Success

By: Robert Bruce Baird

“Mildred Aldrich liked Picasso and even liked Matisse, that is personally, but she was troubled. One day she said to me, Alice, tell me is it alright, are they really alright, I know Gertrude thinks so and Gertrude knows, but really is it not all fumisterie, is it not all false.

In spite of these occasional doubtful days Mildred Aldrich liked it all. She liked coming herself and she liked bringing other people. She brought a great many. It was she who brought Henry McBride who was then writing on the New York Sun. It was Henry McBride who used to keep Gertrude Stein’s name before the public all those tormented years. Laugh if you like, he used to say to her detractors, but laugh with and not at her, in that way you will enjoy it all much better.

Henry McBride did not believe in worldly success. It ruins you, it ruins you, he used to say. But Henry, Gertrude Stein used to answer dolefully, don’t you think I will ever have any success, I would like to have a little you know. Think of my unpublished manuscripts. But Henry McBride was firm, the best that I can wish you, he always said, is to have no success.

It is the only good thing. He was firm about that.

He was however enormously pleased when Mildred was successful and he now says he thinks the time has come when Gertrude Stein could indulge in a little success. He does not think that now it would hurt her." (1)

Finding the right path or way of life is no easy task. Jean Houston’s book Jump Time has an interesting take on how one must act or how to find this enigmatic Path. I think Jean confronted me once in a bar in Lakewood, California. It was not as long a meeting as it should have been but it was (in retrospect) as important as the day she met Teilhard de Chardin in New York’s Central Park. Whatever success my life may have in the eyes of others I now know I have found the right Path or Field for me. It was an arduous fight against what my Purpose on earth should always have been and I love hearing about others who experienced a major turning-point in their lives. Here is one such story that involves one of many people The Charmed Circle reached out to tap on the shoulder.

“Her discovery of the right field came in 1923 and seems to have been entirely serendipitous. The famous photographer Man Ray needed an assistant, but insisted on one without previous knowledge of the craft. Young expatriates must eat, and Abbott applied. Her lack of knowledge qualified her for the job. Soon she was printing for Man Ray and discovering that she immensely enjoyed doing darkroom work. Later, at his suggestion, Abbott began to take her own first photographs. Both were surprised to discover how good she was. By 1925, with the aid of loans from Peggy Guggenheim and from Robert McAlmon (one of the "charmed circle" surrounding Gertrude Stein), she had set up her own studio on the Left Bank. There she pursued portrait photography which absorbed her at that time." (2)

1) The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein, 1933 first publication, 1966 Penguin Edition, New York and LondonFree Reprint Articles, pg. 133.
2) http://americanart.si.edu/search/artist_bio.cfm?StartRow=1&ID=5

Success
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