Seville: November, a 1989 draft of an unpublished short novel by Lorrie Tussman
Lorrie met Mostafa Elm, a prominent Iranian economist and diplomat, when he was still a graduate student at Syracuse University. Although they apparently met only once after that (not for lack of effort on the part of Mostafa), they continued a correspondence that spanned the following two decades.
January 1, 1959, New York
It is so good to write the first letter of the year to you and I am sure this will bring me a lot of happiness and luck. There is much to say and I wish I felt more free to express myself. However since I will be in Syracuse possibly before this letter reaches you I would not say much here but I am sure you know what I want to say.
Let me report on my activities here. Yesterday I visited the IBM people and that practically took my whole day going from one office to another—from local personnel office to international personnel office and so on. They were all very nice to me and tried to find where I fit most. They offered me three different jobs in three different countries. The offer for U.S. was poor and not very promising but the other two were quite interesting. However I could not make up my mind.
As for New Year activities the first evening was spent at the home of my girl friend whose parents had invited me for dinner. Last night I had dinner with some American friends in a cave on 46th St and 7th Ave. It was a fine Italian restaurant which is beautifully built like a cave with nice candle lights and good “monde.”
Lorrie, I wish you were here, and I am most anxious to return to Syracuse. In spite of all its bitter cold and dullness it has one great quality which makes it really nice for me—and that is the fact that you are there.
I am returning to Syracuse on Sunday and shall be looking forward to see you possibly on the same day.
June 4, 1959, Washington, D.C.
Surprisingly enough there was no paper on the plane I took to Washington and I could not write you then. But I was thinking of you all the way.
I wish I were in Syracuse as long as you were there and could enjoy your very charming company. I have had many friends in this country and abroad, but none has impressed me as much as you have done. As I have told you often you are unique and not seeing you is a great loss to me which cannot be compensated by anyone else. I just don’t know what to say and how to leave this county without even the hope of seeing you again. Could you give me any hope?
There is a slight change in my plans. I will leave Washington for New York on Tuesday June 9 and will be in New York until June 16. This means that I will leave New York for London dour days later than previously planned. Do you think you might be in New York? If so would you please call MU3-**** which is Mr. S’s phone number. He will tell you where I am. There is nothing in the whole world that I would like but seeing you once more and possibly always.
I have often tried to conceal my feelings but I should now admit that I am deeply in love with you. I can no more keep my emotions in hiding. I thought this must be told at last.
If you cannot come to New York please write me c/o Mr. S, *** East 36th St, New York City. But please do come if you can.
I am expecting your letters any time, anywhere in the world.
November 29, 1959, Tehran, Iran
I was glad to have your wonderful letter. I was sorry to hear that you were ill. Now that you feel better please take good care of yourself.
Apparently you don’t have a definitive plan for the trip to the West. May I remind you that my cousin H is leaving San Francisco for Tehran between 1 and 20th of December as he wants to run for Parliament here. In case you did go to S.F. before then please call on him. He is not only my relative but also my close friend.
Dear Lorrie, you say that you are in a place you don’t want to be in and yet you don’t move from that place. You know how much I care for you and how I feel when I hear about your unhappiness. Why don’t you come to Iran Lorrie? You can’t imagine how much I want to see you. I wish I were the same student on Syracuse campus and could see you.
How is it that without knowing the job that could be offered to you in Iran you say you don’t have the background. Your knowledge is much more than many foreign experts who are given high salaries in this country. Please think it over again and let me know.
Is S.P. from India still on the campus? What is he doing? Give my regards to him if you see him and tell him to write me.
If you have any plans for a trip to Europe let me know and I will come anywhere in Europe to see dearest Lorrie.
Please write me soon and let me know all about yourself.
January 12, 1960, Tehran, Iran
I was completely surprised to hear that my Christmas card has not reached you. You are very dear to me, Lorrie, and I would never have failed to send you a card. It makes me worry to hear this from you and maybe some others have not received my card. I had your very beautiful Christmas card and will keep it forever.
It is difficult to say whether I am doing what I want. I can only say that it gives me satisfaction to write articles for the papers and to see that they are read and appreciated. This has made me quite popular in the local and foreign circles since my articles appear in 3 different languages. The Shah has also read my articles and has appreciated some and criticized others. However the Court has informed me to arrange for an appointment with the Shah. There have also been some clear hints to appoint me as his economic adviser. I will know everything more clearly next week.
It was nice to see the President in Tehran. He was here for a few hours and I saw him twice as I was standing in the street when he came and when he left.
Dear Lorrie I think of you very often. There is no one in the world who has impressed me as much as you have done. I wish I could see you again not for a short while but for ever. Can I cherish the hope that you may come to Tehran? Or shall I make plans to come to the States? Please let me know about this and soon. What happened to your plans for a trip to Europe?
I miss you tremendously and wish to know when we will meet again. Please write me soon.
If you do see P, from India, kindly tell him to write me.
May 8, 1960, Tehran, Iran
I was happy to have your letter when I returned to Tehran. The trip was quite a change after 10 months of hard work. The Swedish and German officials arranged very nice parties for me and I enjoyed them very much. I made hundreds of new acquaintances.
You have mentioned in your letter about writing a book but you haven’t told me what is it about. However I wish you every success.
As to marriage, I have met a good number of Swedish and German girls—some of high society. In fact it was so easy to get married and come back from Europe with a wife. But I have become very cautious. The older I get, instead of reducing my expectations, I look for perfection. Maybe some day I can find somebody like you.
I will be going to Rome and Paris late in August or early in September. By the way when are you going to Calif? Is it this year or next year? My cousin, H, was here on vacation and is now back in San Francisco, He will return to Tehran in October. Do you think you will be on the West Coat before then? If so it would be worthwhile to see him.
Write me dear Lorrie.
September 13, 1960, Tehran, Iran
I was glad to receive your letter today from Berkeley. Dear Lorrie don’t think that I have forgotten or will ever forget you. I was in Austria, Germany and Sweden for a month and came back last week. I wrote you from Vienna, but to your Syracuse address. When I came back I found your card which you had sent me on your way to Calif. The reason I did not write you at once was that I did not know your address.
You say that you have mixed reactions to Berkeley. Maybe when you really get settled and start a job, things—I mean your outlook—will change.
For a long time I cherished the hope of seeing you in Europe this fall but apparently you could not come. I am planning to come to San Francisco in Sept 1961 for the Industrial Development Conference sponsored by the Stanford Research Institute. If you will be in Europe by then I will come to Europe. Next March I will be in Italy, then France.
Dear Lorrie, it is more than a year that I haven’t seen you and yet—to be quite frank—I love you more than ever. I think there is no sin in admitting to a dear friend what goes within your mind and heart. But could I have any hopes or you are completely out of reach?
Please give my best regards to David and write me at once.
February 1, 1961, Milan, Italy
I don’t want to say how my trip is or how the weather looks like in Europe. What I want to say here is my story about you.
Let me tell you that wherever I am, whether in Genova, Florence, Stockholm or Tehran I am thinking of you. You are all the time in my mind and yet you seem to be out of reach.
When I left the States I thought that as time goes by and as I meet new faces in different continents I will gradually forget you. But it worked completely in a different way. I found that there is nobody like Lorrie and I am thinking more and more of you. But whenever I have tried to explain myself in my letters you have ignored my points and have just kept me in the dark. Maybe ignoring my points meant that I should not talk in that tone. But I would have appreciated a clear response.
Lorrie, let me be very frank with you. I am deeply in love with you and I am saying this after testing myself for a period of two years. But am I loving someone who is completely out of reach or is there any hope?
I have one request from you dear Lorrie and that is to send me a reply to this letter to Tehran where I expect to be on Feb. 9.
Please forgive me for my frankness.
February 27, 1961, Tehran, Iran
I sent you two postcards and a letter from Italy a few weeks ago but have had no reply from you. Could it be that your letter hasn’t reached me because of Pan Am strike? Anyhow I am very much worried about you. Please write me soon—as soon as you can.
Coming back from Italy I had your letter dated Jan 23 and your wonderful photo. Since I had written you 3 times from Italy I just thought I will hear from you soon. But waiting didn’t do any good. Maybe I was wrong not to write you from Tehran upon arrival.
When I read your letter Lorrie, every word of it meant a lot to me. We both don’t feel at home in our homes. We both have friends but yet can hardly find anyone to talk to or share our solitude with. I was indeed fortunate to find you at Syracuse. With you I felt a home but now I am homeless. Is there any hope that we can get together again? Let me repeat that there is no one like you.
If you have received my letter from Italy please send me a reply at once and please don’t keep me waiting.
Lorrie, may I ask you to come to Tehran even if it is for a short trip. This is the greatest favor you can do to me. I will be more than happy to send you and David an air ticket. My home is your home. If you and David can’t come now why not during the summer? But the sooner the better. Please consider this invitation seriously and don’t disappoint me.
On March 17 I plan to go to France for 2 or 3 weeks. My next trip may be to Japan but the date is not yet set. But none of these trips are as pleasant as spending one hour talking with you, Lorrie.
Could you tell me what are you writing about and when do you think you finish your work? I wish I could read your writings as soon as possible. It may look strange, but I have no pictures of myself except passport photos and some slides which were never printed on paper. Could I send a passport photo or a slide since there is no photo lab here for printing color slides.
Please write me at once Lorrie and let me know all about yourself.
October 21, 1961, Tehran, Iran
I am sorry not to have written you earlier. This is mainly due to the fact that I have been too busy lately and partly because your letters had lost their warmth. Or maybe, as you say, I expect too much. Anyhow your last letter, though not more than a few lines, was most wonderful.
How is everything with you dear Lorrie? I thought you were planning to join Columbia. As for me I am still alive, with fairly good health and not yet in jail. I have three jobs at the moment. For 8am to 3pm, Director of Industrial Planning; from 3 to 5pm, economic advisor to Iran’s Development Bank and from 5 to 7pm, editor of the economic section of Ettela’at, the leading paper in Iran with largest circulation. The last job involves writing every day an editorial on economic issues, to be published in the Persian, English and French versions of the paper. This gives me a good chance to say what I want to say—but in a mild manner.
It has become fairly easy for me to proceed to positions of power but not so easy to do anything worthwhile for the people. I am just moving in a nutshell with not much freedom to move in any direction that might serve the people. Under the present conditions there is no hope to break the shell. Or maybe I am too hasty.
So much for politics. I should admit that I miss you tremendously. I had hoped to come to New York and meet you there in November. But with the type of jobs I have it is impossible at the moment and I might come some time next year.
I was wondering whether you would consider the possibility of coming to Iran as my dearest guest or at least accept a job with the Economic Bureau here. They desperately need people of your caliber for their Social Welfare Division. If you agree with the idea they will employ you for one or two years after interviews at Harvard and will pay for your trip. We have right now a man in Washington who will be back in Iran soon. If you are interested let me know at once so I may arrange your meeting with him. Lorrie, it would be so wonderful to see you in Iran. You can bring David. There is a good American school and there are good dentists too. Tennis is also played here.
My cousin would be very happy to see you in San Francisco. His name is H. His office phone number is FI6-**** and his home no EV6-****. Let me know when you are leaving for S.F.
It was so nice of you to send me your photo and write me regularly. I will try my best to write you more often. So write me soon.
December 9, 1961, Tehran, Iran
It was so good to have your letter after quite some time. I did not know whether you were in Syracuse or some other place. Yale is definitely better than Syracuse. Do you know how long you will be there?
You tell me that you occasionally read the N.Y. Times and “that is about as near to news that I have about you.” But last August I took the trip from Wash. D.C. to S.F. so as to come to Santa Barbara to see you. That was pretty close and yet it couldn’t be done. Frankly I was very much annoyed when you turned me down. If friendship means anything, it does mean that much that one can sacrifice a day for a friend who has come such a long way.
My work is going on as before. On March 20th I am going to Japan for 3 weeks. On Jan 4 I plan to get married to an Iranian girl. She is 25 and has a daughter from her first marriage. My son is getting 18 next month and is practically David’s height.
I have never seen any girl as beautiful and as erudite as you with so much charm and other qualities. But let me add, if I may, that, as you say, your feeling of suspense between guilts has robbed you of any decision in life particularly when you wait for things to fall in place themselves. You will forgive me for repeating what you say about yourself, but with a different wording.
My translation of Gibran’s Prophet will be published late this month. Just an hour ago I did the proofreading of the last page. I am quoting this from the English version for you:
If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing to me a deeper song.
And If our hands should meet in another dream we shall build another tower in the sky.
Please write me whenever you can. I do miss your friendship very much and I wish you every success in the world. My best wishes to you and David for a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
December 15, 1963, Ankara, Turkey
I hope this card will reach and we will be in touch again. I am now with the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) in Ankara and will be here for two years. My wife is here too and plans to go to London in April for 3 months.
Please let me know how you are and what you are doing. Wish I could see you in this part of the world. With best wishes for a very Happy New Year. Please write me at once.
January 28, 1964, Ankara, Turkey
My dear Lorrie,
It was so wonderful to have your letter. It was the thing I needed most. We have not seen each other for almost five years. But I have been thinking of you quite often and cherishing the hope of seeing you. There is a slim chance that I may be in Wash. D.C. by the end of April Where will you be then? Can we see each other again?
I am now with CENTO in charge of economic affairs. I deal mainly with the coordination of economic development activities of Turkey, Pakistan and Iran with the assistance of the U.S. and U.K. My job necessitates a good deal of traveling. Last Oct. I was in Istanbul, Nov. in London and Dec. in Tehran. These trips are only to CENTO member countries and they usually take 10 days or so.
Turkey is very beautiful in the spring. You mention that you have always wanted to visit Turkey. I would love to have you as my guest here in April or shall we say from April on. Could you make it in April or any other time? In the meantime please do send me a few snapshots of yours. Do you have definite plans for a trip to Europe?
Please tell me what your book is about and in what form is it. I am sure you are good at expressing yourself. But don’t be too fussy. Otherwise you will never finish . And besides, I don’t think fussiness does add to the flavor.
My wife is Iranian and not English. She just wants to go to England for a few months to improve her English. You have asked good questions—whether I am happy and whether I do what I like. The answer is more or less no. I have left my country since I got tired of trying in vain to at least begin certain changes. My life here is one of quietness if not laziness. I have just begun writing a book on forced social change in Iran trying to show how a country, under such circumstances, changes in physical shape while mentally it is hollow.
Please write me soon and let me know all about yourself, your plans and your next address. Don’t forget to send me your snapshots.
May 8, 1964, Ankara, Turkey
I am very sorry to hear that you had a bad cold. I hope you have fully recovered by now. Maybe you were tired when I met you, but you looked as beautiful as ever.
My visit was indeed very short and wish I could have stayed much longer. By the time I realized that I had finally seen you after five years I had to leave.
I am glad you liked the bracelet and wear it. In this way, perhaps, I can be remembered more often. The film in my camera is not still out. I have to take some more pictures and then send it to a Kodak lab outside this country. Maybe it takes weeks before I can see your pictures. But remember you promised to send me more pictures of yourself. I will send you your pictures and mine as soon as I have them.
I came back to Ankara last week. It was a long drive from Stuttgart to here. My wife and I stopped one day in Zurich, two days in Lugano which is indeed beautiful, and three days in Venice. There were other stops in Zagreb, Belgrade and Sofia but just for the night. The drive through Switzerland, especially the mountainous parts was most wonderful. Yugoslavia did not seem to differ much in scenery and ways of life from Western Europe. But Bulgaria was just a nightmare of poverty with terribly silent people. It was much worse than any underdeveloped country I have so far visited.
Well, Lorrie, I am cherishing the hope of seeing you again and in better spirits. In mid-October I am going to London, and if you are still somewhere in Europe I would love to see you either on the way to London or on my way back late in October or early November. What doyou think? Do you think you will be in Europe then?
I have made a good start on my autobiography and hope to continue. Sometimes I get stuck when I need references not available here. Anyhow the gaps will have to be filled in Iran.
I wish I could see your article on Portugal. I hope you will send me a copy when it is published. Shy don’t you write some poetry about this Persian race or the awful Portuguese in their hidden war with the Persians who are thousands of miles away?
Let us hope that we visit soon in Barcelona or Ankara. Please write me now.
May 6, 1965, Tehran, Iran
I have not heard from you for quite some time and this worries me quite a lot. Let me know where you are and how are you.
I am leaving for London on Sunday May 23 and would be very glad if I could have a letter from you by or before Friday May 21st, the last office day before my departure. If you are still in Lisbon or some other place in Europe I would be able to see you on my return from London sometime in the first week of June.
There is very little else I can say except repeating that I am anxiously waiting to hear from you.
P.S. My address while in London will be Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly, London W.1.
April 11, 1966, Tehran, Iran
I was lucky to have two letters from you last week. The second one showed in you a sort of restlessness—if I may call it so. The confusion in the minds of your countrymen faced with a world different from what they expected it to be and with a challenge for adaptation have created an atmosphere of unrest which in turn have left some impact on you. But let me frankly say that added to this is the confusion you have in your own mind as to how you should lead the rest of your life.
I don’t have much wisdom to offer you any advice. But what I have learned is that you should first learn to live in peace with yourself. There was a time when I was unhappy about everything and I felt that if I travel to other countries I would find happiness there. But then I realized that the trouble was that I was taking “myself” on the trip and if I really wanted to be happy I had to leave “self” behind, otherwise a change in location didn’t offer much. Anyhow I came to the conclusion that before I fight my society or run away from it I have to fight myself until I feel that I am at least at home with myself. I have succeeded in doing this to a certain extent.
During the years we have known each other, I think I have been frank in revealing my thoughts, but you have been somewhat restrained in revealing yourself—your thoughts, your goals and your desires. In fact I am somewhat hurt that our friendship has not created in you some sort of frankness. Judging from your letters I only know that you are fond of two things—to travel and to write, both perhaps the result of your being not fond of your society. I remember in Lisbon I tried to ask you about your approach to life. But then either I couldn’t make myself explicit or you evaded the issue. So I don’t know what you expect of life.
If I understand correctly from your letter you want to finish your writing and then leave the States for good. This depends on what you want to do in some other country. If you want to come to Iran I would be more than glad to be of any help since I would love to see you here. As to job possibilities I should know what type of job you would like to have and the amount of pay you expect. Furthermore could you tell me of your academic background? Anyhow I can tell you off hand that there are job possibilities for you.
Early in July I will be going to Geneva where I would probably stay for 5 weeks. If you happen to be anywhere in Europe by then I would be glad to come and see you and talk to you.
In search of some sort of achievement in life, I am working, slowly and not steadily, on two different books. But I have come to the conclusion that I would not be able to do much writing as long as I work for a living. I am now exploring the possibilities of getting a job in private business with a high pay. This would enable me to save some money within a few years after which I can quit and establish myself in a room somewhere in Rome, Florence or Southern Spain and concentrate full time on writing. By then my children will also be self-supporting. I have found the idea not to be impractical. Don’t you think you can do the same?
My letter has already become quite long. So I finish here and would love to have your letter soon.
October 2, 1966, United Nations, N.Y.
I was lucky to receive your post card from Lisbon just the day before my departure to N.Y.
My program to go to Oxford this year was cancelled since I had to attend the General Assembly meeting at the U.N. which will keep me here in New York until about mid December.
How are you Lorrie and what are you doing in Lisbon? Will you be there until December or are you returning to the States before then.
I would very much like to see you but I doubt whether I can come to Lisbon. My present plans call for going thru London on my way back. Do you think we can meet there if you are in Europe by then?
Under the item on Human Rights which is to be discussed at the U.N. session I will complain about you.
Well Lorrie I have trouble reading your address in Lisbon. I will try to imitate it and hope this letter will reach you. But may I ask you to give me a clear written address and your phone number.
Please write me soon and tell me all about yourself.
October 16, 1966, United Nations, N.Y.
My dear Lorrie,
I was glad to receive your letter of Oct 11 and should frankly say that I envy you and your trips to places which have been out of my reach during all these years.
I was also glad to hear that you have finished your first book. But so far you haven’t told me the theme of your book. It is indeed so good to be able to write and to travel. For me it seems as if I can do either of the two at one time.
The work here at the U.N. is quite interesting. More than 70 Foreign Ministers are attending the U.N. session and most of their discussions revolve around Vietnam while problems of economic development in which I am involved take the second place.
I hope you will come to New York and I would love to see you here. The last time I saw you in Lisbon I thought I would never be able to see you again. Now I am not sure whether you would go to Brazil or would come to New York.
Please let me know when you arrive in N.Y. and how long are you going to stay here. Would you like me to make any hotel arrangements? France should be quite good at this season—if it doesn’t turn cold. New York is very pleasant but I don’t know how it would be in December.
Early next year I will get a four year assignment either to New York or Geneva, one of the two centers of the U.N. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Geneva is in the heart of Europe, as you know, with easy access to all other European countries. N.Y. has the advantage of having good libraries, theatres and concerts. What would you say about choosing between the two?
Lorrie, I cherish the hope of seeing you soon. Please write and let me know about your plans.
P.S. Please use the address on the envelope and not the hotel address. You might be interested to attend some U.N. meetings if you are here before the ending of the present session in mid December.
December 7, 1966, United Nations, N.Y.
I am sure that we won’t see each other in New York. In fact I was almost sure about this even before receiving your card. After all we have known each other for years and I am quite familiar with the fact that your plans are always tentative and subject to change.
On Dec. 22 I am flying back to Tehran, with a short stop in Düsseldorf. I think there is not much else to say except that the U.N. sessions end on Dec. 21 after some 3 months.
If we didn’t see each other again I wish you best of luck and some clear aims in life.
Let me also extend my best wishes to you for a pleasant holiday.
November 2, 1967, Tehran, Iran
The other day I received the postcard you had sent to Tehran. It was indeed wonderful to hear from you after months.
My wife and I left Ankara on Oct 20 and drove thru Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq to Iran. It was a long trip mostly thru deserts but we had our compensation by staying 3 days in Beirut which we found quite pleasant.
I will be working here in Tehran for a year at the Foreign Ministry before being posted somewhere overseas.
You seem to be traveling quite often between Calif and Lisbon. Portugal should have a lot of attraction for you. As for me I don’t think I would be able to travel to Europe. If we are friends and you are serious about your friendship, once in a while you have to reciprocate by visiting your friends at their houses.
I therefore conclude my letter with the hope of seeing you here.
Yours as ever,
January 10, 1968, London
I was glad indeed to receive your card and I am happy we got in touch again after a year.
It is a pity that we had no communication for some time. Otherwise we could meet somewhere in Europe while you were in Portugal. But now I am looking forward—as I usually do—to seeing you this summer when I hope you will visit Europe again. Are you going to be in Portugal in June and if so couldn’t you pass through London?
The trouble is that most of our correspondence concerns your travels, but we do not really see each other. And sometimes I really get disappointed to find that in fact we are only pen friends. During the last 10 years since leaving Syracuse I have met you once in Lisbon and my efforts to see you on the U.S. soil have failed twice. So we are back where we were—pen friends—which is still not too bad. Maybe by the year 1980, when we are no doubt much older, we still write on subjects of the age.
I don’t seem to enjoy London. There is no time to do anything but office work. Once in a while a concert or a good film, but that is all. Writing is a matter of the past and future. The present seems to be void of anything interesting unless you were on this side of the world. In the meantime send me your picture. I have some pictures in the camera and will send you one soon.
Last summer I had a short trip to Europe with my wife and son. We drove through Belgium, France and Germany and then back through Holland. My elder son is studying architecture in Düsseldorf. My younger son is with me in London preparing himself for the university. I presume your son must probably have entered the university by now. How is he?
You seem to have lost your interest in the U.S. and more attracted to Europe and mainly Portugal. I know how you feel.
Let us hope that we see each other soon—and write me soon.
November 6, 1968, Iranian Imperial Embassy, London S.W.7
It was so nice to have your postcard from Portugal and to find that you are in this part of the world.
I was away in Spain, Germany, and Iran for awhile and so there was a break in our correspondence.
Since you are in Europe it would be so nice if you could come to London whenever you can. It would be wonderful to see you here. Although every arrangement we make to see each other fails to materialize I hope this one does not. After all it takes an hour or so to fly from anywhere in the continent to London and I would be more than happy to make your flight and hotel arrangements.
I am glad to hear that you are writing and that your writings are published. If there is anything in English or French I would love to see them. I had an article in the last issue of the Columbia Journal of World Business. So far I have received some 50 letters of comments. The subject is The Mirage of Foreign Aid. Since I hope to see you here soon I hope you wouldn’t want me to send you a copy.
I shall look forward to hearing from you Lorrie.
February 23, 1970, London
I received your last letter some weeks ago but couldn’t write earlier. First I was in bed with flu for two weeks and then when I recovered I didn’t know what to write.
Marriage is a gamble—some win and some lose depending on whether the mate proves to suit their taste or not. I don’t want to be the judge especially because I don’t know the source of your unhappiness. However it seems that your repeated trips and long absence from home has created the present situation. And maybe you couldn’t commit yourself to family and home which is difficult for some. I really can’t say much except that it is up to you to decide—and a decision in either way has its own implications or commitments.
It was so nice of you to consider me as a close friend and to tell me all about yourself. You already know how close I have felt to you and yet have never been able to see you on one of your trips to Europe. Next time you leave for Portugal, please let me know as I am really anxious to see you, and nothing gives mo more pleasure than seeing you.
I will be here in London for another year and will then go back to Tehran which makes it more difficult to see you. Last summer I went to Tunisia for a change and enjoyed its Mediterranean coast. Next June I have to fly to Stuttgart to pick up my car and drive back to London.
My work here is not really interesting. But the good think about London is that you have access to all the books you want. Movies, theatres and concert halls are good consolations.
We have a 20 month old boy called N—a new addition to the family—who keeps us quite busy. My wife is mostly at home doing the house work with some help from our daughter (actually hers by previous marriage) who is 17. My elder son, C, is in Düsseldorf, studying architecture and will finish the university this hear. The younger one preparing for the univ. here. I haven’t had much problem with my sons—but then I have given them a lot of time and patience. I shouldn’t say I am happy but can say that I have reduced my expectations and accept life as it is.
Lorrie, please do write me and do let me know when you will come to the continent.
June 16, 1970, London, S.W.7
I haven’t heard from you for quite some time. If it has been my fault I accept the blame.
Since summer is drawing near I was wondering whether you were thinking of coming to Europe. If so please do let me know so that I may have a chance to see you before leaving this part of the world for Iran next year.
Last month I spent a few days in Scotland and enjoyed it very much. At the moment I am planning to have a two week holiday late in July on the Italian Riviera and a few days in Düsseldorf.
Tell me how you are and how is everything with you. I hope you are in good health and good spirits and that your problems have faded away.
I wish you every happiness and joy.
Please write me,
March 10, 1974, Tehran, Iran
It was so nice of you to send me a Christmas card. I have not forgotten you and never will. Last year I sent you a card and had no reply and I though you had moved to a new address.
I was in New York for the last U.N. session and very much wanted to get in touch with you, but did not know how. Last month I received an invitation from Maxwell School to participate in a conference at Syracuse on April 18 & 19, which I accepted. I am now planning to leave Tehran for London on April 5, will be in N.Y. and Washington between April 13 & 17 and will be in Syracuse April 18 to 20. the reason I give my schedule is to find out whether there is any chance to see you on the East Coast during these dates.
I wish I had time to fly to the West Coast to see you, but I am afraid I can’t. Please write me and let me know whether you have any plans to fly East. I would love to see you in Syracuse where we first met.
It is now several years that I am in Tehran, but have made a number of trips abroad. I have accepted life as it is and have reconciled myself with myself and the world, knowing that my role in changing things is almost nil. I don’t want to be nihilistic but rather realistic. I am not unhappy and have no serious complaint about my health.
Lorrie, please write me all about yourself and how you are and what your plans are. Could I have your phone number? I would love to have your letter before my departure on April 5.
May 27, 1974, Tehran, Iran
I had your letter and your wonderful photo on my return from the States.
While in New York I tried to call you a number of times but all I got was a tape recorded reply to the effect that I should try the operator. I then got your number through the operator but there was no reply.
How much I wanted to hear your voice and to talk to you, you may not know. I would have gladly sent you a ticket to come to New York or Syracuse, but then I doubted whether or not you would come—judging by past experience.
Since I left Syracuse in 1958 I met you once in Portugal and my efforts to see you again have been in vain. Well I have to accept the circumstances as they are.
I tried to get a recent photo of myself but found out that the latest one is from two years ago in London. I promise to send you one soon.
There is nothing new here that might interest you. My elder son, C, has recently begun his work as interior architect and he is doing quite well. My 6-year old son is divided between the British school and the TV.
I am waiting for my ambassadorial post and don’t know where I will be sent to . I may go for holidays to London in mid-July. Will you be in that area around that time? Incidentally, the events in Portugal, where you spent some time, are getting quite interesting.
Please do write me soon and let me know all about yourself.
August 30, 1975, Imperial Iranian Embassy, Khartoum, Sudan
I received your card and photo in Khartoum, Sudan where I was appointed as Ambassador several weeks ago. The story is that since I am an economist and since Iran is interested in implementing a number of projects here they thought of sending me to this county. I think I will be here for 12 to 18 months and then transferred to another ambassadorial post elsewhere.
All told, I am afraid I could not see your friend in Tehran, but I do hope to see you here. Would you want me to extend an official invitation to you. There is not much fun here unless you are interested in boating on the Nile, hunting, safari expeditions or visits to animal parks in the south. The best season here are the winter months.
Well how are you and how is everything with you? I have more time to write letters and I would love to receive letters from you as often as you can send them.
My wife and 7 year old son are now in London waiting for me to find a school for the boy here. As to my two elder sons, one is working in Tehran as interior architect and he is doing very well; the other is trying to get his MSc in mechanical engineering in London.
For over a decade I have been trying to see you. Do I see you in this part of the world?
Dear Lorrie please write.
February 8, 1977, Khartoum, Sudan
I was so happy to receive your letter of January 5 and your nice photo. In order to prove that I have not remained the same I am enclosing a picture which shows all the lines on my face in detail—though my weight has almost remained the same.
There is an oil company man from San Francisco here with his wife and they keep me updated about the changes on the West Coast. I have even talked with them about the possibility of retiring over there—not in the heart of S.F. but somewhere near the ocean and yet within easy reach of the city. For the last six years I have been thinking of retiring in London which I loved very much. But then London is losing its atmosphere with less Londoners and more from the old Commonwealth. What about S.F.? Does it have anything to offer and how is life there?
I am thinking of arranging a trip to S.F., Mexico City, Hawaii in May-June if it is not too hot in the latter two places. Have you been to Mexico City and Acapulco and what is you opinion about the timing of my trip? Of course it is too early for me to know whether this trip materializes, but I would know more in a month or so. Such a trip would give me a chance to see you after years and have a long long chat with you.
In the meantime I am planning to go to Chad next week and to Tehran early March after which I have a better picture of my future trips.
Please write soon,
What is La Condition Humaine? One thing is certain, that man is destined to ask “what is human life and is it possible to give it a dignity and a meaning?” Man seems to be confronted with alternatives and these questions arise when he must make decisions . On what terms must he make his choices? Can man make rational decisions and can he act upon them or does he respond blindly to blind stimuli and then call these responses rational? Is the nature of man good or bad?
I think that the nature of man is neither good nor bad but determined by the situation in which it is formed and expressed. The same forces that shape us and determine our nature at the same time seem to give us the material for understanding. Therefore it is a paradox that while limiting and defining us, they liberate us. However there seem to be some forces that shackle a man rather than enabling him to grow. These shackle him physiologically, psychologically, physically, morally. There seem to be some circumstances in which men are able to achieve self-understanding and world understanding and to order their lives in terms of their understanding. But there are other circumstances in which he becomes bent and blind and disordered. Man has certain basic needs which must be attended to before he can act as a rational human being. The stage must be set on which he is to act and it seems to be the role of society to attend to this.
It seems sensible to give all men opportunities for development, to enable them to choose for themselves what is good. To make a society good for only a few seems self-defeating. It is settling for something very minor when perhaps a great deal can be gained. To sacrifice many men for one poet, for instance, is destroying for an end that may be futile. For is it a reasonable goal to create a poet without creating a society where he may be appreciated and evaluated?
Whatever values one chooses are ultimately dependent for their realization upon the social order. Moreover the values one chooses are also dependent upon the social order. Therefore it seems to me that the political struggle is the most significant since it creates to a large extent the environment of man and the nature of man. To be concerned with this and to act for other human beings seems to give the greatest dignity to human life. For then you can help give human beings the only freedom there is…to discover for themselves what is good and to act upon it.
The date of this essay is unknown, but it was probably written as a college undergraduate in the early 1940’s
June 28, 1943
I know I just wrote you, but without waiting for an answer I’ll sort of prepare you for a surprise you might receive this week, so if you receive a telegram saying I’m married, you won’t be too shocked. At any rate, if I don’t get married, I’ll be engaged so it’s the same idea almost; I’m in love and I’ve found my man, to use the language of the proletariat.
Golly, I wish you could know Joe before he leaves. He is leaving this Saturday for L.A. and New York and then for points unknown. About all we know so far is that he is going to train Chinese troops. Whether he’ll go to India or China I don’t know, but I hope it’s India where he’ll be much safer.
I’ve told him all about you, and, darn it, he seemed too interested! You sound too exciting and unconventional when I describe you, so if you don’t mind, I’m going to talk about myself to him from now on. Besides, he doesn’t think you’re too old for him.
If you only knew how tender he is. He’s really quite a sentimental guy, but is always trying hard to hide his sentimentality. Yesterday we went over to see some friends of his who were sort of giving a little farewell party for him. Some University professors and their wives were there and it was quite nice. Karl [Aschenbrenner], his friend, is such a fine fellow and he has an adorable little girl of about 20 months. She was scrambling all over Joe and he looked so paternal and proud that she was paying attention to him
You’d probably think that I was prejudiced if I told you that he is very honest and kind. He has never misled me in any way, has never said anything and not meant it, that’s why I’m so happy at last when he tells me he loves me because I know he’s sincere.
You know, I’ve come to believe that happiness isn’t something that wracks your being; that it’s not an intense feeling of joy or an intense feeling of any kind. It’s just peace, rest from worry, desire, hope, sorrow, emotionalism of any kind. That is the way I feel now, peaceful. We’ve found a basis for security in each other. I didn’t know it, but I’ve been looking for something to lean on, or rather something that will always be there, that I can draw my strength from merely by knowing that it is there. Yes, we might be separated for years, but I’ll explain why I’m not bitter about it.
As yet, Mother, I’m undeveloped and I must develop myself. If he were here, I might lean on him too much, it would be so easy. I consider marriage between two people should be like two rivers, each springing from its own source, fighting its own way, making its own bed and eventually mingling in a common sea. Too many marriages can be compared to a river and a stream, wherein the stream flows into the river too soon and loses itself.
You know, I’ve forgotten how to cook, I haven’t been near a stove for so long. When he asked me to marry him, he said, “But if only you could cook!” I let him cook all the meals and wash the dishes, poor thing. I have a feeling, though, that he wouldn’t be particularly interested in doing that for the rest of our life together, so I must learn how to cook. We have been having sort of a trial marriage this last week and a half and it has worked out very well. I know you won’t feel unhappy about it because it has meant so much to both of us. Well, I’ll permit you a few sentimental tears, as long as you give me your blessing.
I’ll let you know immediately if I get married!
* * * * * * * * * *
TDJD BERKELEY CALIF AUGUST 10/43
MILDRED L SHADBOLT
NEVER MIND MONEY AM LEAVING THURSDAY FOR PENNSYLVANIA MARRYING JOE LOVE
In September 1960 Lorrie returned to Berkeley after five years in Syracuse. Her husband remained behind in Syracuse to complete his teaching duties for the fall semester, then joined her in Berkeley for the spring semester where he taught as a visiting professor. This letter, dated September 27, 1960, was written to him.
I have been trying to write but they are drilling outside the apt and that combined with the noise of the traffic makes an awful racket! So I am writing to you because it is easier and more relaxing.
Yes, I am getting down to work, trying to reformulate some of the old problems that interest me…and I feel I am getting interested again. You couldn’t imagine what has happened to me, in the last year. I have always been aware of an immense reservoir of power inside of me, but recently I have felt close to death…lethargic and uncaring and old…so I almost finished myself off…but even I don’t deserve such self-punishment and I’m trying hard to revive. Of course you were right about one thing…when you said that things wouldn’t be the same here and that I would be disappointed. The truth is that nothing here has basically changed…Sure, some of the people have gone, but some are still here…What has changed is I myself. The college atmosphere, the coffee shops almost seem childish and when I attend the seminars I have an awful feeling that I’ve heard it all before, which of course I have. In a way I’m beginning to see that it would be almost a punishment to be forced to live the same life over and over without moving on to any other stage. I’ve grown out of the whole thing and of course the only thing left for me to do is to begin using my experience, to write, to create. I know that I can do it…it only requires a bit more love of life…really a rather difficult resurrection, a return from the dead. I find I’m hardly interested in my friends anymore, altho it’s nice to be able to have a cup of coffee with someone and talk as often as one wishes. Certainly (some) people still seem to like me and enjoy my company. But I have no desire to flirt or to encourage the sort of relationships that used to amuse me. I find myself somewhat bored by the man-woman relationship. Aside from writing I feel there is one other thing that offers something valuable. But I won’t tell you what that is. As far as the Bay Area is concerned…it has grown very big, but I enjoy its variety. It offers so much to make me happy. And then too one can find beauty and peace, trees, flowers, etc., to surround oneself with. The climate is unsurpassed. On the other hand I’ve had some reaction to people complaining about other places and how difficult it would be to live away from the Bay Area. All they want to do is take, and not give. Every community needs intelligent educated people but of course they want their own community, and there’s no doubt that Berkeley belongs to the lazy intelligentsia. So you’re right about this, darling.
I received your letter today and I miss you terribly. I could never stop loving you. I want to be your wife and not a professor. The health of my mind and soul depends on whether I can set down what I need to say; whether I can stand some more discouragements and begin writing. And you understand that, I know. You, on the other hand, have a job to do in the world…you’re a wonderful teacher and everybody needs you, dearest. I know you don’t like this letter…but I can only try to talk because I need you and love you.
Write to me more than once a week because I, we, miss you.
9 April 1967
The last few days have been cold and rainy in Cascais. Since I had a small sore throat yesterday, I didn’t go swimming. However, I did go the day before. The weather was overcast and the water quite chilly. Nevertheless I enjoyed it once I got in—and I felt marvelous afterwards. I gathered quite an audience (on the esplanade) who, no doubt, thought I was crazy.
There is a very nice beach here and the water is nicer than at Santa Barbara, Cascais could very well compare with the latter. It certainly is a lovely resort village with all the advantages. There is sailing here, too—lots of boats for rent.
As for accommodations—I looked at the apartment yesterday and I didn’t like it at all. That is, the location was very bad—in the hills behind Cascais. It is part of a new development and the building isn’t even finished. I would really be isolated there—and I would prefer living in Lisbon. I am now looking for something else. Rents are higher here, naturally, than in Lisbon, since it is a choice area. I could have a rented place, however, for about $80—the same as in Lisbon. I’ve seen a few—but I rather like the idea of finding an unfurnished place and furnishing it very simply—from scratch—since the rent is much cheaper. I could sleep on a mattress of palha—straw. It doesn’t matter.
In the meantime I am staying in a very pleasant pension—inexpensive—where everyone is very nice to me. I can stay as long as I like since there is not much tourist movement at this time.
I am very lonely—especially at night—and after my dinner I go directly to my room. As you might imagine, I feel very sad and I don’t know what to do. It seems my whole world has broken.
I hope that you are happy and occasionally studying. Don’t waste your time with pop music. Its better to study the guitar. You have so many capacities. I hope you don’t betray yourself.
I feel very unhappy when I think of the last memories of me you must have—raging and crying. I never thought that I could behave like that and I am full of despair. Everything has been so terribly ugly and brutal and childish. There is a point at which one can no longer control one’s emotions. I am glad that such scenes don’t damage you and that you are not so sensitive as I am. That would be insupportable.
I still love you both—but I know that neither of you want me nor need me. Thus, it is very painful that I am so dependent on you two—for love, affection, understanding—for my very life. I don’t know if one can remake oneself. If I cannot, then all is finished for me.
I suppose I can never make you understand the need that forced me to leave you both. Certainly it wasn’t pleasure. I had to understand the world in all its manifestations and dimensions. Some of these dimensions have been destroyed in the U.S. Here one can still see how people have always lived before the machine—and one can thus evaluate better what life is.
I have never needed anyone but you and Joe—but I have deeply needed a greater intellectual experience of life. I was just formed in that way—and no doubt that is a tragic situation for a woman—because she should discover her meaning within her family.
Being such a person as I am, I know that I have failed you in many ways. At the same time there is a compensation for you. I am not a possessive, demanding mother and I only want you to be free and happy. I would like to see you more interested in some kind of service to society. However, you will find your own direction.
I did think that I had something to offer Joe being the kind of person I am. But he saw my search as a competitive rather than a complementary one.
I have been too restless and unhappy to make a good wife and good mother. The saddest thing of all is that I have never been capable of doing anything about the misery in the world that has hurt me so much.
Try to remember me with some understanding. No doubt that understanding will only come with experience. One day you might say—“My mother was a very tormented person; one not very well equipped to deal with the world—but she never wanted to hurt anyone.”
* * * * * * * * * *
4 May 1967
My dearest little boy,
I have been waiting so long for a letter from you. I thought that this time you would write—since you promised me before you left. At least you are independent of me—even tho I’m not independent of you—unfortunately I am terribly lonely and sad at the fact that I can’t see you. I don’t know what you’re doing—what you’re thinking—and I wonder if you ever think of me. I can’t seem to recover from what has happened. I can’t believe that I no longer have a family or a home to return to. I can’t understand that Joe no longer loves me when we loved each other so much. I have only myself to blame—for deserting you both. You might understand some day the needs that sent me away. In a way—altho our lives are so different—Henry Adams sought the same things I have. I never wanted to leave my family—but I had to…even if it destroyed me……and perhaps it has.
I haven’t made any plans. It is very difficult to find work here and you know I’m not very aggressive. Unfortunately, I have no experience at all—except for years ago at stupid things. I am just reading now and trying to write—and hoping that I will find some way of becoming independent and no longer a burden on the people I love.
I want to be brave—but I have no one to turn to. As yet I haven’t found the strength and selflessness to forget my hurt.
I feel that Joe has changed so much I no longer know him. How strange after I thought I knew him so well and we were closer than any two people in the world. I respected him so. Well, I can’t forget my Joe—nor my David.
I don’t know what I’ll be able to do without you both. I only hope you’re both well and happy—and never lonely. I guess I forced myself to have a life of loneliness. Perhaps something might come of it—perhaps not. At any rate—no one will care except myself.
I hope you’re getting ready for your exams. Please, dearest, study—it isn’t too difficult for you since you’re quite intelligent. You have so much to gain. I would be so proud of you if you did.
Please write me just a little note. I’m terribly lonely here.
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not: and hearing they hear not; neither do they understand.
Deliberately, step by step, I enter another world. The journey is a difficult one for there is “a sword which turns every way, to keep the way…Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way…” I am summoned from beyond the threshold and I stumble and grope into a world circumscribed by a brouillerie of intuitions, reasons, myths and dreams; where the mind of the Self overlaps with the Other. I explore and extend its ambit, striving for the original point where the eye looks within and without and brings all into focus. I search for a fine integral thread with which to spin my web, to unwind and spin again. I search for a framework which will hold me and release me. Quare impedit? This has been my life. Indeed, this is life—an allegory, another tale repeated from the Beginning. But who am I? One…or many…or nothing? Observe a thousand refractions: Man, Woman, Saint, Devil…whirling around like planchettes with my face momentarily and alternately impressed upon them. Who am I? I must seize one; let it transform me…and cast out the others…all the irreconcilables.
For whomever really needs or dares, the pattern is there. Forms from chaos, freed and burning for a moment in space! Let them be exiled from the spirit to which they belong. Let them struggle of themselves for whatever truth they find. Turn them loose with the original temptations, ETERNITY and ESSENCE, in their midst. And if they are tempted? “Ye shall be as gods—knowing good and evil—Ye shall be as gods…” (Ye shall create yourselves as gods, for “each one creates his god, when judging ‘This is good or bad.'” “Eritis sicut scientes bonum et malum.”) You will exalt yourselves, but you shall be as gods without a paradise. “Cursed is the ground for your sake.” You shall lose your Eden and be cast out upon yourselves. “…in fear and trembling…” Sauve qui peut. “…knowing good and evil…” but no longer knowing truth.
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…The dust of the ground…and the breath of life…” A shadow cast across the void, across the world, across the room. Invest its outlines with the germ of need and desire. Bid it to “be fruitful and multiply” until it has duplicated and reduplicated; until it shapes a tension of opposites; until it forms one of the many profiles of existence; until it becomes Man.
His heart has begun to beat and the great silent protest of being throbs in the space within him, the voice crying in the wilderness. Now he has put his head into his hands. My need lies heavily upon him. Another moment his head will be down, and hovering about him, in a transference of my dream to his growing life, those monstaros of Goya waiting for his sleep of reason. “If therefore the light that is in Thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.” But he still sits there (sustained by what force, by what inner urgency? Is it by that energy that Henry Adams says “is the inherent effort of every multiplicity to become unity?” But he is a unity just become multiplicity.)
He raises his head and looks around him. It has all happened before, of course. The lens of his eye reflects the same reality, the same night and day, light and shadow, surface and texture, the same heights, the same depth…the same antinomies.
“The dust of the ground…and the breath of life…” He slowly straightens the line of his back. His face is touched by a beam of light and I explore that tentative landscape for innocence or guilt, ignorance or knowledge, doubt or surety, good or evil. What can I learn from it? I recognize only that whatever is born of my own necessity assumes other dimensions, other projections. From his own bone, from his own flesh, his own spirit, his own shadow; from his own self—his own contradiction! He is familiar, but already a stranger. And now he struggles of himself to be released into the tense of his own being and action, to judge his own good and evil…and to erect his own divinity. I free him and it all begins again. That “infinite—nothing—” That soul which Pascal saw as “cast into a body, where it finds number, time, dimension. Thereupon it reasons, and calls this nature necessity, and can believe nothing else.” Or else—like Pascal, it begins to doubt.
“…a living soul…” He struggles to exist, but for what purpose? To know himself? To reason and to doubt? Does he know, as Nietzsche claims, “that he is in this world just once, as something unique, and that no accident however strange, will throw together a second time into a unity such a curious and diffuse plurality…?” Will he guess his common condition and his uniqueness? Will he ever know the secret of the many within the one and the one within the many? It is my question and it begins to bend his life. Will he unravel the tangle of himself? I have made him one and he is already many.
What a chimera then is man! What a novelty! What a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, imbecile worm of the earth; depositary of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error; the pride and refuse of the universe! (Pascal)
“And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” I have created no paradise. I have no Utopian plan. I can only free him in order to free myself—to haunt this world and to discover his own existence. If he demands more, well…it is my demand too. If he achieves more, then he transcends me. If he fails…? I cannot look at him. I see through him into myself. And yet he exists. He lives in the same sense that we all live, trying to hold himself together within his faulty frame of dust. We know his salvation is far from him. For like us he is only a counterfeit always struggling to become real, always struggling to return to a dimly remembered Eden. The error is inherent—the original sin—following God’s path to unity and splendid ruin.
“In the beginning was the Word…” The Word in the wilderness. The Word that created the world. Like Saint Augustine, Tolle lege…take up your book and search for the Word…Create your own world from it. A book lies open before him. He takes it up and reads, “We expose new principles to the world out of the principles of the world itself…We explain to it only the real object for which it struggles.”
Karl Marx wrote these words having discovered historical destiny, but a destiny which must be interpreted; a necessity which required man’s affirmation; a truth which echoed his “Yes, Yes, Yes” while he rode the tidal wave of the past into the future, into Utopia and Classless Unity. “In the beginning was the Word…” This was Marx’ word: “Yes”…to “affirm,” to “make firm,” to fix, establish, stabilize what destiny predicted. This was Marx’ challenge, “To define the real object for which the world struggles.” The world and Karl Marx—the world in Karl Marx—
Whoever you are, take a pen and mark this passage. He does, for he would also define the real object. No, he would redefine it. Unlike Marx he feels the pressure of history against him. He does not want to affirm but to deny. It points ahead not to Utopia but to chaos. How could he halt the massive glacial flow of accident, the wildly accelerating event, and perhaps in particular the tidal wave of Marxian impulse? “Man has created death”—and progress—and history. How could he uncoil any taut spring, untie any knot, turn back any clock? Time and tide wait only for the affirmers. How could he force man to dissent to history, to rebel against fate, and to deny all his counterfeit truths? How could he help man to remember his dreams and forget his reality? How could he persuade anyone to go to the foundation, to Purgatorio, and be free? There are no more heretics.
This is the time for a return to the foundation, a return of the stranger to Eden, a return of the many to the one and of the one to the many. This is the time for salvation—man must become the world and take the world into himself, rather than deny it. It is time for “catastrophic rebirth,” not for a continual and futile abortion. It is time for a Promethean defiance of history and fate, not for a cowardly affirmation. It is time for a reformulation of self and society by a simple old formula. Tagore believed that “a day will come when vanquished Man will retrace his path of conquest, despite all barriers, to win back his lost heritage.” Tolstoy pleaded for men to “put away their intellectual arrogance, and make a new beginning…to purge their minds of theories, of false, quasi-scientific analogies between the world of men and the world of animals, or of men and inanimate things…” Spero meliora (I hope for better things)—faith and hope and prayer are not enough.
He looks down at his pen. If only there were a power within it not to affirm but to explode the world into neat little Platonic triangles from which he could reconstruct a neat symmetrical Garden of Eden, working all the antinomies into a tension of harmony! If only he, like the Greek God in the myth of Cronos, could seize the helm and reverse the order of the world—turn its disorder into order. If he could only stop time at a certain point: the Neolithic period, as someone has suggested, or the age of Confucius…stop time and transform it forever into cycles, halt its historical spiraling. Mankind should strive for a cyclical experience rather than an historical or progressive one: a cyclical experience that encloses man again within a framework rather than alienates him from himself and everything around him. Space and time have created an expanding universe wherein man and society are flying apart. They must be turned back upon themselves. A new cycle: from man to the family to the community to nature and back to man.
If only the urgency and power of his need could formulate a great idea! A New Republic! But the words no longer have any meaning. The ideas have been dragged into the street. “Politics” is concerned with the marketplace, with the polis, the city and suburbia…the activity of consumption and waste…and extended to that false inflation, the nation. “In the beginning was the word”…A new word is needed to suggest a new relationship of space and time, of man and nature and society. “Communion”—communication—“community”—communitics? Unfortunately there is “communism”…another error writ large. It all must be changed. Yes, “man as he is, must be made impossible.” Marxist man too. For “All that is holy is profaned.” Was it really the bourgeoisie who destroyed the original relationship between the one and the other? Marx thought he had discovered the scapegoat and therefore formulated his anti-class society. But perhaps Kierkegaard knew better with his anti-society.
“Man must be made impossible.” But he sits, possible and doubting, lost in a backwash, estranged from himself and others, unable to support anything which occurs around him. He asks like Pilate, “What is truth”—Who is on trial—God or Satan—unity or multiplicity? He is ready to explode with his revolt…and the world struggles unformed within him.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” A kingdom in chaos! The problem persists, the eternal problem: to impose meaning upon the meaningless; to reconcile the polarities; to relate the antithetical…unity and diversity, objectivity and commitment, reason and feeling, change and stability, action and thought, good and evil, the ONE AND THE MANY, the selves divided within the self. Heraclitus wrote, “Thou shouldst unite things whole and things not whole, that which tends to unite and that which tends to separate, the harmonious and the discordant; from all things arises the one and from the one all things.” But Heraclitus’ plan was too subtle, too grand. He spoke of an eternal Genesis, of Ouranos, the place of change and becoming, the place of contradiction and paradox. It is beyond the reach of ordinary man who suffers from chaos and longs for Cosmos: a place of order, of prediction, of stability. Plato, aware of paradox, acknowledged an error and negated his Republic. There was no place for it in a world of change and becoming. All that he could do was first to suggest a Statesman, a manipulator, a frantic juggler of men and events…and then fall back upon The Laws. But what was Plato’s real error? To admit the paradox, to admit change…and to yield…to give up his Republic? Or to embrace and systematize change within his Cosmos? To refuse to give it its way?
The man dreaming here is no Statesman, no Messiah. He has neither plan nor revolution nor disciples. His vision fails, his discipline falters. He is a scapegoat who makes a negative sacrifice and who flees the name-calling…IDIOT. Yet this animus for order, harmony, unity, is a cacoëthes which links him more intimately than threaded chromosomes and an upright brow to his ancestors: Plato, Confucius, Augustine, Rousseau, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Marx—his fellow dreamers. And it links him more intimately than his own image to his secret-sharer, God. He is bound to all those who would create a state of Eden, to all those who would lose themselves in a community of order—a grand fraternity linking Fascist to Franciscan. Is it the hive instinct gone wild? Or does the secret turn back upon the original condition revealed in Genesis?
He recognizes his background and it materializes. The walls retreat and are fixed into bookshelves. High above windows let in a tentative gray light. The space fills with scholars at their desks, scratching away their thoughts. There are sounds occasionally of a cough exploding cautiously or of a scraping chair. There are little islands of lamplight over the tables. He rises and stuffs his books and papers into his briefcase. For a moment he looks around and then leaves the room. No one looks up. A clock tolls another hour. He enters the adjoining room and passes rows of cases with their precious manuscripts: words preserved from the broken context of their author’s lives. Epitaphs! And Rousseau wrote warningly like the “moving finger,” “Pain and Pleasure pass like a shadow! Life slides away in an instant; it is nothing of itself; its value depends on the use we make of it, the good that we have done is all that remains; and it is that alone which marks its importance.”
A guard holds open the exit door for him and he moves down the steps, out the gate and into the evening traffic. The smoke- and fog-smothered buildings repeating themselves ad infinitum, the unyielding pavement, the shattering fanfaronade from buses and autos, the tense, hurried, anonymous-faced crowd, are in livid contrast to the fluid colors of Eden still refracting in some small mirror of his brain. The city is the temple turned inside out: a monument to exile with all its members become its sacrifices, and the money-changers its priests. The encounter with the crowd overlaps one’s being and blurs one’s outlines. “The good that we have done…” This is the arena in which he is to test his potency, but the crowd cannot be defeated. In the shifting movement of the mass there is no juncture at which a single being can be fixed and secured. There is no real antagonist….only la foule. It denies everything but the reality of itself…and paradoxically, its altar is to the Self and every path leading to the altar is a blind alley.
He is isolated in the midst of the crowd. If only he could insert himself into the orbit of someone’s purpose. But all are organized into purposelessness. What is the crowd? How has it happened? What happened to the community, the communion of men? Le Bon analyses the Physiologie des Foules,
That which formed a people, a unity, a block, ends by becoming an agglomeration of individuals without cohesion, still held together for a time by its traditions and institutions. This is the phase when men, divided by their interests and aspirations, but no longer knowing how to govern themselves, ask to be directed in their smallest acts; and when the State exercises its absorbing influence. With the definitive loss of the old ideal, the race ends by entirely losing its soul; it becomes nothing more than a dust of isolated individuals, and returns to what it was at the start—a crowd.
Le Bon writes of the “enfeeblement of the will,” but in what is man to invest himself? As man creates a more artificial environment and wastes the natural one, he makes an invetissement humain more impossible. Lacking a community man turns into himself and finds a stranger there. Fearing loneliness he turns outward into conformity and the crowd. Fearing injustice he creates equality and destroys diversity. “Humanity has taken to monoculture, once and for all, and is preparing to produce civilization in bulk, as if it were sugar-beet. The same dish will be served us every day.” Monoculture and the crowd but not community. Conformity but not unity. Confusion but not diversity.
Voe soli! Strindberg, an obsessed vagrant in London and Paris, saw the prophetic symbols of his and mankind’s madness everywhere in the streets. A strange destiny completes itself. Man’s objects become more real than man. Montaigne, the civilized hermit, rejected his milieu and returned to his hilltop. “I press and shrink within my own skin. The crowd thrusts me upon myself.” Dostoevsky, a noctambulant wanderer in London, glimpsed the face of the crowd and returned home to warn against progress.
Man is not at home in his world. He is carried along, flaccid and yielding, but perhaps he is testing the point at which to become obdurate, to find his own direction. Meanwhile he continues a search which is madness, but is all that serves to define him. It is precisely the I, the Ego Idiom…believing in the exigency of believing…for belief is the truth of a madness. There are madmen…or seers…who walk the streets holding their vision, their divine madness, within them, that makes their lives possible, that meliorates the human condition. But these secret sharers, who recognizes them? They behave as Camus suggested, “From the moment that one does not kill oneself, one has to keep silent about life.” “They are prophets who must conceal themselves as prophets.” They are saints who must become scapegoats of silence. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee…”
Kierkegaard says that “A crowd is an untruth.” What then is truth? Saint Augustine dreamed of a community of men bound together by love and obedient to the will of God, a community to which men could give themselves freely. But are there dreams that are swallowed up by history and disillusion and lost to men forever, leaving only little islands of Eden for life-savoring and sans-souci?…and then vast intervals on the street among the crowd? He now knows only that Promethean defiance turned in upon oneself, that physical tenseness in one’s face and hands, and the eternal self-addressing. Solipsism-“the dilemma of final privacy.”
He passes through the city, once “the human invention par excellence,” held in limbo by the frames of men’s desires. “A world on the wane,” but perversely spreading itself ever wider and thinner over the landscape. Some young men in black jackets jostle him. The universal youth: Teddy boys, halbstarken, blouson noirs, stilyagi, bodgies, taiyozoku—in imitation rebellion, in instinctual preparation for the new world. The imitation rebellion that is not a rebellion.
What is generally absent is that special kind of delinquency based on a need for self-assertion and a rejection of the limits of conformity.” (London Times)
Juvenile delinquency—that play which is the preparation for life in the brave new world—the exaggerated use of leisure, of automobiles, of sex, defining the new man. Irrational plunder, conformism to the group and war against another group. We see it all adumbrated here, the movement into the crowd and baseless antagonism to the other crowd. And, by extension, the crowd become nation-states. Wearing the same clothes, acting in the same restless tempo, with the same lack of meaning moving only for the sake of moving.
The street light casts his shadow against the wall and he sees in imagination a grotesque Don Quixote doing battle with every building. The shadow grows, diminishes and grows again until it becomes the darkness itself. Nietzsche said “Live dangerously” and isolated himself except from shadow encounters.
He steps into the recessed entrance of a building, reaches into his pocket for a key, unlocks the door and climbs heavily up the stairs. A pellucid Mediterranean melody from a Greek café follows him as he unlocks another door and enters the half-darkness of his room. The obscure and persistent tones of the music swell against the walls and floors and ceiling and return to strike the center of his being…forming a word…EXILE.
The familiar smells, the muted objects in his room tentatively welcome him but he looks for something else. A purity of feathers gleam in a corner. A cockatoo steps forward with ritual deliberation, opens his beak and shakes his head to and fro. His hand reaches for the bird’s back and his fingers stroke it intensely. Another absurd existence! Darwin unfortunately did not create a revolution in man’s thought, but an accel-volution…another affirmation of history and progress. Darwin was another surgeon who cut us off from God but did not really bind us any closer to nature, to our fellow creatures.
I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.
For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.
All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.
Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?
In these small dark recesses of the world the final relationship of man to nature, of man to beast is being played out. Man will soon be left alone with his artificial world, with his loneliness. And then where is Truth?
Truth shall spring out of the earth and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
He walks over to the mirror and looks into it, searching for the face of his oneness. “Who knoweth the spirit of man…?” He looks for the devil and sees Silenus, Pan, the goatgod with his little horns. He looks for the saint and he sees the idiot with a little cap of bells. He turns to the window and the city lies before him. He looks for Eden and sees an absurd Utopia. Where is his salvation? We recognize him because he is “man in our image, after our likeness.” He dreams of states of order, our philosopher. He turns away from the window and sits down at his desk. He remembers a letter written by Henry Adams: “Life is not worth much when the senses are cut down to a kind of dull consciousness, but it is at least painless. As for me, waste no sympathy. My capacity for suffering is gone…” Before death there is a dying to life. There is too much to hold within. His head falls upon the table and the shadows gather again around him. Does he hear when we speak?