Fight in Every
Woman Between Selfishness & Generosity by
at an Aesthetic
Realism Seminar, New York City, December 2001
Honesty about Regret
In 1967 Martha Gellhorn went
and wrote a series of articles, only two accepted for publication in
U.S. These sentences appeared in the January 1968 Ladies Home
Journal in her article titled "Suffer the Little Children..."
They piercingly, powerfully oppose selfishness:
killing and wounding
uncounted Vietnamese children.... I have witnessed modern war in
countries, but I have never seen a war like the one in South
Vietnam.... In the Qui Nhon provincial hospital I saw... what
does. A child of seven... lay in the cot by the door.
had burned his face and back and one hand.... All week, the
boy cried with pain, but now he was better. He had stopped
He was only twisting his body, as if trying to dodge his
As I read the many articles and
at the time of Martha Gellhorn's death in February 1998, again and
they only mention the word Vietnam in a list of the wars she
I saw with new vividness how our country is hurt now by its huge
of regret about that horrendously selfish, ugly war.
More and more dead and wounded children will cry out to the conscience
of the world.... Someday our children, whom we love, may blame us
dishonoring America because we did not care enough about children
Mr. Siegel is the person who
described it straight
and described it early—"that war," he said about Vietnam,
to prop up, maintain,
show as inevitable
a profit system that the keenest and kindest people of the world have
against for many years, from John Stuart Mill to Matthew Arnold, from
to William Dean Howells.
Martha Gellhorn's courageous honesty
is something I respect tremendously; I believe it made for a greater
aliveness, keenness in her.
That our very lives and sanity
depend on our criticizing
and honestly regretting selfishness of the past is in an interview she
gave in 1997, the year before her death. Asked by Sheila MacVicar
of ABC News:
Sheila MacVicar: With
all of the conflict you saw, what haunts you now?
Vietnam the most, because I felt personally responsible. It was
own country doing this abomination. I am talking about what was done...
to the people whom we, supposedly, had come to save.... My
horror remains [with] me as a source of grief and anger and shame that
surpasses all the others.
Good Will: The Real
. . . .
Peter Prichard (Freedom
Forum Fdn. USA):
So you do not really believe in objectivity, the way it is
Gellhorn: I don't
know what [objectivity
means]. We have only our own eyes and our own ears. You
just look...and say there is no difference between right and
wrong,... between just and unjust. I believe that is a definition
What Martha Gellhorn, so
admirable, needed to
know about how to see a man close to her, women are now learning in
Realism consultations. Stacey Mathews*, an English teacher, told
her Aesthetic Realism consultants she had increasing difficulty
and had thought of giving it up. Divorced, she was bitter about
and was troubled about a man she was dating. "I don't feel I'm
in my thoughts about him," she said.
We began teaching her that
good will is
generosity and true selfishness at once. It is, Eli Siegel
"the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for
desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful" and begins with the
to know. We asked her, Do you think when you were married you
to know your husband?" She answered courageously:
I was interested in the things I could get for myself, but I didn't
to know him, no.
What has made it impossible for women
really to know
a man is our seeing him as existing to glorify us. When we asked
Miss Mathews, "Do you think you want a man to exist, fully, outside
she said, surprised, "I'm not sure I do."
of the questions we asked about
her father, whom
she both extolled and resented, was: "Which is grander—seeing him
as a cad and a hero, or understanding him?" She was surprised by
this question and very thoughtful.
Stacey Mathews education has
She has been learning what it means really to take care of herself, to
be truly selfish. She has done many assignments: for example,
about how her father sees his own mother; about the hopes and fears of
a student of hers; a sentence every day about how she is like another
person—this was a turning point—and reading and commenting on novels
as Jane Eyre, Tom Jones, and Madame Bovary as a means
understanding all people better. She wrote to us:
once felt nothing could penetrate me very deeply. Aesthetic Realism has made possible the changes
in my life. My relation with my family is changing, becoming kinder. I
am a better teacher. My feelings for the subject and for
my students have increased tremendously. I care more and more
Through the study of Aesthetic
Realism every woman
can learn how to make sense of the fight in her between selfishness and
generosity. There is no more important education for individuals
and nations —and when it is known and studied everywhere, our dear,
earth and all its people, which Mr. Siegel loved and understood so
will come into their own!
Stacey Mathews: This name has been changed for public