September 4, 1966 Sunday Barnegat Light
Tomorrow morning the first car leaves Barnegat Light for Princeton. The next morning the second and final car follows. Seventeen days for Jill and the little ones, less for the rest of us who came and went. Today a heavy wind blew and clouds scudded along low most of the day. We swam nevertheless, and flew kites until the boys, bored with simply tugging on the string, began to play the risky game of letting it go and chasing it down the beach. The kite ended out over the Atlantic heading in the direction of Ireland.
I read Yetuschenko's Precocious Autobiography today and yesterday. He writes like a grammar school pupil, clearly, sweetly, full of the right sentiments, especially a naive belief in Russia that so many of the great Russian writers have had underlying even their most sophisticated work. The country has been consistently mismanaged for a thousand years and yet never lacks for lovers. Y is very much the Christ Fool.
I read (you cannot say reread of Robert Graves' translations) the Iliad. We all say that we are descended from the Greeks, etc. etc. but I find it hard to conceive of a more dissimilar culture this side of the interior of New Guinea than Homeric Greece and Troy -- not Islam of the tenth century, never China, nor communist Russia, nor even Nazi Germany. What do they have then that is so like us, just the fact that we have read the abominable list of murders it contains for two thousand years? Today we would call every one of the heroes of the Iliad, and by heroes I mean every one given a proper name therein, a psychotic. An pray do not exclude their nutty gods.
I sketched out most of the speech on congressional reform to be given at the APSA Convention next Saturday! I mean it to be flattering, because I shall be complimenting myself, so much of the Joint Committee's report is based upon my work -- not my work, my ideas about what not to reform and what to reform in Congress.
I've spent much time with the boys these past two weeks, swimming, skin-diving, vainly fishing, flying kites, eating together, talking, driving, and playing scrabble. I shall probably be seeing less of them in the years ahead. With Chris the youngest already twelve and their tastes and ideas already somewhat formed, there is not much need for me except to provide information which they tend to reject and which it therefore is painful to tender. They can get their information elsewhere more readily and easily, and almost as adequately. On a typical school day, which begin Wednesday, they rise and disappear quickly from the house, resenting all injunctions about breakfast, hygiene, manners and affairs in general. They return at a late hour, have a hearty snack, a supper later on and retire to their rooms to listen to the radio and read or write. All they want from us is to keep the house properly administered, the funds flowing in and some ultimate advice in case some ultimate emergency should arise.
Jill struggles to keep ahead of them, tends her garden, reads books and visits with two or three friends -- Jackie, Rosaline, and Louise. She studies biology, ecology, mushrooms, and novels, and she edges always towards writing and, who knows, may begin some day. She does not have, nor has she ever had, any especial interest in my work or activities and much prefers that I not be a constant intervenor around the house. All of which is fine by me. I have an interesting load of projects to carry for the next couple of years and they would be dropped if it appeared that somebody in the family needed regular attention, hour to hour, or day to day. I do miss the free and warm affection of the family when the children were small, but it is hopeless and even dangerous to expect that now. The same is even true of Jill. She wants more of a feeling of independence and mastery of her time now than too great intimacy would allow.
September 19, 1966
Jessie left for Chicago early Sunday morning. Jill drove her to the station. A few days before, when I asked Jessie how things were going with her, being deliberately vague, she exclaimed gaily, "Oh, I'm fine. I'm just nutty." "Nutty?" "Yes, you know, nutty!"
I gather she means that she is distressed by many aspects of life, especially her own self, and that she has no great steady rudder of ethics to carry her forward through the choppy waters.
But who has? We just have to get used to being seasick all our lives.
I advised her to find pleasant things to do and to treasure them. To indulge them and make habits of them. When we cannot have morals, we can well use good habits. Regular reading, housekeeping, a regular kind of work that is not soul-destroying, regular meals, steady friends though they may not be the most delicious of human beings, and then let the creativeness in one creep out like a mouse. Until the day comes, if it ever does come, when the mouse can be a lion, and put aside mere habit for greater achievements.
September 19, 1966
"Stupid people are often smart" but in immeasurable ways.
The study of language is fine but it can obstruct the path of philosophy most certainly, unless a non-linguistic approach (es) to 'truth' is dug and paved, one cannot be happy with the more tempting route to truth via linguistics.
Commonly philosophers are judged excellent on a criterion of their mastery of the linguistic way. They halt then one foot ahead of their predecessor, and I wonder why they don't go back and start again on the road that moves along the other side of the hill.
September 20, 1966
Why do people belong faithfully and with righteous indignation to a political party?
Why do they not even know mostly (or perceive / or believe) that not all of their friends do not agree with them?
Why do they quite ignore the voluminous evidence that people opposing their beliefs are co-members and people of like beliefs are on the other side in large numbers?
THEY MUST HAVE SOME LARGE PSYCHIC INVESTMENT.
1.It is because they use the party symbols to mobilize their aggressions.
2.It is because they use the party symbols to proclaim the road to unity and salvation.
3.It is because they use the party to cloak their ignorance of politics.
September 22, 1966Princeton
Suppose that, instead of an autobiography, one wrote a set of little volumes that exposed the roles or the reference groups in one's life. The other day I laid out a book called "In Praise of the Negro". Much was based upon all the Negroes I have known and what I have done with them.
There could be similar volumes:
1.The Development of Love and Relations for the Opposite Sex
The buxom girl in Lake Veerritts
The Swiss girl
The Wisconsin resort girls and women, etc.
Chewing gum woman
Marie O 'Neil (?)
California girl on the boat (Yvonne Workmansee)
European in World War II and Algiers
Stephanie, various students, neighbors, Suzanne Farker, Merid
Caroline Trumble, girl from Washington
The girl from the resort who was fleeing from lesbian ties.
2.Force, violence, war.
3.Administration, bureaucracy, university affairs.
6.Money, finances, ...
7.My infancy and childhood and my children and their infancy and childhood.
8.Nuclear family -- Dad, Mom, brothers.
September 30, 1966Princeton
Every day has its moments spent with the punched card and its present gorgeous user, the computer. I think of the fine idea of the Hollrith card two generations ago and marvel at its continuing role as the ideological key to the multi-billion dollar computer industry. Is there, I wonder, a path of expansion dictated mainly by the successive means of working with this humble card? Even now, the 80-column card with 12 punches absorbs practically the whole of a gigantic research, research development and data processing industry, automation of all kinds. The total network derives from this little card.
Is this the only path? Could there have been other ways? What would the shape of science industry and administration be if some other means had been originally invented for coding, storing and retrieving information, or if at any point along the line of history, some different system had been introduced. Now we are moving slightly away from the punched card; data goes onto tape. Straightaway. But is the data gathered and framed in the spirit of the punched card, with the punched card psychology, and how much of the huge, expensive, variegated machinery of the computer and tabulating machine industry is designed in essence around the punched card logic and usages?
Spoke to Jenny Smith re WIR