- Sigmund Freud
“I believe that words are strong, that they can conquer what we dread when fear seems more awful than life is good.”
- Mark Twain
"Vienna," I said to Freud's question of what occurred to me at the letter V.
"Berggasse 19 to be exact."
Freud sucked in a breath and nodded,
"Of course looking at me how could you not think of the address
where I lived for 47 years, seeing patients every working day for eight or more hours?"
Mark Twain and I joined Freud in sucking in our breaths.
As sometimes happened at the haunted jazz club, Meilori's, magic stirred echoes from the past atop our table.
In billowing mists, a scene from over 70 years ago in Vienna slowly took shape:
The sign on the building reading ''Prof. Dr. Freud/3-4'' had already been removed
and a swastika flag had been draped over the doorway.
Freud was one of many thousands of Jewish Viennese who were harassed
in the weeks and months after Hitler's triumphant entry into the Austrian capital in March 1938.
When the Nazi commandos barged into the apartment, Freud's wife,
Martha, in her unflappable Hamburg way, asked them to leave their rifles in the hall.
Mark Twain smiled at the courage shown by the unbowed woman.
The leader of the intruders stiffly addressed the master of the house as ''Herr Professor."
In a brisk, rough manner, the commander, with his men, proceeded to search the vast apartment.
Finally the Nazis left.
Martha Freud, in quiet dignity, went from room to room, straightening up the shambles they left in their wake.
With only a slight tremor to her voice, Martha informed her husband they had seized an amount of money worth about $840.
''Dear me,'' Freud remarked, ''I have never taken that much for a single visit.''
Mark Twain sputtered a laugh and studied the man as the billowing scene evaporated atop our table.
"Doctor, I don't much care for you. But damn, you and your Mrs. had sand."
He cocked his head at Freud. "And who would have thought you had a sense of humor?"
Freud smiled sadly,
"I have found humor to be a means of obtaining pleasure in spite of the distressing events that interface with it."
Mark grimaced, "Leave it to a Saw-Brains to take all the joy out of a laugh by dissecting it!"
He looked at the table-top as if still seeing the Nazis invading the home of harmless citizens.
"What is it that strikes a spark of humor from a man?
It is the effort to throw off, to fight back the burden of grief that is laid on each one of us.
In youth we don't feel it, but as we grow to manhood we find the burden on our shoulders.
It is nature's effort to harmonize conditions.
The further the pendulum swings out over woe the further it is bound to swing back over mirth."
"Humor must not professedly teach, and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever."
Mark Twain sat up straight. "I wrote that!"
Freud smiled drily,
"Yes, eventually even fools get some things correct. The law of averages always has its revenge."
I made a face. "As apparently do professors."