The Questions Every Person Has by Being Alive

Nancy Huntting on a road trip along the Hudson River on the Jersey side
Looking at Hudson River wetlands

I grew up in southern Ohio near Cincinnati, and after college moved to New York City where I first attended an Aesthetic Realism seminar.  I was electrified by the honesty & scholarship of the speakers, and what they were saying about art and life.  On this site is some of what I’ve learned that changed my life. 

What Is Aesthetic Realism?

Aesthetic Realism was founded in 1941 by the great American poet and critic Eli Siegel. It’s education, logical and kind, about the world and the human self, our hopes and possibilities. Aesthetic Realism answers, as never before, the  questions every person has by being alive—about ourselves, love, work, people, about our hopes and despairs, and more. 

The Principles of Aesthetic Realism

These principles stated by Eli Siegel are the basis of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism. It is my careful opinion they are true, and urgently needed by humanity for the world to be safe, kind, truly civilized: 

1.  The deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.
2.  The greatest danger for a person is to have contempt for the world and what is in it….Contempt can be defined as the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.
3.  All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.

It was through studying these principles in exciting Aesthetic Realism consultations and classes, and later having the honor to study with Eli Siegel, that I became wider, deeper, happier, and a much kinder and more useful person! My best possibilities were brought forth, encouraged, strengthened. I believe everyone deserves to know and study Aesthetic Realism, and that the world urgently needs this universally true education. I recommend Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism, and many other works about Aesthetic Realism in the Online Library

And I recommend the magnificent international journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known (TRO) published every two weeks: 

“The Art of Responding to Value”

Alex Katz, Summer Triptych
Alex Katz, Summer Triptych (detail), The Saatchi Collection, London

TRO #2108 begins serializing the vitally important lecture Eli Siegel gave in 1970, Criticism Is the Art of Responding to Value. Ellen Reiss writes in her commentary to this issue: “Each of us, Aesthetic Realism explains, is a critic all the time, of everything we meet…. If we buy one product rather than another, we’re responding to what we consider their value….In another field: many a woman who had seen a man as a hero of love, later came to see him as a complete heel: she was likely wrong in both instances, but in both she was ‘responding to value.'” read more

Many of the articles I’ve written and presented publicly in Aesthetic Realism seminars are published on this site. They’re about my life, questions I heard and things I learned that enabled me to change, as well as about notable, courageous women and how their lives show the immense universal value of Aesthetic Realism.

Reprinted from The Rock Island Argus

Seabiscuit Shows the Power of Kindness

By Nancy Huntting
Reprinted from The Rock Island Argus, Rock Island, IL, September 22, 2003, and the Tennessee Tribune, Nashville, TN, Sept. 18-24, issue. Appeared in the on-line Forum of the Thoroughbred Times, Lexington, KY.

War Admiral and Seabiscuit, scene from film

Most people do not think kindness is powerful. And most nations don’t either. In 1970, Eli Siegel, the great American educator and founder of Aesthetic Realism, stated passionately in one of the groundbreaking talks he gave on economics:

 I say that the whole purpose of history is to show that the greatest kindness is the greatest power.

I think the 2003 movie “Seabiscuit” is evidence for this, and that its huge popularity shows people are thirsting to see that kindness is not  a soft, weak, ‘nice’ thing— it has might and pizzazz!

The film, about the brave race horse who stirred all of America during the Great Depression, shows that kindness not only can bring out astonishing power in a horse, but brings out possibilities in people around him that might never have been!

Nobody saw what that little ornery horse, who apparently loved to doze in the shade half the day, had in him — until wrangler Tom Smith came along and tried to understand him.

Real kindness, I’ve learned, is not gush, or sacrificial. Mr. Siegel defined it as “that in a self which wants other things to be rightly pleased,” and he wrote:

A person is kind who feels a sense of likeness to other things…. to be kind, we must have the imagination arising from the knowledge of feelings had by others…. Kindness is accuracy…. To know a thing as it is, is to give it its due.  [from Definitions, and Comment: Being a Description of the World by Eli Siegel]

In this film, Seabiscuit’s tremendous success stands for the kinder America that came to be under The New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: where every person was seen as deserving to have a home, a job, decent food and clothes, and the best in him or her brought out!

It is now 2003, and economics in America has failed. In lectures he gave in the 1970s, Mr. Siegel showed that the profit system, in which men and women — and, yes, even children — are seen as existing for the enrichment of owners and stockholders, is based on contempt, “the addition to self through the lessening of something else.” The contempt at the basis of economics has caused massive suffering and massive inefficiency, like the recent blackout. Ellen Reiss, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, describes the outrage in Americans when she writes:

Today there is this tremendous feeling in people: ‘We want to work on a basis that is respectful of us! We don’t want to be seen as profit-producing mechanisms for someone, to be paid as little as possible and discarded!’ This desire in America for a respectful economics…exists unquenchably whatever goes on in Washington, whatever is in the news.  [ from The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known,  2/5/03]

Seabiscuit, J. Pollard up

Our economy will recover only when it is based on good will, “ the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful.” Watching Seabiscuit, I felt — that is what is happening to the men who work to have that unlikely horse win against the mighty War Admiral, in one of the most remarkable races in history. Each of them becomes “stronger and more beautiful”!

This film goes along very deeply with the most important question for America now, which Eli Siegel asked: “What does a person deserve by being alive?”

Nancy Huntting on the chestnut horse, Rosalie
Author on Rosalie

Nancy Huntting is a teacher on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City, and writes and speaks on women in history and today. She grew up near Cincinnati and loved to ride and visit the horse farms in Kentucky.