“We have two opposed hopes about people, two opposed hopes about the world. What do these hopes have to do with whether or not we can like ourselves? The answers are in “Our Two Desires,” the magnificent current issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by editor Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
The two essays by Eli Siegel published here were likely written in the late 1950s. They have that comprehension of people which is Aesthetic Realism’s alone, and which is based on this principle: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”
In “Medusa Is a Nice Girl,” Mr. Siegel writes about opposites that confuse everyone: our fierceness and our tenderness. “Is Your Unconscious Your Friend?” is a definitive description of the fundamental situation within us all. The word unconscious is not so frequently used these days. Perhaps that’s because of the rather ridiculous way it was used by Freud: psychiatry’s foolish way of seeing the unconscious has somewhat tarnished the word itself. In this essay Mr. Siegel gives a beautiful and clear definition: our unconscious is “the cause of what we do, which we don’t know.”
An article that appeared last month in the New York Times is a means to compare the Aesthetic Realism way of seeing the self to other ways of seeing. In particular, it can be used to help place the greatness of Aesthetic Realism’s showing that contempt is the ugliest and most hurtful thing in everyone. Eli Siegel defined contempt as the “disposition in every person to think we will be for ourselves by making less of the outside world.” He is the philosopher who identified contempt as the source of all cruelty—from everyday coldness to racism, economic exploitation, war. In having contempt we think we’re taking care of ourselves, but we’re actually engaged in that which weakens ourselves, our minds, our lives. Read more