A Woman Is the Oneness of Aesthetic Opposites

By Eli Siegel

1. INDIVIDUAL: GENERAL. A woman being a person is by herself: an intimate, doing, responding world. She also is general, for she represents the human race, indeed all reality—is not earth even today, She?

2. OUTWARD: INWARD. A woman goes out to the universe hoping it will come to her in a form that is consonant with herself; the hope of a woman is for the universe walking in a room. She also has thoughts within herself as mysterious as Africa once, currents of space now; thoughts as subtle as the filaments of a butterfly at twilight.

3. REPOSE:  ENERGY. The desire for quiet is in a woman, often with defeating power. And woman loves the idea of being busy, of affecting things, of feeling: There, that person is better off with what I've done.

4. GLIDE:  JUMPINESS. A word often used for woman is sinuous, which implies that she is for the continuity of smoothness moving, for the idea of flow as humanly comfortable and taking. And woman also is for the leap, the breathless, sudden motion, the jumpy indication of a different direction of self.

5. HARD: SOFT. Often a determination comes to women which can hold its own with that of Napoleon or a boulder in a city park. And women are also pitying, sympathetic, moved to give up their notions because of the plight of another.

6. LARGE: SMALL. An idea of God or fate or the universe as personal can be had by a woman. Also, one bead may seem contemplation-material enough for a whole day.

7. GRACEFUL: AWKWARD. Grace is of woman clearly: the appropriate, everlasting, permeating curve is hers. Yet awkwardness like that of a machine helplessly pounding and clattering may seem hers: the awkwardness of a Newfoundland dog among rare manuscripts.

8. ADVANCING: RECESSIVE. Towards something is in the feminine mind importantly: the future as outward and to be visited and had. But how much retreat is in woman, too, the unseen sinking, the leaving for a previously chosen background.

9. POWERFUL: EXQUISITE. It is woman, after all, who is given charge of retaining and shaping life: it is her limbs which have life-to-be in custody. And it is woman who is taken by the glitteringly fine, the coruscatingly delicate, the soberly minute.

10. INDEFINITE: DEFINITE. The unlimited is of woman, self as reverie is hers, existence as mist. And, then, she can be as sharp as a toothpick, as neat as a pine needle, as clearly swift as a grasshopper's next hop.

11. SIMPLICITY: COMPLEXITY. How often a woman has seen herself as too simple, as having nothing much to her. Yet, she can also seem too complex for herself, and, sadly, too complex for another.

12. ORDER: FREEDOM. Woman is man: and therefore order is liked by her: a specific aspect of order is tidiness, fiercely preferred by her. Woman, too, can be for the freedom of vegetation in a jungle, a rowboat in the midst of an agitated lake, a cloud eluding moon, stars, and man.

13. SAMENESS: DIFFERENCE. The something looking like it was yesterday pleases the feminine living being: how dear stability is. And her desire is that things change, too: dresses, moods, ways of talking a man has.

14. PERMANENCE: MOMENTARINESS. All of time is felt by a woman, for after all she has mind. But the momentary is divinity in process: the momentary is enthralling, gulped for.

15. FORM: BODY. Meaning, form, ethics, mind, spirit, value are all in woman as much as they are anywhere in the universe: meaning is seen by femininity as the same as fact, the tactual, the touchable here: meaning is looked for as body is present. But body is begun with, is claspingly, pressingly honored because in the possibilities of body, meaning lodges, ready often to go to the limits of the world.


NOTE: "A Woman Is the Oneness of Aesthetic Opposites" was originally published in the journal Definition, copyright ©1964, by Definition Press.