Nancy Huntting, Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
Are other people and things in our way, or a means to our freedom? The happiness of our lives depends on our feeling the second—and art shows we can! That is the subject of “Poetry, Impediment, & the Big Mistake,” the new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
The essay published here—Eli Siegel’s “Impediment in Poetry”—is great in the history of literary criticism. It is also about the personal life of everyone, because Eli Siegel is the critic who showed this tremendous thing: every good poem, whatever its subject—whether it’s about a rose, a war, a mountain, a kiss—does in its technique what we need to do in our lives.
“Poetry,” he wrote, “…is the oneness of the permanent opposites in reality as seen by an individual.” And those same opposites are ours too: our lives are, every day, rest and motion, junction and separation, for and against, known and unknown, logic and feeling. The opposites so often fight in us, whirl about, seem divided and at odds. We long to make them one—which is what poetry does.
Our Big Mistake
Since the magnificent essay printed here is on the subject of impediment— and its opposite, freedom—I’ll comment briefly on the biggest mistake people make about impediment.
This mistake is the tendency to see the facts—to see what’s true—as an impediment to having one’s way. What I just described can sound, perhaps, not so bad, and it is very ordinary. But it happens to be a form of the ugliest, most dangerous thing in humanity: contempt, defined by Aesthetic Realism as the “disposition in every person to think we will be for ourselves by making less of the outside world.”
At any moment there is something we want—maybe praise; maybe someone’s saying we’re right; maybe an inner sense that we’re superior to others. At the same time, there are the facts. We’ll either want to be fair to those facts, and feel being fair to them is the same as having our way; or we’ll feel what people feel constantly: that what’s true is an interference with our getting what we want, and so we should change the facts to suit ourselves. That means we’ll lie, to others and also ourselves.
As hideous an example as any of a person who saw the facts as impediments to his way was Adolf Hitler. To present Germans as superior, he had to create certain “facts” about human beings, and expunge real facts. From dealing with facts as impediments to one’s way, came the dealing with human beings as impediments, nations as impediments—impediments to be expunged. Read more