Lynette Abel  / Aesthetic Realism & Life

 Aesthetic Realism seminar:
What's More Important:
to Appreciate Rightly or Be Praised?,
part 3
By Lynette Abel

      But when their father returns, he questions Maria severely and reprimands her for her lack of discipline.  There is a fight between toughness and tenderness in Captain von Trapp.  And as Maria criticizes him, she is trying to bring forth, appreciate the best thing in him:

Captain.  I don't care to hear anything further from you about my children--
Maria.  I know you don't, but you've got to.  Take Liesl...  You're going to wake up one day and discover she's a woman and you won't even know who she is....And Kurt--makes believe he's tough to hide how hurt he is when you brush him aside...
Captain.  I don't care to hear anything further from you about my children.
Maria.  I'm not finished yet.
Captain.  Oh yes you are Captain!...Fraulein.
Just as he tells Maria to pack her things and return to the Abbey, he hears his children singing--a song she has taught them, and surprisingly he finds himself impelled to join them.  Maria's criticism has encouraged greater appreciation of the world in the Captain, which includes music and seeing his children with new wonder.  They, too, see their father more deeply, as not just severe, but as tender also.  The Captain, grateful to Maria, apologizes and says, "You were right.  I don't know my own children."  And he asks her to stay.
Appreciation or Resentment: Which Do We Want?

 In his lecture Mr. Siegel says: 

 "...[W]hen a person fails to be excited by something that should excite him, he appreciates indifference too much--so when some people cannot see with any greatness or depth of feeling what deserves to be seen, it means that something else has been given too much value."
 When the children and Maria encourage the Captain to sing, his fiancé, the Baroness is resentful and says wryly "Why didn't you tell bring along my harmonica?"  And the first thing she says after hearing him is "Why don't we really fill this house with music?" and suggests that Georg give a grand and glorious party for her.  She "fails to be excited by something that should excite" because "something else has been given too much value"--her narrow self.  The Baroness is not such a bad person, but here she represents that cheap thing in everyone that resents appreciating anything outside ourselves.  She’s interested in getting glory for herself and is competitive with many things--including music, the children, Maria.  Mr. Siegel explained to me in an Aesthetic Realism class:
"There are two desires in a person: 1) glorify ourselves, [and] 2) to care for something else.  They have to be the same thing or else there will be trouble."
An important scene takes place when she and the Captain are on the terrace of the von Trapp home and a young man, Rolf, comes to deliver a telegram.  Upon seeing the Captain, he stammers "...Heil Hitler!"  Angrily, the Captain takes the telegram and says, "Now get out!"  Baroness Shraeder says, "Georg, he's just a boy."  Seeing that the Captain is troubled, Elsa says in a sultry voice "Hello... You're far away.  Where are you?"  Referring to his beloved homeland, which is being taken over by the Nazis, he says, "In a world that's disappearing, I'm afraid."  She says, "Georg--is there any way I can bring you back to the world I'm in?"  Here she makes a mistake many women have made with men.  What has been seen as romantic--forgetting about everything but us--is really contempt.  And it is here equivalent to saying "So what if there is a buildup of Nazism--brutality to other people--what does that have to do with us?"  I regret that when I was seeing Mark Statler at the time he was drafted into the Vietnam War, I didn’t think about his anguish of having to serve in a war he was deeply against, I only thought about how much did he miss me.  I learned that we cannot possibly love another person, much less respect ourselves, unless we’re passionately interested in fairness to all people.

     Maria, on the other hand, who has gone through inward struggles, sees that she and von Trapp have deep feeling for each other, and they eventually marry.  And when he is ordered to accept a commission in the navy of the Third Reich, there is no question in the Captain's mind. He says, "Joining them would be unthinkable, turning them down will be extremely dangerous to us all."  The family escapes, climbing over the mountains to freedom.

     As I was coming to know Michael Palmer, I received, and continue to, the education in what it means to appreciate rightly a man and the world he represents.  Some questions I was asked in an Aesthetic Realism class by Ellen Reiss are:

What do you want more: for Michael Palmer to respect himself or for him to show how wonderful you are?
Do you think Michael Palmer's mind is worthy material for you to get excited about--something you should be interested in, concerned about, and educated by all the time? 
Do you want to be a beginning point of Michael Palmer's seeing all human beings more happily and deeply?
In the lecture Eli Siegel said “Aesthetic Realism is a course in honest world appreciation[,]… which means liking a thing by seeing it as it is.”  I’m glad to be in the midst of this course.  It makes for great pleasure, pleasure that is expressed by this song, with which I conclude my paper.
[Play again The Sound of Music]

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