Lynette Abel  / Aesthetic Realism & Life


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Lynette Abel


 Part 3

      In his lecture Mind and Disappointment, Mr. Siegel said:

Many people are spiteful. If, by the very nature of spitefulness, they attain their end, they are disappointed, because spite is the insistence on having one’s way even if it makes one unhappy.
Polly is forty years old now. She has told her neighbors, who expressed concern about her lonely life, that "she liked being by herself.  She preferred quiet."  Then, the plot takes another turn, when we she's asked by a charity organization to take in her 11 year-old niece, Pollyanna Whittier.

     Pollyanna's family had been poor; her father, Rev. John Whittier, had died recently and her mother, Jennie, Polly's sister, had died many years before.  In contrast to Aunt Polly, Pollyanna, for whom she's been named, with all the disappointment she's experienced in her young life, wants to find meaning in the people and things she meets.  When Nancy, the housekeeper, is told of Pollyanna's impending arrival, she says to Miss Polly "how nice it will be," and there is this exchange:

‘Nice?  Well, that isn’t exactly the word I should use,’ rejoined Miss Polly stiffly.  ‘However, I intend to make the best of it, of course.  I am a good woman, I hope; and I know my duty.’ Nancy coloured hotly. ‘Of course, ma’am; it was only that I thought a little girl here might—might brighten things up—for you,’ she faltered. ‘Thank you,’ rejoined the lady dryly. ‘I can’t say, however, that I see any immediate need for that.’ ‘But, of course, you—you’d want her, your sister’s child,’ ventured Nancy… Miss Polly lifted her chin haughtily. ‘Well, really, Nancy, just because I happened to have a sister who was silly enough to marry and bring unnecessary children into a world that was already quite full enough, I can’t see how I should particularly want to have the care of them myself.  However, as I said before, I hope I know my duty….disagreeable as the task would be….Pollyanna!—what a ridiculous name!
     I've seen that when you are looking to be disappointed, you are looking to feel you're superior to everything.

      Meanwhile, despite herself, Aunt Polly comes to care very much for her niece, and is surprised and affected by all the people in the town whom Pollyanna has come to know and have a good effect on.  One day, there is a terrible accident: Pollyanna is hit by a car and her legs are paralyzed.  Polly feels awful and seeks out different doctors to see her, except for the one who has the knowledge that could be decisive in Pollyanna’s possible recovery: Dr. Chilton, her own former lover.  When consultation with Chilton is suggested, she says absolutely not!  In her determination to continue using him for disappointment and bitterness it almost costs Pollyanna the ability to walk.

     There is a young man, Jimmy Bean, who lived at the Orphans' home, whom Pollyanna hasbefriended.  He overhears a conversation in which, Dr. Chilton is telling a concerned neighbor that he must see Pollyanna—he knows something that might help her. He is beside himself, that because of "some confounded nonsense" called "pride" this child might be "doomed to lifelong misery."  Someone's got to make her see, he says, but who?  As formidable as Miss Polly is, Jimmy Bean decides immediately he'll do it!  As Polly comes into the sitting room where Jimmy Bean anxiously waits, Jimmy says:

 What I'm doin',…is for Pollyanna, and I'd walk over hot coals for her, or face you, or—or anythin' like that, any time. An' I think you would, too, if you thought there was a chance for her ter walk again.  An' so that's why I come ter tell ye that as long as it's only pride an' et—et-somethin' that's keepin' Pollyanna from walkin', why I knew you would ask Dr. Chilton here if you understood—'…"Dr. Chilton knows some doctor somewhere that can cure Pollyanna, he thinks—make her walk, ye know; but he can't tell sure till he sees her.  And he wants ter see her awful, but he told Mr. Pendleton that you wouldn't let him."  Miss Polly's face turned very red.  "But, Jimmy, I—I can't—I couldn't!  That is, I didn't know!"
She is shaken--and she changes.  Dr. Chilton does see Pollyanna, and in time she is able to walk again.

 Good Will Never Disappoints; It's What We Want Most

As Michael and I talked over dinner on our first date, I was affected by his liveliness and thoughtfulness as he asked me questions about my life, about books I cared for, about what I hoped to write.  I was taken by his keen interest in many things—world events, his knowledge of and enthusiasm for baseball, his care for popular music, and his humor—which is something many people care for in him.  I had made mistakes as to love—and felt excited to have this new chance to try to know a man and to have a good effect on him.  As our care for each other grew, we decided we wanted to live together, and spoke about getting married  and I was very happy!  But several months later, we found that things were not so lively in our apartment—disappointment was growing between us.  Michael felt I was too quiet and self-contained, and I felt he was too impatient and didn't have just the right touch--and gave up too soon in trying to understand.  In Mind and Disappointment, lecture, Mr. Siegel said:

The first thing necessary to avoid disappointment is to ask if we're not going after it….I have seen people complain about their not being understood by others.  I've asked, "What have you done to be understood?  Have you really tried to show yourself as you are?"  "No, I don't think so."  "So, what are you complaining about?" People conceal themselves, and then complain that they are not understood.
This explained what I was doing--I was going after disappointment!  I am one of the most fortunate women for being able to learn this, and learn, too, what it means to have good will for a man.  In an Aesthetic Realism class Ellen Reiss asked me whether I "could have more respect for the possibilities of men."  And while I had complained, she questioned how much I wanted to be known by Michael: "Do you want him really to browse around the inner Abel library?"  I hadn't.  In another class, she asked me: "Do you think you need to like knowing more?"  "Yes," I answered.  "If we don't like knowing," she explained, "it is going to show in everything we do and then in certain things it will show very painfully." "Do you think," she continued, "if you're being embraced by Michael Palmer, it is a thrilling chance to know the world and a person and yourself, or to get the sweeping honor you have been deprived of?  What do you want more: for Michael Palmer to respect himself or for him to show how wonderful you are?"  I love and thank her for these questions.  I saw there was an adoration from Michael I was angling for that I couldn't respect myself for getting, and didn't want to appreciate the real approval I was getting from his desire to know me deeply. 

     I began to take good will seriously, and am grateful to feel that knowing my husband, the many ways he's affected by the world, and the way the opposites are in him—logic and feeling, sweetness and strength, fact and imagination, humor and seriousness--add so much to me.  Michael is a critic of me, and I love him for it.  He wants me to be warmer to people, and I cherish our conversations, including about how through our study of Aesthetic Realism we can understand, for instance, what is happening in the economy right now. 

     I'm so glad I can ask myself at any time during the day, "Am I looking to be disappointed now, or am I hoping to be honestly pleased, to see value in the things I'm meeting?  This is civilization, honest and real!

      Aesthetic Realism provides the comprehension people, and nations too, are thirsty for.  It is the education that can teach men and women what they urgently need to know: that the only thing that satisfies, will never disappoint us, is the study of good will: "the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful." 

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 2004 Lynette Abel