Steven Weiner, Computer Specialist and Aesthetic Realism associate, writes:
What can we learn about reality and ourselves from two poems, written centuries apart, about whales? And how are matter and space, opposites fundamental to the universe, intimately of and in us? For the answers—exciting and important—read “Space, Matter, Good Will, & the Whale,” the new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
We are serializing the great 1949 lecture Poetry and Space, by Eli Siegel. It is an opulent, surprising, living illustration of the principle on which Aesthetic Realism is based: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” Space and its opposite, matter, are aspects of the physical universe. And they also represent desires of our own. They have to do with our own confusions, hopes, happiness, mistakes. Space and matter are related to other opposites that are always part of us, opposites that need to join well in us and so often do not: for example, lightness and heaviness, emptiness and fullness, mind and body.
Earlier in the lecture Mr. Siegel gave this definition of space: “reality thought of as not having any weight at all.” And he continued, “Anything seen as permitting motion without any interference at all could be seen as space.”
In the present section, Mr. Siegel speaks about a poem of pre-revolutionary America. Its author, John Osborn (1713-53), is as unknown today as Mr. Siegel describes him as being in 1949. That is so even though the early anthology from which Mr. Siegel reads about him can now be found online—in that recent aspect of space, cyberspace. I respect and love the way Mr. Siegel speaks of Osborn. Using the little information had about him, Mr. Siegel sees him deeply and so kindly, with beautiful comprehension. Osborn, there in Cape Cod and on the Atlantic Ocean of long ago, is real, his tumult and hopes understood. And Mr. Siegel describes both the meaning and the poetic value of a poem that otherwise would be lost in time.
That poem is “A Whaling Song.” In this lecture Mr. Siegel is not looking at it in terms of economics and industry (whaling was a major industry). Yet today, because of what is happening in our present world, I think it right to comment a little on the trade referred to in the poem. What Eli Siegel made clear in his Goodbye Profit System talks of the 1970s not only explains our economy today—it also enables us to see something important about that activity which had so much meaning and also cruelty with it: whaling.
“Ethics Is a Force”
Mr. Siegel showed that history has now reached a point at which an economy will succeed only if it is based on good will: the honest answering of the question “What does a person deserve by being a person?” Economics these centuries has been based principally on ill will: it’s been based on the idea that the world and one’s fellow humans should be seen in terms—not of justice—but of how much personal profit one can extract from them. This motive, the profit motive, is the impetus behind profit economics. And yet in our time, Mr. Siegel explained, “the conduct of industry on the basis of ill will has been shown to be inefficient.” The reason is that “ethics is a force” working in history. He described hundreds of instances of the force of ethics, from laws against child labor, to laws mandating a minimum wage, to workplace regulations so that people not contract industrial diseases or be maimed by machinery. I’m speaking about this tremendous matter now because an aspect of ethics as force is: there has come to be more of a feeling that the living creatures who share the earth with us should be protected; that they should be seen justly; that there is such a thing as what an animal deserves….Read more