Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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Brian H

Phenomenology, anyone?

Heavy issues; is consciousness an irrelevant byproduct of bio-electrical activity? Does it matter if conscious structures are consistent and elegant as opposed to jumbled and clumsy? If so, who is "there" for it to matter to?

And so on.


Whether you believe in materialism or metaphysics, I think there's a human desire to connect at some level with others; to know I'm not alone, that there are others out there who wrestle with life as I do. I'm sure there are elements of pity, concern, and judgment, too.

Tom Strong

Great post.

I feel the opposite about Mother Teresa - knowing that she struggled so with her faith makes her far more human and interesting to me. She's too much of a cardboard-cutout saint (or sinner, to follow Hitchen's argument) otherwise.


Well, yes. Now that I'm awake (that was a real late-night, altered-state-of-consciousness post), I realize that part of the importance of knowing others' secrets is overcoming the constant, nagging impression that everyone else is perfect and I alone am full of terrible voids and terrible thoughts (ever escaping the thoughts into the voids, and vice versa).

FWIW, I believe that feeling that "everybody has it together but me" is phenomenological: that we experience others as bright, coherent solids (mainly because we can see them) and ourselves as vast, treacherous oceans without boundaries.


The reason I forgot about that very major factor is that it has ceased to plague me. And I can pinpoint the moment when it ceased to plague me. What a relief.


Tom: you do wonder so many things about Mother T. Like, was she, in fact, full of herself, and is that why she felt empty of God? Did she need something more like Buddha's Middle Way -- he tried asceticism and self-sacrifice and said that it wasn't the way to enlightenment. But then the point here was not enlightenment but service. However, the B. might have said that the service that flows from enlightened compassion has a different quality from service undertaken out of duty or striving for holiness. Could be what Hitchens picked up on.

It's certainly a case study in the interpretations of "depression" by the scientific secular and the religious. I am fascinated by the fad for reducing experience to neurochemistry -- the latter being an abstraction, in a sense an article of faith, which we cannot experience directly. And that immediately dethrones and relativizes experience, which we used to take as "real" (though always subject to interpretation -- is it kinder to the schizophrenic to say his hallucinations are disordered neurochemicals or demon possession? I have Christian friends who suspect/believe the latter). Which is not to say that in this day and age Mother T's confessor would have ruled out antidepressants; or would he? I have the impression that in that respect Catholicism is more catholic than Scientology. And would she have accepted such help or would she have been determined to go it alone? (I say this as one who was determined to go it alone, although a different "it.")

It certainly does give all of us, not just Catholics, a lot to meditate on. Brian was onto something in bringing up philosophy. Have at it, Brian, and all.


"we experience others as bright, coherent solids (mainly because we can see them) and ourselves as vast, treacherous oceans without boundaries."

Ooh, flashbacks to Sartre and existentialism! Everyone is an empty pour-soi longing to be an en-soi.

In college, it sounded so deep, then it sounded simplistic, now it has the ring of truth to it.


Interesting you said that, PJ, because I was just thinking how precisely existential Catholicism has become in this day and age: you can't prove the existence of God; sometimes you can't even feel it; it is a pure leap of faith, recreating the whole shebang out of the faithful will that it be so -- didn't Sartre call that an acte gratuit?


I think he would have called that specific case mauvaise foi.

He was very big on choosing one's own path -- as long as it wasn't a path followed by others, and especially not a religious one.

You can see the very personal roots of Sartre's hatred of religion in Les Mots. He is offended by the idea of God as an interfering busybody who takes away human freedom. He carried on a battle against that image throughout his life and works. I think he would have been right in Hitchensland re: Mother Theresa.

Tom Strong

What I respect about the approach the Church took with MT is precisely that they didn't see her depression, her doubt as a "problem" to be "cured."

Despite my generally secular outlook, this is one area where I agree with the traditionalists. Doubt and despair serve a purpose in this life; one needs to learn to accept them even as we resist them (or at least, accept the ongoing nature of the struggle). It may ultimately be a chemical problem in the end, but thinking about it in that way is deadly to the imagination (at least for those of us not deeply infatuated with chemistry).

I'm not saying that to bash antidepressants; I found them useful at one point in my life, as have many other people. But I think there's something to be said for using them cautiously, even soulfully as it were. Darkness can be trying, but it is also important, and sometimes even useful.


I just noticed your post title is ironic in light of this discussion. For Sartre, God is one who invades human privacy and destroys human liberty. He would have said the Church destroyed her life long before this. She would be like Electra in Les Mouches, groveling in fear before an unworthy Jupiter who ultimately abuses her.

But that's what you get for your mauvaise foi.


PJ: And yet. It might make Sartre turn over in his grave, but what if the purely individual and rebellious choice someone makes today is to affirm tradition? He and his sort were all too successful in throwing it off, and now their radical individualism IS the tradition -- and proving at least as limited in its depth as any of the old ones. In fact, you could argue that individualism has meaning only as a rebellion, that if there's no mighty collective to protest against, it gets pretty shallow pretty fast.

I don't quite see it that way (I think individuals today can be as creative in combining memes as they are in combining genes, and that individualism brings more diversity to cultural evolution), but I see the point.


(I just freed us all from those mauvaise italics.)


I'm not here to praise Sartre but to bury him. I only go on at length because I wrote a thesis on the dude. You happen to have hit one of my deep pockets of scattered knowledge.

Sartre had a good criticism of unthinking tradition. But he wanted to blow apart all tradition -- which, as you've pointed out, becomes its own new tradition. Violent and total rejection of the past is not a very good base on which to build anything -- a lesson, one would think, Sartre might have picked up from his own nation's history.

I think he also was responding to a particular (and wrong) idea of God, but ended up reacting violently to theism per se (and notice I freely choose not to use italics). In theory, he should have been able to affirm a religious life freely and thoughtfully chosen, but I don't think he was able to in practice.


Rebellion is not, in itself, an act of freedom. The most freeing moment in my life came when I decided to go to law school because, in fact, I wanted to go. Previously, I had resisted going, because that was the course my father had chosen for me. I rebelled against it, like any good teenager. And one day I suddenly realized, with startling clarity, that if I avoided going to law school because of him, I was still in fact letting him control my life; my life course would be set as a result of his desires, even if I was doing the opposite of what he wanted.

Rebellion cannot be an end in itself; it has no substance. It can only be a means to an end.

That's the problem with many of the folks with the "Question Authority" bumper stickers. They won't accept any answer they're given to their questions, and they offer nothing to replace it with. They are rebelling just for the sake of rebelling.


That's the problem with many of the folks with the "Question Authority" bumper stickers.

Not to mention that they are rebelling because someone else told them to. If we take the bumper sticker at face value, shouldn't we rebel against its instruction, too?


LOL. That's like "all generalizations are false, including this one."

QUESTION AUTHORITY including that of this bumper sticker


Back to the original topic, I like the appended quote:

"The mask itself often portrays a facet of reality that the unmasked face ... Stripping off all the masks ... isn't likely to give us a clearer view of authentic reality, I think."

It's a good point, but I disagree somewhat. Stripping off the masks does give us another perspective, but not the final one. Even her inner thoughts, disappointments, and unhappiness don't define the person. We are complex and multi-faceted beings. Mother Theresa was neither a plaster saint nor a troubled sadist. It's foolish to think we can categorize people so simply and easily.


Agreed. Buddhists say there is no "real self." There is a crossweave of habitual thoughts and new thoughts and no thoughts, masks and the masks behind the masks.

So much of what we recognize as "me" is just habits. (Or maybe I shouldn't say "just.") I had an amazing experience once in the Feldenkrais Method training. We were doing some gentle movement exercises designed to show the brain some alternative, and maybe more efficient and elegant, ways of moving. Movement patterns and habitual muscle tensions are, after all, located in the brain, not the muscles. And the brain can turn on a dime if shown a way.

One day I got up from a couple of hours of this (granted I'd been doing it a weekend a month for some months) felt that I had someone else's body. I simply didn't recognize myself. That could've been scary, but I found it thrilling. It was like being reincarnated without having to die first. And I guess it was simply the unknotting and spontaneous reorganization of physical holding patterns that had become so familiar they were the feeling of "me." (I feel like "me" again, but I don't think I've gone back; I think I've become familiar with that new organization.)


That's it; I'm looking up Feldenkrais practitioners near me right now.


There's a directory of sorts linked in my sidebar!


Glad you caught Don Jim's post.

I've stopped even trying to frame an argument for "not knowing." It's in the category of things I feel are true but simply cannot come up with a rational justification for persuading other people to think are true. I guess that's what a belief is.

Great poetry is and is not the work of person X living in time Y in culture Z. Yeats wrote a great deal about masks and personae. When you read about him, he was a man full of faults and silly ways. His poems aren't. You almost wish you hadn't known.

Was it better or worse for America that the press once habitually and collegially deferred coverage of the personal weaknesses of politicians? FDR's crippled legs. JFK's philandering. It requires a certain kind of society to keep a secret on that level. The Church, one would think, is still such. There are prices that get paid along with that.

On a tangent, I was thinking today what would have been done by well-meaning psychologists (in the name of their own good) to the Bronte sisters had they attended a modern American public high school.

[Which reminded me of the old National Lampoon book cover parody to "Wuthering High"]


That is, Yeats wrote about masks, Pound about personae. Reading a biography about Pound and his work with Yeats, I'm starting to lose track of where the influences leave off and the poets begin.


You almost wish you hadn't known. We feel that way about so many things. Having all our heroes dethroned can bring on feelings of depression and hopelessness. On the other hand, it can also make you feel there's some hope for you. :-P Admiration is a tricky thing -- it can inspire and it can discourage, if you think its objects are somehow superhuman. It's a tough call. But the question remains: are the feet of clay truer than the noble brow? Both are "true."

If you really, viscerally accept that we are all radically flawed (in secular terms) or sinners (in religious terms), it is very freeing. Then you can be impressed by what people achieve in spite of their humanity! And you also no longer gasp with suprise and dismay when "dark secrets" are revealed. Everyone has them, and the more they are hidden the darker they get.


"If you really, viscerally accept that we are all radically flawed (in secular terms) or sinners (in religious terms), it is very freeing. Then you can be impressed by what people achieve in spite of their humanity! And you also no longer gasp with surprise and dismay when "dark secrets" are revealed. Everyone has them, and the more they are hidden the darker they get."

Beautiful, Amba. Yes, and Amen.


That's the start of a very wise path, I think, especially in dealing with cases like Craig's where a sexual urge proves a man's undoing. Sexuality -- perversions and all -- is part of the hand you're deal at the start of life. It is not by itself something that counts in judging people. How you play that hand is character. And character is the thing that matters. Some of us are born with more temptations than Anthony. Some with few or none. It's worth noting that Anthony became a saint in spite of (or because of) his fleshly visions.

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