Jeffrey Carduner, Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
There is nothing more necessary and kind than what is in “How Should We Meet the World?” Through this remarkable work, we can ask—and it’s urgent that we ask: with all that can seem fearful and uncertain in the world, is there something in us that’s against seeing more value and meaning in things? You’ll meet a way of seeing the world that can move, educate, and thrill you—a way of seeing that is TRUE—in this great, new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
We have been serializing the lecture Long Ago for Liking the World, which Eli Siegel gave in 1974, and we have reached the final section. With its exactitude and ease, depth and charm, urgent importance and humor, erudition and down-to-earthness, the talk is about this Aesthetic Realism principle: the fundamental, imperative desire of every human being is to like the world through knowing it; and unless we are doing all we can to like the world honestly, we are hurting our minds and lives.
In Long Ago for Liking the World Mr. Siegel illustrates that principle, using as text J.D. Belton’s Literary Manual of Foreign Quotations. And he is speaking about what we, in 2020—amid a fearful pandemic and the thrilling insistence on racial justice—need desperately to know. In the final sections of the talk, he comments on quotations from the great and truly lovable Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).
Damned Welcome Has This
To introduce the conclusion of this lecture, it seems fitting to comment on several quotations from Eli Siegel himself. In the Belton book, the quotations are mainly extracted from larger works by the authors—and certainly the works of Eli Siegel abound with sentences and passages that could be similarly extracted and would glow in meaning, beauty, and power in their own right. However, I am going to use five maxims from Mr. Siegel’s Damned Welcome: Aesthetic Realism Maxims. A maxim is a statement, meant to stand on its own, which presents an idea with pithiness and style.
All the over 800 maxims in Damned Welcome comment on what like of the world means. But those I’ve chosen are among the maxims that do so perhaps more overtly. And I begin with the much-quoted first maxim in the book:
Don’t shake the hand of reality with one finger.
This maxim is about the big thing in us against care for the world. That thing is contempt, the feeling we are more if we can look down on, take value away from, what’s other than ourselves. Here is the wide, diverse world different from us, holding out its hand to us—and do we meet it limply, disdainfully, “with one finger”?
The maxim is tough and playful at once. It has a no-nonsense firmness and concision, yet also has nuance—for example, it ends with the delicate phrase “one finger.” It is satiric, makes fun of our tepidity and self-love, yet it is kind. It, and the other maxims I’ll comment on, have what Aesthetic Realism shows that beauty always has: the oneness of opposites….Read more