This is the next installment from Beatrice Allen Page’s unpublished manuscript, Landscape With Figures:
“Miscellaneous reflections on people’s attitudes toward one another:
- If you respect and stand somewhat in awe of science, you describe the scientist as brilliant, dedicated, self-disciplined, amusingly absentminded about mundane affairs, a major hope of our civilization. If you mistrust science, you describe the scientist as coldly intellectual, ruthless, irritatingly absentminded about practical affairs, and a threat to civilization.
- If you admire and stand somewhat in awe of art, you describe the artist as sensitive, passionate, agonized, spontaneous, original, amoral, appealingly childlike. If you have no interest in art, you describe the artist as touchy, lecherous, self-pitying, irresponsible, eccentric, immoral, and childish.
- People long for saints. The public wants the doctor, for instance, to conform to an image they have created of the selfless physician going about on his errands of healing, a fumble servant of mankind, utterly indifferent to money, comfort, or any aspect of his own personal life. I suspect this is the basic reason the medical profession has come in for some much criticism in the past few years: it hasn’t conformed to the false image.
- Most of us don’t make an objective appraisal of a person and then react to him or her emotionally on the basis of that appraisal. We react first and then find reasons to support or explain our reaction. Take falling in love; we don’t tally up all the items that please us and then decide to fall in love – we fall in love and then find all the reasons for it, e.g., he is so understanding, has such a marvelous sense of humor, so much integrity, etc.
- Similarly, we interpret a person’s actions according to how we feel about him. If we love him, we put the best possible interpretations on everything he says and does. If we don’t like him or trust him, we see cause for censure in everything he says or does.
- Theoretically, to understand is to forgive. In my experience it doesn’t always work. I think of S., a man with wonderful qualities of mind and heart but one who became at times scathingly sarcastic, inflicting deep wounds in others. I admired him for his good points and tried to forgive his lapses into cruelty by understanding him. I knew the story of his life and that he himself had been subjected to cruel treatment. But try as hard as I could to feel genuine compassion for him, I could never get over my animosity. Then one day I realized my antipathy had little to do with his sarcasm. It was all based on a little gesture of his: in conversation when he thought he had scored a brilliant point or stated something unusually well, he pursed his lips like a child expecting a kiss. It was this incongruous expression on the face of a grown man which I could not bear.
- I’ve often noticed that people divorce their mates for the very reason they married them. I think of A., who liked to date actresses. He was drawn to what he called ‘dramatic personalities.’ Finally he married one. After a year he asked for a divorce, accusing her of being ‘theatrical.’ I think of M., who married a girl twenty years younger than he and spoke proudly of his ‘child bride.’ It was primarily her dewy-eyed naivete that he found appealing. After awhile her ‘childishness’ got on his nerves. Then there was my friend C., who was attracted to a man for his ‘boyish charm,’ only to find out later she was stuck with being a mother to him. And T., who married a man who ‘had more sex appeal than any man she’d ever met in her life’ – and soon discovered he was not averse to exercising that sex appeal on other women. For her second husband she chose a man for his ‘solid, dependable qualities,’ but somehow after awhile his solidity turned into stolidity.
- I sometimes think everyone should throw away his first three marriages as simply practice exercises. Perhaps by the time both partners got to the fourth, they’d have learned how to create a really good union. On the other hand, watching many a couple break up, I’ve often wondered if both partners had really thrown themselves wholeheartedly into trying to solve the problems, the marriage might not have been richer in the long run for the difficulties surmounted. I’t’s something like writing a story, I suppose. You have to decide whether the story (or the marriage) is a hopeless failure and should be discarded or whether it’s still in the stage of being a rough draft and can be revised into something worth keeping.”