Jul. 22, 2008

It is Marvellous to Wake Up Together

by Elizabeth Bishop

It is marvellous to wake up together
At the same minute; marvellous to hear
The rain begin suddenly all over the roof,
To feel the air suddenly clear
As if electricity had passed through it
From a black mesh of wires in the sky.
All over the roof the rain hisses,
And below, the light falling of kisses.

An electrical storm is coming or moving away;
It is the prickling air that wakes us up.
If lighting struck the house now, it would run
From the four blue china balls on top
Down the roof and down the rods all around us,
And we imagine dreamily
How the whole house caught in a bird-cage of lightning
Would be quite delightful rather than frightening;

And from the same simplified point of view
Of night and lying flat on one's back
All things might change equally easily,
Since always to warn us there must be these black
Electrical wires dangling. Without surprise
The world might change to something quite different,
As the air changes or the lightning comes without our blinking,
Change as our kisses are changing without our thinking.

"It Is Marvellous to Wake Up Together" by Elizabeth Bishop from Poems, Prose, and Letters. © The Library of America, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of poet Stephen Vincent Benét, (books by this author) born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1898). He was of the most popular poets of his day, and today he's remembered for his epic poem about the Civil War, John Brown's Body (1928).

It's the birthday of novelist Tom Robbins, (books by this author) born in Blowing Rock, North Carolina (1936). He's known for novels such as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1976), Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas (1994), and most recently Villa Incognito (2003).

He says that when he starts a book, he does not know what the story will be. He does not outline and he does not revise. He perfects each sentence, sometimes for more than an hour, and then he moves on to the next one. He said, "I'm probably more interested in sentences than anything else in life."

He also said, "Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature."

It's the birthday of the man known as the "dean of American psychiatry," Karl Menninger, (books by this author) born in Topeka, Kansas (1893). His ideas about mental illnesses and how to treat them were revolutionary for his time—and many of the approaches he advocated and developed became instituted in modern psychiatric treatment centers.

Menninger built on some of the foundations that Freud had established, and some of his achievements rest in explaining Freud to the general population through magazine articles, books, and letters. But he also diverged in many ways from the founder of psychoanalysis. Where Freud believed in treating individuals through set therapy sessions, the Harvard-educated Menninger advocated a total immersion experience to help mentally ill individuals get well. He-co-founded with his father and brother, who were also medical doctors, the Menninger Clinic in Topeka. It was inspired partially by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, which Karl's father had visited many years prior and had come home to report, "I have been to the Mayos, and I have seen a great thing."

The Menninger Clinic started in a farmhouse with only 13 beds for patients. At first, local citizens sued to stop the opening of a "maniac ward" near them. The clinic expanded greatly and eventually grew to 39 buildings on 430 acres—and to a staff of 900 people.

In addition to disagreeing with Freud on the best approach to therapy, Menninger had differing notions as to what caused mental illness. While Freud attributed mental illness largely to conflicts within a person's mind, Menninger thought that societal influences played a large role in an individual's mental health. He believed strongly that mental sickness often came about because of a lack of parental love during childhood.

Also, he thought that criminal behavior was often a stage of mental sickness and that it should be treated accordingly. He was a lifelong advocate for prison reform, believing the current system did nothing to help stop antisocial behavior. He told Congress in 1971: "I sometimes feel as if I would like to scream out to the American public that they are squirting gasoline on the fire. The prison system is now manufacturing offenders, it is increasing the amount of transgression, it is multiplying crimes, it is compounding evil."

He often said that it would help anyone "to be getting three square meals a day and to know that there is opportunity ahead—things to be done, land to be turned, things to build." Once, when someone asked him what to do if a person feels he is about to have a nervous breakdown, Menninger replied, "Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do something for them."

He wrote more than a dozen books, including several best sellers. His works include The Human Mind (1930), Love Against Hate (1959), Man Against Himself (1956), Whatever Became of Sin? (1988), and The Crime of Punishment (1968).

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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