October 1, 1959
Fuller Merck to Goethe, Truth and Poetry, Volume II, p.11, on poetic and real:
Thy striving, thy unswerving effort is to give a poetic form to the real; others seek to give reality to the so-called poetic, to the imaginative, and of that nothing will ever come but stupid stuff.
October 3, 1959
Editing the first paragraph of Felix Oppenheim's note on "freedom" for PROD, I am again struck with the need for conceiving of and working with "intrapersonal" activity. I agree with Felix Oppenheim that the trend in social science theory is to define and describe human activity in "interactional" terms, viz., "with respect to A, B can do or does X." This is what I have done in several places, e.g., the essays on political behavior and political activity. But I have also felt the need for intrapersonal interaction as a concept, a part of the general concept of interaction. In fact, it is nip and tuck for many people whether one learns more about their action by studying A to B or A to A, i.e., ego to superego, role X to role Y, or however it is put. How many people are themselves A, B, C, D, et al ? A person is a group already, very often. So there is little help in understanding him if his interactions with discrete objects external to him are considered to be the only interactions in which he is engaging.
On the 30th of September I took possession of my apartment in New York for the year. Jean Pearson had left for the Smoky mountains and the University of Chicago, after clearing the place thoroughly. The flat is on the 2nd floor of the corner of the 7th avenue and Perry street. It catches the noise of heavy traffic most of the day and night. It has two large rooms, a bath, and a kitchen where an in-a-door bed once was. Both are pleasantly furnished in a neutral manner suited to man or woman. The objects are sufficient, not a simple piece in and less [sic], unless it be the second bed, but that is a couch for the second room. A full wall in each room is lined with books. They are almost without exception works of distinction, forming a library that particularly in its classical contents, is one of the best things ever seen in a private home. Scarcely a thing in social science in the Twentieth Century and all the classical Latin, Greek, Hebrew works, a fine collection of poetry of all ages, the German romantics, and most of the great philosophers.
I feel a strong affection for Jean Pearson whenever I see her handwork in her books and furnishings. She is perhaps 25 years old, pretty, blond, --------- and polite, enthusiastic about ideas, dogmatically against popular fancies in education; she lives like a pensioner, as she might be said to be. She receives a little stipend from somewhere, perhaps her parents, lives frugally, works a little and studies a lot during the summer, and lives off her scholarship and rent payments during the school year. She is perhaps the best student presently studying classes at Chicago, and holds the highest scholarship.
We've met only three times thus for. Each time I have had to leave soon thereafter. She offered me a whisky the first time and I emptied her bottle; the next time, it was a Pernod, the only bottle left; then I finished that the third time. She seemed pleased to dispose of them. Meanwhile we talked profusely on philosophy, education, The University, -------- Levi's work in redeveloping the area around the University (she will be living with the Levi's), and my work, particularly the possibilities of an applied social science. She is a rare and wonderful woman. I hope I do not injure some possession she values inordinately. Perhaps that is not possible, even if it were to happen that I should break or lose something.
October 10, 1959
Of the ranking of works of art and literature, cannot we say that their historical place and order must be barely correct and that there will be a class of works and workers who will always be usurped, who will haunt the banquet of the primates, who can never be rightfully placed but also never dismissed, and it is from among these that the truly knowing man selects most of his leaders, for must it not be in the choice of the great creators among mankind as it is in judgments of all sorts - in business, war, politics - that the best judgment rarely ends as the final judgment, and no amount of history can fully perfect such judgments, for history adds a valid statistic without ever a perfect truth?
Love to me has always been a disease to which I was prone. I couldn't help but attach myself to people and to require their affection, knowing all the while that I was acquiring a source of pain - pain all the worse since it would never leave me and I could not confront it and exorcize or cure it. Now I know this, never before. I know now why I have always been embarrassed at the display of affection of others and could only stand it in myself when I was safe from complete involvement or was giving myself up to complete involvement - and certainly under those circumstances I am most affectionate. Now however, I have moderated this behavior; I am more human.
Oh God, give me the strength to say what I think, the wisdom to think the truth, the ability to be believed.
Oh Lord, let me suffer only towards some good, for all the suffering that I can endure is little enough to achieve any good.
October 20, 1959
Two months have passed with almost no journal. I have not lost interest but am in some despair over it practicability. I continue my multifarious life, or should I say that it continues, since although my will is strong so are the tides. Last night, at dinner with the family, I thought aloud about my old idea to write a play about Aaron Burr, for which I took a few notes four years ago. Vicky had talked scornfully, and well, of the story recited to generations of school children, "the man without a country," a man who was supposed to have followed Burr. I said that the punishment meted this poor chap was cruel and excessive and would have been knocked down by the Federal Courts as unconstitutional, if the story had been true in the first place. The story is a good instance of patriotism over the rule of law. Beyond the story, however, there came to me the organization of the plot of the tragedy of Aaron Burr. I would have it set as a series of flashbacks from a setting on a desolate stretch of beach from where, each day, he watched agonizedly for the ship bearing his only beloved daughter and grandchild. (They were lost at sea.) Each day he appears, the weather is slightly different. He scans the seas and his mind reenacts the scenes of his past: the elections, the conspiracy, the trials, the duel with Hamilton, the loves, the exile in Paris, Princeton, the Revolutionary battle. Finally all hope is lost and he is coaxed from his vigil by the demi-mondaine, his old friend, who is to be his wife of old age.
What folly to think of writing this play! How can I ever find time for it? I already am occupied with things beyond reason - PROD, the relapsing manuscript on welfare, several smaller studies on administrative theory, law and political behavior, the organization and direction of the NYU Center for Applied Social Research, several overseas business projects of uncertain prospect but potentially large gain, the revision of the American way of Government, an interest in politics, a friend or two, and my family, and especially my immediate family who are in themselves so warm and attractive that I might cancel all else to be with them happily.
What place can a journal take amidst all this? Let me try again. It is at least a small comfort to abstract and project my despair upon paper, as the modern painter does. Two months have gone by, leaving traces on my calendar. What has happened?
October 30, 1959
No doubt fewer students, relative to their total numbers, read Plato and the other classic writers nowadays. I myself find them abundantly useful for forming new images and conceptions of human relations. I cannot read a good, ancient work or history of ancient works that is aware of problems of knowledge, without feeling the sweet pang of a fresh idea. The detractors of the ancients say that the teachers about the past are bad, and nothing much can be said against this allegation. They also say that new knowledge dispenses with old, and here is where they err. For the new that "displaces" the old may be fact, generalization, hypothesis, and aesthetics. Ordinarily it is only the first that prolifically replaces the old, but in a world of "dust-bowl" empiricists, fact is all. Really, less and less quantities of the other three elements are displaced. Yet they are no less essential parts of intellectual and scientific progress, and, of course, regarding the aesthetic factor, "a thing of beauty is a joy forever." So there is small reason to foresake the eminent classical authors, or even to forego exploration into the often suggestive minor antiquities.