Lynette Abel  / Aesthetic Realism & Life


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Lynette Abel


 Aesthetic Realism seminar:
Why Are Women Disappointed--
& Do They Ever Want to Be?
By Lynette Abel 

 It was around 6 AM and I awoke to the sound of a car alarm.  "How long is this going to last?" I inwardly grumbled.  "Probably a half-hour like the last one."  But, after about 30 seconds, it stopped abruptly, much to my surprise.  Getting up and going into the kitchen, I began to make coffee.  Upon opening the refrigerator and seeing there wasn't any milk, I called out to my husband, "Mike, didn't you say you were going to get some milk?"  "I did," he replied.  "It should be there."  I looked again.  "Oh, there it is, sorry."  This is how I began one day some time ago, just ready for disappointment. 

     There are things that can and do disappoint us, but Aesthetic Realism shows something completely new: that there is actually a hope in us to be disappointed, to look for things not to our liking so we can feel regally disgusted and superior to everything.  This hope is contempt, "the addition to self through the lessening of something else."

     I'm very grateful that through my Aesthetic Realism education, I could recognize and criticize this hope in me, and I felt happier right on the spot.  I’ve learned that there is a choice we make minute to minute, either to look for disappointment and be scornful, or to look for  meaning in things and value them, which is our deepest desire.

The Battle between two Hopes in Me

In his lecture Mind and Disappointment, Eli Siegel explained that what we hope for is not just an isolated, personal matter, it is an aesthetic matter—we have to put together personal and impersonal, self and world.  "Since the source of all hope is the outside world," he said,

If we are going to get what we hope for, it is going to be from reality….But if we don’t like what we want things from, that much we spoil our chances for getting them and for enjoying them. …If we do not have a hopeful, respectful attitude to what is, we cannot hope that what is is going to be on our side by giving us what we are looking for.  Therefore our greatest hope should be to like the source of all hopes.
    Growing up in Alexandria, Virginia, I liked learning about its history, about the beginnings of our nation and was excited visiting Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington, not far from where we lived.  I also liked growing tomatoes and string beans in a garden in our backyard, and felt there was something wonderful and mysterious about these colorful red and green things coming from dark earth.  And I felt proud, when after many weeks, the bean crop yielded just enough to feed my parents, me, and my 5 brothers and sisters, one small serving each.  Without knowing it, I was liking "the source" of things, the world itself.

     But I also had another hope, to be disappointed with most things, to feel nothing and no one was good enough to suit me.  For instance, even though we fought a lot among ourselves, I liked thinking the Abel family was of a higher caliber culturally and much more talented than our neighbors.  The Grainers, I thought, were crude and uneducated; the Turners strange because they didn't have children; the Statlers weren't getting along, etc.  And I was a prima donna.  Once, when my mother brought home a pair of slacks, I sulked because she'd selected something  as so "uncool."  "The colors are so ugly," I complained.  I'll never forget her yelling in frustration, "You're so ungrateful and hard to please!"  Years later in an Aesthetic Realism lesson, Mr. Siegel asked me: "Do you think there are certain [people] in Virginia who feel the more they can dislike, the more they are triumphant?"  This described me!  And the results were miserable.

     In high school, I liked Mr. Connelly's English class very much, in which we learned 5 new words each week.  But for the most part, I saw the other classes as something to just get through.  And I saw it as a sign of distinction for myself, when I was disappointed by a teacher, which was often.  Others girls, I thought, were so easily pleased by things, I was discerning.  I acted demure, but I had fierce, scornful thoughts.  For instance, I mocked my social studies teacher, Mrs. Thurman, deciding there was nothing new for me to learn in her class.  Once,  completely oblivious to what she was saying, I began drawing on my desk with a pen.  The next thing I knew, she was questioning me, critical of what I was doing, and telling me, as she had every right to, to clean the writing off my desk.   I immediately started to cry--something I did often, thinking, "How dare she humiliate me?" and stated "That's it!  I'm leaving."  She followed me out of the room and began to apologize.  I felt that I was hot stuff, and had impressed my classmates with my bravado.  Later though, I felt terrible and ashamed.  I regret my meanness very much—that Mrs. Thurman had to look at my disdainful face, day after day, and see a girl who hoped she failed.  I have seen that contempt has a big kickback. "We want to be able to put aside things, diminish them, forget about them," Mr. Siegel said in his lecture,

But at the same time we want to have a lovely time….However, even though people try to make things unimportant, they do get disappointed.
How I needed to know this!  Increasingly, I was unsure of myself, uncomfortable around people, and anxious.
Click here for Part 2
  2004 Lynette Abel