The Colombus Post
A Daughter and Mother See Each Other Anew
By Ruth Oron
It moves me to tell about the beautiful changes between my mother and me as a result of our study of Aesthetic Realism. Where once there was tension between us, we now have a deep friendship. As you will begin to see through this article, Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, was the best friend families ever had. In his Paradigm "What Aesthetic Realism Asks of a Son or Daughter about Parents," he presents in outline the basis for real kindness and respect between parents and children. In Point #1 he writes:
Just as a child belongs to the whole world and not just to mother and father, so a son or daughter should see parents as belonging to the whole world and not [just] to themselves.
Learning this was a revelation to me. I felt Leah Shazar was MY mother and she should be there for me, but who she was and what relation she had to the world never entered my mind. In an early Aesthetic Realism consultation, I was encouraged to see her feelings were as real as my own, and to consider for the first time: what she felt losing a large part of her family in the Holocaust; how proud she was in being one of the pioneers who came to Palestine in the 30s; her care for her husband, her interest in archaeology. I was asked: "Do you want to understand your mother?" I hadn't. I remembered the good times we had, for instance when I attended her crafts classes, but for the most part, I had felt she didn't have time for me, and I punished her by showing that nothing could please me. I can still see the pained expression on her face as I, with disgust, threw a whole chicken breast into the garbage without even tasting it. While I succeeded in making her angry and worried about me, I felt ashamed and lonely.
I began to learn that my pain came, not from how my mother saw me, but from my own contempt. Eli Siegel defined contempt as "the addition to self through the lessening of something else," and he showed it is the greatest weakener of a person's life. I began to see that there was something I wanted much more -- to be fair to Leah Shazar as part of being fair to all things and people. In Point #4 of the Paradigm, Eli Siegel states:
Good will, which at its beginning is the desire to have a good effect on another living being, is entirely necessary to have for a parent; and good will is a large subject for study, not something we nonchalantly donate.
I am proud to be engaged in this study. In one consultation I was asked:
Do you think you feel very bad because for years you dismissed your mother and you didn't want to see where she had suffered. Now you are being asked to give her full reality. Do you think a novel can be written about Leah Shazar, which will place her among the great characters of thought and fiction? Part of our job is to have you see that a great pleasure can be had in being fair to a mother.
A central means to be fair to a person is to see they have, as Aesthetic Realism explains, the structure of the world in them -- the oneness of opposites. I have written for example, about how humility and pride are in a flower and in my mother. "Like the sunflower, with its tall fibrous stem, brilliant yellow petals and dark mysterious center, Leah is a strong woman with many mysterious thoughts." As I looked at the flower with it's weighty head bowed, I was moved to think of Leah on a summer day proudly working with others to build a road near her home.
I am grateful that Leah Shazar now nearly 90 years old, has had the good fortune to hear questions she has hoped to hear all her life in Aesthetic Realism consultations. As we listened to the tapes of her consultations, I respected her desire to learn new things, and her courage in expressing regret about her children, saying she felt "too hard and rigid." And I learned from the kind, respectful way her consultants wanted to know her and encourage her to see meaning in the world. They asked her:
Consultant: Did you want, when you came to Palestine in 1935, to have a good influence on the world, to have it be a better place? The land was not ready to have things grow on it, it needed your love for it.
Consultant: And in doing this, did you liked the world and yourself more? Bad things can happen later, but it doesn't make less of the good that was done.
Mothers and daughters need to learn the big thing they and every person has in common: "the desire to like the world. " Her consultants explained further:
Consultant: Eli Siegel encouraged people to see one thing in the outside world that we can honestly like and to write it down in one sentence. Seeing something in a new way, Mr. Siegel explained, is to feel refreshed yourself.
Today, though we're six thousand miles apart, we feel closer than ever. I love our phone conversations in which Leah tells me what she likes -- the beauty of clouds moving and changing shape across the blue Israeli sky, a mystery novel. She has said how this strengthens her even as she has concerns about getting older, and is heartsick about the bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians. I am so proud that our relationship today includes not only new kindness between one another, but a fervent desire to have kindness and justice come to all people, and very much the Palestinian people.
Some years ago, I wrote an article about the new love and respect made possible between my father and me. Recently, my mother asked, "When are you going to write about the changes between us?" This article is a beginning joyful answer of her request. It is something I will continue for the rest of my life.
To learn more about Aesthetic Realism, visit www.AestheticRealism.org