Understood by the Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel
... By Carol Driscoll,
Aesthetic Realism Consultant /
| 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?
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
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
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
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?
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.