Saturday, July 26, 2008

Keepers - Garrison Keillor's Writers' Almanac



In an emergency:


[Karl Menninger] 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."

* * *
This blog is something of a journal and one thing I do with my journals is use them, in part, as scrapbooks. What follows are some recent additions, excerpts from Garrison Keillor's Writers Almanac:

It's the birthday of Ernest Hemingway, (books by this author) born in Oak Park, Illinois (1899). His first important book was the collection of short stories In Our Time (1925), and he followed that with The Sun Also Rises (1926) and the book that most critics consider to be his greatest novel, A Farewell to Arms (1929).

Hemingway said, "All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was."

* * *
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."

[Karl Menninger] 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).

* * *

Cormac McCarthy wrote in All the Pretty Horses: "They ran he and the horses out along the high mesas where the ground resounded under their running hooves and they flowed and changed and ran and their manes and tails blew off of them like spume and there was nothing else at all in that high world and they moved all of them in a resonance that was like a music among them and they were none of them afraid horse nor colt nor mare and they ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised."

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