Nancy Huntting, Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
We certainly want to like ourselves. But how can we—on what basis? Why do people go from a seemingly high opinion of themselves to a low one?—and what can make sense of this? Read “Pride & Humility: The Drama in Everyone,” the important new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
Here is part 3 of the great 1970 lecture The Self Is, by Eli Siegel. Yes, the self is—it is ours, and there is nothing more intimate about us than it is. Aesthetic Realism explains what has never been understood before: this thing, the self, so particular to each of us, is fundamentally an aesthetic matter. It is the oneness of opposites—first of all, the biggest opposites: our own individual being and the whole outside world, to which we’re unendingly, indissolubly related.
Further, the most hurtful thing in everyone, the thing in us that weakens our own life and mind, is contempt, “the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.” Contempt is the self’s looking down on what’s outside it, and this looking down can go all the way from sneering at someone’s hairstyle to demeaning a whole race. But contempt is also, and always, the pitting of one aspect of ourselves against the other. Whatever form our contempt takes, whether fierce or seemingly delicate, it is always an assault by us against that which enables us to be ourselves: our relation to the world. Contempt is ordinary—and the source of every cruelty.
We Want Both
In this lecture, Mr. Siegel is discussing statements by a writer whom he respects but does not always agree with: David Riesman (1909-2002). And in the present section, he speaks about something that arises from those central opposites of individuality and relation: he speaks about the drama, in self, of pride and humility. There is much pain in that drama; there are confusion and disheartening turmoil about pride and humility, in everyone’s life.
All of us want to be proud; of course we do. We also want to be humble, because we want to look up to something, feel there are things—even people—that have some value we don’t yet find in ourselves. We want to feel, humbly, that there’s a bigness and beauty and meaning in things which we can’t sum up, have under our thumb. Unless we feel this, unless we have this humility, we’ll feel we’re in a world that’s empty, shoddy, dull. BUT: if we don’t feel that our looking up also makes us big, even glorious, our self will be awry, in disarray, imperiled. In other words, if our humility isn’t also proud we’ll have a self we dislike, a self with which we’re profoundly disgusted.
Then, there is our notion of pride. Unless our self-esteem, our sense of our own importance, is also respectful, honoring of what the world is—we will be, again, awry, deeply messy, imperiled…. >> Read more