age 22 I was a senior at Florida State University, yet instead of feeling
a sense of accomplishment, I felt anything but. My attitude to college
had been that the more men I knew who seemed captivated by me, the more
important and successful I'd feel. Tom, a man I had been dating for
four months, had told me I meant more to him than any person in his life.
I acted liked I cared for him, but inside I felt scornful and cold, and
as I left school, and the plane's wheels lifted off the runway of Tallahassee
Airport, I told him in my mind "I will never see you again!" I had
gotten a lot of attention from men, but I did not like myself--these had
been the most painful years of my life. A few months later
I began to study Aesthetic
Realism and to my tremendous relief I learned that my deepest desire
is to like the world, to see people with the depth and value they deserve.
In my second consultation I was asked this crucial question: "Are you going
to [be happy] because you have a lot of men interested in you...or because
you see [the world] in a way that is honest, beautiful and just?"
I began to understand the beginning mistake I had made with men.
I had used them to "get a false importance or glory from the lessening
of things not [my]self," which is contempt.
to Be Important, What Mistakes
to Be Important: Early Mistakes
In issue 1211 of The
Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Ellen
How much I needed to know this growing up in Virginia. Like girls
everywhere--I went after these two opposing kinds of importance.
For example, I loved singing in my high school chorus. As I learned
my individual part, the soprano, and my voice joined with the alto, tenor
and bass voices as we sang the Hallelujah chorus, from George Frideric
Handel's great oratorio, the Messiah, I felt proud. Every time
we performed it, I felt big, important, working together with others, trying
to be fair to the notes, the words, the intention of the composer.
Though I didn't know it then, I felt truly important because I was being
affected by the oneness
of opposites in reality: one and many, high and low, freedom and exactitude--opposites
I wanted to put together in myself.
"We will either
go after importance through contempt--through trying to own, manipulate,
and be superior to what is not ourselves--or we will feel we are important
because we are related to everything that exists, because the structure
of the whole world is in us, and because our very self is magnificently
demanding we be fair to that world."
But I also went after importance through contempt. I liked thinking
I was better than other people, that my family was superior, more cultivated--we
had a grand piano, and a Hammond organ, and my parents were both singers,
which I thought made me through association more cultured than others.
And we had an 11-1/2 ft. sailboat, which I used to feel superior to other
young people who didn't have one--also people with those crass things,
motorboats. I felt I would be impressive based on who I was related
to, and what I owned. I had very little feeling for people who were
not economically so well off. In fact, I remember--to my tremendous
shame--feeling I was affronted each time my family had to drive through
impoverished areas where fellow human beings literally lived in shacks
Another mistake I made trying to be important was coming to feel it was
smart not to be too excited by anything, that I was more refined than other
people who vulgarly showed enthusiasm. I remember once sitting stone-faced
in a movie theater while everyone around me was excited, and thinking scornfully
"What's the big deal? It will take more than this to get a rise out
of me," and thinking I was so cool. One way of being important unconsciously,
Mr. Siegel explains in "Mind and Importance," "is by showing no feeling,
maintaining a poker face, going about as if you were a sociological desert
with no rain;" That described me! And this became more and
more my way of meeting everything, new subjects in school, and people.
While I often felt agitated inside, I tried to appear calm and placid on
the outside. In highschool, though I was a cheerleader, I was afraid
of people; and when, for instance, I was introduced to someone, I found
it exceedingly hard to know what to say. I just thought I was terribly
shy. Meanwhile, I wanted to make a big impression on boys and men,
whom I saw essentially as material to make me important.
An incident that seems like a small thing, but which bothered me for years,
was the following: Once on a date, the man I was with asked me if the necklace
I was wearing had any particular meaning. It was a black-enameled
quarter moon-shaped pendant on a gold chain. Wanting to impress him
with clever repartee, I said, "What, this? It casts away evil spirits."
Just at that moment, I knocked over my glass, and the soda spilled out
on everything. I was mortified. Years later I understood why
I felt so bad about that occurrence--it represented a purpose I had had
with men as such. In a class Eli
Siegel asked me, "Do you feel men deserve your honesty?" No,
I hadn't. "When you are with a man" he continued, "is your purpose
to show how smart you are, to be crafty, or to get to your feelings more,
to show what you feel?" "To be crafty," I said. In college
while I wrote letters every day to my boyfriend John, who was stationed
overseas, I didn't want to miss any other opportunities and I began dating
Tom. I stayed part of the time with him off-campus and part of the
time at my dorm. I saw myself as a woman of the world and I thought
my roommates envied me, and saw it as a privilege to do me favors as I
would fly in to the dorm to change my clothes or borrow something.
In his lecture "Mind and Importance," Mr. Siegel describes the kind of
importance I went after. He said:
Seeing people in this contemptuous
way has a big kickback. As months went on, I felt like a fraud and
was nervous all the time; each day I saw as an effort just to get through.
In an Aesthetic Realism lesson I had some years later, Mr. Siegel explained:
"To be selfish
in the bad sense means that you are important at the expense of other people's
importance: you are the only important thing in sight and you are going
to get your importance even if other people are made unimportant."
reason that we don't like ourselves is that we don't want to like people
for a true reason....I think that you have two purposes with people--One,
to wash your hands of them, be able to get rid of them as soon as possible,
and the other is to care for them more as time goes on."
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