Writing :: Humor/Entertainment

The Wisdom of Dr. Jeffrey Gladstone- page 5

Labor Day 1984

G: Hi Harry, good to be here. Yes, it is Dr. Jeffrey. I have come back to Philadelphia from a long sojourn in the Bahamas, where I engaged in snorkeling and general resting. I would like to share with you my thoughts on this day.

First, why Labor Day, Harry? Nobody is working today. It should be Unlabor Day. But let us not dwell on matters of nomenclature. I have more serious reflections to offer. I want to speak about some difficult jobs I have been involved with, when times were harder.

My worst job, Harry, was testing dental floss. You know, Harry, how irritating it is when a piece of floss gets stuck in your teeth. Then you have to make the existential choice: do I let bad enough alone or do I take another piece and use it to try to remove the one already stuck. It is a true risk Harry, because what if the second piece gets stuck also? Or pushes the first piece in even deeper? We all confront such difficult choices every day of our lives. How would you characterize yourself, Harry? Are you a risk-taker when it comes to dental floss extractions?

Anyway, as a tester, I did not have the luxury of choosing to avoid the problem. I had to keep sticking different types of floss between my teeth. Many times, Harry, I cannot tell you how often, a piece of floss got stuck. And Harry, you know the lines you get on your fingers from gripping the floss? Well, you might think that is not a big deal because you only do this for one minute each day. But, Harry, imagine having your fingers wrapped around pieces of floss for 8 hours a day. I developed permanent grooves that are still quite visible today. I thought I would lose the circulation in my fingers. I decided to write about my experiences and so I published the now famous critical essay IN SEARCH OF FLOSS followed by the paperback MEGAFLOSS and then the powerful THE ONE MINUTE FLOSSER.

So that is what I am thinking of today, Harry. I use a water pick now – no more grooves.

November 1, 1984

G: Hi, Harry, good to be here. I am calling Harry, because it is the beginning of November. As you know, Harry, from reading my latest book, November is the forgotten month. You can talk to people for days and they will never mention November. In fact, Harry, a recent research project reveals that in normal conversations, September comes up three times as often as October and October is four times as frequently mentioned as November! People are just not into November. That is the only conclusion that anyone could make from this data, except possibly a lunatic who cannot think straight.

What can we make of this phenomenon? What are some of the implications? Think about all those people who are born in November. You see, even though it is the forgotten month, people are occasionally born in it. What is the psychology of those individuals? Do they forget their own birthdays more frequently than the rest of us? Do others forget their birthdays and bring them small, belated tokens long after the fact? Do they lie about their birthdays and claim they are in October or December (depending on which is closest to the actual date)? These are important issues for us to consider today, on November 1st.

I want to make November 1st a special day, Harry, You know, we have April 1st, which is April Fools day; January 1st, which is New Years’ Day. Why not November 1? We can call it November Fantasy Day. You see, Harry, my research has revealed that people tend to fantasize more in November than in any other month. That way, they can forget that they are in November. Possibly because they are turning inward, like a hibernating bear, for the long winter months ahead – that is an interesting parallel: depending on how much bear blood you have in you, you will fantasize more or less in November (a possible new direction for research). It is a time of transition, a time to take a deep breath and look inside. You see, Harry, April is different: April is hopeful, because we are looking forward to spring; November is bleak and foreboding. We tend to run away from this reality by excessive fantasies.

Now some people will think it is bad to fantasize so much and will fight against the tendency. But why fight nature? It is a human condition, to withdraw from the rigors of reality at certain regular intervals. We must pay homage to our deep biological and psychological realities. Instead of resisting the temptation to lapse into November oblivion, let us embrace the truth and let our fantasies flow freely, particularly around the beginning of the month. Then, we might have reason to celebrate the coming of November and perhaps it will no longer be the forgotten month. So today, you should request callers who would like to share the fantasy with us, to allow us to explore fantasies together, a group fantasy if you like. This is very therapeutic. In fact, it is the basis for my new book, NOVEMBER THERAPY, which is largely oriented toward the exploration and cultivation of fantasy. I am also working on a piece entitled APRIL-NOVEMBER CONNECTIONS, in which I compare and contrast April 1 and November 1.

Harry, I have a November therapy group therapy going. We have 10 people in a small, dimly lit room, with a single 25 watt bulb flickering intermittently – one person will begin with a fantasy and then someone else will cut in, and embellish it, perhaps taking it somewhere else. It will continue like this. I have found that those people are rarely depressed now in November. And Harry, what about November in Scandinavia? You know, they have these long winters where the days are short and people get depressed. What about November therapy for Scandinavians? I want to make a contribution, Harry. I think this may be the ticket for the 80s.

Thanksgiving Day, 1984

G: Hi, Harry, good to be here. Harry, as I prepare Thanksgiving dinner today, I have been puzzling over the question of free will. You see, it is not always clear when we have a choice. Consider the fact that on Thanksgiving, most of us are having turkeys. Of course, there are some Thanksgiving renegades who have ham instead. And almost everyone you and I know is aware of that alternative. People who cook turkeys think that they have chosen this gastronomic route because they prefer the taste of the bird to that of the pig. However, as clinicians, Harry, you and I are cognizant of the illusory nature of choice. Is it truly a preference for turkey or is the weight of societal expectations? Is it an unconscious choice? Perhaps my neighbor, Claudius Beanbag, eats turkey because he had a meaningful encounter with such a bird when he was three years old, an experience he has since repressed, but which surfaces in an obsessive concern with consuming them on this day. And Harry, is it truly choice when he have such limited alternatives? Would you walk into a restaurant which had only two items on the menu? You might walk in, but you would walk right out again, perhaps not even pausing to sit down and reflect on the matter. Why not have Braised Bean Curd au Jus Provencale a la Milanese for Thanksgiving with stuffing on the side. Let us show some imagination, Harry, some creativity. What if India celebrated Thanksgiving? What would they have?

G: I have been doing a lot of treading water, Harry. Before I eat turkey, I like to do a minimum of aerobic exercise and I have chosen to tread. You know I wrote The Incomplete Book of Treading Water. Now I am working on the Incomplete Book of Treading Water Part II. If I finish that, I wonder if the two together might be called the Almost Complete Book of Treading Water. I have much pondering to do in this regard. Good to be here. My mind has been racing, but is on low idle right now, in the present. I await your insights.

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