Part 1: Honesty--Will It Get a Man What He Really Wants?

Part 2: Honesty--Will It Get a Man What He Really Wants?

Part 3: Honesty--Will It Get a Man What He Really Wants?


Aesthetic Realism seminar:
Honesty--Will It Get a Man What He Really Wants?
with a discussion about Hank Greenberg
By Michael Palmer

      I once felt being honest was to just say what's on your mind, usually pointing to things I didn't like.  This is the way many people see honesty.  But Aesthetic Realism is new and liberating in how it sees this large and most urgent subject.  In his great work Definitions and Comment: Being a Description of the World, Eli Siegel defines honesty as "the whole desire of the self to have pleasure by seeing what it is and what other things are."  For a man to be honest, I have learned, he has to want to know and be fair to what is not himself.  And men haven't felt it would get them what they want.  At the same time, people have admired honesty in others. 

      In school, at P.S. 8 in the Bronx, I was thrilled learning about men whose honesty made them stand out, who wanted to have justice come to others: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Patrick Henry, whose courageous words to the Virginia Convention in 1775 I loved hearing:

 Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death! 
I wanted to be like that.  Meanwhile, I was not very interested in knowing "what other things [were]," especially the people I knew.  When, for instance, my aunts Fanny and Bertha, who were very lively, visited our home, I would smile, be polite, but I was angry that they weren't charmed by me, and in fact, were at times critical.  It simply didn't occur to me that they had lives that were interesting, worth knowing, that I could learn about the world and myself from them.  After they left, I would joke with my mother and father about how loud and coarse they were, not "refined" like us.  In an Aesthetic Realism class, Ellen Reiss explained, [Honesty] has a competitor--contempt--things exist for one to manipulate, make [one]self superior to, to hide from." This describes the purpose I had, and it made me ashamed, unable to look a person in the eye. 

     When I was Bar Mitzvahed at age 13, I thought little of its large meaning, which Mr. Siegel once described as "the hope of a Jewish boy that he get along with God and with all things." Like many young men, I saw it as a major social event in which I would get money from relatives, friends, and my father's business associates.  During the evening reception, my mother whispered to me,"Benny Schwartz is so cheap, he won't give you anything.  He'll tell you your gift is in the mail."  Soon, Benny came over and said just that, and mother and I had a big laugh.  But, soon after this, I got sick, threw up and had to be removed from the ballroom.  The party went on without me.  I didn't know the best thing in me was objecting to the dishonest, ugly way I was seeing people.  There was something I couldn't stomach in myself.


 In TRO #1443, Ellen Reiss writes, 
Honesty is a beautiful oneness of self and world.  Another term for the world is the facts....And if we are honest we care for the facts; if we are honest, we feel honoring what's true takes care of ourselves.
At about age 8, I began to have a passion for sports, especially baseball. I loved listening to game broadcasts, as I carefully studied diagrams of the stadium fields to visualize the action.  Through studying Aesthetic Realism I came to see that baseball is beautiful because it puts those opposites of self and world together. It is also a rich combination of one and many--a player doing his best for himself and for the team; of body and mind--a man's physical ability together with his deep thought about the game; of getting and giving: it is a constant interchange of receiving something from the world--catching a ball, and giving something to it--throwing it rightly to a teammate. 

      These were opposites I was desperately hoping to do a good job with in my life--taking care of myself by being fair to other things.  But like many boys, I used my care for baseball to feel most everything else was dull, not worth my honest attention. In school, instead of going after the pleasure of learning new facts about math, English, science--my thoughts would often wander off to who the Yankees would be pitching in the next days.  And in an 8th grade composition for an English class in which we had been learning about poetry, I referred to poets' Edgar Lee Masters and Edwin Arlington Robinson as "Ed" Masters, and "Ed" Robinson, much as a sportswriter would if they were ballplayers.  My teacher, Mr. Birnbaum, returned my paper with a terse comment, underlined with an exclamation point, "I think you should be more respectful!  He was right. This small way I had of seeing reality, which I thought was clever, was dishonest and hurt my life tremendously.

 For Part II click here

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