Arrogance—what is it, really? How ordinary is it? How dangerous? What does it have to do with people’s suffering? What does it have to do with trouble about love? These questions and more are answered in “Arrogance & the Self—Beautifully Understood,” the amazing current issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
In 1948 Eli Siegel gave a lecture titled Mind and Arrogance. We have no voice recording or transcript of it. But I have used notes taken by two people who were there, to present some of what Mr. Siegel said. The notes are those of Martha Baird and Irene Reiss, my mother. Even in this abridged form, we see an explanation that is big, new, greatly kind, and needed by the people and nations of the world.
Most men and women do not see themselves as arrogant. But can a person who seems demure, sad, uncertain, even self-effacing have—and have intensely—something that can rightly be called arrogance? Also: do some of the cruelest ways of humanity arise from arrogance? The answer to both questions is Yes. Arrogance is much more ordinary than people see. It is also more brutal.
Eli Siegel is the philosopher who identified the most hurtful thing in the human self. It is contempt: “the addition to self through the lessening of something else.” Arrogance, he shows in this 1948 talk, is a form of contempt.
My mother was at the beginning of her study of Aesthetic Realism when she attended the class presented here. Her life was changing magnificently through Aesthetic Realism lessons, and a central reason was: she learned that contempt and even arrogance were the reason she felt afraid of people and deeply unsure. For example, in an Aesthetic Realism lesson Mr. Siegel said this to Irene Reiss about why she was so fearful of crowds that she couldn’t ride the subway:
There’s a tendency to say, “The more I can despise and be against, the more important I am.” Suppose something in you which you don’t know about says, “Other people exist in competition with me and the only time I feel important is when I can forget that they exist.” Then when you go into the subway you feel, “There are the people I was trying to forget about when I went to bed last night!”
Mr. Siegel was showing my mother that her fear of people was a punishment she gave herself for being unfair to them—arrogant toward them in her mind. She was learning that what she needed was aesthetics: the seeing that she would be herself through wanting to know and be just to the world different from herself. >>Read more