Qualitative Family Research

A Newsletter of the Qualitative Family Research Network National Council on Family Relations Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2 November 1993

Remembering  Anselm   By  Juliet  Corbin   San  Jose  State  University,  San  Jose,  CA     What  made  Anselm  so  productive  and  creative  at  time  in  life  when  most  persons  are  

thinking  about  retiring?    This  is  a  question  that  I've  always  pondered  and  have  had  a  lot  of   time  to  think  about  since  his  death.    I  worked  closely  with  Anselm  for  15  years  and  even   after  that  length  of  time  I  was  astonished  at  how  fresh  some  his  ideas  were  and  how  he  was   always  thinking  about  new  projects.         Though  I  was  considerably  younger,  I  found  it  hard  to  keep  up  with  him.    He  could  

write  faster  than  anyone  I  knew  and  when  he  was  hot  with  ideas  there  was  no  stopping   him.    It's  not  that  he  was  a  machine.    There  were  times  when  he  was  overcome  with  fatigue   or  when  his  illness  slowed  him  down.    Then,  he  would  just  take  it  easy  and  read,  talk,  or   listen  to  music.    In  exploring  his  creativity,  I  must  talk  about  myself  because  my  thoughts   about  him  are  so  wrapped  up  in  our  work  together.    I  hope  that  readers  will  forgive  me  for   intruding  into  what  is  really  a  story  about  Anselm.     Anselm  at  Work     Our  work  times  consisted  of  sitting  in  cafes  drinking  latte  or  cappuchino  and  eating    

cookies.    Anselm  would  be  stimulated  by  ideas.    The  ideas  may  have  come  from  something   he  read,  a  conversation  that  he  had  with  a  colleague,  an  insight  that  I  had,  or  an  observation   that  I  made  in  one  of  my  clinical  settings.    We  would  bounce  the  ideas  back  and  forth,  one  of   us  jotting  down  the  "priceless  pearls"  later  to  be  put  into  memos.         Since  his  mind  was  always  working,  once  stimulated  by  an  idea  he  could  expand  

upon  it  drawing  upon  his  vast  stores  of  knowledge  and  experience.    Anselm  needed  that  

stimulation  from  others,  but  once  he  got  going,  he  could  literally  spin  gold  out  of  straw.   Working  Conditions:  Golden  Gate  Park  and  Music     When  we  had  enough  coffee,  we  would  leave  the  cafe  and  head  for  Golden  Gate  Park  

or  the  Marina,  where  we  would  walk,  if  the  weather  was  nice.    If  not,  we  sat  in  the  car,  with   a  background  of  Beethoven,  Schubert,  Mozart  and  occasionally  Chopin.    And  we  worked,   because  Anselm  never  wasted  a  minute.  Time  was  too  precious,  at  least  during  the  years   that  I  knew  him.         The  sun,  the  view,  provided  an  aesthetic  backdrop  for  his  continued  immersion  and  

fascination  with  ideas.  Eventually  he  would  tire,  and  no  matter  what  I  would  say  the   conversation  went  nowhere.    When  his  thinking  slowed  down,  we  would  drop  by  one  of  the   museums  to  enjoy  the  serenity  but  also  to  renew.    The  creativity  of  others  brought  out  the   creativity  in  Anselm.    I  think  this  was  because  of  his  ability  to  think  comparatively,   something  that  was  part  of  his  daily  life  not  only  his  research.     Comparative  Thinking  Including  the  Arts       Analyzing  a  piece  of  art  in  terms  of  its  properties  and  dimensions  would  inspire  new  

ways  of  thinking  about  his  own  work.    Let  me  give  an  example.    While  working  on  our  book   on  body,  we  would  visit  the  museums,  especially  the  Asian  Art  museum  with  its  lovely   wooden  Buddha,  to  examine  how  the  body  had  been  portrayed  across  time  and  across   cultures.    Thinking  comparatively  in  that  way,  helped  us  to  bring  out  the  salient  properties   of  body  today  and  in  our  culture  enriching  our  book  (yet  to  be  published).       Watching  a  Sculptor  at  Work     Along  this  same  line,  one  of  my  favorite  activities  with  Anselm,  and  one  we  didn't  do  

often  enough  from  my  perspective,  was  to  visit  his  friend,  the  sculptor,  at  his  studio  to   watch  him  work.    This  too  would  refresh  Anselm  and  give  him  new  creative  insights.    But   what  I  liked  best  were  the  times  when  the  two  men  talked  about  the  creative  process.     Though  their  medium  was  different,  what  came  out  was  that  inspiration  can  be  found   anywhere  anytime,  one  just  has  to  be  alert  and  sensitive  to  it.    And  Anselm  embraced  life,  

which  made  him  ready  to  receive  and  then  to  give  back.     Love  of  the  Arts     Anselm  loved  literature,  music,  and  art.    They  were  integral  to  his  life.    But  he  was  

also  open  to  all  kinds  of  experiences,  which  he  then  stored  in  his  mind  like  a  bank,  then   drew  upon    when  thinking  comparatively  about  data.    A  very  special  memory  for  me   pertains  to  Anselm  taking  the  train  from  San  Francisco  down  the  Peninsula  to  visit  me.     Even  today,  as  I  go  about  my  chores  in  town,  I  can't  help  but  become  nostalgic  when  I  hear   the  train  whistle  blowing.    Anselm  came  south  to  get  away  from  the  fog  in  the  summer,  to   give  me  a  break  from  driving  in  the  City,  but  mostly  because  he  wanted  to  experience   suburbia,  notably  Silicon  Valley  and  family  life.         I  used  to  meet  him  at  the  train  station,  where  he  would  be  waiting  patiently  (for  I  

was  usually  late)  with  his  little  black  beret,  tan  jacket,  and  his  black  book  bag.    He  always   had  that  little  piece  of  paper  in  his  hand  and  was  working.    His  home  life  was  quiet   compared  to  mine,  with  its  teenage  children  and  animals  running  in  and  out.       Immersion  in  the  Lives  of  Others       He  wanted  to  talk  with  my  daughter  and  her  friends  about  school  life,  drugs,  their  

boyfriends,  unsafe  and  safe  sex,  and  all  the  other  issues  that  were  of  concern  to  them.    He   wanted  to  hear  their  perspectives  on  life  and  how  they  perceived  the  pressing  issues  of  the   time.    He  also  relished  in  sitting  in  the  outdoor  cafes  soaking  up  the  sun,  comparing  the   people,  ambiance,  culture  with  that  of  the  City.    His  intense  curiosity  fed  into  his  storehouse   of  ideas,  which  he  then  drew  upon  in  his  writing.   Creativity     I  believe  that  what  I  learned  about  creativity  from  Anselm  is  that  a  person  has  to  

take  in  before  s/he  can  give  back,  that  is,  one  must  be  open  to  all  facets  of  life  for  it  provides   the  storehouse  of  ideas  and  experience  to  draw  from.    Everything  in  life  is  data.    But  even   more  important,  it  is  the  ability  to  think  comparatively  that  enables  a  person  to  view   experience  and  ideas  from  a  fresh  perspective  and  to  use  them  to  mold  new  forms  of  

thinking.         Anselm  was  an  artist  as  much  as  those  he  so  admired.    It's  just  that  he  constructed  

beautiful  books  and  papers  instead  of  sculpture  or  music.    I  miss  my  adventures  with   Anselm,  because  working  with  him  was  an  adventure.    However,  I  console  myself  with  the   lessons  that  he  taught  all  of  us.    Whenever  I  am  lonely,  I  pick  up  one  of  his  books.  I  see  his   active  mind  working  on  every  page  and  I  feel  renewed.                                    

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