On the second day of the new century, my father, David Blaustein died.
It is hard to express in words the feelings I had as the family drove to
the cemetery on that cloudy Tuesday morning for his funeral. I had a sense
of great loss which took in the painful realization that I would never
see him again, and yet—and this is why I am writing this article—I also
felt tremendous gratitude for the true friendship we came to have in these
This deep care that meant so much to both of us was made possible through
my study of Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel--the important educator.
I shudder to think of the anger, resentment, and shame I would now be feeling
had I not been so fortunate to learn what I tell of now. I know with every
cell of my body that the change between us can give hope to every father
and son, and what’s more, to every family member in towns and cities across
Eli Siegel explained the deepest desire of every person: It is to
know and like the world. And, every minute of our lives, he showed
too, we are making a choice between liking things and people, wanting to
know and see meaning in them, or having contempt. Mr. Siegel defined contempt
as the "disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by
making less of the outside world."
Like many sons, I exploited the difficulties I saw my parents have.
Instead of trying to understand what my father felt—why, for instance,
he could be the life of the party, and then become gloomy, not talking
to anyone—I cursed God for giving me a confusing, undependable father.
I remember very early feeling strong by having revenge on him. Often, when
he tried to talk to me about friends, school, or Little League, I became
stony, bent on making him feel he was a failure.
Aesthetic Realism teaches that a child comes to a way of seeing the
whole world beginning with how he sees his parents. I used the criticisms
I had of my father to see the world as messed up and confusing. I felt
angry most of the time, including with David Blaustein.
"A parent," Eli Siegel writes, "is the first chance to make sense of
the world, and if we use a parent for...contempt...we are off to a bad
start in seeing the world."
Once, when I heard my parents quarrel because there was not enough money
to pay the mortgage, I triumphantly smashed my glass piggy bank into pieces,
placed the money in my mother’s hand and said, "Mommy, it’s all I have,
but I hope this will get you out of the mess he got us into!" David Blaustein
was devastated. He looked at me and said, "Why do you hate me so much?"
Momentarily, I felt like a hero; but right after I felt cheap and cruel.