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Vanity versus Happiness:
Can a Man Distinguish Between Them?

By Ernest DeFilippis
--  Part 3  --
Public Seminar of August 28, 2003 given at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, 141 Greene St., New York, NY 10012 

A Woman Wants to Be Known

 Hedda is not the compliant woman.  She is a kind critic.  Said Mr. Siegel: 

 A woman can feel the pretense and falsity in men, and some women will negotiate with it and go along with it, exploit it, but some women will not. Hedda is sullen...and shows her displeasure. 
Hedda wants to be honest, and is angry that she is forced to be dishonest. "But with all her forbiddingness," explained Mr. Siegel, "she feels love, first of all, is spontaneous good will." 

       Lovborg comes to the Tesman home.  At one point he and Hedda are alone and they talk.  As he begins he tries to charm her: "...never [taking] his eyes off her, [he] says softly and slowly:  Hedda--Gabler!" 

          But Hedda gives him a sharp, critical glance and responds "Ah, Hush!" "[She] felt", said Mr. Siegel, "there was... a vanity in Lovborg of a coruscating or flamboyant kind."

        As Hedda talks, there is a loveliness and strength of mind as she tries to be exact about what she felt.  "The large question here is," commented Mr. Siegel, "Is it a bigger thing to know a person or to have sex with a person?" Lovborg asks about their previous friendship.

Lovborg.  Was there...not a spark--not a tinge of love in it?

Hedda.  I wonder if there was really.  For me it seems as though we were two good comrades two really intimate friends.  [Smilingly]  You, in particular, were uncommonly frank--extremely so.

L.   It was you that made me so.

H.    As I look back upon it all, I think there was really something beautiful, something enticing--something courageous--in...that comradeship which no one so much as dreamed of.

L.   Yes, Hedda!  There was, wasn't there?...I made my confessions to you--told you things about myself I had told no one else--how I had been out carousing for days and nights--day after day. Oh, Hedda, what compelled me to speak so openly to you?

         I know that when a woman wants to understand a man, encourages our thought to be more comprehensive and clear, it makes for sweeping emotions, makes the woman irresistible.  The feeling is organic.  This is what I feel for my wife, Maureen Butler, whom I love dearly for the good affect she's had on me, for strengthening my mind.  Lovborg feels this for Hedda, but he also has another feeling, which I regret I've had.  Mr. Siegel explained: 

 [Lovborg] is in a state of unacknowledged injury to vanity.  It's a state of cultural astonishment. ..a woman was able to ask questions, enabling [him] to see his thoughts more clearly, present them more effectively.  Ibsen...[shows] Hedda Gabler [had] an intellectual influence on Lovborg and that is what most males...can't stand.
Lovborg asks Hedda:  "What was your motive?"

H.  Do you think it quite incomprehensible that a young girl--when it can be done--without anyone knowing...--should be glad to look, now and then, into a world which--

L.  So that was it?  Comradeship in the thirst for life.  But why should not that, at any rate, have continued?

H.  The fault was yours.

L.  It was you that broke with me.

H.   Yes, when our friendship was in danger of becoming some kind of intrigue.  For shame, Eilert Lovborg, how could you want to outrage your--your trusting comrade?

What happened that made Hedda Gabler talk this way? [asked  Mr. Siegel]  I think that Lovborg got tired of [her] interest, her desire to talk about the world as two people talking.  That wasn't for him and he wanted to put an end to this nonsense. 
As Hedda tries to explain what her criticism was, he twists her words into a compliment to his ego.

L.  [Looks at her a moment, whispers passionately]  Oh, Hedda!  Hedda Gabler!  Now I begin to see a hidden reason beneath our comradeship! You and I!  After all, then it was your craving for life--

H.  [Softly, with a sharp glance]  Take care!  Believe nothing of the sort!

         Early in my study of Aesthetic Realism, I was seeing a woman I'll call Carol Stevens.  I liked the fact that instead of falling for my flattery, she criticized me.  But I was also angry in a way I didn't understand.  In a class Mr. Siegel asked me: "Do you like women to have mind?" 

EdF.  I like it more.

ES. Do you feel a woman who cares for you will accept the limits you hand down? Right now quite a few men are tired of talking to a woman and want to grab her...Grabbing is the desire to stop intellect from working in a woman because it's boring.  You want her to become like a palpitating bird.  Isn't that what you want? 

I answered, "Yes."  And I remember his deep kindness when he asked, "Is it wise?"

         Mr. Siegel always evoked the best thing in me.  Seeing a woman's mind as "boring", her criticism as an interference to my "happiness", was pure vanity, idiocy of the highest degree.  It made me miserable, ashamed and botched up every relation.  And it made it impossible for me to have the joy I'm enormously grateful to feel now--to have friendships with women I respect and care for very much, who have a beauty and honesty and power of mind. I love learning from Ellen Reiss in the thrilling, culturally great classes she teaches.  And, I'm very glad I'm not the person I was when Mr. Siegel asked me: "How do you see women?" and I answered, "I have trouble with women who have a mind."

         In my 16 years of marriage I'm having a wonderful, romantic time learning about the world with Maureen.  I find the combination in her of feminine beauty and ethics, intellectual tenacity and sweetness, irresistible.  I want to deserve Maureen's love and I see knowing her, trying to meet her hopes, including being a good critic of her, as an exciting quest, and this includes as I hold her body close to me! 

Continued  >>  "Are You Capable of Being Resplendently Just to a Woman?"

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Copyright 2005 by Ernest DeFilippis