Nancy Huntting, Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
“The Opposites, Beauty, Contempt—& Our Lives” is about the largest thing we hope for—a way of seeing the world that’s true and thrilling. In this issue too is a vitally needed explanation of racism. And a jazz musician writes on what he learned about his purpose in art and love—something every musician and every man and woman should know! Read the great, urgent new number—number 2009—of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
In the preface to his Self and World, Eli Siegel writes:
Aesthetic Realism is personally useful; it is all for personal development; but it is always a seeing of the whole world, and…what the world is. Aesthetic Realism, then, is unabashed philosophy, as it presents the moment as friendly to a person; as perhaps wider, deeper, more of oneself than was thought.
The 1964 lecture we are serializing—Mr. Siegel’s The Infinite and Finite and Their Disguises—is “unabashed philosophy.” It’s a lively, magnificent, logical discussion about the structure of reality. What that structure is, and also who we are and what art is, are outlined in this Aesthetic Realism principle: “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.”
We include here an article by Alan Shapiro, jazz musician, educator, and Aesthetic Realism associate. It’s part of a paper he presented last month at a public seminar titled “Expressing Himself & Being Just to Others—Can a Man Do Both?” This article is vivid in its showing that Aesthetic Realism is not only “personally useful” but longed for by people.
Philosophic Opposites & Contempt
In his lecture, Mr. Siegel looks at two opposites that can seem quite apart from our everyday lives: the infinite and the finite. And he shows that these are inseparable from such other opposites as freedom and order, the loose and the tight, the vague and the definite. Now, to comment a little on how those philosophic opposites infinite and finite are central to our own feelings, choices, how our lives go, I’ll say something about what Aesthetic Realism shows to be the most hurtful thing in the human self: contempt. Mr. Siegel described contempt as “that in [us] which says: ‘If I can make less of this and this and this, my glory is greater’” (TRO 247).
In contempt, the opposites of finite and infinite are always present—but not accurately, not honestly, not as one.
First, though: a little about them as beautifully one in how the self of everyone fundamentally is.
Every person is just oneself, so particular, individual; and that means definite—finite. Yet it can be said that every person is infinite too, because we’re related to everything. Mr. Siegel has described the fact that if we hear a person mention anything, that thing comes to be in some fashion in our mind. Further, there’s no limit to what we’re akin to through the structure of opposites which is in us and everything. Take rest and motion: they’re in a leaf as it’s fixed safely to a tree yet blows in wind, in a song as it changes surprisingly yet feels like one unified song; and the same opposites are in us as (for instance) we’re at rest in a chair while our mind is astir, in motion. We are infinitely related—which means we, in all our finiteness, are infinite.
In having contempt, though, we deeply hate that aesthetic relation of opposites, and deal with them in a spurious way. Basic to contempt, Mr. Siegel explains, “is the feeling in people that they have the right to see other people and things pretty much as they please.” This feeling, he says, “is the beginning of the injustice and pain of the world” (Self and World, p. 3). In feeling one has the right to see anything however one pleases, one is essentially—and horribly—making oneself infinite. One can change any fact one pleases: The facts are what I want them to be—which means one feels one’s power over truth is infinite. We have seen this way of mind in full ugly flower in certain politicians, but it begins in the contempt that’s in everyone.
Contempt, as it belittles something or someone, can appear so finite, so narrow: a snicker, a sneer. But it has in it what Mr. Siegel puts this way in “2-A Pleasure Described”: “I can endlessly despise, and the more I despise the more, apparently logically, my own ego is glorified” (Self and World, p. 357). With “endlessly” we have the infinite….Read more