A Smudge and a Bird

September 10, 2010

I was watching reruns recently of my favorite show, ‘The West Wing’. There’s a scene in one of the last few episodes where the character Toby Ziegler, once a powerful figure at the White House, is now awaiting prison for a security leak. He is incredibly idealistic and the conscience of the West Wing. Now he’s reduced to sitting in his apartment waiting for punishment, so he starts rereading and comparing different copies of the Constitution (believe me, this is his idea of fun!). He notices a place where in some copies there’s a comma and in other copies not. It changes the meaning of the sentence, so he calls up and has someone check the original. He’s told, yes, there is a comma. Or is it a smudge? They’re not sure.

This is a kite

This reminds me of the famous Freudian analysis of Leonardo Da Vinci’s childhood, which, no matter  what else you think of Freud (in my case, not

This is a vulture

much) is fatally flawed because of a mistranslated word in a document he used in his research on Da Vinci. In one of Freud’s interpretations, he extrapolates from a childhood incident with a vulture that it is a symbolic remembrance of suckling at his mother’s breast, and interprets the memory as a fantasy with mythological connotations. All of this is moot, because it is based on a translation error where the word was for the bird  ‘kite’ instead of ‘vulture’.

What I learn from all this is how easy it is to say the wrong thing or build an intellectual edifice based on a small mistake. It makes one almost terrified to put any thoughts down.  I probably should reread this blog a few dozen more times.

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The Blue Sun and Other Tales of the 1950’s

July 29, 2009

bluesun

Back in the 1950’s, the pressure to conform, which is always present in society, was much more above ground and unified. And to make things even more fun, Freudian psychiatry was the hot thing.   I was no six year old James Dean, but I had my own quiet rebellions. I was forever getting in trouble for being different in simple ways, I used to hold my scissors differently for instance, and believe it or not, this drove my teacher to distraction. But the big blow-up happened when I colored the sun blue.

I knew how to read long before starting school (hey, I’m a bookaholic!). This in itself caused problems, my teacher would not believe I could read, the other kids couldn’t read, and when I tried to demonstrate she would always say I memorized it. I had a children’s book at home about astronomy, where it explained the sun was just a star, and stars came in different colors. So when it came time to color in the sun at school, I colored it blue (in truth, probably being a show-off). The teacher had me stand up in the front of the class with my blue sun, and carefully explained to the class, that the only permissible colors to color the sun were yellow or orange. As I stood there subjected to the cruel laughter of those six year old clones, I tried to explain to them about the sun, and stars, and that there was more to the universe than yellow suns. And of course, was sent to the office to see the school psychologist.

Back then it was the popular thing to have a school psychologist to even out the bumps in the otherwise smooth student body. Ours was this very patronizing woman I loathed. She had a doll house in her office, single floor ranch (we all lived in fairly identical houses like that in the suburbs) with no roof. She had me sit in front of it, and gave me small plastic figures, explaining “this one is your father, this one is your mother, etc”.  Then she asked me to put them in the house doing things they would normally be doing. Was she kidding? Did she really not expect me to mess with her head? I put my mother in the bathtub, my father upside down in the chimney, can’t remember what I did with my siblings, but I’m sure it was something twisted. Then the questions started, did my father drink a lot (my parents never drank), did my mother ignore me, etc. She finally called my parents in. I don’t really remember exactly what happened then, but the next year we moved away from suburbia to a rural home in a small town full of eccentric people. I know in part my parents did this for me, I love them very much for always letting me be me in a time when that was not the norm.

I always hated coloring after that. I think this dislike even extended to animation, I never really liked cartoons though I loved TV. My friend @CTK1 was trying to get me to color something for a coloring contest, and I actually found myself still pretty much blocked almost 50 years later. I told her my sun story, and she urged me to write a blog about it. This is it. I just colored the blue sun at the top. Thanks Tina!