MISTAKES MEN & WOMEN MAKE ABOUT COLDNESS AND WARMTH
From an Aesthetic Realism Public Seminar
by Miriam Weiss
There is a poem by Eli Siegel which I love and feel could have been written about me. It is titled "You Abhor It; or, Watch Out for Colda Withinna." Here it is:
There is a girl called
In every woman; she says
Don't give large meaning to anything;
Have the right coldness;
Lessen as soon as you can;
If it is good, doubt it;
Respecting anything makes you less, so fear respect.
This is the message of Colda Withinna.
Don't give it heart-room.
By seeing the message of Colda Withinna
You abhor it.
This is a vivid, musical description of the central mistake people make about coldness and warmth: we think we are being warm to our precious selves if we have contempt, look down coolly on everything. And Mr. Siegel has critical compassion for the emptiness, the hollowness this makes for, something I know first-hand.
By the time I was 18 I had already given much "heart room" to the message of this girl. I felt I was "hot stuff" as I disdained what other people saw meaning in. In an early consultation, I told my consultants that Beethoven was "okay," and I spoke about other things, including those that mattered to me most, in a lifeless manner. When they asked me in a later consultation, "Do you admire people who are cold?" I knew the answer was yes. I saw myself as superior to anyone who I felt got carried away and showed unbecoming and messy feelings. I would never have the vulgarity to slam a door in anger. I didn't even want to admit that anything or anyone hurt me--because as my consultants explained, "you don't want to say it affects you." I felt I was on the outside of life looking in; but while I cultivated indifference, I was becoming more fearful, sometimes getting into a panic all of a sudden, feeling both frantic and frozen. In The Right Of, Ellen Reiss explains what was going on in me when she writes:
Coldness, Aesthetic Realism shows, is a triumph. But with that triumph is a sinking, a fearfulness, a shame--for a reason gloriously honorable to the human mind and unknown until Eli Siegel explained it. We despise ourselves for being cold, we ache from our coldness, because our greatest desire is to like the world, to feel our living relation to every thing and person.
Aesthetic Realism is the kindest friend to humanity, as it has been to me, in showing contempt to be the dangerous, life sapping thing it is; as something not to coddle warmly, but to be "abhorred," as Mr. Siegel says in his poem. To like the world, is to be warm and cool in an honest, beautiful way--that is: to have large, expansive feeling about reality that is also completely accurate. This is the study the whole world needs and which I am so grateful to be engaged in.