Jeffrey Carduner, Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
Space and Matter: along with being physical realities, do these have to do with ethics? Does the way we think about space and matter have to do with whether we’ll like ourselves or not? Can poetry—including the poetry of Shakespeare—show us something important about these big opposites in our lives and the world? Surprising, wonderful, and immediately useful answers are in “Space, Matter, & Our Own Emotions,” the new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
It is an honor to begin serializing Poetry and Space, a lecture Eli Siegel gave in 1949. It is great in its literary criticism and its kind, rich understanding of people.
Space, of course, is part of the physical world. Yet we have feelings about it all the time. Those feelings can have joy with them, and ease; also agitation and even terror; and much in between. Space, as Mr. Siegel explains, is in all art. It can be seen as having two opposites: one is time; the other, perhaps even more fundamentally an opposite of space, is matter. And this principle of Aesthetic Realism certainly includes space and matter, space and time: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”
Mr. Siegel says that in this talk it’s not his purpose to deal extensively with how people “use space,” what we do with it in our thoughts. Yet he does explain very much about those thoughts: he makes sense of things no one else has been able to, and he does this as he deals with poetry, including poetry by Shakespeare and Whitman.
Anger Is about Matter & Space
The principles of Aesthetic Realism itself are the means to understand that rich, intricate, fierce, subtle array of feelings each individual has about the opposites of matter and space. Every person, Aesthetic Realism makes clear, has, all the time, an attitude to the world itself, and this attitude to the world is present in everything we do and every emotion we have, including about space and matter. For example, in another lecture Mr. Siegel spoke about those opposites in relation to anger—the kind of anger that’s unjust and hurtful. “Wherever there is anger,” he said, “we feel there is an obstruction to what we want to do,” and matter, being physically obstructive, can stand, to us, for a world that obstructs us, interferes with our desires, gets in our way. If we dislike the world, he explained,
to have to deal with matter constantly, to have to walk on it even, let alone bump into it, is displeasing, outrageous, humiliating, undesirable, angering. Space is looked for….That is why certain pretty terrible people called pyromaniacs like to burn up places. They think that in changing the world into space they are conquering. A good way of symbolizing anger is: I’ll pulverize you; I’ll smash you to smithereens! If you crush something indefinitely, you change it into space.
…So space, being seen as nothing, would be the one non-angering thing. Anything that is looked on as an interruption is seen as insulting, because part of us can’t take the idea that there can be an interruption to ourselves. And that which we live by, or matter, is a big interruption. [Poetry and Anger, TRO 962]
In those sentences, Mr. Siegel is explaining why a person today can smash his fist against a wall, break a window—even damage an electronic device by using one’s fingers on it with undue forcefulness.
The sentences also explain an attraction that has been a source of enormous grief. It’s because a person dislikes the world, feels it to be obstructive—something impeding, shackling, weighing one down—that drugs and alcohol can have a potent allure. Through these, one seems no longer bogged down, but in space. Even the idiomatic terms getting high and flying stand for a certain escape from obstructive matter into that space in which one’s ego can loll and gambol, where one is not beleaguered by the need to recognize the existence of anything.,,, Read More.