Thursday, July 30, 2015


I've just read a powerful, passionate letter by Aesthetic Realism consultant Nancy Huntting. It was published eleven and a half years ago in her home town, Cincinnati, Ohio.  She wrote it following the brutal beating and death of Nathaniel Jones, an unarmed African-American man, by Cincinnati police.  Yet today, more than a decade later, Americans woke up to this:
A University of Cincinnati police officer was indicted Wednesday on a murder charge in what a prosecutor called "a senseless, asinine shooting" of an unarmed man during a minor traffic stop.  New York Times, July 30, 2015 
 And, it should be added, brutal and barbaric. It is at least good that there has been an indictment this time; and it is important that there is an increasingly vocal outrage around the nation; but why is this still happening, over and over again?  And what will stop it?
Ms Huntting's letter has the following paragraphs:
“As soon as you have contempt,” Eli Siegel explained, “as soon as you don’t want to see another person as having the fullness that you have, you can rob that person, hurt that person, kill that person.” I’m sure that if contempt is studied and understood, tragedies like this — and racism in cities across this nation — can end.  
I grew up in Glendale, and though my family didn’t see ourselves as prejudiced we took it for granted that being white made us superior to persons with darker skin. This narrow-minded, deeply ignorant way of seeing hurt each of our lives — as it does every person who has it. When I was able to learn about my own contempt and see how it weakened me, I changed in many ways. I became much happier and more the person I hoped to be through wanting to know other people and honestly try to be fair to them.  
Humanity will not be civilized until the contempt that begins quietly in all of us is seen for what it is and criticized straight — as I’m grateful mine has been — and people learn to see the difference of others as truly adding to them, making them more. 
What Nancy Huntting writes is courageous and must be known -- and there is much more on her website.  People don't see clearly that our own prejudice hurts us! It is urgent for America and the world to study the meaning of contempt, and the magnificent, proud, beautiful alternative.  In 1997, Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, wrote:
Racism won't be effectively done away with unless it is replaced with something that has terrific power. What needs to replace it is not the feeling that the difference of another person is somehow tolerable. What is necessary is the seeing and feeling that the relation of sameness and difference between ourselves and that other person is beautiful. People need to feel, with feeling both intimately personal and large, that difference of race is like the difference to be found in music: two notes are different, but they are in behalf of the same melody; they complete each other; each needs the other to be expressed richly, to be fully itself.  It is possible for millions of men, women, and children to have an emotion about race that is like an art emotion. And it is necessary.  [Read the whole essay here] 
I love this and see it as some of the most important writing ever. It is utterly logical and yet intensely passionate at once; impelled by good will for people and reality. It reminds me of a recording of "For Once In My Life," a duet by Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder.
It was taken up critically by Aesthetic Realism associate Michael Palmer. He spoke about how it showed a beautiful relation of independence and need, in the way the singers worked.  They add to each other, bring out each other's strength so magnificently and artistically, and are so utterly expressed as individuals.  What they sing, their styles, are so different, but they complement each other and bring something new to the song which, if sung separately as solos, it would lack.  Here it is on YouTube

And this is a partial interview with them that's moving. What a world we'll have when the way of mind their singing exemplifies becomes a way of life through the study of Aesthetic Realism.