Love: Understood by the Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel
Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism on the Subject of Love
... By Carol Driscoll,
Aesthetic Realism Consultant /

This article was originally published in the Tennessee Tribune in November 1999
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  •      Like many women, I once felt that getting a man's approval having him need me more than anything else was the height of romance. However, by my mid twenties, in ways I could not understand, I was bitterly disillusioned about love. Then, in 1971, I had the tremendous good fortune to begin to study Aesthetic Realism, the education founded in 1941 by the great American poet and critic, Eli Siegel, and my whole life, including how I saw love changed. 

         There will be joy in women's lives when they learn from Aesthetic Realism, as I'm so grateful I did, that caring for a man should and can be a means of fulfilling our deepest desire: to like the world. Women also need to learn that the desire to use a man to be adored above all else is an aspect of contempt, defined by Mr. Siegel as "a false importance or glory from the lessening of things not [one]self." Contempt, I learned, is the thing that interferes with love. I remember the excitement I felt as I stood on the bow of a motorboat with my boyfriend, Phillip Stone, off the coast of Massachusetts on a radiantly sunny day and looked out at a wide expanse of blue-green ocean waves. But as the day wore on I felt indignantly, "Why isn't he paying attention to me!" The more enthusiastic he was, looking at charts, plotting a course, the sulkier I became. By the time we returned home, I was angry with him and disgusted with myself and had no idea why. 

         Years later I learned from Aesthetic Realism that I had used men to be unfair to reality less interested in my friends, family, everything and that was why I felt constantly ill-at-ease and angry about love. 

    Encouragement or Consolation?

    In an Aesthetic Realism class, Mr. Siegel asked about a man I was dating, "Do you want to encourage him or console him?" And he explained: "Sometimes consolation is not encouragement." I had made an industry out  of soothing men. In Boston, when a man told me he had spent the whole day sleeping because "It was a good way to kill a day until I could see you," I hugged him. I felt it was a tough world, so what a man needed was my ministrations. I would look sympathetic while thinking how weak and foolish he was. 

         I learned that my attitude to the world and men began, as it often does in a woman's life, with how I saw my father. Mr. Siegel explained, "You have two desires: to use your father as a means of seeing and giving meaning to the world; and also to use him as a means of discarding [the world] because he's desperate for your approval." 

         Growing up, I felt I was the apple of my father's eye. When I came home from school, I had little to say to my mother, but when my father walked in the door, I greeted him with a big smile to cheer him up. By the time I was a teenager, I got a great deal of importance from feeling my 
    father needed my sympathy. But as the years went on there were a gulf and strained silences between us. 

         I am very thankful to Mr. Siegel, who taught me to see my father, Henry Driscoll, in a way that changed my entire life. He asked, for example, "Are you interested enough in your father's having a good opinion of himself and using you for that?" And he explained: "You have a good 
    opinion of yourself through another if you use the person for knowledge. Do you want your father to use you to know the whole world better and be kinder to people?" As my father and I began really to talk about books, movies, politics, community issues there were an ease and pleasure that simply hadn't existed before. My father wrote to Mr. Siegel, thanking him for the good effect of Aesthetic Realism on my life. 

         This, however, was not to be for some years. And in Boston, as Phillip Stone and I complained to one another over martinis and satirized our co-workers, I did what a woman is doing right now: if a man is scornful of other people, acts hurt by them, she takes it as a tribute to herself. But often after these conversations I would find myself irritable and anxious, looking for a fight. The good fortune of my life was learning from Aesthetic Realism that love is wanting to strengthen another person's relation to the world. 

         "Love," Mr. Siegel taught me, "is good will, with all the details possible." I was beautifully and greatly comprehended by Mr. Siegel and Aesthetic Realism, and my whole life has flourished. As my education continues in classes taught by Ellen Reiss the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, my marriage of nearly 18 years to Harvey Spears has become richer, deeper, kinder, happier than I ever imagined could be. 

    Aesthetic Realism Consultations 

         As an Aesthetic Realism consultant with the teaching trio, The Three Persons, Margot Carpenter, Devorah Tarrow, and myself, I have been privileged to see the beautiful look that comes over a woman's face of relief, happiness, and hope as she hears questions asked only by Aesthetic Realism. For example, we have asked women: 
      1) Were you born to like the whole world, or to have a man make you the most important thing in the world? 

      2) When you think about a man, what are you most concerned about how he sees other things and is related to everything, or his relation just to you? 

      3) As you and a man are together, talking over dinner how do other people fare in your conversations? Do you respect people more or less? 

      4) If a man shows he needs you, is it a tribute only to yourself, or is it because you represent the world? 

      5) Do you think the reason you feel bad is that you haven't been appreciated sufficiently by a man or that you don't sufficiently appreciate the world every man represents? 

      6) Do you think the fight people are in every moment between the hope to have contempt and the hope to respect is present in an embrace? 

      7) What do you hope for to have reason to respect a man more, or to be able to look down on him? 

      8) Do you want to have a great emotion about a man as a means of having greater feeling about everything?

         Aesthetic Realism is the glorious education that understands women and meets our largest hopes! To learn more, you may contact the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation, 141 Greene Street, NY, NY 10012, (212)777-4490, or visit the website at:

    Note: Carol Driscoll is an Aesthetic Realism consultant on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, and teaches in public seminars and in individual consultations to women, including via telephone worldwide. Her articles about Aesthetic Realism are being published nationwide. "Love: Understood at Last" was first published in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.

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