Marion Fennell, Aesthetic Realism Associate
|What we should be most passionate about, including in
love, is fairness to the world and the people in it. In my first
Aesthetic Realism consultation
I was asked what I had cared for most in a steady way. I said "I
guess music and singing." My answer was limp because even this I
was not constant about, and I was ashamed of my debilitating stage fright.
I saw, too, in a shrugging way my work at the time as an assistant designer
in the fashion industry. I once told my boss that I was worried about
not being "on fire" about design, and she said, "Don't worry. It'll
come." It never did.
My life changed quite deeply and happily when I began to study what Eli Siegel is the educator to explain: that there is a constant fight in every person between our deepest desire--to like the world which made us--and the desire to have contempt for it: the feeling we will take care of ourselves by making less of other people and things. In Aesthetic Realism consultations I was encouraged to like the world honestly, and my desire for contempt was criticized. Today I have big emotions for what people deserve which make me proud--jobs, homes, and health-care; and as a secretary for a public high school, I am passionate about young people getting the education they need.
Growing up in Yonkers, NY, the fight between having respect for the world or contempt for it was in me. I was excited about learning in school, and liked drawing and swimming. But I also came to feel pretty early it was smarter to be cool, not to show I cared for anything very much. This, I later learned, was the victory of contempt--and often took the form of my feeling like a hurt princess, superior to the world and people who didn't appreciate me.
An attitude to the world itself, Aesthetic Realism teaches, is come to early through how we see people in the family, and this attitude affects everything we do, including how we see love. I learned that I came to an ideal of love through how I got quick approval from two men in my family. My father made me feel very special, calling me his little "Cookie," and younger brother, Kevin, also acted devoted. I didn't feel I had to think deeply about either of them, or care much about what they felt inside. I later brought this attitude to my relationships with men: hoping to be adored as a consolation from a world I saw as harsh and dull.
Tonight I will speak about how a mistaken notion of love, which can be intense, seemingly passionate in a woman: to feel hurt by the world, and to pine bitterly for a man to the exclusion of everything else. This is not the same as true grief, which is felt so much now in our area since September 11th; even though this, too, can be misused in a hurtful way. In this paper I speak about the end of a relationship where one person moves on, but the other is unable to get over the “heartbreak” they feel.
What Love Is, and What It Isn't
In "Love and Reality," a chapter from his book
and World, Mr. Siegel writes:
In an early consultation, I spoke about a man I hadn't seen since we broke-up eight years before, John Templeton. I said he was the man I had cared for most, that I was still "upset" that our relationship ended, and that I hadn't forgiven him for losing interest in me and "disappointing me like that." The hurt feelings I had cultivated for years began to change as my consultants so kindly wanted to know my feelings, and asked me questions such as "Did John Templeton miss anything in you?" "How much did you want to know him?" One question that surprised me was: "Do you think he was afraid of you in any way?" I answered that I didn't think so, and they continued: "Do you think you gave Mr. Templeton the message `I am a very sweet girl who wants to get far away from the world, so you should be nice to me, and come with me.'" I began to see that the desire to know was severely lacking in me--I was shamefully uninterested in how Mr. Templeton saw his friends, family, and his work, and also in something that would affect his whole life: his army experience in Vietnam.
While I was opposed to the war in Vietnam, I was not passionately against it; preferring to be coolly disgusted with people for allowing it to happen. And though I was moved by photographs of the suffering of the Vietnamese people, like so many other Americans, I am sorry to say I distanced myself from their pain and terror, and I did not see them as flesh and blood human beings with feelings as deep as mine.
Not having large emotion about justice to the world also
made me cold to Mr. Templeton's feelings; being more interested in what
I felt I deserved from him, than in what he felt, for instance, as part
of a helicopter unit evacuating wounded soldiers, or the shock of seeing
a bunkmate accidentally die after discharging his gun. I regret so
much the appalling way I never asked him one question about what he felt.
"According to Aesthetic Realism," my consultants said,
This is not how I thought! No one I knew, nor anything I ever read, encouraged this kind of thought about a man. The dignity and grandeur of emotion that a woman can feel as she wants to have good will for a man, and use her thought about him to care more for all people, can finally be learned! I’m glad to be learning what it means to have good will for my husband, Jeffrey Williams, whom I love very much. Jeffrey also studies Aesthetic Realism, and as I learn about the world from him, and want to know his thoughts and feelings—including about his work as a teacher--I am having some of the happiest, most romantic times of my life.
When I told my consultants how devastated I had felt when a relationship ended, spending many nights sitting alone, drinking too much, and tearfully singing along with songs such as Linda Rondstadt's “I Think I'm Gonna Love You (For a Long, Long Time)", they asked me a question every woman should be able to hear, and which liberated me: was there anything in me that enjoyed feeling devastated? I saw that there was.
One of the books I read as I continued my study of Aesthetic
Realism was Charles Dickens' important novel Great Expectations.
I loved reading it, and I was very much affected by a woman Dickens describes
so powerfully. She is Miss Haversham--living in a house laid to waste,
whom has stopped the clocks, shut out the sun, and still wears the bridal
gown she first wore many years earlier for a wedding that never took place.
When the young boy, Pip, first meets her, Dickens writes that she says:
Charles Dickens gives critical, humorous form to one of the most hurtful things in a woman which they do not see: the tremendous pleasure there is in feeling hurt, and the coldness and meanness this can make for. Eli Siegel courageously explains the motive behind it in TRO #675:
"Dismal glory" so accurately describes what was working in me. My consultants, with beautifully critical compassion countered this in me as they asked:
My contempt certainly was hurting me as I couldn't have large emotion even when I wanted to. It made me cold when a girlfriend, for example, had trouble in love, and I had the attitude of "See how men are? What can you expect?" All the time women waste in agony and fury about love could be so usefully spent studying questions like those I heard in consultations, such as "What were you more interested in - how he saw truth, or how he saw you?"
of Seeing the World
The drive in women to be bitter or pine for lost love has been written about throughout history, and I wouldn't be surprised if the phrase "carrying a torch for a man" dates back to when people lived in caves. It is also very contemporary. But because, for decades, the major press organizations have boycotted Aesthetic Realism, people who are in pain about love are left to search for answers from so-called authorities, such as in the book titled Letting Go, written by Dr. Zev Wanderer and Tracy Cabot. Described as "A 12-Week Personal Action Program to Overcome a Broken Heart," their techniques range from getting "at least four warm, cuddly bearlike hugs" a week, to a behavioral technique for turning thoughts about the person you miss into a source of nausea.
I briefly describe now two aspects of this program.
One method is to change sadness (the source of which is not questioned
here) into what is called "healthy anger" by compiling a "Crime Sheet"
-- index cards on which you keep "a detailed list of the specific things
your ex did wrong." A woefully inaccurate way of seeing the human
self is evident as the authors write:
This is sheer contempt. It is also dangerous. I would ask any woman who has tried this technique, "Did it have you feel kinder toward the next man you saw? Did it encourage you to see meaning in a baby's smile?" "Did it make your mind keener?" I do not believe it could--because it goes against our deepest purpose, to like the world, and has to make for shame and the desire for even more contempt to build yourself up again. This kind of thought, encouraged here, is the beginning point of what are called "crimes of passion" which the press loves to report on. As we welcome bitterness about love, we make ourselves slaves to our own contempt -- and that we can be freed from it!
Another technique in Letting Go that is central to their program takes the phrase "wallowing in your grief" to new heights—-or depths--of ego pleasure. The authors suggest to gather all your nostalgic mementoes and special love songs and spend at least six hours alone, with the shutters drawn, telephone unplugged, so as to grieve for your lost love without any interference from the world. The “inward destruction of emotion” is the stated purpose of this "Implosion Day," by looking at and weeping over these objects until you feel bored with them. I am sure that such a contempt party (which I think may be more usefully called "Miss Haversham Day") has to make you weaker, as I well know, because wanting to feel bored with people and objects made for emptiness and despair in me. I love Eli Siegel, Aesthetic Realism, and Class Chairman Ellen Reiss enabling me to see that what breaks a woman's heart and makes it cold is her own desire to use a man to have contempt for the world.
I now am studying to teach Aesthetic Realism in classes
taught by the class chairman, Ellen Reiss. And my brother, Kevin
Fennell, is my colleague in these great classes--studying how to be fair
to the world and the people in it. When, some years ago, the class
studied the subject of love, I said I sometimes felt “unappreciated”.
Miss Reiss asked "Is there anything before that? Is there anything
more important than being appreciated?" "How I see," I answered.
"Really ask," Miss Reiss continued:
The structure of a good song is completely opposed to
the sour, enclosed way a woman can hold onto her lament about love; it
gives form to the feelings of people which encourages greater like of the
world, not contempt for it. "There are songs…" said Mr. Siegel in
Sadness about love has gotten into many popular songs. An instance which makes for delight in listeners is a 1928 recording of "Love Me, Or Leave Me," written by Walter Donaldson, and sung by Ruth Etting, who was called "The Queen of All Torch Singers." I like very much how Ruth Etting sings, which has something both sweet and sour as one, and a simple sincerity that is quite deep.
The song begins with the words: "Love me, or leave me" --and the melody, instead of recoiling in pain, getting narrower, includes a full octave interval as high and low are dramatically part of one phrase. The first three notes are the same and begin high, "Love me, or" -- then drop down an octave on "leave me" -- and we feel high and low are working for one purpose, differently from how a woman is either exultant or depressed depending on whether or not a man smiles at her. The melody then rises on the sad word "lonely" to what is called the leading tone, the note that takes us to the next phrase, and is therefore a note of relation. And even though she says she'll never love anyone else, the melody, which began in the minor, rises a third and goes into the major, structurally contradicting her misery.
The music sung by Ruth Etting is moving and cheerful at once because of how opposites are one in it. There is steadiness and change as Miss Etting sometimes comes in a little before the beat, sometimes after--while that rhythm is always steady.
Women everywhere are yearning to know that the way opposites
are one in this music -- high and low, assertion and yielding -- says something
big about how the world is sensibly made. It is why we feel moved
by the beauty of a tree in early spring, and are stirred by a man who has
both strength and grace. The aesthetic structure of reality is the
thing we can be unlimitedly, logically, passionate about.