Several days ago I watched an episode of the TV series Colonial House, City of God. The series, intended to recreate daily life in Plymouth Colony in 1628 along the lines of the recreated Plymouth Plantation, brought home to viewers the rigors of life for colonists in the early 17th century. The show was videotaped in a 1000-acre isolated area near Machias, Maine and featured colonists and several members of the current Passamaquoddy tribe of Maine.
The episode City of God featured the colonialists’ attempt to recreate the idealized religious culture of the Plymouth settlement.
President Reagan on occasion referenced The City on a Hill as in the following speech from 1980:
I have quoted John Winthrop’s words more than once on the campaign trail this year—for I believe that Americans in 1980 are every bit as committed to that vision of a shining “city on a hill,” as were those long ago settlers …
These visitors to that city on the Potomac do not come as white or black, red or yellow; they are not Jews or Christians; conservatives or liberals; or Democrats or Republicans. They are Americans awed by what has gone before, proud of what for them is still… a shining city on a hill.
Later that night, after I watched the Colonial House episode, I had a nostalgic and poignant dream about President Reagan. Was the dream inspired by the Colonial House episode? If so, the dream expresses my deep-seated preoccupation with the theme of a utopia, a theme that seems to be expressed in The Dream of the Four Miltons:
At President Reagan’s funeral in June 2004 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor — who was a real judge, by the way — offered the following reading from the diary of Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor, John Winthrop:
Now the only way to provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.
We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body.
The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us, as his own people.
For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.
So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.
Psychoanalytically, I associate the Winthrop reading to the so-called Nobel Prize Complex, a narcissistic fantasy of enduring fame and notoriety. The individual bound to the Nobel Prize Complex seeks to “provide for his posterity” through the achievement of a grandiose accomplishment. He fervently wishes to be more than a by-word through the world.
In 1966 Helen Tartakoff introduced a nosological entity, the “Nobel Prize complex,” to apply to people who have in common many of the following characteristics: They are preoccupied with the achievement of diverse ambitious goals, which may include, for example, the wish to become President, to attain great wealth, to be a social leader, or to win an Oscar. Many are intellectually or artistically gifted and possess charismatic qualities that others admire. They are often firstborn and frequently only children. They adopt an all-or-nothing attitude toward their aspirations. They are hypersensitive to disappointments in life, particularly to lack of recognition, and may become depressed and develop psychosomatic symptoms at the time of real or fantasized disappointment. They unconsciously look upon psycho-therapeutic treatment as a magical cure and expect to be rewarded during their treatment with the same applause they received from their mothers.
Dr. Michael A. Sperber has elaborated on the concept in his paper: “Freud, Tausk, and the Nobel Prize Complex.” Dr. Sperber is a practicing psychiatrist, affiliated with Mclean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.