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What Is a Husband’s Biggest Mistake? Part II


By Ernest DeFilippis

From the Aesthetic Realism Seminar of April 19, 200l, given by Aesthetic Realism Consultants Chaim Koppelman, Ernest DeFilippis, & Bennett Cooperman


The Fight between Knowing and Conquering

Aesthetic Realism is tremendously kind and new in explaining that the mistake men make in marriage begins with how we see the world. Very early, I came to feel the world was a confusing mess, an enemy I either had to get away from or had to defeat by making it subservient to me. For example, as the firstborn son in an Italian-American family, I felt that my mother existed to serve me and that all I had to do to please her was permit her to do things for me, welcome her attentions—sit patiently, maybe even smile, as she dressed me, combed my hair, brought my food.

But while I felt kingly, I also felt dull and lonely, often preferring my own company. I didn’t see, as I was to learn from Aesthetic Realism, that my painful feeling of separation from people, which increased as I got older, was the result of my conceit—thinking other people weren’t good enough for me. And I didn’t see my mother, Ida DeFilippis, as having feelings that were as real and meaningful as mine; I didn’t see her as a person with a critical mind, who was hoping to be understood. This inaccurate, really cruel way of seeing her continued with the women I later dated. In another lecture, Aesthetic Realism Looks at Things: Love and Home, Mr. Siegel was describing what occurred with me when he said:

Since [men] have seen their mothers as caressing them, taking care of them, and being nice to them, with all their talk of emancipation, that is the way they want to see women from then on. [The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, # 391] I thought a woman should be thrilled that I showed even the slightest interest in her, that I looked at her, spoke to her, asked her out. I thought these attentions showed my deep feeling, and that a woman should fall into my arms in gratitude. If a woman didn’t succumb to me, I’d feel insulted and try to soothe my hurt ego by scornfully dismissing her with "Who does she think she is?!" or I would try to break down what I saw as her "front of indifference" by flattering her. When I did get a woman’s approval, I’d puff myself up thinking, "I really got it!" But whether I felt humiliated or triumphant, vengeful or self-congratulatory, one thing persisted: my thought was essentially about me. My mind could not take in the feelings of people, objects, the world I was born to know and like. I felt an aching unsureness and disbelief in myself, and an icy hardness as to people that made me very ashamed. When I think of how boorish, mean, ludicrous my notion of love was, and the magnificent education I received in classes taught by Eli Siegel, I consider myself one of the luckiest men who ever lived. In one class, at a time when I was angry with a woman who didn’t give me the utter approval I wanted, Mr. Siegel asked me with critical humor, "If you were a woman, would you be entirely in love with yourself?" "No," I answered. Continuing, he said:

There are two kinds of love: 1) the kind we definitely, deeply work for; and 2) the kind of love about which we think that because we are we should be loved. The second has predominated with you.... You got your mother's love very easily; and that idea of love without working for it is still with you.
And he said: The love you don’t work for isn't worth a damn, according to Aesthetic Realism! . . . I'm being very careful. Everything in love, you have to work for. I don’t think you believe that, Mr. DeFilippis.   E.DeF. I don’t think so either. What I saw then as drudgery and as an interference to what I wanted, I see so differently now. The work Mr. Siegel was encouraging in me was the pleasure of using myself, body and mind, to know a woman and strengthen her—to have good will. It is work that makes me happy to wake up in the morning and greet the new day with Maureen; to anticipate with excitement a conversation we may have; to be affected by how she sees—perhaps something in the news that day, or in a book she is reading. I am grateful to her for encouraging my mind, including a greater love for literature—for example, Henry James, François Mauriac, Sir Walter Scott, novelists she cares for. And as she has spoken about people who are suffering from the injustice of economics in America, and we have written articles and letters about how Aesthetic Realism explains the cause, and about what will have our nation kind, the luscious respect I have for her has grown. I’m so glad that as I hold her, look into her eyes, am stirred by her body, my thought about her is stirred too: I want to see more fully who she is. I tell you this: Mr. Siegel was sure right when he said, "The love you don’t work for isn’t worth a damn!"

"Eager Interest" versus Unkind Complacency

In Mind and Husbands, Mr. Siegel speaks about what it means to know the person we’re married to:

No woman should ever sum up a man, or any man ever sum up a woman. When that is done the human spirit screams, though the scream is not heard. . . . Knowing is knowing, nothing less. It means that what goes on within the woman, what her relations are, what she hopes, what she fears, what she doesn’t know she feels, should be a subject of eager interest for the husband. [TRO 639]
The press boycott of Aesthetic Realism has stopped men from getting the knowledge that would have them see the mind of woman as a subject of "eager interest," as what a man proudly needs to complete himself. So husbands now sitting across the dinner table from their wives have had a fear of and contempt for the inner life and complexities of the women they married. Husbands have seen a wife’s complexity as interfering with our comfort, disturbing the haven from the world we have wanted marriage to be. In the process, husbands have welcomed boredom, stifled our own minds, made ourselves unlovable. Men have wanted to see the best thing in a woman—her desire to know and understand herself and others, which can have unsureness and confusion with it—as a sign of weakness, and we have dismissed a woman’s depths with what Mr. Siegel described as the "‘Oh, sleep it off darling; it will be all right in the morning’ attitude." This attitude, he said, "has insulted women for centuries"; and it always makes a husband despise himself—because the best and truest thing in him doesn’t want it. I remember, with regret, a time when I was annoyed by a worry Maureen had about her sister in Ohio, who was ill. During a discussion about marriage and ethics in an Aesthetic Realism class, I commented, "Ms. Butler gets into a drama about her sister," and Ellen Reiss asked me, "Do you think when you don’t understand people you get angry?" "Yes," I answered. And she said, "To try to have the people one had to do with early be in one’s mind in the best way is not a ‘drama’: there is something Ms. Butler needs to think about." To have my thought more honest and kinder Ms. Reiss suggested that I "write about what it would mean for Maureen Butler to have good will for her sister." I did, and it had an immediately good effect on both Maureen and me.

Continued  >> "From an Aesthetic Realism Consultation"
 
 
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Copyright 2005 by Ernest DeFilippis