Jul. 26, 2004
Thoughts in a Garden
Poem: "Number 8," by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, from Pictures of the Gone World. © City Lights. Reprinted with permission.
It was a face which darkness could kill
in an instant
a face as easily hurt
by laughter or light
'We think differently at night.'
she told me once
lying back languidly
And she would quote Cocteau
'I feel there is an angel in me' she'd say
'whom I am constantly shocking'
Then she would smile and look away
light a cigarette for me
sigh and rise
her sweet anatomy
let fall a stocking
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of Aldous Huxley, born in Surrey, England (1894). He's best known to us today as the author of the novel Brave New World (1932), about a future in which genetically engineered people take drugs to keep them happy, have sex all the time, and never fall in love. Huxley said, "An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex."
It's the birthday of humorist Jean Shepherd, born in Chicago, Illinois (1925). He's remembered for the autobiographical stories he told on the radio about a boy named Ralph Parker growing up in Hohman, Indiana. One of his stories was made into the movie A Christmas Story (1983), which he narrated. It's about a boy who wants a BB gun for Christmas, even though every adult in his life says that he'll shoot his eye out. The stories Shepherd told on-air were always improvised, but he later wrote them down and published them in collections like In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash (1967) and Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters (1972).
Shepherd said, "Some men are Baptists, others Catholics. My father was an Oldsmobile man."
It's the birthday of Carl Jung, born in Kesswil, Switzerland (1875). He was the founder of analytic psychology. He noticed that myths and fairytales from all kinds of different cultures have certain similarities. He called these similarities archetypes, and he believed that archetypes come from a collective unconscious that all humans share. He said that if people get in touch with these archetypes in their own lives, they will be happier and healthier.
His father was a pastor, and as a boy Jung was shocked to find out that his father was losing his faith. He decided to become a scientist instead of a minister so that he could scientifically prove that religion was important. He became a psychologist at a time when Sigmund Freud was the most important psychologist in the world. When the two men met for the first time, they talked for thirteen hours straight. They collaborated for a few years, but finally decided that they disagreed with each other. Jung thought Freud was obsessed with sex, and Freud thought Jung was obsessed with God.
Jung said, "Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you."
It's the birthday of playwright George Bernard Shaw, born in Dublin, Ireland (1856). His most famous play is Pygmalion (1913), about a cockney girl who learns to pass as a lady. It was the basis for the musical My Fair Lady (1956). As a young man, he moved to London from Dublin with his mother, who was a music teacher. She made enough money for the two of them to live on, so Shaw could devote himself to writing. He spent his days reading at the library and writing novels that no one would publish. He got into politics in his twenties, fighting for the rights of the working poor, but he was always terrified that public demonstrations would turn violent.
Shaw wrote his first play, Widowers' Houses (1892), about the evils of slumlords. The play was viciously attacked by people who opposed his politics, and Shaw figured that he must be a good playwright if he could make people so angry. He revolutionized English theater by writing plays about ideas when most other playwrights were writing sentimental melodramas. He wrote dozens of plays, including Man and Superman (1905) and Saint Joan (1923).
He was an obsessive letter writer and wrote about a quarter of a million letters in his lifetime, averaging nine letters a day, every day, for seventy-five years. He had an opinion about everything, and eventually became more famous for his personality than for his writing.
Shaw said, "Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week."
And he said, "Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children."
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