he could also gain speed by cutting out or fudging words and moving directly to the gestalt behind the strung- out wording, "paragraph thought" one might say rather than word or sentence thought. Still Sartre became the maestro of the short sentence of words.
Insight is a difficult state to validate and when I say that the Babe had it, and that most children had less and then lost it, either because they could not maintain the internal pitch of intensity of self-awareness or were frightened and badgered into a dumbness that made their eyes dull glows instead of lustrous gleams when they were asked to probe themselves. I cannot reach satisfactory levels of proof. Creativity is closely related to insight, so is neurasthenia, and, of course, the world would not be able to move along if the horde were composed of Nietzsche's and Proust's.
Ask the hitherto promising and successful boy who is entering into a decline to take this step: to look into himself: and he will return you that glance of a bear; he is driven back to his defenses, sullen, desperate -- it is no use to go on with him. Girls will often respond differently, "Oh, yes, I know that about myself, how true," but we must be on guard lest they are playing the old feminine role, docile, admitting all that is expected of them, saying whatever they are asked to say about themselves, yet what is defended frontally by the boys, the barrier to insight, is defended circuitously by the girls.
The Babe cultivated some additional mental operations that may be of interest.
He built up a notable ability to detect rationalization, in everybody around him including himself. He did so without going the route of paranoia, too. He could tell you the real reasons for people doing what they were doing and saying what they were saying, including himself. This made him often disputatious, even as a small child, "You really don't want to give me that because you... etc." It made him annoying and not so popular as one might expect, considering his general openness and affability; more important, concerning his own self-analysis, this tended to erode his otherwise large self-confidence. Basically it meant that he had to be perceptive in human affairs and more honest than was convenient both to himself and to others.
Even taken by itself this is an achievement of large importance for which there is less of pay-off than of grief in real life. For worldly success, it is better to be a subtle hypocrite, a philistine, if you prefer to call it that. Since there is no formal reward for the trait, there is no school course in it, no test or measure of it along the path of childhood, no mention of it or watchfulness for it in those who read hundreds of recommendations such as that we have written on behalf of the Babe above.
Now combine the achievements of freedom of the word (instrumental logic), and detection of rationalization and one has the triple distinction that Hindu yogis claim to have achieved in three thousand years of speculation and experience (but other philosophies have taken less time to accomplish): the distinction of the Real, the Self, and the Word -- the Object, the Subject, and the Symbol.
By the unusual variety of his activities and the human contacts involved in them, he came to accept without surprise the outcropping of human genius wherever and in whomsoever it might occur. Not only genius but also decency. He was class-free and stereotype-free from the start, it would appear. Like the child Maxim Gorki, even though lacking his harrowing experiences, he could look beyond the brutal behavior of man to the human being; he could understand the motive behind the senseless action; he saw through skin color to the dignity of the person. he could enter into sympathetic relations with many types of character, never being exactly like the person, for the very reason that this person might be any other person. This typically American trait is actually possessed only by a minority; it is not a majority trait, but is found in the U.S.A. more than in many another country.
Still he was by no means kind to his fellow men. He was envious, jealous, and critical to a fault. Let me explain: Julien Green, the American expatriate writer in France, said of the great French diarist, Jules Renard, whose work was published in 1935, that "he goes out of his way to seem unkind; once more, he doesn't want to be taken in by himself. He writes: -- `it is not sufficient to be happy, one must feel that one's neighbor is in trouble.'" Many will agree with Renard and Renard would think Julien Green to be here sanguine and obliging, misled by hope for man. The name of Thomas Hobbes might have been brought into the discussion, for this scientific materialist pessimist of three hundred years ago based his magnificent theoretical work on the supposition that man in his natural state is a nasty if rational creature whose principal happiness comes from witnessing the misfortunes of others and, in consequence, outstripping them in life's race.
The Babe was often envious of the successful, the fortunate, and even of his friends, despite having so many desirable qualities and being so generally fortunate himself. In his defense it may be said that he could not be discerned to be acting on the basis of envy, as by denying rightful place, being ungenerous in giving of what he had (except in words), poisoning the reputation of anybody friend or foe, deliberately misinforming anyone of anything, and so on down the list of the misshapen products of an active envy: little of this could be attributed to him.
The Babe could be found sometimes wishing ill to others, not out loud, but nursing such thoughts in his bosom. To people, to society, to the world. And from time to time, these thoughts and fantasies would slip out of joint, like a dislocation of bones, and be expressed openly or perceived or intuited by others. He did not, however, act on these thoughts, but they would certainly have unconsciously influenced his behavior in some regards, coloring it, affecting his choices and preferences. He spent some considerable time, all told, in trying to disabuse his mind of ill-will and envy.
How could the habit of mind have arisen and persisted as it did? There is much to be said about this complex; it is of far-reaching importance to many ordinary people, and leads as well to an understanding of some events of the world today and in history, and carries some import for the future. There is first of all the ambition "to amount to something," to be "super;" couple this with the parade of misfortunes and agonies of history and the world about. Join this also with aggression, hostilities, unkindness and indifference -- man's inhumanity to man. Add then the failure of social education to suppress severely the tendency of the mind to call up evils.
Now then consider the idealist and dreamer, for whom disasters must serve to display and activate their great virtues; the worse the disaster, the grander the occasion for the hero. Consider then the abundant fountain of fantasies that create disasters and misfortunes, knowing that they are not true and therefore allowing one to consider them as if only "make-believe" and "if...then" hypothetical situations are postulated, without effects in creating the hypothecated evils.
We need also to appreciate the vast gulf between competence and ambition. Although the Babe's gap between his abilities and his imagined supremacy in the universe was practically infinite, he was nevertheless defined as a success in his realistic spheres and when he fell from the sky he would always have this cushion to fall onto. But consider the unsuccessful child, who has few abilities and an unfriendly home and school; he stays in the sky for fear of falling back upon hard nothingness, and in the sky he begins to act out the envy, spite, and ill-will that becloud his mind. And so it goes through life.
Now consider that the mass media and popular gossip are loaded with and feed upon disaster, misfortune, innuendo, malignant rumor. Merely to look at the contented and excited faces of news announcers of the old newsreels was enough to let one expect that the news would be bad and that misfortune had struck, that the weather was stormy, that some scandal had erupted in high places. Whereas, if the world were to enjoy only good news and beneficial activities, it would seem as if there were no news, whereupon the newsmen would look glum and bored.
Consider finally that few human relations are purely benevolent and pleasant and that ambivalence is the rule in even the fondest relationships. (And that it is best, if one can, to recognize this phenomenon, so as to control it in the interest of oneself and one's loved ones.)
Is there any doubt then, given the Babe's character, that he would be drawn irresistibly into frequent "malevolent slippage of the imagination" regarding friends, country, and the world, also enemies of all kinds, and even persons who have done him no harm, such being the nature of fantasies. He wants many types of disasters to occur; he will thrill to them, the best "them" being a natural disaster in which are involved humans and settings close to home, and he will prefer troubles of the types where he can picture himself in a role of rescuer.
He is, too, trained by his society to compete, the more firmly the better: "dog eat dog." And though he does not believe it in his right mind, his mind requires that it be not right a good part of the time.
He resents also a world that can get along without him, that progresses imperturbably without attending to his offers of heroic leadership. Since he is not in control of the situation, he wishes ill of it. It is O.K., it is even patriotic to wish ill of one's enemies, of one's potential enemies, of one's friends who are asking too much and are too arrogant: all of this on the personal and on the media level.
It is patriotic to sneer at and depreciate the Japanese when their newest warship is being launched and tips off the slide with a horrendous splash. (Recall that we speak of over half a century ago.) You see how they try to build an imitation of an American warship and cannot even copy the plans exactly. Exultation. The newsreels play the scene cheerfully, the press editorializes smugly and praises the U.S. Navy.
But when there would be a submarine disaster of their own Navy not long afterwards, the press corps would be just as excited and internally pleased while crying over the doomed boat and would be just as frenzied in its search for details, clues, effects the more gruesome the better, and the Babe and the rest would thrill illegitimately at the disaster befalling others, even their own kind, and Thomas Hobbes and many very ordinary people would understand very well what is going on in the wicked breasts of our brethren such as the Babe.
Perhaps they would feel the tragedy the more (or the less?) as they read often and faithfully the Apocalypse of St. John, and were looking forward with some relish to the whole world ending in catastrophe soon enough. The Babe had not even had the occasion to read the apocalyptic message yet, but he had heard about such beliefs and seen people carrying placards warning of the imminent end of the world, all of which he regarded as superstitious tommyrot, being a true darwinian and uniformitarian, and so was spared this illicit and obscene pleasure.
The willingness of the Babe to be uplifted by the misfortunes of others is heightened by the addition of another of his traits, independent of the preceding, that is, his hyper-critical mind and airs. He has been a keen self-critic, and his brother is a continuous critic and even the Mom and then his music teachers -- so, generally, he is pursued by a highly critical environment, which he kicks back at whoever he thinks may warrant his criticism, beginning with Bro Bus. He is severe. He misses nothing, no defect, no matter how small.
Caution, as he learns that people react badly to negative criticism, grows and slowly pervades his mind, and gets him to slow down a little. Still, as openings occur and gladly upon invitation, his critical faculties emerge forthrightly. Naturally then, given a disaster or misfortune, he is ready with internal satisfaction and then a critical explanation which is almost a pleasure; the only compensation for anybody is that he is often right and if there is a reason behind a disaster he is bright enough to discover and phrase it eloquently.
Then, too, he had another trait that was supposed to be typically American. He had worked out the idea and it was deeply implanted within that "you can do something with anything." Infused with the spirit of hard work, he added to it the idea of discovery at work. Give him a job and he would be soon figuring out how to do it in less time with less trouble. I have given ample evidence of this in the stories of him at play, so will not extend it farther.
"Doing a job" was important to him. He had a compulsion for closure. He had to finish whatever he was doing before quitting. If he were at play and heard "Come to supper!" or "We're leaving now!" or "Johnny's outside with a bat and ball!" he would still not drop his play. He would foreshorten the plot, end it somehow, even if a general disaster had to be invoked. Putting his things away, unless it was something precious that he wanted to keep from Bro Bus, had necessarily been drilled into him. Once he acquired the habit, however, he supported it; he did not relapse after achieving autonomy, as many adolescents do, who focus upon a jumble for their rebellion.
It is by now also fairly obvious that he had acquired a kind of secondary courage, rather like stubbornness, that caught him in its safety net when the primary sort of courage which often failed him could not win the day. When did he discover this? Over a while, but not very late. When he struck out aggressively, physically, or preemptively to claim property, and then was quickly defeated, he could not accept defeat and worked directly and deviously to have a second battle; he was a poor loser, who sought to rearrange the terms of combat so as to win a second time around. He foolishly entered upon Cannae, and then pursued Fabian policies.
Although in such a sense rebellious, he would resist strongly urging to commit a wrong. He was an unlikely source of misplaced loyalty. If Tony Franco wanted help in discharging a case of soda pop from a parked truck, he would have to ask somebody else to help him steal. He would not join in a dirty trick, a heavy practical joke, the writing of a poison pen letter, a bullying of anybody, or even in the advancement of a member of the family. This trait, if it is commendable, is owing to his Father and Mother, more than anyone else, for they simply never asked him to do anything in the name of the family except to be honorable (sic!), nor asked for the improper advancement of a family interest, nor to lie or cheat as part of a familial obligation. Bro Bus reinforced this pattern, possibly for sadistic motives; he would not give preference to the Babe at all in any relationship or sports. Too, this was survival ethics on Bussie's part for he would lose status if he favored his brother on the streets and playing fields, or in the parlor for that matter.
In these years, he had enjoyed a flushed monetary economy and a deprived one. It might be believed that the Babe's attitude toward money would change with the increasing stringency of the economy. However, it did not change much. Not fascinated by money when his character was setting in concrete, he could not be transformed by adversity into a cunning money-maker.
He spent little time and thought upon the means of getting money, even though he hardly ever had a dollar in his pocket. The princesses of his fantasies had to be loving and beautiful, but he neglected to consider their fortunes and he expected the same in return from them. In fact, he had a weakness for waifs. He was a severe saver, but gave no thoughts to earnings, investment, interest on capital, or to a lucrative career. This all despite the fact that he was frequently anxious about the decline in family fortunes.
His friend Aaron Zolot had a crippled friend, John Waller, who lived in a flat where he turned his talents to making things to sell. He combined chemicals to make ink, for example, and the Babe was fascinated to see the origins of one of his own vital fluids. But talk of the vast profits in home-made ink went into one ear and out the other without legible inscription. One might think that so imaginative a fellow, as we have been picturing him, would come to the aid of his family and friends, and invent means of making "oodles of money" (the phrase in those days).
He was more impressed by all the wasted lithographic wood that Uncle Bill could dispose of than by Bill's affluence. He was weak- sighted when it came even to recognizing that people he knew for real (not the "robber-barons" or "malefactors of great wealth" of his books) centered their interests upon making money. He wondered what they were thinking about, since not much was being said that would spark him; the answer, in retrospect, was plain: Money!
I would add a final paragraph to conclude and justify this chapter with its ironic title of "The Boy Philosopher at Work."
You might imagine, after you have suffered through my elaboration of the Babe's mental processes, that I had in mind showing why he became a successful "thinker" in later years. And you might justifiably resent being brought along to a premature feast of love and admiration. But, no, I do not feel that the Babe or anyone else should measure his success or failure in life by fame or wealth or high office. Even the modest fame of philosopher. If the Babe were to succeed in such terms it would be despite his mental processes as much as or more than because of them. My main reason for exposing his mental processes is to develop my theory that a child's mind is adult-like, is far more advanced in its structure and processes than is generally believed, probably much more so than you, too, believed possible. The difference between childhood and adulthood may lie principally in vocabularies; it may be mostly terminological. In any event, I would make it clear that we are gathered here to analyze the Babe, not to bury him in praise.