Steven Weiner, Aesthetic Realism associate, writes:
Can music tell us anything about the questions of our lives? For example—about how we’re for people and also against them? Are the opposites of For and Against central to both life and art? And in order to be kind, do we have to make them one? In other words: does kindness have to be criticism too, and criticism kindness—and how can that happen? These questions, so important for everyone, are answered in “Music Is about Your Life,” the current issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
We continue serializing Music & “Questions for Everyone,” a 1975 Aesthetic Realism class discussion conducted by Eli Siegel. In it, he relates what music is to what is asked about in his great “Questions for Everyone” (TRO 750)—questions that give form to the personal confusions, sinking, unsureness of people. The discussion, lively and deep, and often funny, is a commentary on the central principle of Aesthetic Realism: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” Eli Siegel is the philosopher who showed that what we need, in every aspect of our lives, is to do what art does: put opposites together. Our self is an aesthetic situation, and only through seeing it that way can we make sense of our lives.
Included here too is part of a paper by photographer Len Bernstein, from a recent public seminar titled “A Man’s Urgent Question: How Can I Be Both Critical & Kind?” This matter of criticism and kindness has tormented people—because they have seen criticism as unkind, and have seen kindness, really, as an evasion of their own intellect and personal need. That is, people have felt that to be kind to someone they had to put aside what they might question about him or her, and also put aside their own desire to take care of themselves. Aesthetic Realism grandly and mercifully shows that this view of things is incorrect.
It happens that this human matter of kindness and criticism is related to the technical art matter Mr. Siegel speaks of here: concord and discord. Both pairs of opposites are forms of the big primal opposites For and Against.
What We Want
I love the subject of criticism and kindness. And I say, with great feeling: People are longing for criticism, the real thing. Every person, of course, has a seemingly insatiable desire for praise: to be told we’re wonderful, in excelsis, just as we are. Yet we know, even as we’re not clear about it, that there are things we dislike in ourselves, that are bad, that hold us back. We’re aching to hear from another where we need to be better, so that we can be better and meet our own hopes. >>Read more