Aesthetic Realism in the News
The Debate in Women
between Boredom and Interest
By Marion Fennell
Women anywhere in the world can feel, as I once did: "If only I were prettier," "If only I had a fulfilling job," "If only I could find the right man to love—then I would find life interesting, and really worthwhile!" I learned from the wide, scientific education Aesthetic Realism that more than beauty, the "right" job, or adoration from a man, what every woman wants is to be interested in and to like the world—because that is the one way we will like ourselves.
Eli Siegel, who founded Aesthetic Realism in 1941, explained that it is "every person’s deepest desire...to like the world on an honest, or accurate basis." And Aesthetic Realism teaches that we also have another desire that interferes with liking the world: contempt, which Mr. Siegel defined as "the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self increase as one sees it." It is so important for women to know that the choices we make every day—between having respect for the world or having contempt for it—are behind whether we feel bored, or are interested in people and things in a way that makes life truly thrilling and satisfying!
In his great lecture Mind and Questions, Mr. Siegel explains: "People don't ask, `Why am I not interested? Could I get something out of not being interested? Could it be conceit? If I find Beethoven dull, could I make myself better than Beethoven?...’ The answer is yes."
Growing up, I was interested in learning to read, singing, games. But I used easily gotten praise from my family to feel I was the most interesting thing around. This conceit interfered with my being interested not only in such things as drawing or playing the piano, but in other people. I felt hurt when they weren’t as approving of me as my family. By my early teens I had cultivated a sunny personality in order to charm people, and saw giving thought deeply to anything as dull.
I was in a debate that only Aesthetic Realism explains. In Self and World, Mr. Siegel writes, "We are in a fight between being bored and being aroused. Being bored is a victory for ubiquitous contempt. Interest is on the side of respect as one's bloodstream."
As years went on, the "victory of ubiquitous contempt" nearly ruined my life. In my late 20's, living in New York City and working at a job I liked, I was plagued by boredom and anxiety, felt painfully like a flop at love, and found myself drinking to excess every night—increasingly worried about becoming alcoholic.
Then, I began to study Aesthetic Realism in individual consultations. In my first consultation, my consultants explained why I felt so despairing: "Do you think you feel bad because there's not enough love in you for other things—interest in what other people feel to themselves?"
"I don't know," I answered—"I think I'm interested in people's feelings." "That's what we're disputing, in all politeness," they said. "Do you feel life is rather boring?" "Maybe. I just feel," I answered, "like there's something missing. I feel I should have a cause, like doing volunteer work." My consultants asked, "Do you think you are hoping to find some meaning in this world that will stand up?" "Oh, Yes." "You said you wanted a cause. Do you know what Aesthetic Realism says is the first and permanent and biggest cause of every person? Miss Fennell, your cause is to like the world. One of the results is you like yourself."
This is what I had yearned to hear all my life! It is so contrary to what I had gone by—seeing life as something to "get through," by laughing at the world and other people.
Aesthetic Realism ended my growing fear of becoming an alcoholic. Eli Siegel writes in his definitive essay "Alcoholism; or, You Got to Find the World Interesting": "An alcoholic is a person who hasn't found the world interesting enough, and is doing something about it in his own way." I felt I needed to drink to smooth out the harsh edges of the world, and also that it was the only way to have an interesting, good time when I went out.
Mr. Siegel explains: "The problem of alcoholism...won't be solved until people can see in the ordinary universe a zip, a tingle, a blandishment, a satisfaction they don't find now. We all of us wake in the morning with this request of the world: Please, O world, be interesting."
My request was answered a thousand times over when I met Aesthetic Realism and learned that the world is unlimitedly interesting because it has an aesthetic structure: the oneness of opposites. I began to learn about this through the plastic case which held the audio tape being used to record my consultation. My consultants asked about that case, "Do you find it interesting?" "Well, not really," I answered. And they explained: "The reason it is interesting is because it represents the whole world and is the same and different from ourselves."
Opening the case to show its inside, they asked, "Do you have inside and outside?" "Yes," I said. "The opposites," they continued, "are what makes something interesting: the opposites show that any particular object has the whole world in it. It also has you in it. Is this box a little like you?" "I'm only a little open?" I asked. And they said, "Well, the relation of open and closed [in the tape case] might be better than the way they’re related in you. Are you getting interested?" "Yes!" I said. "You can use things," they told me, "to find out who you are and how you want to be."
The Victory of Interest
That is what I did! As I saw how opposites—inside and outside, strength and flexibility, oneness and manyness—were in people I knew, the clothing I wore, music I cared for—I saw: the world and people are infinitely more interesting that I'd known! For the first time, I thought deeply about my father—what he had hoped for as a young man, and what he must have felt in his dangerous work as a fireman. And through an assignment to write a biographical sketch of my mother, I began to see she had had a whole life before I was born. My life took a beautiful new direction as my interest in the world and people grew—and one tremendous result was I found I didn't need to drink anymore!
I continue to learn as an Aesthetic Realism associate in classes taught by the Chairman of Education, Ellen Reiss. Among the beautiful changes in my life is that I learned what the purpose of love is—to use knowing a man to know and like the world itself. As I came to care for Jeffrey Williams, for the first time I was really interested in a man’s life—in his thoughts and feelings, in his work as a teacher, his family, his hopes for the future....
In my second consultation, I said, pointing to my heart, "I have a big hole in there." But now my heart is filled with large emotions which make me so proud.
And I say to women everywhere: The exciting, happy life you've always hoped for can be yours!
—April 27, 1999
Marion Fennell works in a New York City public high school, and is an Aesthetic Realism associate, studying in classes taught by Chairman of Education Ellen Reiss. She has presented public seminars on issues affecting women, such as love, intelligence, and appearance.
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