The Combine

As Shoshana mentioned in her eulogy, the term “Combine” denotes “an association of people or groups united for the furtherance of political or commercial (and usually unethical) interests.” Amir introduced us to the term sometime in our sophomore year of high school based on his reading of the novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey, excerpts of which are included below. He rarely referred to “The Combine”, but rather, to “being Combined” (a derivation of his own creation). In other words, for Amir, the concept was most relevant as a measure of personal character, rather than any political or social cause. Amir was far more complex that any fictional character, but those who knew him will find shades of his personality reflected in these paragraphs describing the protagonist of the novel, McMurphy.

From “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”:

“McMurphy doesn’t know it, but he’s onto what I realized a long time back, that it’s not just the Big Nurse by herself, but it’s the whole Combine, the nation-wide Combine that is the really big force, and the nurse is just a high-ranking official for them.”

“The ward is a factory for the Combine. It’s for fixing up mistakes made in the neighborhoods and in the schools and in the churches, the hospital is. When a completed project goes back out into society, all fixed up good as new, better than new sometimes, it brings joy to the Big Nurse’s heart; something that came in all twisted different is now a functioning, adjusting component, a credit to the whole outfit and a marvel to behold…”

“[but] you never can tell when just that certain one might come in who’s free enough to foul things up right and left, really make a hell of a mess and constitute a threat to the whole smoothness of the outfit. And, like I explain, the Big Nurse gets real put out if anything keeps her outfit from running smooth.”

“the new guy is different…different from anybody been coming on this ward for the past ten years, different from anybody they ever met outside. He’s just as vulnerable, maybe, but the Combine didn’t get him…How’d he manage to slip the collar? Maybe… the Combine missed getting to him soon enough with the controls. Maybe he growed so wild all over the country, battling around from one place to another… traveling lightfooted and fast, keeping on the move so much that the Combine never had a chance to get anything installed. Maybe that’s it, he never gave the Combine a chance…because a moving target is hard to hit”

“There were times that week when I’d hear that full throttled laugh, watch him scratching his belly and stretching and yawning and leaning back to wink at whoever he was joking with, everything coming to him just as natural as drawing breath, and I’d quit worrying about the Big Nurse and the Combine behind her. I’d think he was strong enough being his own self that he would never back down the way she was hoping he would. I’d think, maybe he truly is something extraordinary. He’s what he is, that’s it. Maybe that makes him strong enough being what he is.”

Amir, you will be missed for many years to come.

– Moshe