David Bruce: Resist Psychic Death — Husbands and Wives, Illnesses and Injuries

Husbands and Wives

• Stephen King used to listen to music while he wrote, but he has stopped doing that. Why? He says that “frankly my brains used to work better than they do now.” However, his wife may have had something to do with it. He used to listen to a tape of “Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega (sample lyric: “A little bit of Monica in my life, a little bit of Erica by my side”) over and over and over. One day his wife came into his study and told him, “Steve, one more time…you die!”

• Jacques Offenbach, the composer of many famous overtures, occasionally forgot to button the fly of his pants, so his wife developed a code phrase to remind him of this necessary social duty. If they were at a party, and she began to speak about “Monsieur Durand,” Offenbach knew that he needed to get away somewhere private so he could button his pants.

• Art Linkletter is famous in part because of his interviews with children. For example, he asked a small girl what she wanted to be when she grew up. She replied, “An airline stewardess. My aunt was one, and she told me you can marry rich millionaires.” When Mr. Linkletter asked her whom her aunt had married, she answered, “The airport janitor.”

• Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s widow, Constanze, defended his memory. She once was offended by a book by Friedrich Schlichtegroll about her deceased husband, so she bought up all the copies of the book and removed the passages she didn’t like.

Illnesses and Injuries

• In his old age, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, but he continued to paint. Unable to walk, he was either carried in a sedan chair or pushed in a wheelchair. His hands were twisted, and according to his son Jean, “Visitors who weren’t used to it couldn’t take their eyes off the mutilation. Their reaction, which they didn’t dare express, was ‘It’s not possible. With those hands, he can’t paint these paintings. There’s a mystery!’” According to Jean, “The mystery was Renoir himself.” In order for Mr. Renoir to paint, a piece of cloth was pushed into the center of his hand, which was like a claw, and then a brush was pushed into his hand. A mechanism was created in order to move large paintings so that the part that Mr. Renoir wanted to work on was within his reach. With these adaptations, Mr. Renoir was able to continue to create masterpieces despite his infirmity. In 1919, his last year of life, Mr. Renoir painted both Girl with a Mandolin and The Concert, although he looked like a skeleton and his voice was so weak that people could barely hear him.

• A man became obsessed by a woman, and he convinced his doctors that he would die unless he could sleep with her. However, the sages of the community said, “Let him die rather than have her yield.” The doctors then asked that the woman stand naked before the man in order to save his life, but the sages said, “Let him die rather than that she stand naked before him.” The doctors then asked that the woman talk to the man while standing behind a fence in order that his life be saved, but the sages said, “Let him die rather than that she talk to him behind a fence.” In other words, according to this story from the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin75a, if a man becomes obsessed with a woman, that’s his problem — she is not required to help him.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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