Marion Fennell, Aesthetic Realism Associate

“How Should We See the Loss of A Loved One?”

I am a child and grandchild of firefighters, and I know something of the pride and respect their courageous work makes for in others.  My heart goes out to the thousands of families and friends of all the persons who died on September 11th, and I want very much for them to know what I have learned from Aesthetic Realism, the education founded in 1941 by the American poet and critic Eli Siegel.  It is the knowledge—wide, cultural and practical--that can have people make sense of the biggest concerns in their lives.

In over 20 years of study, I have seen this beginning principle of Aesthetic Realism, stated by Mr. Siegel, as true: “The deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.”  Learning what it means to like the world honestly is vital at any time, and very much when someone dear to us has died.

The most important document I know on the subject is an article by Anne Fielding, Aesthetic Realism consultant and actress.  It is about widowhood, and yet every person needs the knowledge in it--husbands, parents, and children.  Ms. Fielding writes:
When my husband, Sheldon Kranz, died, even as I had enormous sorrow, I had the inestimable good fortune to be studying Aesthetic Realism and learning how to use even this to like the world, care for people more truly, value objects more deeply, be a better critic of myself and my dear husband. 

Ms. Fielding teaches with There Are Wives, one of many consultation trios at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation where individual persons learn how to understand themselves and others in relation to the art and culture of the world.  She and her colleagues Barbara Allen and Pauline Meglino also teach the monthly Marriage Class at the Foundation.

When something tragic occurs, people need to know that the world itself has a kind, beautiful structure that makes sense: the aesthetic oneness of opposites  This is what a woman studying in consultations was learning, whom Ms. Fielding calls Geraldine Hale.  Her consultants encouraged her to use her late husband to care more for other people, and for the world itself, as they asked:
“If your husband had goodness in him, didn’t that goodness come from reality, which made him—and is it still in the world?  If he had strength and gentleness, can you find these same opposites in ever so many places?”

This is the knowledge so needed by people now, including in the many support groups that have been formed.  Mrs. Hale began to learn that there is something she can always count on.  They asked:
“Is the table you are leaning on still steady, able to support the weight of your elbow?  Is the cup you are holding in your hand just as delicate and sturdy as when your husband drank from it?” 

She said, “Why, yes, it is.” 

As Mrs. Hale saw many instances of how the world has a structure of opposites, and that these opposites are in her, too, she “felt both lighter and more solid.” 

I can only imagine how difficult is year has been for so many people in our area.  Meanwhile, I am sure that they need to know what Aesthetic Realism shows is the greatest weakener of our lives.  It is contempt: "the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it."  Contempt is ordinary, such as not listening when someone is talking to us.  On a larger scale, it is the cause of all human injustice: racism, wars, and certainly the terrible attacks on America that early September morning.

And at a time of great loss, the world can seem like one’s enemy, and the desire for contempt can be more intense.  Ms. Fielding describes how it can --

“…take the form of a widow’s not wanting to get out of bed, talk to people, or eat.  She can also…be angry at a sunny day, hate it that other people are having a good time, resent women whose spouses are still alive.”

Had I not been studying Aesthetic Realism when my sister, whom I felt very close to, died suddenly in 1985 I would have been utterly devastated, and would have likely felt the world was a cruel, hateful place.  But because I was able to hear kind questions in Aesthetic Realism consultations, I was able to use this tragedy to be a kinder person, which I know my sister would want.  I feel it is crucial for people to hear this question asked by Eli Siegel: 
“Is this true: No matter how much of a case one has against the world—its unkindness, its disorder, its ugliness, its meaninglessness--one has to do all one can to like it, or one will weaken oneself?”

In her article, Anne Fielding explains the practical means to strengthening oneself, as she writes:
“…what we really need at a time of loss is the beautiful, life-giving, mind-strengthening criticism-as-encouragement that only Aesthetic Realism provides—which opposes our contempt and enables a woman, even as she is sorrowful, honestly to like the world.”

To find out more about this exciting education, including about speaking engagements, contact the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation at 141 Greene St., NY, NY, 212-777-4490, 

Marion Fennell works as a secretary in a New York City public high school, and has presented public seminars at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation on issues affecting women, such as love, intelligence, and appearance.

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