Our self is asthetic
Our Selves Are Aesthetic!
By Ruth Oron
Important news for every person is in what I learned from Aesthetic Realism, the education founded by Eli Siegel. It is described by the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, Ellen Reiss:
The consciousness Aesthetic Realism brings to humanity is in this principle stated by Eli Siegel: "All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves." We can know at last that our selves are aesthetic: we are, every moment — in our domestic life, our work, our thoughts to ourselves, our bewilderment — trying to put reality’s opposites together, trying to be like art.
I tell here what I am learning about my own life from a painting by Monet in relation to questions I was asked in Aesthetic Realism consultations.
In consultations a person comes to see their life thrillingly as a work of art in process and learns that the one way to be just to people, things, ourselves, is to have the respect an artist does as he looks at an object. The art purpose, I have learned, is completely against the greatest cause of pain in people’s lives, which Aesthetic Realism explains is contempt, "the addition to self through the lessening of something else."
When I first saw Claude Monet’s "Autumn Effect at Argenteuil," I was swept by its shimmering delicacy and power.
Claude Monet: Autumn Effect at Argenteuil
As I studied it, and read what Eli Siegel has said about Monet, I learned how deeply he makes a one of opposites people, including myself, have been troubled by — sureness and unsureness, the vague and the definite. In a radio interview of 1963 Eli Siegel said:
Monet made the vague, the uncertain, the trembling triumphant. We have a tendency to give edges and tidiness to reality when, it could be felt, reality says: "I am not that tidy, and I don’t have those glaring edges." So, Monet wanted to see what happened at noon, and what happened at twilight....
Before I met Aesthetic Realism, I did not give the attention to things they deserved — I made them hazy, distant. Yet, I also asserted my opinions, fought with people over them, while the subject got lost in heated arguments and I felt tremendously unsure of myself. I gave things "glaring edges," as Mr. Siegel put it, and also obliterated them in a haze.
My life began anew when I began having Aesthetic Realism consultations. In one consultation I was asked: "Miss Oron, what do you think is your worst character trait?" "Vagueness," I said. And they said: "Yes, you have vagueness, but what is the opposite of vagueness? Do you think you’re also a manager?" I answered, "Yes, very much." My consultants explained:
Eli Siegel showed in lessons as he spoke to people, the relationship between managing, manipulating and confusion. Do you think that one, because you’re confused you can manage, and two, your managing can make you confused?
I saw I wanted to manage without being affected by what things are, which is contempt. And this was the very thing that made me painfully unsure of myself and lonely.
In "Autumn Effect at Argenteuil" of 1873, Monet shows reality as a beautiful oneness of the vague and the definite. The whole painting seems to be in a state of lovely tremulous motion as the daubs of paint — the dazzling bright golds and greens of the trees, the pinks and blues of the sky, the white clouds, and the buildings — blend and mingle with each other and you can hardly see where the trees end and their reflections begin. Yet in all this vagueness there is a definite structure.
Look at the buildings and their reflection in the water. The reflection of the white of the buildings becomes vague, more uncertain, in the rippling water, yet these reflections extend the buildings into four vertical lines which help to anchor this wide horizontal composition. The clouds above, so freely painted, have the same colors as the buildings. The spire of the church is definite, yet its point seems to melt into the sky. Monet, Mr. Siegel explained "was looking to have gravity shimmer...."
As a person who liked to "keep my edges tidy," I was surprised by these questions which I heard in a consultation:
Do you think that there is a constant fear in people that if they let the world affect them too much their selves would vanish? Do you think you could feel surer of yourself if you really feel there is no limit to how much you want to think about the depths of other things?
How much Monet wanted to think about "the depths of other things" can be seen in this quote from the book, Monet, A Retrospective, edited by Charles F. Stuckey:
A leaf, a small pebble, a ray of light, a clump of grass stop me for an infinite length of time; and I study them eagerly....I savor a mysterious, delightful joy as I separate their imperceptible tones and their elusive reflections. And I realize that I had never really looked at anything. Ever. That’s all to the good.....Sometimes I stop, stunned suddenly to discover dazzling things the existence of which I never suspected.
Because Monet wanted to think about "the depths of other things," to see their meaning, see how light affected and changed things, he was able to see the essence of a tree, a river, a cloud; to see that each is the oneness of reality’s opposites, of the vague and the clear, the certain and uncertain.
Aesthetic Realism in teaching that art answers the questions of our lives, gives every person a new dignity — a true beauty. It has made possible, in my life, feeling I never thought I’d be able to have — a pride and happiness that I treasure.