Is True Courage--Including in Love?"
by Nancy Huntting, August 2000, New
Respect for the World Makes for Courage
It is the privilege of my life to teach with
my colleagues in Aesthetic Realism consultations, given in person and
telephone to other cities and countries. Women learn about
in themselves and have greater respect for the world, and the result is
they become more courageous and proud; this includes the field of love.
is a young Canadian woman who teaches math in a public school, and
in consultations. She had traveled extensively, and was proud of
her academic achievements, but she wrote that, "I worried one day I
not be able to remember what I learned," and, she said, "I was scared
I might not be able to feel at all." While Miss Matlow cared for
both science and art, she told us she was very unsure of herself as a
and said "to hide it I am stiff and hard with my students." And
also worried that she might not have real love in her life.
We asked her, "How
much have you wanted to feel separate from the world?" She did
separate, she said, "I felt I had to fight the world to protect
"Are you in a fight between the scientist, and your desire to have your
own world," we asked, "your own laws?" "Yes, I think I am," she
She told us she got
away from her family as soon as she could because "the atmosphere was
Like so many people, she was angry at her parents and felt hurt by
and she had used them to dislike the whole world. One of the
assignments we gave her was to write a monologue of the thoughts of her
father, who she said she had admired, but felt was cold to her.
began to see her father as having questions every man has, and not as
against her. "You have had a whole career in wanting to punish your
we told her. "We are trying to have you see what is true about
Should we go by what's true," we asked, "or what makes us important?"
As she did the monologue
of her father's thoughts -- about her mother, his work as surveyor and
geologist, books and people he was affected by-- Miss Matlow said she
to remember how much he had encouraged her care for knowledge, and
just cold. "Many more memories are coming back," she told us, "and I
a desire deep in my heart to understand my father." And seeing
more accurately, she felt more hopeful about love.
IV. Courage and Love
Courage, Aesthetic Realism taught me, is necessary
for us to honestly love another person. Mr. Siegel explains the
men and women have pained each other in love, in the preface to his
"The Ordinary Doom":
When Vera Brittain
was coming to know Roland Leighton -- the handsome friend of her
who took all the top academic prizes on "Speech Day"-- she was both
by him and fearful. She wrote, "He interests me so deeply and
this serious-minded, brilliant, unusual young man." But later she
says, "I felt in danger of liking him too well to be altogether
We haven't yet come to the courage
needed to have ourselves be seen and to see another fully....Our
to the world is still one of fear, one of contempt, and one of
This means that whomever we know, our attitude to that person will be
of fear, contempt, aloofness.
spring of 1915, 19-year-old Roland Leighton, like many young men, was
to the front in France. For 5 months in which she was filled with
constant and truly warranted fear, they wrote to each other, and her
of their correspondence is moving. The life-and-death worry made
them kinder and more courageous in showing what they truly felt; they
had greater feeling about thousands of other people as they
questioned why this horror had come to be.
though, when he came home on a short leave, and suggested hesitantly
might become engaged, was not kind, or courageous. She writes in
He soon became cool, too, and then both of them
distant for the rest of the day. A woman can feel she is bold in
treating a man this way -- but this is not courage, it is contempt
we think will protect us from a world we are afraid of being affected
-- and it makes us cruel.
I thought I would test him by using
a little scorn and so I said as contemptuously as I knew how, 'My dear
you don't know--'
'What don't I know?' he asked.
'Your own mind,' I answered...
his proposal the next day, but four months later, Roland Leighton was
and killed. "Often since," she wrote, "I have felt repentant
refusing to say good-night, or treating him with even assumed
after all he had been through."
courage in her repentance -- she is trying to criticize herself
Part of what impelled her, I believe, to remain a nurse throughout the
rest of the war and go to the front, was regret for the way she had
cold and unkind. Earlier in 1915, as Vera Brittain began learning
instruments and dressings at a London hospital -- she wrote about her
to be a nurse, "love of learning is part of the very essence of my
It was her care for knowledge that saved her from what she described as
"the harsh, unmelting bitterness into which I had been frozen" after
Leighton was killed.
Siegel shows in his definition, arises from the desire to know, and not
stop knowing -- even when the facts may not seem comfortable or
for us: "Real courage," he says, "which wishes to be graceful, is
after the facts." Vera Brittain worked long hours, and all-night
shifts until she was physically exhausted, seeing overwhelming agony we
can only partly realize through her writing; seeing slow,
In 1967 Mr. Siegel
said in a lecture about World War I, "People think the shock is
but the world has not recovered." It affected the direction of
Brittain's entire life. She felt she had to try to prevent future war:
she worked for the League of Nations, and later became an outspoken
contempt that made for the
in France in 1915," wrote Eli Siegel in The Right of
to Be Known # 165 "What Caused the Wars": "it was contempt
for the labor camps of the Second World War." In the study of Aesthetic
Realism is the explanation of war and where it begins in every person,
including those who run nations.
V. Courage and Aesthetic
The change in Jennifer Matlow's life is one
of an increasing desire to know and like the world, and increasing true
courage. She had pain as to love, but she began to learn that love is a
subject of education: she has written assignments such as: "Are there
about love in the same way there are laws of mathematics?" and "How I
like Madame Bovary?"
She told us in one
consultation, "I would like to look at a man and feel I want to know
not want to conquer him. I don't like myself for that." We asked,
Consultants: Is it more thrilling
to see the meaning of the world through a man, than to have him silly
you? That's what you need to feel in order to honestly love
But have you felt women are superior to men?
Jennifer Matlow: Yes. That
is what I've felt.
Consultants: "Einstein was a lightweight?"
"No," said Miss Matlow, laughing. We gave
her an assignment to write a list of things she would respect in a man;
and we asked, "Do you think knowing a man is as much a subject as, say,
algebra?" When she met and began to care for Michael Forelli, a
of art, she respected his knowledge and the way he was self-critical.
told us with a new pride and pleasure in her voice that she was more
in showing herself to Mr. Forelli, including her doubts and questions.
"Our conversations are having a good effect on us!" she said. As she's
become deeper and more accurate about people, she also has come to have
large feeling about her students and love teaching.
What has happened
to Jennifer Matlow stands for what can occur in every woman's
She wrote to us in a document for her consultations:
I am proud to agree with Miss Matlow. The study
of Aesthetic Realism makes possible the courageous and truly happy
women are yearning to have, all people are yearning to have.
I am one of the happiest and most fortunate
women alive.... Aesthetic
Realism taught me, and for this I will be grateful forever, that my
for the world caused me to feel depressed and worthless....[I learned]
the deepest thing in me is related to the deepest truth about the
"The world, art and self explain each other; each is the aesthetic
of opposites," Eli Siegel saw. This is the greatest truth ever
Learning this, I never felt alone again...for the first time I feel at
in the world.
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