Strength or Weakness —
What Do We Encourage in Ourselves and Others?
From an Aesthetic Realism Public Seminar
by Miriam Weiss
In one of several letters I wrote home from camp at the age of 13, I told with excitement "[The] construction [workshop] is really great! Today we were nailing down the sub‑floor of the barn and I guess we'll attempt the staircase." And I told exuberantly how much I loved folk dancing, and of the pleasure I had from a concert of Brahms we went to at Tanglewood.
As I look back at that time, I see that I had a true sense of strength; I did feel more myself, vivified, as I was affected by the power and grace of an Assyrian couple dance, the sound of an orchestra under a night sky, taking part with others in the construction of a building. But in these same letters I also conveyed a very different message: a sense that I was not holding up so well. There was a running commentary about my allergies, throat infections and other indispositions, letting my parents know that I was a most sensitive flower‑‑albeit allergic to every other one in the Massachusetts woods‑‑laboring through life with handicaps.
I was to learn years later that there was something in me working against my strength. It was contempt, which Mr. Siegel described as "that which distinguishes a self secretly and that which makes that self ashamed and weaker." (Self and World, p.362)