Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why is Aesthetic Realism needed in 2015?

With all the remarkable technological developments of recent years, including stem cell transplants, the mapping of the human genome, and the ongoing exploration and investigation of space, it is shameful that completely avoidable cruelty such as that of racism is still widespread in the world. It is also deplorable that the means to understanding and ending such cruelty – Aesthetic Realism, the education founded by Eli Siegel – has been available since 1941 but not widely known. To understand the reason for this see the important Countering the Lies website.  

British historian and writer H G Wells’ statement that “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe”
resonates with us perhaps more today than ever, as the urgent global issues of climate change, access to water for drinking, war and the refugee crises spawned by war, necessitate, not competition and combativeness between people, but cooperation and kindness.

Education vs catastrophe race clarified by study of Aesthetic Realism

A recent issue of the journal "The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known" deals importantly, deeply, definitively with the issue of empathy -- fellow-feeling -- and what stops people from having it.  In Fellow-Feeling, & What's Against It, Ellen Reiss, the Chairman of Education, writes:
The biggest matter in the life of everyone is how we see other people. And how people see people is the biggest, most urgent matter affecting the world itself: it determines the decisions of nations, including whether there will be war or peace; it determines how wealth is distributed; what laws are made; how persons of different ethnicities and religions treat each other...
She continues:
Eli Siegel explained that there is a fight going on in every person: “the fight between respect for reality and contempt for reality”(TRO 151). Contempt is the feeling that we’ll take care of ourselves by lessening things and people, looking down on them, using them to aggrandize ourselves, seeing them as less real than we are. It is gigantic, subtle, has thousands of forms. And our contempt is in a fight all the time with the deepest desire we have: to see meaning in things and people. Unless we’re studying this fight as Aesthetic Realism describes it, “empathy” will not prevail in us and humanity. That’s so whether it’s a matter of having large, effective feeling for people suffering in a war; or for a person requesting money on the street; or for a relative whom we may hug but not want to understand.
There is nothing more important in 2015 than understanding what interferes with fellow-feeling and learning how to have it. Ms. Reiss explains and discusses, with scholarship and deep feeling, four things taught by Aesthetic Realism that are needed.

One of the things she makes clear, and this is not taught anywhere else, is that we can feel more important not being stirred by anything or anyone. Hence the title, which I think is beautiful, "Fellow-Feeling, & What's Against It." This issue of "The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known" is a must-read; it needs to be the basis of a global study, now! 

Diminishing what is not ourselves in order to boost our own importance is so common and so ordinary. Yet it causes not only our own feelings of shame but the economic brutality that is so much with us. Could the situation shown in this image exist were the 1% not diminishing the 99%? (And the great weakness of the 99% is the tendency of our own to diminish others). 
Aesthetic Realism criticizes economic injustice as based on contempt.
What Aesthetic Realism teaches is key to having social justice, international peace and solidarity, having lives we can be proud of, and to ending the cruelty of racism.  

Aesthetic Realism says oneness of opposites - beauty - can defeat racism.

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.