Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I saw a powerful and moving film this past Monday, Martin Luther King Day: Selma, by filmmaker Ava DuVernay. I respect her work immensely.  

This film shows the horror of segregation and the lengths to which people will go to maintain their own supposed superiority.  But it also shows the power of good, the courage of individuals, not only Dr. King and his colleagues, but of so many people whose names are little known today but whose lives are immortalized by Selma, because of what they felt and what they did.  Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, saw ethics as real and powerful.  Ethics, he said, "is a force, like electricity, steam, the atom-- and will have its way."  The feeling in thousands, millions, of individual men, women and children that they will not stand for being seen with contempt is a force in the world, working in 1965 and also right now in 2015.  

On this subject, there is an article by journalist and Aesthetic Realism associate, Alice Bernstein, on the meaning of Dr. King.  She quotes a poem that I love, written by Mr. Siegel hours after the news of that awful assassination in 1968 became known.   

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!"

Everyone above a certain age knows who said that! He was one of the most famous, loved, but also controversial figures of the 1960's.  He was also passionately against racism and for justice. 
But did you know that Muhammad Ali can teach us about what it means to be strong? This is what Mike Palmer shows in his wonderful, moving paper, originally given in a public seminar at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation"True Strength in a Man, with a discussion about Muhammad Ali." 

One of the crucial distinctions Mike Palmer draws is between the strength that is also kind, and the strength motivated by contempt.  Ali is great because, although he is a person who made his living and his fame from boxing, he had a big desire to think deeply about other people and what they went through -- and he didn't back down once he saw something was unjust. 

The anger and ill will that Ali met from the press and others, which Mr. Palmer explains, can bring perspective to how Aesthetic Realism has been seen. Beauty, truth, and kindness, which this education stands for so utterly, and which Eli Siegel stood for himself, have often been attacked in history by those whose philosophy of life is articulated by Iago in his comment about Cassio, from the play Othello:

     "He hath a daily beauty in his life
      That makes me ugly..."    

This is documented in the important website of our time, Countering the Lies. I whole-heartedly recommend it, along with Michael Palmer's article.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Aesthetic Realism and Shakespeare Agree On Respect for Women

I've loved the plays of William Shakespeare ever since, at Cranbrook School in Kent, I first heard the first act of Macbeth. I didn't know then why I loved it.  

Now, looking back having had the benefit of studying Aesthetic Realism for many years, I see that I was affected by opposites -- Shakespeare takes human emotions, including some of the basest ones, and gives them terrific structure -- poetic form!  "All beauty," Eli Siegel, founder of Aesthetic Realism, stated, "is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves."  Wildness and order, respect and contempt, logic and emotion, for and against, and more, are made one in the lines of Macbeth and in all great poetry. And these were opposites I was and am trying to make sense of in my life! This is what I'm grateful to be learning in the Aesthetic Realism Explanation of Poetry Class taught by the Chair of Education, Ellen Reiss.  

Next month, February 8, 2015, less than a week before Valentine's Day, there will be a presentation of one of the most puzzling of Shakespeare's plays: The Taming of the Shrew.  I remember seeing a production of this at Cranbrook and wondering, in my annoyed, unseeing, complacent, disparaging, teenage male way, "What on earth is the matter with this girl? Why is she in a rage all the time?" As big as any prejudice I had was the one I felt towards the feminine sex, and instead of wanting to see, to understand, I dismissed.     

This presentation, "SHAKESPEARE--& What Is Love?" explains what the play is about, AND what Shakespeare's kind purpose was in portraying a woman this way.  The announcement states: 

"This wild yet puzzling comedy has been explained by Eli Siegel, founder of Aesthetic Realism. He shows that the “shrew,” Katherina, is deeply hoping to meet someone who will make her feel the world deserves her respect! Petruchio meets this hope–-in the most surprising and often hilarious way—and that is why she comes to love him."

Every man really needs to see this presentation not only for the magnificent acting and the revolutionary comprehension of Shakespeare but also because through it we will come to have a new respect for women and for love that will make us proud!