Contempt, cheating, the profit way of economics, and feeling bad—what’s the relation among these? And does the art of the world have answers for us? Read “Guilt, Profit, & Poetry,” the newest issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by editor Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
We continue our serialization of the great 1963 lecture Romanticism and Guilt, by Eli Siegel. And we print an article by sportswriter and Aesthetic Realism associate Michael Palmer. It is part of a paper he presented last year at a public seminar titled “Care for Yourself & Justice to Others: Do They Have to Fight?” As you’ll see, that subject has much to do with a poem of Wordsworth spoken of in the lecture. It is a famous poem, but its meaning is made clear for the first time by Mr. Siegel.
The opposites in the seminar title, care for self and justice to what’s not us, are the biggest opposites in our lives. And, Aesthetic Realism shows, all the cruelty in the world comes from dividing them—from feeling that the way to take care of ourselves is to lessen and look down on other people and things. That feeling is contempt. It’s immensely ordinary, and also the worst thing in humanity. Mr. Siegel explains—and I find these resounding, vivid, deep, clear sentences beautiful:
There is only one thing that is immoral in the world: liking oneself too much and the outside world too little….Once you feel what is owing to yourself is more and what is owing to other people is less, you can rob people’s purses, tell lies, keep back things that would do good to people, start wars….Read more