Dear Unknown Friends:
Here is part 3 of the beautiful, amazing Poetry and Logic, by Eli Siegel. As I have described in the last two issues, this 1949 lecture answers an agony of people, because it shows that two tremendous aspects of the self which people see as inevitably divided — our emotion and our logic — can be one.
In a central principle of Aesthetic Realism, Mr. Siegel explains: "All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves." Logic and emotion are opposites, and the pained taking for granted that they can't go together is in phrases people are using to themselves and others right now: "Why can't I stop being emotional about this, and start being logical?!"; "I've got to think with my head, not with my heart!"
Reasoning, logic have seemed perhaps necessary, but severe and flat — not warm, stirring, delightful. And the sweep of emotion has seemed not to have reason or intellect with it. To feel you have to sacrifice one for the other, or have emotion at one time and logic at another, is to feel the world is fundamentally ugly, and that oneself is too. Poetry is emotion at its deepest, and in this lecture, Mr. Siegel shows that poetry always is logical! The first instances he uses are poems from Mother Goose; and we see logic as not just strict, but charming, musical. In Aesthetic Realism itself, he has enabled people, enabled me, to know that authentic logic, reason, intellect are always warm and can be passionate; and that emotion when true, including the most fervent, is completely logical. I love him for this; and there is nothing I hold more personally precious than the fact that because of Aesthetic Realism, great feeling and intellect are together in my life. Mr. Siegel himself was the most logical person I know of in the history of thought, the most intelligent — and the warmest, the person with the largest, kindest feeling.
Logic concerns every aspect of life, including economics. And I comment now on something currently taking place in America which is historic. It is the seeing by persons of a certain crucial logic about economics which they hadn't seen before. This seeing is going on in relation to what has been called "the energy crisis" in California.
There Are Logic and History
So I present something of the California situation. With the private production of gas and electricity deregulated, energy producers there have raised their prices 800-900%, according to the LA Times (28 Dec. 2000). In turn, the private utilities that buy power from those producers and distribute it — Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric — have treated California consumers to rolling blackouts and huge rate hikes. Meanwhile, the state itself has been using public funds, the citizens' money, to keep these private businesses going. Writes the LA Times: California is "paying more than $50 million a day out of general tax revenue to buy wholesale power for the utility companies" (29 Mar. 2001).
There is hardship in California. Some people have had to choose between heating their homes and buying food. Many restaurants, laundries, hair salons, other small businesses that depend on gas and electricity, cannot afford to operate. Newsday (29 Mar.) writes of a representative man, 79 years old: "In 15 years in San Francisco, the largest gas and electric bill [he had] ever received was $60. In February, his bill was $304." He told Newsday's reporter: "What is a person on a fixed income supposed to do? Stop living?" Then, on March 27, California's Utilities Commission approved a further rate hike for SCE and PG&E to impose on consumers: as much as 46% over the 10% that has already caused such suffering. It is amid these circumstances, with Californians pained, indignant, furious, that a certain logic is emerging for people — or at least a large phase of that logic.
To Whom Does It Belong?
That is what many men and women are now seeing in California in relation to electricity and gas. Millions of Californians, in their thoughts to themselves and also in conversations, have been talking this way — and the logic has terrific feeling with it: Why should I have to pay so much, more than I can afford, to use my refrigerator, heat my home, wash my clothes? Why should some people be making profit from that? They shouldn't. It's wrong! The state shouldn't be paying out $50 million a day of public funds, our hard earned dollars, so some private people can make big money out of the gas and electricity we all need so much!
This is the logic I have been speaking about, which is becoming clearer to people. And what occurrences in California are showing is: this logic has nothing to do with various notions of left or right — it's just good American logic, old as the Mayflower.
In the section published here from Poetry and Logic, the logic Mr. Siegel speaks about first is the equivalence between what a thing is and what it needs in order to be. That equivalence is aesthetic: it is difference become sameness. Gas and electricity are so clearly things that come from the earth itself; they are different from us, from the person using electricity in her computer (as I am right now), different from the person using gas in a stove to cook a meal — yet we need them. What we need from reality, from the earth, in order to live and be ourselves is the same as what we deeply are; therefore, it is rightly ours. The effort to obscure that fact has brought much agony to humanity.
Like monarchy, slavery, child labor, Aryan supremacy — the idea that some persons should make profit from that which all people need to live, arises from contempt. And it too has been presented in such a way that people assumed it was logical when it has always been falsity and theft. In the year 2001, the falsity is being seen by many people in California. A certain authentic logic is in motion in California: it represents America; it represents all of us. And I am moved to honor it through the title Eli Siegel gave to his second book of poetry: I say with him, "Hail, American Development"!
Poetic Studies in Logic
By Eli Siegel
Take a little known bit from Mother Goose, "In a Cottage in Fife," as a study in logic. This is the logic of complete equivalence: A equals A, and without what A is there can't be A. That is, a chair can't exist without those things which make a chair. To wit, a chair can't exist without the presence of legs, a seat, a back. So this is a study in basic logic, the logical equivalence or nonequivalence of things:
A Is Also Not-A
Goldsmith and Logical Equivalence
Aesthetic Realism is based on these principles, stated by Eli Siegel:
1. The deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.
2. The greatest danger for a person is to have contempt for the world and what is in it .... Contempt can be defined as the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.
3. All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.
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