Lynette Abel  / Aesthetic Realism & Life

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Lynette Abel
The Insatiable Desire for Admiration Always Makes for 
Dissatisfaction in Love

Beatrix is growing up and Thackeray describes her: 

    "with cheeks mantling with health and roses: with eyes like stars shining out of azure, with waving bronze hair clustered about the fairest young forehead ever seen: and a mien and shape haughty and beautiful,...She had been a coquette from the earliest times...Whenever she sees a man, she makes eyes at him;" 
 Like myself of once and many women, Beatrix goes after what she thinks will satisfy her— unmistakable admiration and devotion from a man.  Though she has had many men swooning over her, asking for her hand, "she had not chosen one for a husband."  Esmond, captivated by Beatrix, longs for her, flatters and kneels before her; he has even gone into the military hoping his position would raise him in her eyes.  She has encouraged his attentions, but when Esmond questions Beatrix's flirtation with other men, she is incensed and says: 
    "I shall go my own way, sirrah,...and I don't want you on the way.  You might do if you had an estate....Do you think I'm going to live in a lodging, and turn the mutton at a string whilst your honour nurses the baby?  Fiddlestick.... " 
This is ugly dissatisfaction--not in behalf of wanting a person stronger but in behalf of one's vanity.  Thackeray's prose, however, gives the dreary content real style. 

     Beatrix decides she will marry a distinguished Scottish statesman, His Grace, the Duke of Hamilton.  Esmond is surprised but Beatrix explains why, Mr. Siegel said "[Esmond] hasn't got very far with her.  And," he says, "she is right": 

      "A woman of my spirit, cousin, is to be won by gallantry, and not by sighs and rueful faces.  All the time you are worshipping and singing hymns to me, I know very well I am no goddess, and grow weary of the incense.  So would you have been weary of the goddess too—when she was called Mrs. Esmond, and got out of humour because she had not pin-money, and was forced to go about in an old gown." 
Meanwhile, Beatrix was soon to have married the Duke, but there is a duel and he is slain. 

A Woman's Dissatisfaction in Love Can Be Beautiful 

In his lecture Mr. Siegel said: 

      "If a person doesn't like something, and says, "I am proud of how I don't like this," at that moment his dissatisfaction changes into satisfaction.  To be dissatisfied truly is better than to be satisfied untruly.  So dissatisfaction is an opposite that becomes one with satisfaction when we are proud of our dissatisfaction." 
I think these sentences comment deeply on a speech of Beatrix which Mr. Siegel said is "one of the high points in all English expression."  In it, she describes courageously her dissatisfaction with herself, and as to love, speaks of something many women have done—pretending to be satisfied when they were not.  Beatrix' says to Henry Esmond: 
    'Stay, Harry...'Hear a last word. I do love you, I do admire you—who would not, that has known such love as yours has been for us all?  But I think I have no heart; at least, I have never seen the man that could touch it; and, had I found him, I would have followed him in rags had he been a private soldier, or to sea.... I would do anything for such a man, bear anything for him: but I never found one.  You were ever too much of a slave to win my heart; even my lord Duke could not command it.  I had not been happy had I married him.  I knew that three months after our engagement—and was too vain to break it.  O Harry! I cried once or twice, not for him, but with tears of rage because I could not be sorry for him....I tried to love him; I tried, indeed I did: affected gladness when he came: submitted to hear when he was by me, and tried the wife's part I thought I was to play for the rest of my days.  But half-an-hour of that complaisance wearied me, and what would a lifetime be?  My thoughts were away when he was speaking; and I was thinking, O that this man would drop my hand, and rise up from before my feet!...I knew his great and noble qualities... But 'twas not for these I took him.  I took him to have a great place in the world, and I lost it.  I lost it, and do not deplore him—and I often thought, as I listened to his fond vows and ardent words, O, if I yield to this man, and meet the other, I shall hate him and leave him!" 
I love what Mr. Siegel explained: what Beatrix is looking for, "which," he said "Thackeray doesn't say...but Aesthetic Realism does state: Beatrix wants to be known."  And he continued, "she'll take adoration, and men on their knees...; but deep in her heart she says 'To hell with it.  It's impossible," Mr. Siegel said "to love a person who doesn't know you."  Beatrix' ardent longing stands for what all men and women are hoping for—to know and to be known.  And nothing meets this hope more fully than Aesthetic Realism. 

      I thank Ellen Reiss, the Class Chairman, for questions I was fortunate to hear in an Aesthetic Realism class when Michael Palmer and I first began to go out—encouraging me to know him and to be a good critic of myself.  "What do you want more," she asked "for Michael Palmer to respect himself or for him to show how wonderful you are?" and "Do you think 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?"  To consciously choose knowing over vanity makes for pride and self-respect.  "To be in bliss, with our restless desire for improvement," said Mr. Siegel "is to put the opposites of self-satisfaction and self-questioning together."  In another class not long after we were married, as part of studying what good will is, Ms. Reiss encouraged greater accuracy and self-questioning in how I saw my husband.  I had the tendency wives frequently have, to feel I knew my husband and how he could be better.  Ellen Reiss said: "The matter of seeing something as definite but also wanting not just to say 'Yes I see you, you exist,'  but wanting to see all the subtleties and delicacies of it, do you think this is a question you have in seeing Michael Palmer?"  "Yes," I answered.  And she asked "How are you doing?"  "I could do much better," I said.  And Ms. Reiss explained, "If you are going to have good will it is good to be firm and pointed...but it's also necessary to want to be complete and take in all that a self takes in.  This has to do with interpersonal relations but also historical things."  Later in the class she asked "If we're going to have good will do we have to see something wholly?  Does Lynette Abel have to say "I want to see what Michael Palmer really is wholly, all of him, or "Gee he's my husband and I will be interested in selected parts to try to be kind? "  Will she be able to be kind if she doesn't want to see who Michael Palmer wholly is?" 

      Recently, Michael and I celebrated our wedding anniversary.  To know that with every year I can be deeper about who my husband is, and through knowing him like the whole world more makes me proud.  The knowledge of Aesthetic Realism can enable our dissatisfaction to be beautiful, to be the same as good will "the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful."  I think there is nothing more important for a person and nation to learn. 

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