The Mobile Beacon
A Father, Seen Newly
By Ruth Oron
In his essay "The Disesteemed Father" Eli Siegel, the founder of the great education Aesthetic Realism, writes:
"It is quite clear that fathers have been disesteemed and are disesteemed today. I believe that the fathers who feel, deep in their individual hearts, that they are seen rightly, would, if numbered, be stunningly few."
When I began to study Aesthetic Realism, I heard that how we see our parents -- the first representatives of the world we meet -- has a large effect on how we see the whole world. I did not think this was true of me, because I grew up in a kibbutz in Israel where children spent only a few hours each day with their parents.
But I learned that the mistake children make is to have contempt for their parents, rather than trying to use them to understand the world, and I saw that I did this. Contempt is defined by Mr. Siegel as the "disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside world." My father, Zalli Shazar, married and settled in Palestine in 1936, and worked with others building the state of Israel. One of my earliest memories is of seeing him in the fields of our kibbutz, Ramat Hashofet, near the Carmel Mountains. He was driving a tractor. He looked so proud and pleased.
But I also saw my father resigned, not wanting to talk to anyone. Then there were times he would get so hotheaded that he had fistfights with people. I had contempt, feeling important thinking less of him; telling myself he was irrational.
One afternoon, when I was eleven, my brother was drawing with a piece of chalk, which I wanted. I grabbed it from him and a fight began. My father tried to break it up. I shouted at him scornfully: "Who do you think you are?! Go to hell!" He was so hurt and infuriated that he hit me in the face and broke my glasses. I ran from the house in tears, but inside I felt I had a victory. I showed the other people in the kibbutz my broken glasses and told them what had happened. Even though this was the only time my father hit me, I never let him forget it. I showed him that he couldn't give me a day's pleasure. "Children these days, as in other days," Mr. Siegel writes, "…can make and do make a father feel he isn't everything."
I did not know then that the thing my father most hoped for was also my, and every person's deepest hope, which Eli Siegel explained: to like the world. In one of my first Aesthetic Realism consultations, my consultants asked me, "Do you want to have good will for your father -- to know what he feels and have him stronger? Do you think your father would like to feel he is a good person?" I answered, "I never thought about that."
For the first time, I began to think of what my father deserved. I also began to realize how much his desire to like the world had been thwarted, even squashed, by his own family. I thought with regret about the times throughout my life when I could have respected my father more but instead hoped to respect him less. One time was when he traveled from town to town gathering votes for the Labor Party, work he was proud of. I remember him talking with excitement about the people of a particular town, and the lovely house in which he stayed. He called it a villa. He invited us to stay with him there the weekend before he was to leave, and I shall never forget how, as my mother, two brothers and I walked into this house, we started tearing it down with sarcastic remarks. How messy and dingy, we said, this "villa" of his was! I remember the look on his face: his feelings of pride and success vanished. He looked like a flower that had suddenly wilted.
As I studied Aesthetic Realism, my contempt for my father was criticized, and I learned the true basis for respecting him. "A parent," Mr. Siegel has explained, "is reality, and that means a mother or a father is an endlessly rich presence of opposites: a parent is a oneness of exultation and uncertainty, high and low, light and dimness." I thought of Zalli Shazar -- how he could at times be so energetically active and efficient, getting things done, and then at other times could sit for hours, seemingly far away in his thoughts. And I was deeply moved to see that these opposites of motion and rest, advancing and retreating, which often puzzled me in him were beautifully one in reality itself -- for instance, the Mediterranean Sea, which I loved. When I went to a summer camp in Tantura on the shore, south of the town of Caesarea, I would look for hours out at this huge body of water, so stirred by the rhythm of the waves, energetically coming toward the shore and quietly drawing out again. Seeing that my father was related to it through the opposites thrilled me. I had more feeling both for him and for the Mediterranean Sea.
Soon after I began my study of Aesthetic Realism, my parents came from Israel. During the visit something remarkable happened. We were walking down the street together, and I suddenly realized that for the first time in my life I felt comfortable being with my father. I was listening to what he was saying and felt it was important.
Aesthetic Realism changed my life beautifully, made it happy and enabled me to have a good effect on my father, which once seemed impossible. It is Eli Siegel who has explained the tremendous danger of contempt. It makes for pain in domestic life -- and it also is, he showed, the cause of war. The study of Aesthetic Realism is urgently needed because it teaches how to see people, both near and far away, in a way that makes for pride. Learning to have good will for people beginning with Zalli Shazar made it possible for me to have a passion about justice coming to the Palestinian people, persons I regret I once hated and feared. It meant a lot to me that my father, who died not too long after I wrote this, had a chance to read it and was so glad that the beautiful effect of Aesthetic Realism on both of us could be useful to others. I am deeply grateful to Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism for enabling me to love and respect my father, and for understanding what fathers and daughters are hoping for all over the world.
This article has been published in many newspapers across the country.