Three birthdays today, all brought to you by way of the Writer’s Almanac.
Today is the birthday of Carl Jung, who was born in Kesswil, Switzerland in 1875. His father was a pastor who was losing his faith. This so shocked Jung as a boy that he decided to become a scientist instead of a minister in order to scientifically prove that religion was important. He is considered the founder of analytic psychology.
More importantly to writers, he noticed that myths and fairytales from all kinds of different cultures have certain similarities, which he called “archetypes”. He believed that these universal archetypes come from a collective unconscious that all humans share. He said that if people get in touch with these archetypes in their own lives, they will be happier and healthier.
He and Sigmund Freud were contemporaries and they even collaborated for a few years, but finally decided that they disagreed with each other’s ideas. Jung thought Freud was too obsessed with sex, and Freud thought Jung was too obsessed with God.
It’s also the birthday of science-fiction writer Aldous Huxley, who was born in Surrey, England on this day in 1894. Huxley wanted to be a scientist like his grandfather, Thomas Henry Huxley, but a childhood disease left him almost blind, so he became a writer. His first successful novel was Point Counter Point, which was an extremely ambitious book. Huxley decided that his next book would be something light. He had been reading some H.G. Wells and thought it would be interesting to try to write something about what the future might be like. The result was Brave New World, about a future in which most human beings are born in test-tube factories, genetically engineered to belong in one of five castes: Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. There are no families; people have sex all the time and never fall in love, and they keep themselves happy by taking a drug called “soma.”
Brave New World was one of the first novels to predict the future existence of genetic engineering, test-tube babies, anti-depression medication, and virtual reality.
And, finally it’s also the birthday of playwright George Bernard Shaw, born in Dublin, Ireland in 1856. He wrote dozens of plays, but he’s best known for his play Pygmalion, about what happens when a phonetician named Henry Higgins teaches a cockney flower girl named Eliza Doolittle to pass as a lady.
Shaw had an opinion about everything, and eventually became famous more for his personality than for his writing. He was a vegetarian and a pacifist, he didn’t drink, and he believed Christmas should be abolished. In 1925, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He died 25 years later in 1950 at the age of 94.
He is now one of the most widely quoted writers in the English language.
He said, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” And he said, “All great truths begin as blasphemies.” And he said, “Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.”