National Jewish News
The Mideast Crisis Will End When Aesthetic Realism Is Studied
By Ruth Oron
As an Israeli woman I am heartsick and outraged by the recent tragic deaths of my countrymen and of Palestinians in the fighting that took place after the opening of the archeological tunnel in old Jerusalem. It is wrong to blame this bloodshed on the Palestinians when our government, since coming to power, has shown a great reluctance to talk to the Palestinians, much less to implement the Oslo Peace Accord. Instead, under the policy of "peace with security" there has been a building of more houses in the settlements, bombing of buildings in Old Jerusalem and there has been no re-deploying of Israeli forces from Hebron.
I passionately want the people of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to know that there is a beautiful answer. It is in the study of Aesthetic Realism, the education founded by Eli Siegel, the great American philosopher and historian, and taught in New York City. As a deeply concerned witness to the agony in my country for many years, I am convinced that both Israelis and Palestinians must study good will and contempt as only Aesthetic Realism explains them.
Contempt is the feeling in every person that we are more important as we make less, feel superior to people and things. And good will is "the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful." I am so grateful to be learning that good will is tough; it is the one thing powerful enough to defeat contempt. Until contempt is criticized and good will is studied and tested, no matter how many agreements are signed, people will never trust one another and brutality will continue. In the international journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known titled "Truth or Contempt: The Fight", Ellen Reiss, the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism writes:
- Aesthetic Realism shows that the big fight in the life of everyone is the fight between truth--the desire to be fair to this world, to care for it with rich authenticity--and contempt, the feeling that reality is not something we need to see fairly but is material to manipulate and lie about for our own comfort and aggrandizement. Mr. Siegel defined contempt as "the addition to self through the lessening of something else," and called it "the greatest danger or temptation of man."...It has long been felt that the ... polic[ies] of nations have been based on something other than truth: again and again over this earth an army has marched to battle because persons running a nation felt a war would benefit themselves--and so they conveniently created "facts" to show the national interests were in danger and must be protected. And while citizens can seem to go along and even applaud such choices, they have a deep disgust, anger and shame about them.
In order to care for truth, I am so grateful to be learning, there must be the desire to have good will, see the feelings of other people as real, including people we see as our enemy, and this begins with the desire to know them. It is in the honest asking and answering of this urgent question stated by Eli Siegel: "What does a person deserve by being a person?" I have seen that it is either this kind, ethical way of seeing we are after or it is contempt. In an historic issue of The Right Of, titled "What Caused The Wars," Eli Siegel explained:
- It is necessary to see that while the contempt which is in every one of us may make ordinary life more painful than it should be, this contempt is also the main cause of wars .... It was contempt which made for that awful mode of retaliation called Nazism. Contempt has made Christians and Mohammedans fight daily, or want to fight daily, in Lebanon. Contempt causes terror in the Middle East .... In the unconscious,... it is the other person who will have accomplished contempt for you unless you have first contempt for him.
Aesthetic Realism is so important because while it teaches the horrible results ordinary contempt makes for, it also enables people to have a completely different way of seeing people.
Ihave seen that the first step necessary for trust between people is in doing this Aesthetic Realism assignment given by Ellen Reiss, an assignment which embodies good will: to "write a soliloquy of 500 words, as deeply as [you] can, describing the feelings of a possible person in an opposing nation."
It is necessary to say that this assignment has been known to Israeli leaders since 1988, including Mr. Shimon Peres, then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. It was included in a tremendously important letter, which was acknowledged by him, that I along with other Israeli students of Aesthetic Realism sent to many members of the Knesset. In this letter we urged our leaders--in order for there to be peace in our dear land--to begin their respectful study of Aesthetic Realism by writing this assignment. Now, over eight years later, despite the world-wide effort on behalf of peace in the Middle East, we are in the midst of yet another crisis in which so many more lives have been lost.
Aesthetic Realism is the knowledge that explains and can end war! And I say this with tremendous gratitude because I experienced in my own life a powerful change of heart after writing this assignment. As I tried to understand a person whom I wanted to feel was only different from me, a Palestinian mother, I saw in a way I never imagined possible that her hopes and fears were like my own. As soon as I saw one individual person as real I no longer wanted injury to come to other Palestinian mothers and their children.
In The New York Times, of September 28, I saw two photographs that had me see freshly, and with greater keenness the importance of this assignment. One was of a grieving mother of a Palestinian police officer, Ahmad Tarifi, who was killed in Ramallah, and the other right under it, was a photograph of a young Israeli woman, mourning her brother, Avi, 23, an Israeli Army captain who was killed in fighting with Palestinians. In trying to get within the feelings of another person you inevitably see what these photographs make tearfully clear--there is more sameness than difference between the feelings of these two women representing warring peoples. The depth of pain, despair and loss is equally real, equally important.
One reason I love Eli Siegel so much is because he had great respect for all people, and in the study of Aesthetic Realism people learn to have it too. I will never forget the tremendous surprise and great emotion I had when in an Aesthetic Realism class I heard a tape recording of a lecture Eli Siegel gave on the Koran. I heard him explain that what the Arab people are looking for in reading the Koran, and what the Jewish people are looking for in reading the Old Testament--is essentially the same: We both are hoping to feel that through God, the world is for us. I regret so much the contemptuous way I once saw the Palestinians. Though I knew nothing of Arabic history, its rich culture, which goes back thousands of years, and I hardly knew any individual Palestinian persons, I saw them so unjustly as less human than we were, as people who only wanted to destroy Israel. It never occurred to me that they could feel something like that about us, let alone that, as Mr. Siegel described, we each had deeply the same hopes as expressed by our religions. The happiness and pride of my life has been learning from Aesthetic Realism how to see people, including the Palestinian people, in a way I can respect myself for.
Meanwhile, Aesthetic Realism, the powerful knowledge which can make peace a reality around the world, has been kept from people by a cruel press boycott, because members of the press have resented their tremendous respect for Eli Siegel and his thought. But Eli Siegel’s complete fidelity to truth, his integrity and honesty, which are embodied in Aesthetic Realism is here, ready to meet a yearning world. It is magnificently just to the most intimate feelings of every person as well as the greatest, most urgent international matters.
For more about Aesthetic Realism visit www.AestheticRealism.org; or call 212-777-4490.