Lipton’s Journal/February 7, 1955/439
At any rate each time I make a cliché or a wild speculation it is the hint that I am going to carry it further. Long ago in these notes I said society is one, man is two (because two implies in its movement from one that there is an infinity of experience present in the act, thought, event, etc.) So, over the weekend, I realized through argument and thought that what my idea of give and take suffered from was what I was using it as a ‘One’. (A ‘won’—a victory over knowledge.) But it is really a two. (A ’to’—succession, a progression forward.)
So I wrote that wrestlers are Givers and boxers Takers. But that is only half-right. The wrestler is a Giver-Taker—the boxer a Taker-Giver. To wit, the wrestler at the top of his personality—out of the ring, that is off the mat (man at)—always gives, has a breezy aggressive affectionate personality, but in the ring he takes the facsimile, the caricature of punishment. So, wrestling which is phony and a exhibition is actually a play, a drama, a caricature of human advance. The Actor (the grappler) Takes in order to be able to Give. With the boxer we have the reverse. The boxer is in the ring (Ring—the r of ing, the rage of passivity, the rage which be giving enables one to return to passivity.) He is all action, he is honest—that is, boxers hate the phony fight because it removes them from the possibility of giving dignity to their passive state. The wrestler “fakes” and enjoys his faking enormously because it enables him to take—which he has no real desire to do, no real surface desire.—to be explained later—and taking, the wrestle is able to return to his state of giving.
So the give implies the take, and the take the give. I who used to be such a giver, such a bully, gave in order to take. The thing I always hated in myself, the loyalty I always felt toward the person I was talking to as opposed to the person, nominally much dearer, who was away from me, was actually an expression, a bastardized tortured expression of my need to take. Only be giving equality and deep friendship to the person with me, feeling a union, a communion, was I able to take. Because in “feeling” their reaction to my arguments, their “mirror”—I was able to locate myself, to Take, to comprehend more of the nature of reality.
Implicit in this philosophically is the idea that to understand the world and to understand men, one must understand oneself. The philosophers, “Know thyself”. Which opens the next philosophical premise that deep deep within ourselves, at the point where our souls touch infinity, we are all the same, we are all part of the same Reality, the same God. As Hinduism would say—every man reaches God in his own way, and every action no matter how hideous it may be to us, advances the frontier of knowledge and at the end of knowledge—which we never reach—because it is not only infinite but changing, we reach God each in our own way. So the thief by this theology is as holy as the saint although more tortured, provided he is a good thief. As the Chasidin say, “I love that sinner because when he sins he does it with the joy of God in him, he sins with such a light in his eye.”
- The Chasidin are a sect of Orthodox Jews that arose in Eastern Europe in the late 18th century. Mailer’s scholarly grandfather, Chaim Yehuda Schneider (1859-1928) was an ordained Orthodox rabbi, but anti-Hasidim in his leanings, believing that the sect put too much trust in their rabbis, and not enough in the Talmud.