Logo for Aesthetic Realism consultant Ernest DeFilippis 
What's Missing?

By Ernest DeFilippis 
The thing missing as a husband talks to his wife is good will--for her and the world itself. Eli Siegel defined good will as "the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful" (The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 121). 

I am enormously grateful that with the woman I love, my wife of 12 years, Maureen Butler, I am studying Aesthetic Realism. Because of our study, our love for each other is more passionate, deeper, more exciting, more intellectually stirring, and kinder with each month! 

How a husband talks with his wife, Aesthetic Realism explains, begins with how he sees the world and people. I didn't see people as whole beings, with insides as real as mine. Growing up I thought, as many children do, that adults were insincere, more interested in flattering and kidding others along, or complaining about and making fun of them, than in knowing them. As I listened quietly to adults talk, I felt superior to everyone, particularly when these same people showered me with praise while I just stood there, acted polite, and didn't say a word. 

I felt my mother existed to serve me. I remember, with regret, the pleasure and power I felt as I sat sulking at the kitchen table while she tried to cheer me up. Unwilling to speak, I would scornfully mumble "No," "Yeah," "I don't know," "Maybe." To get me to talk, she said, was like "pulling teeth." Years later, in an Aesthetic Realism class, Mr. Siegel explained: "You just want to have a mother with whom you don't talk very much. She is in reserve. You can use her quietly against other people. [You say,] 'If my mother can care for me, even if I am what I am, why can't other people?"' Mr. Siegel gave form to how I judged whether people, particularly women, cared for me. 

The Conversations with Ourselves

The person we talk to most is ourselves, and if the conversations we have with ourselves about people--how we think about them--are not to know and be fair to them, what we do say aloud may be hurtful both to ourselves and to another. For example, when I was attracted to a woman I'd say to myself, "She is gorgeous!" or "Wow! What a doll!," and imagine just the two of us together--and the picture did not include us talking. I wanted to use a woman to get away from thought. I'd try to impress and entertain her, to get what I saw as the ultimate pleasure, which did not require talking or thinking: sex. What she said didn't matter, unless, of course, it was to praise me. If she was critical of me I would defend myself, carefully explaining how she had "misinterpreted what I meant." And if there was sex, afterwards I'd usually feel empty and dull, unable to look into her eyes. 

I felt something was missing, but just how big, beautiful, and luscious that thing was and what in me interfered with my having it, I found out when I began to study Aesthetic Realism! 

In one class, Mr. Siegel described why I was angry with a woman, Rose Lindelli. He explained, "You have a desire to capture ": and he asked, "Do you want her to fall into your arms and say, 'I accept you unquestionably'?" I said, "I feel her desire to understand is not great enough." But Mr. Siegel--and I love him for it--wanted me to see the mistake I was making. He said, "Ms. Lindelli would like to be cared for, and she is also independent and critical. Do you want to see that, or is it a subject of displeasure?" 

I answered, "It is a subject of displeasure." And I asked Mr. Siegel how I had hurt Ms. Lindelli. He explained: "At a certain time you took for granted that you knew her well enough, and that even if you didn't, you should be approved of. You weren't deeply interested in her questions, Do you think you acted like a plantation owner on the plantation called Lindelli?" "Yes," I said. 

The Delight of Respect

What I was after with women was so utterly puny compared to what I feel now as I see that a woman has in her the whole universe. I love talking with Maureen Butler, having my thoughts known by her, and knowing hers. 

I have the good fortune to be learning in Aesthetic Realism classes how to be a better person and husband. For example, shortly after we were married, I found myself irritated at having to think of what concerned Maureen. When we were alone, under the guise of giving "useful criticism," I'd pompously lecture her. She was critical of this. And when I spoke about the matter in an Aesthetic Realism class, Ellen Reiss asked: "Has Maureen Butler gone from being a human being to being an appendage of you--not someone to know, but someone to bring you praise or disgrace? Do you think she stopped being a person when she became a wife?" As the discussion continued, Ms. Reiss explained, "You're angry with Ms. Butler because she makes you think. Your marriage won't fare well if you don't want to think." Hearing this criticism, I was able to change! 

As we've talked, Maureen has encouraged me to see the insides of people with greater warmth and depth, and to see value and beauty in things--an aria sung by Maria Callas, the drama of light and dark in a cloud formation at dusk. I thank God we are learning how to have conversations we're proud of, which make for respect, joy, and kindness to each other and other people--that we are able to ask as we speak about people, "Are we fair to them?"

Reprinted from The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1413, May 3, 2000 

You can visit the website of the AESTHETIC REALISM FOUNDATION, 141 Greene Street New York, NY 10012, (212)777-4490, by clicking on this address: www.AestheticRealism.org  

Copyright 2000 by The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known