Steven Weiner, Computer Specialist and Aesthetic Realism associate, writes:
“Sameness & Difference—Eternal & Urgent Opposites” is an important document about American history, the nature of beauty, and what’s happening today. It shows the deep relation of three crucial times in America—as the Pilgrims landed in New England 400 years ago, as the Abolitionists fought against slavery in the decades before the Civil War, and right now! “Sameness & Difference—Eternal & Urgent Opposites” can make you honestly hopeful about our nation, and your own life. Read this new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
We conclude here our serialization of the rich, vivid lecture Things Are Likened to Each Other, which Eli Siegel gave in 1971. In it he illustrates, through “two of the beginning opposites of the world,” this Aesthetic Realism principle: “Self, the arts, the sciences explain each other: they are the oneness of permanent opposites.” Both art and science, he explains, are constantly showing that things different from each other are not only different but like each other, related, deeply and mightily akin.
In this final section he is using an issue of an important 19th-century American magazine to illustrate those opposites. He looks at an 1838 review of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and comments on how the anonymous reviewer’s sentences, phrases, choices of words represent the likeness and difference in reality, and represent too the drive in people to see these opposites as of each other, not as battling.
Yet people have also pitted likeness and difference against each other, with results that are always ugly and weakening and are often horrible. Our dishonesty, however unconscious, about these opposites—the way we falsify the sameness and difference among things, among people, between ourselves and what’s not ourselves—is basic to contempt. And contempt, Aesthetic Realism shows, is the most hurtful thing in everyone: it’s “the addition to self through the lessening of something else.” For example, from the desire to look down on people different from us, not see that they are principally like us too, comes all the cruelty in the world.
1838—and Earlier and Later
Let’s take the year of the review Mr. Siegel is looking at: 1838. Here, his purpose is not to discuss American history. Yet there was no historian greater than Eli Siegel, and I remember his speaking passionately, deeply, about the decades before the Civil War. There was that hideous, brutal lie about sameness and difference which took the form of slavery: the lie that some people, because of their skin, were essentially different from oneself—so different that one could own them, sell them, buy them, beat them, kill them. That is contempt as utter. And many seemingly polite people had it….Read more