Aesthetic Realism Consultant Nancy Huntting

Pauli Murray (1910-1985)
Civil Rights activist & lawyer


Aesthetic Realism Seminar

Respect, Contempt, Individuality
by Nancy Huntting

Part II.  Early Individuality

[  From Part I:  Eli Siegel explained what individuality really is--and I believe that every person’s personal happiness and our collective future depends on this great, true explanation being known. He writes in his essay titled “There Is Individualism”:

“Individualism is the whole world rightly in ourselves, and welcome there. It is reality working 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 unconscious assumption, and I did, that they will establish “individuality” by having contempt for other people. This is the most stupid, dangerous thing we do, and it 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 dismiss her. This made me feel strong and superior. Her feelings were simply, I later saw, not real to me. 

     I remember 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 parents. And though usually more hidden, my contemptuous ways continued with others, who I didn’t grant depth and feelings like my own. 

      In school, while acting well-mannered and shy, and wanting to be liked, inside I could be ruthless--if I wasn't impressed by how a person dressed or how well-off or educated they appeared to be, I dismissed them as inferior and unimportant. I remember feeling that certain races and nationalities were likely less intelligent than my own; I liked the feeling of superiority it gave me.  Contempt, Mr. Siegel describes as "the imbedded, continuous 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 "refined" 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 for her feelings, or have any desire to know what her life was like. I'm very grateful that in 1973 I met Aesthetic Realism.  What it teaches about how to see all people is utterly kind and exact--and so desperately needed. 

      Since 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 to see all people with respect. This is what women everywhere need to learn in order to be the individuals they hope to be, and what women are learning in Aesthetic Realism consultations now.

       Eli Siegel taught what it means to see every person as entirely individual 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, and 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 emphatic.

ES:   Do 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 monastery.  One, there's a desire to assert oneself, and two, there's a desire to call oneself names and to be very critical.

     Mr. Siegel saw my mother with a depth I had never granted; he was explaining a fight going on in her that represented the motions of reality itself--assertion and retreat.  In another class Mr. Siegel asked me, "what has been the purpose of your thought about her?" and he said:

 "Thought about 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 other things.  Your purpose is knowledge, not to do a comfortable job for 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 her.  I was learning what it means to respect another person. 

Continued, Part III: "Individuality and Relation"
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