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  The Right of
Aesthetic Realism to Be Known
 NUMBER 221.—June 22, 1977
Aesthetic Realism was founded by Eli Siegel in 1941 

Good Sense for the World

Dear Unknown Friends:

    Despite the tragic unwillingness of the press to study Aesthetic Realism, these two statements will in time be given reality and will be of use in the world. The statements are:

1. Beauty is the making one of opposites.
2. The opposites that make beauty are the opposites in the world.

It is understandable that these two sentences might not be comprehended immediately.Yet persons who have looked at them and considered them, with each month see them as more valuable and more relevant to the lives of individuals and to the world itself.

     The question in the statements is: Does the world need to like itself if it is to do well? This can be put in more ordinary terms as the following question: Do individuals have consciously to like the world if there is to be less injustice and crime in the world; and if the nations of the world are really to prefer peace to war? There is much to make plain in what I have just written; and so, to plainness and validity.

1. Shakespeare, First

Perhaps the nearest to what I have said is to be found in some famous lines from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. Lorenzo says (Merchant of Venice, V.1.85):

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.

Music here, in keeping with the origin of the word, can stand for art itself; and art can be described truly as man's trying to like the world through how he has seen it, heard it, thought about it, imagined it. Aesthetic Realism sees all art as the making one of the opposites the world has; and when opposites are made one by any person, willy-nilly that person has tried to like the world, at least for a while.

     Are, then, the opposites in art a repetition of the opposites to be met everywhere in reality? Furthermore, is the seeing of the world as a oneness of opposites the one authentic way of liking the world for what it is instead of for its perhaps exclusive favoring of oneself?

     All the arts and all the sciences can be used to show the world as the oneness of opposites and deeply beautiful because it is that oneness in change and diversity. In order to have people at peace with themselves, just to each other, the world will have to be seen first as something that can be liked. This is what Shakespeare hints in the renowned lines I have quoted. The English dramatist says if the world is liked through music, that much man will be true to what is not himself: he will not be given to "treasons, stratagems, and spoils." In other words, a person who likes the world will be ethical. Here Shakespeare has sense. He represents good sense for the world.

     Still, we have to ask how the world is made up of the same opposites which have pleasingly affected persons through music, painting, poetry, sculpture, the dance, drama, the novel, photography, film. It is well to begin with music.

2. Music Describes the World

There is a phrase about jazz in the History of Music by Hugh Milton Miller (Barnes and Noble, 1959, page 175) which somewhat justifies my saying that music describes the world. Dr. Miller is telling of jazz, is giving its characteristics. He says that: "Jazz has a sustained melody over a throbbing accompaniment."

     When our musical historian says that there is the "sustained" in jazz and the "throbbing," he is telling us that jazz is like the world, for the world is at any moment sustained-that is, one-while many things are taking place in it, with the world showing variation after variation. So it is well to ask whether, if there is something continuing in jazz, a unifying thing, while there is throbbing or variation in the accompaniment, is jazz like the world itself-oneness and change?

     From the beginning, the world has been described as one and many at the same time. The Greek cosmologists made that clear by the Aegean, 500 B.C. Does the cosmological statement that reality is one and many correspond to jazz as sustained and throbbing? It isn't only jazz that instances the continuous makeup of the world. All music, all song, is theme and variation or oneness and diversity. Tom Jones is one novel with many things happening in it. So is Remembrance of Things Past, the large novel of Proust. In the title of Proust's work, we can see one thing, "Remembrance," accompanied by many things: "Things Past." That much, the work of Proust is like jazz and a forest.

     If, then, the structure of the world corresponds to the structure music may have or a novel may have, that much the world may be beautiful in the deepest sense of the word; and therefore can be liked.

3. World and Renaissance Music

Philosophers have often seen reality as freedom and order, simultaneously and continually. Indeed, the first opposites I chose in my Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?, 1955, were Freedom and Order. You can see these right now in the world if you look at it: freedom and order are in the street, in the ocean, in woods in upper New York State. Dr. Miller tells us of freedom and order in Renaissance music, including religious music.

     Dr. Miller writes (page 37):

Tranquillity of mood prevails in the liturgical music of the Renaissance.

One would surmise that if the sacred music of the 16th century was to be more tranquil, it might help to be less polyphonic; but it wasn't this way. The music went towards tranquillity but cultivated manyness nevertheless. It was more polyphonic in 1540 than in 1240.

     And the freedom and order of the world itself, of reality anywhere, are observable in this sentence of Dr. Miller:

There is complete mastery of counterpoint: melodic and rhythmic freedom of voice parts, and at the same time a beautiful, euphonious texture of the whole (p. 37).

Well, when people see the world in the way this sacred Renaissance music saw it, there is a good chance of peace in the world and less attacks by persons on each other. However, what Renaissance music, sacredly impelled, went after as art must be seen in terms of logical declarative statements or careful, reasonable prose. Art can solve the problems of the world if it is seen also as scientific, credible, justifiable statement.

     The lines of Shakespeare I quoted are true; but they haven't had their ethical, political, economic effect because what people see as emotion or art predominates in the lines. Aesthetic Realism would change—for a while—these lines of Shakespeare to something like the following:

The man who does not like the world-as that —
Who sees no loveliness in what is real,
Can hurt a friend, make less of everyone.

I could put the Shakespearean lines in many other forms. The large thing, though, is that unless we like what is different from ourselves deeply, we can be unjust to the next thing or person we meet.

4. Manyness and Oneness

Music makes much of the manyness and oneness that are in the world. Music also makes much of two opposites everywhere in the world, the inanimate and animate. Insects moving snugly under a wide stone in summer represent that oneness of animate and inanimate we can see in well arranged sound. A large question in the history of church music was whether, when a religious anthem was sung, there should be instrumental accompaniment. The tendency to make a one of a single person, a soloist; of a number of persons, the chorus; and of something inanimate, instruments—grew stronger as the 16th century went on. Dr. Miller writes (page 39):

Late in the 16th century a new form and style came into being. This was the verse anthem which makes use of soloists and instrumental accompaniment as well as chorus. Soloist and choir alternate by sections.

     Singleness, part, whole are clearly of the ordinary world; also of the uncustomary world; also of the mysterious world. Piano and voice are the making one of inanimate and animate: somewhat like bone and feeling in every person.

5. The Vulgar and Remote

The world is everydayish, sometimes disgusting, and is the source of all the tedious and vulgar. It is the world that may have vomit on one of its pavements with the stars of a cold night quietly and distantly looking on. The early history of music has the secular in an interesting combat with the religious. A street song could be changed into part of the liturgy as careful sound. Both Catholicism and Protestantism were attracted by the sounds profane persons might come to in their best moments. The likelihood of the profane becoming sacred is often to be discerned in the History of Music by Miller I have been using. A notable example of Protestant religious depth of feeling beginning with the life and desires of people in Germany, is in these words of Dr. Miller (page 41):

The famous "Passion" chorale, "O Sacred Head now wounded," that Bach uses in the St. Matthew Passion, came from an old German love song, the first line of which runs, "Mein G'muth ist mir verwirret, das macht ein Jungfrau zart" ("Confused are all my feelings; a tender maid's the cause ").

     Reality is both strange and ordinary, unseen and obvious. Music is the heard telling of the unheard, as art itself is the plain telling of the unrecognized. And music and art are, again, like the world itself.

6. Pain and Delight

The world is that which, as I said in TRO 217, "Gush or Logic," causes both our satisfaction and dissatisfaction, our delight and our pain. Music, as in a requiem, often puts these together. So does poetry. Perhaps it is well, as I present the world as a possible cause of good sense and justice among men, to consider one of the great poems of recent years which joins both delight and dreariness, expansion and stuntedness. This poem is the " Spring and All" of William Carlos Williams: the title itself is a study of the specific "spring"-and the vague-"all"-which reality sometimes seems to be. Williams writes:

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind.

     So we have "contagious hospital" and "surge of the blue"-something distressing and something impetuous and expansive.

     Spring, a rather good season, is definitely in process; but the signs are reluctant. There are:

                             small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines —

Is the world reluctant and generous? "Spring and All," a poem, says it is.

     And spring is presented as confused, hesitant, unhandsomely slow. Lines in the poem about spring are:

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches —

Nevertheless, the work of reality is being done-with no utterance of bravos. Williams writes about possibly growing things:

          Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken

     So from this TRO, one can gather that the world is two things, in music and in March in New Jersey. Much can be gained from this. If the world gains it, I think crime and war and misery will be less. So why should not Aesthetic Realism be honestly known?

With love,       
Eli Siegel        

© Copyright 1977 by Aesthetic Realism Foundation  •  A not-for-profit educational foundation

Aesthetic Realism is based on these principles, stated by Eli Siegel:

1.  The deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.

2.  The greatest danger for a person is to have contempt for the world and what is in it .... Contempt can be defined as the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.

3.  All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.

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Lord Byron | Harry Potter  |  Sherlock Holmes
Robert Burns  |  The 'criticism' of John Keats
Racism & Its Solution

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[2] Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company Site
Friends of Aesthetic Realism—Countering the Lies

Art and Literature
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The Place of Aesthetic Realism in Culture & Literature

The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method
Lesson Plans in Diverse Subjects
Teaching Indian Culture in the United States:
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Further Resources:
Essays and News Pieces about Aesthetic Realism
Photographic Education: the Aesthetic Realism Viewpoint
A New Perspective for Anthropology: The Aesthetic Realism Method
Self-Expression and What Interferes: an Aesthetic Realism Discussion
John Singer Sargent's Madame X, an Aesthetic Realism Discussion

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