D O C U M E N T 4 7 1 M A R C H 1 9 2 9 4 1 9 471. From Sigmund Freud Vienna IX, Berggasse 19, 26 March 1929 Dear Sir, Naturally, you are right, since I know so little about you, I have no right to con- sider you lucky—though inwardly I wish and hope that you are.[1] However, don’t imagine that I want to engage you in correspondence, if I now yield to the tempta- tion to explain my overstepping. I beg you, on the contrary, not to answer me. It will be easier for me to write if I reckon on that. I am so sincerely averse to sending good wishes, it seems to me so trite and prim- itively animistic, as if one were still thinking of the “omnipotence of thought.” When, as in your case, even giving is excluded, then, looking for an expression for admiration and fellow-feeling, one can easily end up on the wrong path, like the one that you reproach me for. At the same time, this shows how useful the stupid conventions of our society nonetheless are, and that one ought, understandably, to do the same thing that everyone does. But for me, what I wrote to you had a good meaning. It was the expression of my envy, which I confess without reservation. Envy need not be ugly. Envy can in- clude admiration and is compatible with the most amicable feelings toward the per- son envied. In deciding which things I envy you, I was, however, not disturbed by my igno- rance. There was above all the consideration how much luckier it is to be a finisher rather than a pioneer. I mean, a special intellectual talent is not exactly necessary to open up a new area in science or technology. Rather certain character traits, an audacity like that of an adventurer, an ability to have great confidence in oneself— a kind of scorn for agreement with others. One easily becomes famous—or infa- mous—for that, but when one has considered some of the criticism, one cannot fail to see, how raw, imperfect, and indeed fragmentary such an initial achievement on uncharted territory is, and how likely it is to impart an impression of the weakness of the individual intellect confronted by the magnitude of the task.
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