Lynette Abel  / Aesthetic Realism & Life

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Lynette Abel
Part 2 

      In an Aesthetic Realism class I attended, Eli Siegel asked me questions about this time that enabled my disappointment to become useful self-questioning and knowledge.  "Do you think," he asked "your chief hurt in life is because you have two motives: justice and glorification?"  "Yes," I replied.  And he explained, "Justice should always win over glorification because glorification is a garbage can.  To have the purpose of being interested in someone to glorify [oneself] is hideous.  Should [one] see a person to see the whole world better or to glorify [one]self?"  In another class Mr.  Siegel said: "The greatest repression is our desire to be just to what is not ourselves, and he asked: "Do you know how great the instinct to be just is in you?"  I answered "It's larger than I know."  "You make it boring," he said.  "Is this true or not--your greatest desire is to be just to something outside yourself. ...As soon as you know a person you should have a tremendous desire to be just to that person!" 

    Unjust and Beautiful Dissatisfaction in a Famous Woman in Literature 

I comment now on aspects of the character, Beatrix, from the historical 1852 novel, Henry Esmond by the important English author William Makepeace Thackeray.  Beatrix illustrates vividly, dissatisfaction; so ordinary in its way, but which weakens and spoils a person's life.  Yet Beatrix is also a critic of herself and as the novel proceeds, she shows dissatisfaction that is beautiful, strengthening, courageously in behalf of justice.  I will quote from a  1950 lecture Mr. Siegel gave titled Aesthetic Realism and Thackeray's Henry Esmond.  In it, he shows how Thackeray deals honestly with the conflicts of people--children and parents, men and women, husbands and wives--between for and against, pretending and sincerity, selfishness and wanting to be kind. 

     It is the early 18th century at the time of Queen Anne.  Henry Esmond is being brought up in the noble family of Castlewood, consisting of the Viscount of Castlewood, who, early on is killed in a duel, his wife, Lady Castlewood, and their two children, Frank and Beatrix.  It is thought that Henry Esmond was born illegitimately, but he learns in time, that he is the rightful heir to the Castlewood estate, though he doesn't tell anyone.  Esmond is affected very much by both Lady Castlewood and Beatrix, her daughter, who, in the lecture, Mr. Siegel describes as "most radiantly beautiful, and smart as a whip, and selfish as a lizard, and also as warm as the sun, and as cold as an ice floe.  She is somebody."

 There is this description by Thackeray of Beatrix as a child, illustrating the dissatisfaction I know from intimate experience goes on in a family: 

    "Beatrix, from the earliest time, was jealous of every caress which was given to her little brother Frank.  She would fling away even from the maternal arms, if she saw Frank had been there before her;...She would with rage...; would sit apart, and not speak for a whole night, if she thought the boy had a better fruit or a larger cake than hers;" 
In Aesthetic Realism and Dissatisfaction, Mr. Siegel explains "Where people insist on being dissatisfied, you can be sure that they have a conquering purpose."  This conquering purpose of wanting one's way at all costs is developing in Beatrix and shows in how she plays one parent off against another.  "One of the things in Thackeray's mind," Mr. Siegel pointed out, "was the being able to see how people do go through a deep and ugly politics in family life."  Thackeray describes this in sentences that have "a style," Mr. Siegel said that "Thackeray is noted for...that winds and leaps gently, and then grows flat, and then rises again."  Thackeray writes: 
    "She was the darling and torment of father and mother.  She intrigued with each secretly; and bestowed her fondness and withdrew it, plied them with tears, smiles, kisses, cajolements;--when the mother was angry...flew to the father, and sheltering behind him, pursued her victim; when both were displeased,...watched until she could win back her parents' good graces, either by surprising them into laughter and good-humour, or appeasing them by submission and artful humility...." 
In my first Aesthetic Realism consultation, I began to understand the reasoning behind certain political choices I had made.  I was asked: "What do you think you did with your impression of your parents?  Do you think you came to any decisions as to how to be?"  I answered "Well, I knew if my mother criticized me, my father would side with me....It gave me power."
Consultants:  Did you feel your father was weak about you?
Lynette Abel: Yes, I did.
Consultants:  Did you feel all men would be?
LA: Yes, I did feel that. 
This was the beginning of my seeing how I had used people to glorify myself, including seeing them as easily deceived, not worthy of respect.  And it was the beginning too of feeling my dissatisfaction with myself could be beautiful through honest self-criticism. 

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