Steven Weiner, Computer Specialist and Aesthetic Realism associate, writes:
A person’s individuality—what is it really based on? Do we have notions about our individuality that are mistaken—indeed, that may actually hurt our lives? And: what does art tell us about our true distinction? How people see this subject, individuality, makes them kind or unkind, can even make them cruel. You’ll find thrilling and urgently needed knowledge about yourself and everyone as you read “Likeness & Unlikeness–& Our Individuality,” the new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known!
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
We are serializing Things Are Likened to Each Other, a magnificent lecture that Eli Siegel gave in 1971. In it he explains that the seeing of things as like other things even as they are different is central to all art. “Wherever art occurs,” he says, “like and unlike—two of the beginning opposites of the world—are to be felt.”
Commenting on this lecture in our last issue, I wrote about the fact that all unkindness comes from the pitting of those opposites, likeness and difference—so central to reality and to our lives—against each other. Aesthetic Realism explains that every unjust act and thought—from a certain ordinary snobbishness and coldness toward another person, to racism in all its horrors, and centuries of economic exploitation—every injustice arises from contempt; and contempt is “the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.” In having contempt for a person, one uses one’s sense of difference from that person to feel superior to him or her—not to see that there is a deep and vital likeness too, not to see that he or she is as real as oneself, with feelings as large and a mind as existent as one’s own. Aesthetic Realism shows contempt to be the most hurtful thing in everyone, and in all of human history. And contempt is always a falsification of likeness and unlikeness, a fundamental lying about them.
In the early part of the lecture we’re serializing, Mr. Siegel uses a renowned French textbook: Leçons françaises de littérature et de morale, by Nöel and De la Place. It includes passages by noted authors, and Mr. Siegel discusses some of them, sight-translating from the French. These are passages which, in their French classicism, might intimidate a person. But as he shows how there is in them in various ways the seeing of likeness-in-unlikeness, they feel close to us: we feel the power and livingness within them; we feel the feelings had by their authors.
As a prelude to this section of the lecture, and as a means of placing it, I’ll quote from two other discussions by Mr. Siegel. These have to do with a person’s way of seeing his or her own sameness and difference.
What Does It Mean to Be an Individual?
The tremendous matter of Individuality is about likeness and unlikeness. We do see ourselves as unlike anything and anyone else; and of course it is true—nothing, no one, is just like us. Yet there is a terrific drive in people to feel we are crucially apart—not only from certain people, but from people as such, even those we’re close to, and from things as such. There is a tendency to feel that it’s our difference which makes us important, makes us an individual, and that if we have to see ourselves as really like other people, our importance, individuality, originality are wiped out: we’ve become just one of the crowd.
Aesthetic Realism shows that’s not true. True individuality is like art: an aesthetic oneness of sameness and difference, likeness and unlikeness….Read more