Aesthetic Realism Seminar
Respect, Contempt, Individuality
by Nancy Huntting
II. Early Individuality
Eli Siegel explained what individuality really is--and I believe that
person’s personal happiness and our collective future depends on this
true explanation being known. He writes in his essay titled “There Is
whole world rightly in ourselves, and welcome there. It is reality
with a sweet lack of interference, through us….It is the self thriving
on what it has to do with, making beautiful what it has to do with.” ]
People have gone by an
and I did, that they will establish “individuality” by having contempt
for other people. This is the most stupid, dangerous thing we do, and
begins early. My mother was the first person over whom I asserted what
I took falsely to be my individuality: trying to manage her, exploiting
any weakness I saw or imagined, and then triumphantly feeling I could
her. This made me feel strong and superior. Her feelings were simply, I
later saw, not real to me.
with shame yelling at Jean Huntting more than once that she was stupid.
In my 20s when she telephoned me, I would continue watching television
while I pretended to listen to her. This is contempt. It is also, I've
seen, representative of how many daughters and sons are with their
And though usually more hidden, my contemptuous ways continued with
who I didn’t grant depth and feelings like my own.
school, while acting well-mannered and shy, and wanting to be liked,
I could be ruthless--if I wasn't impressed by how a person dressed or
well-off or educated they appeared to be, I dismissed them as inferior
and unimportant. I remember feeling that certain races and
were likely less intelligent than my own; I liked the feeling of
it gave me. Contempt, Mr. Siegel describes as "the imbedded,
temptation of man," and it was imbedded in me. I am ashamed that
my friends and I made fun of girls and boys we didn't think were
enough for us--one very lively girl, Melissa, who was black, because we
thought she dressed poorly and misbehaved. I didn't give a damn
her feelings, or have any desire to know what her life was like. I'm
grateful that in 1973 I met Aesthetic Realism. What it teaches
how to see all people is utterly kind and exact--and so desperately
our parents are the first representatives of humanity and the world we
meet, for our lives to succeed they must be used as a beginning point
see all people with respect. This is what women everywhere need to
in order to be the individuals they hope to be, and what women are
in Aesthetic Realism consultations now.
Eli Siegel taught what it means to see every person as entirely
by seeing what they are in relation to. "I should like you to be
proud of how you see your mother," he said to me in a class in 1975,
he asked, "When does she annoy you most?"
NH: My mother used to
tell me what
to wear. She had a way of telling her opinion that was very
you think this
had a source in something? It was like that somewhat with Charles
V [who was Holy Roman Emperor]. He was assertive, and he went into a
One, there's a desire to assert oneself, and two, there's a desire to
oneself names and to be very critical.
saw my mother with a depth I had never granted; he was explaining a
going on in her that represented the motions of reality
and retreat. In another class Mr. Siegel asked me, "what has been
the purpose of your thought about her?" and he said:
a mother is exactly like thought about everything else. It should
be to see a thing for what it is in itself, and how it has to do with
things. Your purpose is knowledge, not to do a comfortable job
yourself. To see a person or thing is to see it in relation..."
As I learned to see my
mother more truly,
I realized how uninterested and cold I had been. I began to want
to know what she experienced growing up, and hoped for when she married
my father. I wanted to be kinder and have a strengthening effect on
I was learning what it means to respect another person.
Part III: "Individuality and Relation"