I am straddling them, trying to wedge them apart. Good God: a New York-New Orleans Democrat Jew fighting it out with a Birmingham Italian Confederate Republican.
A discovery: A shrink accomplishes more these days by his fecklessness than by his lordliness in the great days of Freud.
Time was when I’d have tested their neurones with my lapsometer. But there’s more to it than neurones. There’s such a thing as the psyche, I discovered. I became a psyche-iatrist, as I’ve said, a doctor of the soul, an old-style Freudian analyst, plus a dose of Adler and Jung. I discovered that it is not sex that terrifies people. It is that they are stuck with themselves. It is not knowing who they are or what to do with themselves. They are frightened out of their wits that they are not doing what, according to experts, books, films, TV, they are supposed to be doing. They, the experts, know, don’t they?
Then I became somewhat simpleminded. I developed a private classification of people, a not exactly scientific taxonomy which I find useful in working with people. It fits or fitted nearly all the people I knew, patients, neurotic people, so-called normal people.
According to my private classification, people are either bluebirds or jaybirds. Most women, it turns out, are bluebirds. Most men, by no means all, are jaybirds.
It is not for me to say whether one should try to be happy—though it always struck me as an odd pursuit, like trying to be blue-eyed—or whether one should try to beat all the other jaybirds on the block. But it is my observation that neither pursuit succeeds very well. I only know that people who set their hearts on either usually end up seeing me or somebody like me, or having heart attacks, or climbing into a bottle.
B. F. Skinner, the jaybird of psychologists, put it this way: The object of life is to gratify yourself without getting arrested. Not exactly the noblest sentiment expressed in two thousand years of Western civilization, but it has a certain elementary validity. True jaybird wisdom.