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Originally published as a three-part series in the February, March, and April 1936 issues of Esquire. Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work -- the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside -- the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don't show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within -- that you don't feel until it's too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again. The first sort of breakage seems to happen quick -- the second kind happens almost without your knowing it but is realized suddenly indeed. As the Twenties passed, with my own twenties marching a little ahead of them, my two juvenile regrets -- at not being big enough (or good enough) to play football in college, and at not getting overseas during the war -- resolved themselves into childish waking dreams of imaginary heroism that were good enough to go to sleep on in restless nights. The big problems of life seemed to solve themselves, and if the business of fixing them was difficult, it made one too tired to think of more general problems. Life, ten years ago, was largely a personal matter. I must hold in balance the sense of futility of effort and the sense of the necessity to struggle; the conviction of the inevitability of failure and still the determination to "succeed" -- and, more than these, the contradiction between the dead hand of the past and the high intentions of the future. If I could do this through the common ills -- domestic, professional, and personal -- then the ego would continue as an arrow shot from nothingness to nothingness with such force that only gravity would bring it to earth at last. For seventeen years, with a year of deliberate loafing and resting out in the center -- things went on like that, with a new chore only a nice prospect for he next day. I was living hard, too, but: "Up to forty-nine it'll be all right," I said. "I can count on that. For a man who's lived as I have, that's all you could ask." -- And then, ten years this side of forty-nine, I suddenly realized I had prematurely cracked. Now a man can crack in many ways -- can crack in the head, in which case the power of decision is taken from you by others; or in the body, when one can but submit to the white hospital world; or in the nerves. William Seabrook in an unsympathetic book tells, with some pride and a movie ending, of how he became a public charge. What led to his alcoholism, or was bound up with it, was a collapse of his nervous system. Though the present writer was not so entangled -- having at the time not tasted so much as a glass of beer for six months -- it was his nervous reflexes that were giving way -- too much anger and too many tears. Moreover, to go back to my thesis that life has a varying offensive, the realization of having cracked was not simultaneous with a blow, but with a reprieve. Not long before, I had sat in the office of a great doctor and listened to a grave sentence. With what, in retrospect, seems some equanimity, I had gone on about my affairs in the city where I was then living, not caring much, not thinking how much had been left undone, or what would become of this and that responsibility, like people do in books; I was well insured and anyhow I had been only a mediocre caretaker of most of the things left in my hands, even of my talent. But I had a strong sudden instinct that I must be alone. I didn't want to see any people at all. I had seen so many people all my life -- I was an average mixer, but more than average in a tendency to identify myself, my ideas, my destiny, with those of all classes that came in contact with. I was always saving or being saved -- in a single morning I would go through the emotions ascribable to Wellington at Waterloo. I lived in a world of inscrutable hostiles and inalienable friends and supporters. But now I wanted to be absolutely alone and so arranged a certain insulation from ordinary cares. It was not an unhappy time. I went away and there were fewer people. I found I was good-and-tired. I could lie around and was glad to, sleeping or dozing sometimes twenty hours a day and in the intervals trying resolutely not to think -- instead I made lists -- made lists and tore them up, hundreds of lists: of cavalry leaders and football players and cities, and popular tunes and pitchers, and happy times, and hobbies and houses lived in and how many suits since I left the army and how many pairs of shoes (I didn't count the suit I bought in Sorrento that shrank, nor the pumps and dress shirt and collar that I carried around for years and never wore, because the pumps got damp and grainy and the shirt and collar got yellow and starch-rotted). And lists of women I'd liked, and of the times I had let myself be snubbed by people who had not been my betters in character or ability. -- And then suddenly, surprisingly, I got better. In a previous article this writer told about his realization that what he had before him was not the dish that he had ordered for his forties. In fact -- since he and the dish were one, he described himself as a cracked plate, the kind that one wonders whether it is worth preserving. Your editor thought that the article suggested too many aspects without regarding them closely, and probably many readers felt the same way -- and there are always those to whom all self-revelation is contemptible, unless it ends with a noble thanks to the gods for the Unconquerable Soul. Now the standard cure for one who is sunk is to consider those in actual destitution or physical suffering -- this is an all-weather beatitude for gloom in general and fairly salutary daytime advice for everyone. But at three o'clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure doesn't work -- and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day. At that hour the tendency is to refuse to face things as long as possible by retiring into an infantile dream -- but one is continually startled out of this by various contacts with the world. One meets these occasions as quickly and carelessly as possible and retires once more back into the dream, hoping that things will adjust themselves by some great material or spiritual bonanza. But as the withdrawal persists there is less and less chance of the bonanza -- one is not waiting for the fade-out of a single sorrow, but rather being an unwilling witness of an execution, the disintegration of one's own personality … Unless madness or drugs or drink come into it, this phase comes to a dead end, eventually, and is succeeded by a vacuous quiet. In this you can try to estimate what has been sheared away and what is left. Only when this quiet came to me did I realize that I had gone through two parallel experiences. The first time was twenty years ago, when I left Princeton in junior year with a complaint diagnosed as malaria. It transpired, through an X-ray taken a dozen years later, that it had been tuberculosis -- a mild case, and after a few months of rest I went back to college. But I had lost certain offices, the chief one was the presidency of the Triangle Club, a musical comedy idea, and also I dropped back a class. To me college would never be the same. There were to be no badges of pride, no medals, after all. It seemed on one March afternoon that I had lost every single thing I wanted -- and that night was the first time that I hunted down the specter of womanhood that, for a little while, makes everything else seem unimportant. Years later I realized that my failure as a big shot in college was all right -- instead of serving on committees, I took a beating on English poetry; when I got the idea of what it was all about, I set about learning how to write. On Shaw's principle that "if you don't get what you like, you better like what you get," it was a lucky break -- at the moment it was a harsh and bitter business to know that my career as a leader of men was over. Since that day I have not been able to fire a bad servant, and I am astonished and impressed by people who can. Some old desire for personal dominance was broken and gone. Life around me was a solemn dream, and I lived on the letters I wrote to a girl in another city. A man does not recover from such jolts -- he becomes a different person, and, eventually, the new person finds new things to care about. The other episode parallel to my current situation took place after the war, when I had again overextended my flank. It was one of those tragic loves doomed for lack of money, and one day the girl closed it out on the basis of common sense. During a long summer of despair I wrote a novel instead of letters, so it came out all right, but it came out all right for a different reason. The man with the jingle of money in his pocket who married the girl a year later would always cherish an abiding distrust, an animosity, toward the leisure class -- not the conviction of a revolutionist but the smoldering hatred of a peasant. In the years since then I have never been able to stop wondering where my friends' money came from, nor to stop thinking that at one time a sort of droit du seigneur might have been exercised to give one of them my girl. For sixteen years I lived pretty much as this latter person, distrusting the rich, yet working for money with which to share their mobility and the grace that some of them brought into their lives. During this time I had plenty of the usual horses shot from under me -- I remember some of their names -- Punctured Pride, Thwarted Expectation, Faithless, Show-off, Hard Hit, Never Again. And after a while I wasn't twenty-five, then not even thirty-five, and nothing was quite as good. But in all these years I don't remember a moment of discouragement. I saw honest men through moods of suicidal gloom -- some of them gave up and died; others adjusted themselves and went on to a larger success than mine; but my morale never sank below the level of self-disgust when I had put on some unsightly personal show. Trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement -- discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is different from a stiff joint. When a new sky cut off the sun last spring, I didn't at first relate it to what had happened fifteen or twenty years ago. Only gradually did a certain family resemblance come through -- an overextension of the flank, a burning of the candle at both ends; a call upon physical resources that I did not command, like a man overdrawing at his bank. In its impact this blow was more violent than the other two but it was the same in kind -- a feeling that I was standing at twilight on a deserted range, with an empty rifle in my hands and the targets down. No problem set -- simply a silence with only the sound of my own breathing. I have spoken in these pages of how an exceptionally optimistic young man experienced a crack-up of all values, a crack-up that he scarcely knew of until long after it occurred. I told of the succeeding period of desolation and of the necessity of going on, but without the benefit of Henley's familiar heroics, "my head is bloody but unbowed." For a checkup of my spiritual liabilities indicated that I had no particular head to be bowed or unbowed. Once I had had a heart but that was about all I was sure of.','url':'http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a4310/the-crack-up/','og_descr':'One of the greats confronts the pressures of fame in a most public forum
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DATOS GENERALES. Origen. El crack se considera la droga más adictiva y su aparición es un fenómeno relativamente reciente. En 1985 el New York Times.
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One of America's most famous authors confronts the pressures of fame in a most public forum. Read The Crack-Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald in Esquire's archive.