LOVE, POWER, GOOD WILL
By Edward Green
| A subject that joins
Africa and America in fact, joins the entire world is love.
And I learned from Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy Eli Siegel founded
in 1941, that men and women will never make sense of what they feel about
love until they ask this central question: "Do we have good will for each
other; and what would that mean?"
In The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, the weekly international periodical of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, Eli Siegel explained:
I learned through my Aesthetic Realism education that in not wanting to see the rich reality of other people's lives, I had stunted my own strength. As a young man at college a student of music I thought I was an intellectual. But when friends talked about things that excited them, I usually couldn't listen except to figure out how to out-trump them. And though I told myself I wanted to be kind, and often talked through the night in a dormroom when a friend had a problem troubling him if, in the end, he didnt take my advice, I felt insulted.
I was very much like the "moody young man" Ronald Hill whom Eli Siegel writes of in Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism (Definition Press, NY):
Last month I wrote in this column about the great Aesthetic Realism explanation of racism that racism, in all its ugliness, begins quietly with the hope in a person for superiority, which is contempt. Contempt I learned is also the cause of pain in love because a man and a woman, being different from each other, can want to have victories over each other.
And that is what I had done. I had staked my sense of self on what Aesthetic Realism describes for the first time contempt: the hope to make myself important by lessening meaning outside myself.
Like many men, I thought the goal of love was to have a woman, someone near me who would appreciate me and soothe my doubts of myself. I didn't respect the mind of a woman.
Instead, I thought the way to be successful was through flattery through overwhelming her with presents and showing I was desperate to be alone with her. At the same time, I wanted women to feel my insight was indispensable and without it they couldn't manage in life. I listened to women not for the purpose of knowing them better and through them learning about the world, myself, and all people but to find weaknesses I could triumphantly correct.
All this, clearly, was contempt. Contempt, however and Eli Siegel made it plain is a man's greatest failure. Reality gave us mind in order to know and see meaning in things and people. And it gave us imagination so we can use our minds honestly to increase meaning, which is what an artist does as he finds possibilities of beauty in the world.
On January 7, 1975, in an Aesthetic Realism class, Mr. Siegel explained to me that the ill will with which I was using my mind in relation to Cynthia Malloy, the woman I said I cared for, was hurting my life including my ability to do well with my studies of how to compose music.
For example, when Cynthia was concerned about her parents and wanted to talk about them in order to understand them better, instead of wanting to see what she felt, I was angry having to think about her in relation to her family at all! I felt I should be the only important person in Cynthia's life, and I wanted her thoughts to revolve around me. Mr. Siegel said:
I learned that this way of seeing was exactly what I did not have with Cynthia. "You should say," Eli Siegel told me, "Cynthia Malloy, you're a note in music, only a little more difficult." And he continued, "Do you think you have some of that woman-diminishing tendency? Remember, it was the weakest thing in Beethoven, his inability to see women well."
And he told me with such compassion:
In Aesthetic Realism classes, and individual consultations which are given both in person in New York, and by telephone worldwide men and women are learning about the enemy to love that is in ourselves: the ugly notion that there is more power in getting another person in a tizzy over us than in learning from her, liking it when she has integrity, and hoping she has even more.
I am grateful to have learned about a way I lacked good will when some years ago I was first coming to know the woman whom I now passionately love, my dear friend and colleague, Aesthetic Realism consultant Carrie Wilson. Then, as now, I was affected deeply by her kindness and knowledge. But when we were first seeing each other, I am sorry to say, I was often irritable because I thought she inexplicably wasn't making enough of me in front of other people, showing them how deeply I had impressed her!
In a class, Ellen Reiss, who is the Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, said to me: "I think, you feel Carrie Wilson doesn't take you with enough deep disturbance." "Yes," I said, "she hasn't told people how much she respects me." "I think," Ellen Reiss continued with critical humor, "you feel Carrie Wilson is too sensible. She's not in a tumult about what Ed Green thinks of her, and I think you feel it's insulting." When I noted, "it's been four weeks that we've been talking," Ellen Reiss observed: "Four weeks by this time, you feel, she's had enough time to become idiotic!" This was true.
In a later class, she said kindly: "You have gone for wanting to be brilliant and have not felt that steady good will is the greatest brilliance. You should use knowing Carrie Wilson to see it is!" I am very grateful to have heard this. Now, instead of wasting my energy in the useless and enervating hope to have the woman I care for make more of me than of the world itself, I'm having some of the happiest days of my life seeing more and more what it means to have good will!
Eli Siegel was completely honest and beautifully kind; and his life's work, Aesthetic Realism, is the happiest news men and women have ever received. It is the philosophy which, at last, truly explains what love is. And so I end my column with a poem by Mr. Siegel which I think is beautiful, and which embodies the way of seeing love men and women in Lagos, London, New York, everywhere, are yearning for:
Appeared in the January - February 1999 Issue