Take on Spring, Power of Love
"In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns
to thoughts of love," wrote the English poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson. Yet
as spring begins, that sought-after, hoped-for thing, love, is still a
cause of much confusion and pain to men and women everywhere.
by Lynette Abel
I thank Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism,
the education he founded in 1941, for teaching me the purpose of love:
to know and like the world. It means you see the person you care for as
a beginning point for knowing and being just to other people, books, ideas,
Having this purpose, I know from my own happy
life, makes love -- the passionate, kind, real thing -- possible!
Aesthetic Realism describes that everyone
has two desires which fight, and affect every aspect of our lives, including
love: the desire to respect the world, see meaning in it, and the desire
to have contempt, to get a "false importance or glory from the lessening
of things not [one]self."
Learning this in Aesthetic Realism classes
I attended with Eli Siegel changed my life.
By the time I was 18 and graduated from high
school, like many young women, I had come to feel the one thing that would
make me happy was to get as much approval from men as possible. I didn't
think justice had anything to do with love: it was a field in which you
had to be strategic and maneuver to have your way.
Once when my girlfriend and I doubled-dated,
I felt powerful when I saw that my flirtation with her date was reciprocated.
The ill-at-ease feeling and insecurity I often
felt seemed to melt away through flirting with a man and I deceived myself
for some time, conceitedly thinking "I'm just fine the way I am."
I went after what Mr. Siegel described in
an Aesthetic Realism lesson: "Flirting is a pleasure that one gets by showing
to oneself the other person is interested in one. You want the other person
to be interested, and you yourself less [interested].
It is a way of establishing a personality
that doesn't work. The thing that makes flirting bad is it has ill will
I liked the effect I could have on a man through
flirting, while being little affected myself. But I soon had the pervasive,
empty feeling that my life was a failure.
When I entered Florida State University, though
I hoped that in taking English literature, American history, and sociology
I would be a wider person, I was consumed with a desire for praise and
power over men.
Soon I began to date someone and basked in
the feeling that he adored me while I strategically kept him guessing,
contemptuously thinking I was just biding time until I met someone more
I scornfully felt, "All's fair in love and
war," a phrase I often used to justify myself. It didn't occur to me that
I owed anything to the men I knew. But as I went for victories of this
kind, I felt despairing, and worried whether I was capable of loving anyone.
In an Aesthetic Realism class several years
later, Mr. Siegel spoke to me about how I saw men and love.
He asked me one of the kindest questions a
woman can hear: "Do you feel men deserve your honesty? When you are with
a man, do you use him to be crafty, or to get to your feelings more, to
show what you feel?" When I answered, "to be crafty," he explained,
"Unless you feel convinced that kindness and good will are good sense,
you're not going to feel the way you want."
Mr. Siegel has defined good will as "the desire
to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes
oneself stronger and more beautiful."
In another class, at a time when I was distressed
about a man, he asked "Do you think understanding is work and you don't
think you should do too much of it?" "Yes, I have felt that," I answered.
He said, "On the subject of what's going to
make you happy, you and I disagree. If you don't want to understand the
man you know you will never be happy. If your desire for pleasure from
the world runs ahead of your desire to understand it there'll be disaster.
I believe understanding is already equivalent to the beginning of happiness."
I'm glad to be seeing how true that is, including
in my marriage to my husband, whom I love and respect. It means so
much to me that when I began to see him, instead of thinking about how
to impress and dazzle him, I wanted to be honest, to know and to strengthen
Aesthetic Realism stands for the justice that
people deserve to know.
To learn more, including about dramatic presentations,
classes, speaking engagements, and consultations by telephone, you may
contact the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation, 141 Greene St.,
New York, NY 10012, (212) 777-4490, or visit the website: www.AestheticRealism.org.
Abel is a freelance writer and native of
Syracuse. She lives now in New York City, and with her husband is studying
to teach Aesthetic Realism.