Lynette Abel  / Aesthetic Realism & Life


from Ithaca, NY........

MARCH 20, 1999
Ithaca, New York

A Different Take on Spring, Power of Love
by Lynette Abel

"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. 

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, events, everything! 

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 in it." 

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 appealing. 

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 him. 

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: 

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.


 Link to Aesthetic Realism Foundation