Lynette Abel  / Aesthetic Realism & Life


    Aesthetic Realism seminar:
    In Trying to Be Important, What Mistakes
    Do People Make?
    by Lynette Abel 
      At 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.

Trying to Be Important: Early Mistakes

In issue 1211 of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Ellen Reiss writes:

    "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."
     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. 

     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 without doors.

     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:

    "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." 
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:
"The chief 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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