Realism seminar: 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
Honesty--Will It Get a Man What He Really Wants?
a discussion about Hank Greenberg
By Michael Palmer
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:
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.
CAN LEARN ABOUT HONESTY FROM BASEBALL
In TRO #1443, Ellen Reiss writes,
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.
Part II click here