On September 11, from the window of our lower Manhattan apartment, we watched in horror as the first tower of the World Trade Center
burst into flames, and then, when the second tower was attacked, and became an inferno of flame and black smoke, we knew the world
We were lucky. We were not in those buildings, nor were our loved ones. But like everyone in America we have to ask, now that our
peaceful lives are threatened, what should we do? What will make our country really safe?
The answer is not in revenge and retaliation. If innocent lives are lost as we attack Afghanistan or elsewhere, it will only create more
We are students of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism, founded in 1941 by the great American historian and educator Eli Siegel. In the
editor's commentary to the current Issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, headlined, "Urgent: How Should We See
People?" Ellen Reiss writes:
"The first crucial issue for the United States now is the issue every individual person faces when he or she is hurt: Do you want to think
more deeply at this time, or do you want to feel that you don't need to think and that since you've been hurt, you have a right to do
anything? The latter choice has been so frequent; but it is the ugliest, most dangerous choice in the world...The persons who attacked
this nation in September of 2001 were monumentally vicious. But we need to ask: Is there a discontent, an anger at the United States,
which others, who are not necessarily vicious, have? And did the anger at the US which millions of people throughout the world have,
enable those attackers to thrive, to be not adequately opposed?"
It is a plain fact, which we have to face courageously, that for decades people in the Islamic world have felt that our country was more
interested in exerting our power and making profit from them than in respecting them and asking what is fair to them. That state of mind
-- that we have the right to make less of the reality of other people and have our way with them -- we learned from Aesthetic Realism is
contempt. Ellen Reiss writes:
"We need to...be sure we are against contempt, including in us. Otherwise we will meet contempt and ill will with contempt and ill will of
our own, and that will be met with more contempt and ill will -- and there will be a horrible, deadly, unending contempt cycle. Evil should
be punished, of course. But no punishment will succeed unless it is in keeping with what Mr. Siegel describes in issue 165 of this
journal, titled 'What Caused the Wars.' The next war has to be against ugliness in self. And the greatest ugliness in self is the seeing of
contempt as personal achievement. Contempt must be had for contempt before squabbles grow less, terror diminishes. Respect for what
is real must be seen as the great success of man."
The world is changed now, but there is still a world. Devastation on a massive scale is not at all unimaginable unless we see differently.
We learned from Aesthetic Realism that self-questioning is strength and pride -- for a person, also for a nation. And we agree with Ellen
Reiss, the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, when she writes: "The big thing that the horrible occurrences of September 11, 2001
should tell us is, there is a way of seeing people by people which has to be in this world, or everyone will suffer."
The entire commentary by Ellen Reiss can be read at: www.Aesthetic-Realism.org)
Edward Green and Carrie Wilson
Edward Green is Organist and Director of Music at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on
Duncan Avenue, Jersey City. He and his wife, Carrie Wilson, are on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City.