Tuesday, April 05, 2016

What Does It Mean to See Another Person Rightly?

Aesthetic Realism is the greatest critic of injustice; that's why it has the power to end racism but has made a few selfish people angry. 

In an early issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Eli Siegel wrote:
The purpose of Aesthetic Realism is to encourage a person to see other persons rightly and to see what it means for himself to be seen rightly...
According to Aesthetic Realism, anything which does not see a man or a woman as illustrating all of reality is disrespectful to that man or that woman. Another phase of disrespect is the unwillingness to see someone as having an inward life he is aware of. The most fashionable way of not giving respect to a person is the not giving him full, busy, deep consciousness. A person can be defined as: A living being who is aware of himself and of his particular, changing life.
I love these sentences, and have done ever since I first heard them read on a Saturday dramatic presentation over thirty years ago. They are sociological, political (would there be such ferocious and tricky attempts to deny voting rights to millions of people if American citizens were seen this way?), psychological, ethical, and beautiful. Moreover, they illustrate the way Eli Siegel saw, which became Aesthetic Realism itself. This is the way I was seen first in Aesthetic Realism consultations, and now in classes taught by Ellen Reiss, the Chairman of Education.

In consultations I learned that I was related to Puck, from Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream," to Sidney Carton from Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, to Oliver Cromwell of the 17th century, to poet Matthew Arnold, to George W. Bush, Winston Churchill, and more. The relations were true, usually involved criticism of a self-centred way of seeing I had but disliked myself for, and made me feel proud. I learned that I could think about my attitude and become a stronger, kinder, better person.

I also learned how I was related to the students I taught, to friends, to objects such as the sturdy, warm-coloured three-legged wooden table in my apartment. I wanted to put together opposites the way it did; I wanted to be strong but also warm, not harsh and aloof.  And I learned I was related to my own family. That's not meant to be a joke! I thought I was the sensitive one in my family, and I looked down on my parents and sister. I saw myself as so different from them.  I learned I was WRONG! I treasure the changes that happened in how I saw the members of my family because of my study of Aesthetic Realism. As a result, I feel closer to all people, connected to the world in a way that would have been just impossible without what I have learned.  And this brings me to the subject of racism.

No one can be a racist if they see that the other person is, as Mr. Siegel wrote, a "living being who is aware of himself and of his particular, changing life." As you think of this, you respect another person for the depth they have. (For more on how Aesthetic Realism sees racism itself, see the Online Library). A writer who put this way of seeing consciously into his short story, though it deals with the subject of the family, and not race as such, is Sheldon Kranz. Sheldon Kranz was also a teacher of literature, a poet, and an Aesthetic Realism consultant.

His story, "My Mother Was a Girl," gives an inner life, a reality, to a person most sons do not see as having one. I respect it immensely as literature and as a valuable example of how one human being can change, and see another with depth and wonder.