Reprinted from:

US-AFRICAN EYE

 

LOVE, POWER, GOOD WILL


By Edward Green


 
A subject that joins Africa and America — in fact, joins the entire world — is love.  And I learned from Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy Eli Siegel founded in 1941, that men and women will never make sense of what they feel about love until they ask this central question: "Do we have good will for each other; and what would that mean?" 

     In The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, the weekly international periodical of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, Eli Siegel explained: 

    Good will can be described as the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful.
And he wrote: 
    [It] is as much a drive as the drive towards food or sex ... [It] is the authentic hope reality can be liked.
     He and Aesthetic Realism taught me that good will is our greatest power: it makes us honestly proud, and no other purpose can. As a man asks: How can I have a good effect on the people and things I meet, including a woman; how can I be a means of another person being stronger? — the self-respect, happiness, and freedom he has are tremendous. "If you are able to have good will," Mr. Siegel said, "you come into your full strength." 
 
Good Will and the Desire to Know

     I learned through my Aesthetic Realism education that in not wanting to see the rich reality of other people's lives, I had stunted my own strength. As a young man at college — a student of music — I thought I was an intellectual. But when friends talked about things that excited them, I usually couldn't listen except to figure out how to out-trump them. And though I told myself I wanted to be kind, and often talked through the night in a dormroom when a friend had a problem troubling him — if, in the end, he didn’t take my advice, I felt insulted. 

     I was very much like the "moody young man" — Ronald Hill — whom Eli Siegel writes of in Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism (Definition Press, NY): 

    He thought himself a profoundly distinguished being whose attitudes had a dimension to them that could not be discerned elsewhere.
     This state of mind — with its feeling of superiority to all other people — is laughable in its conceit. But it is also where all cruelty begins. 

     Last month I wrote in this column about the great Aesthetic Realism explanation of racism — that racism, in all its ugliness, begins quietly with the hope in a person for superiority, which is contempt. Contempt I learned is also the cause of pain in love — because a man and a woman, being different from each other, can want to have victories over each other. 

     And that is what I had done. I had staked my sense of self on what Aesthetic Realism describes for the first time — contempt: the hope to make myself important by lessening meaning outside myself. 

     Like many men, I thought the goal of love was to have a woman, someone near me who would appreciate me and soothe my doubts of myself. I didn't respect the mind of a woman. 

     Instead, I thought the way to be successful was through flattery — through overwhelming her with presents and showing I was desperate to be alone with her. At the same time, I wanted women to feel my insight was indispensable and without it they couldn't manage in life. I listened to women not for the purpose of knowing them better and through them learning about the world, myself, and all people — but to find weaknesses I could triumphantly correct. 

     All this, clearly, was contempt. Contempt, however — and Eli Siegel made it plain — is a man's greatest failure. Reality gave us mind in order to know and see meaning in things and people. And it gave us imagination so we can use our minds honestly to increase meaning, which is what an artist does as he finds possibilities of beauty in the world.  

 
"Good will means wanting a person to be stronger, more organized. Do you really want to be a cause of clearness and strength in her, to have her be proud of how she sees her parents, or do you want to be annoyed?"
 
Ill Will Is Bad Art

     On January 7, 1975, in an Aesthetic Realism class, Mr. Siegel explained to me that the ill will with which I was using my mind in relation to Cynthia Malloy, the woman I said I cared for, was hurting my life — including my ability to do well with my studies of how to compose music. 

     For example, when Cynthia was concerned about her parents and wanted to talk about them in order to understand them better, instead of wanting to see what she felt, I was angry having to think about her in relation to her family at all! I felt I should be the only important person in Cynthia's life, and I wanted her thoughts to revolve around me. Mr. Siegel said: 

    If you want to have a self on the basis, in any way, of other people's weakness, you have succumbed to cheapness. Good will means wanting a person to be stronger, more organized. Do you really want to be a cause of clearness and strength in her, to have her be proud of how she sees her parents, or do you want to be annoyed?
     Mr. Siegel also showed me in this class that art stands for good will: when a composer thinks about a melody he needs to ask — "How will it sound best? What chords can I add to this melody to bring out its strength?" It is what a master drummer asks as he leads his high-life ensemble — "What rhythms should I play now to bring out the power and beauty of the dance?" 

     I learned that this way of seeing was exactly what I did not have with Cynthia. "You should say," Eli Siegel told me, "Cynthia Malloy, you're a note in music, only a little more difficult." And he continued, "Do you think you have some of that woman-diminishing tendency? Remember, it was the weakest thing in Beethoven, his inability to see women well." 

     And he told me with such compassion: 

    While there is anything in this world we don't care for enough, and we don't try to, we are ashamed. There has to be a certain intensity about this matter of good will. Aesthetic Realism sees kindness as the most intellectual thing in the world.
The Education Men and Women Long For

     In Aesthetic Realism classes, and individual consultations — which are given both in person in New York, and by telephone worldwide — men and women are learning about the enemy to love that is in ourselves: the ugly notion that there is more power in getting another person in a tizzy over us than in learning from her, liking it when she has integrity, and hoping she has even more. 

     I am grateful to have learned about a way I lacked good will when —some years ago — I was first coming to know the woman whom I now passionately love, my dear friend and colleague, Aesthetic Realism consultant Carrie Wilson. Then, as now, I was affected deeply by her kindness and knowledge. But when we were first seeing each other, I am sorry to say, I was often irritable because I thought she — inexplicably — wasn't making enough of me in front of other people, showing them how deeply I had impressed her! 

     In a class, Ellen Reiss, who is the Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, said to me: "I think, you feel Carrie Wilson doesn't take you with enough deep disturbance." "Yes," I said, "she hasn't told people how much she respects me." "I think," Ellen Reiss continued with critical humor, "you feel Carrie Wilson is too sensible. She's not in a tumult about what Ed Green thinks of her, and I think you feel it's insulting." When I noted, "it's been four weeks that we've been talking," Ellen Reiss observed: "Four weeks — by this time, you feel, she's had enough time to become idiotic!" This was true. 

     In a later class, she said kindly: "You have gone for wanting to be brilliant and have not felt that steady good will is the greatest brilliance. You should use knowing Carrie Wilson to see it is!" I am very grateful to have heard this. Now, instead of wasting my energy in the useless and enervating hope to have the woman I care for make more of me than of the world itself, I'm having some of the happiest days of my life seeing more and more what it means to have good will! 

     Eli Siegel was completely honest and beautifully kind; and his life's work, Aesthetic Realism, is the happiest news men and women have ever received. It is the philosophy which, at last, truly explains what love is. And so I end my column with a poem by Mr. Siegel which I think is beautiful, and which embodies the way of seeing love men and women in Lagos, London, New York, everywhere, are yearning for: 

 

Love; or, When Good Will Wins  
By Eli Siegel 

To love a person
Is to be willing
To give up your wrong care for yourself
(Which may be seen as true care)  
For good will for that person. 
And so love is clearly 
The most beautiful thing in the world:  
Which everyone, surely,
Knows it is.

 

 

Appeared in the January - February 1999 Issue


Edward Green is a professor at Manhattan School of Music and is on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, which is located at 141 Greene Street, New York, NY. Its telephone is (212) 777-4490; its web site: AestheticRealism.org.   
 
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