Lynette Abel  / Aesthetic Realism & Life

Aesthetic Realism seminar:
Woman's Determination: What Makes
It Right or Wrong?
by Lynette Abel
      Aesthetic Realism shows that our very happiness and self-respect depend on the nature of our determination.  And it gives the criterion for what makes a woman's determination right or wrong in every situation.  Are we determined in behalf of valuing truly the world around us, or is our determination in behalf of diminishing other people and things?  The first is right, the second, clearly wrong.  And I'm very glad to speak tonight about what I learned on this very important subject. 
     A Contest between Two Kinds of Determination

    In an early issue of The Right Of, Eli Siegel wrote: 

       Aesthetic Realism sees a human being as in a great contest between the victory of scorn for reality and the victory of caring for it ever increasingly....We solve our life problems through the honoring of contempt or the honoring of respect. [TRO 262] 
         When I was in the 4th grade in Alexandria, VA, I loved going to the school library each week.  It was exciting to learn about the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, and the Dewey decimal system, and being able to check out books.  One of the first books I read was Helen Keller's The Story of My Life, which showed an amazing, beautiful determination in a girl to be interested in the world, deeply affected by it, even as she was not able to see or hear.  Reading it made me want to be kinder, more thoughtful. 

          And in Junior High, I was determined to be an expert swimmer; I joined the Mt. Vernon Swim Team, practiced during the summer most days beginning at 6 AM swimming laps, working hard to be proficient at the breaststroke, freestyle, and butterfly--which I liked best.  As both arms are brought forward together over the water and pulled through and the legs move up and down simultaneously in the dolphin kick, the body undulates through the water in a lovely way.  The butterfly, I later learned, puts together strength and grace, assertion and yielding, surface and depth--opposites I wanted to have together well in myself. 

          But I was also determined in another way: to be superior to other people and to look down on them.  I used my ability to swim to think I was hot stuff.  I remember the heady feeling I had when I came late to a swim meet and my teammates gasped in relief when they saw me.  But Kyle Andrews, a neighbor of mine, not only seemed unimpressed, but had the nerve--as I saw it--with his various aquatic gear--snorkel and flippers, and a big, colorful plastic innertube, to interfere with my swimming space.  I said to myself, "Who the hell does he think he is," and was determined to put him in his place by diving through his innertube.  He became furious, grabbed me and held me under water until I felt I was drowning.  After this I stayed clear of Kyle, but I didn't  know why he'd gotten so angry. In The Right Of Ellen Reiss explains: 

  Aesthetic Realism shows that the big and constant ethical question of Do we want to see another person as existing to give us our way, as foolish, manageable by us, with us looking down on her or him; or do we want another person to be as strong and intelligent as possible, and want respectfully to comprehend that person? 
      Wanting respectfully to comprehend people was not the thing driving me. 

     A Woman's Determination to Have Her Way with Men

     As I grew older, like many women, I thought having the devotion of a man was the one means to happiness and security, and was determined to get it. 

         When I transferred to Florida State University, I had no idea what I wanted to study--everything seemed awash.  My boyfriend, Tom, who was in the Navy, was on his way to the Pacific Islands.  He'd asked me several months earlier to marry him, but when I quickly accepted, he seemed to retreat, and wanted to wait.  But instead of trying to understand Tom, including his feelings about having to fly reconnaissance missions over Vietnam, I was incensed by what I saw as his coldness. 

          I decided to date other men secretly--I wasn't going to put my life on hold.  And after dating Mark for a while, whom I'd met in my accounting class, we began to live together.  Meanwhile, I continued to write devoted letters to Tom telling him how much I loved and missed him.  While appearing demure, there was a fierce determination in me to have men praise and serve me, make me feel I mattered above all else.  I felt what Ellen Reiss describes in The Right Of 1495 "There is something in everyone that feels, 'I want my way, and anyone who disagrees with it should shut up."  Meanwhile, as might be imagined, things weren't going well with Mark and, as weeks went on, I felt increasingly anxious, and often cried myself to sleep.  I didn't know that the contemptuous way I was determined was the reason I loathed myself and had a feeling of doom, often thinking with desperation, "What's going to happen to me?"  "Why don't I have the feeling I want to have about a man?"  "Why don't I care so much about my studies, or really anything?" 

          Then, when I was 23,  I met Aesthetic Realism and began to hear questions I thirsted to hear.  In my second consultation I was asked:  "Is there anything you like more than affecting a man? 

       LA.  Well...(pause)...affecting all people in a good way... 

       Consultants. You don't make it sound very attractive.  As you think of people you care for, do you think anyone is the object of affection more than you are yourself? 
       LA.  No, that's true.
       Cons.  So, do you feel there's an inaccurate way of loving yourself that interferes with your love for a man?
       LA.  Yes, I do.
       Cons.  Are you going to like the world because you have a lot of men interested in you...or because you see it in a way that is honest, beautiful, and just?...The thing this hinges on is whether one's deepest desire is to like the world or whether the desire for power is the deepest.  The thing wrong with how you've been with men is that it stopped you from something you wanted more. 
     I thank Aesthetic Realism with my happy life for enabling me to know the something I wanted more: to be affected in a big way by the world, and to feel that what goes on inside of other people matters to me. 

    Part 2,  next page

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