Aesthetic Realism Can Resolve the Confusion in Men about Warmth and Coolness—including in Love and Marriage
By Arnold Perey, PhD
All over the world, men are confused about whether they want to be warm or cool—hot-blooded or "calm and collected"; intense or restrained. A man can be a fiery advocate in a cause representing justice. And a man can also be overheated in the cause of his own narrow ego. We can feel we are being passionate about a woman—her body, her lips—while in reality we are deeply cold to her. At work, we can be cool and efficient under pressure, and then later at home get into a rage because someone drank the soda we were saving for ourselves.
Aesthetic Realism is new in understanding our conflict about coolness and warmth. "Every person," Eli Siegel explained, "is always trying to put together opposites in himself." And warmth and coolness are two of those opposites. They confuse us because we don't know what our purpose is for being either cool or warm. Both can be in the service of contempt or respect. And when they are in service of contempt—as they were very frequently in me—a person is both pained and deeply unkind.
A man learns from Aesthetic Realism how to use his warmth, energy, passion in behalf of the world—and this includes having good will for a woman—and to use our capacity to be exact and organized for the same purpose: to be fair. Then, these opposites come to make sense, which is what a man desires most.
1. Aesthetic Realism Explains Warmth and Coolness in the Self
"The danger in a self," Mr. Siegel explained, is about heat and cold, a bad mingling of them or a separation of them. In this way our life is incomplete, or we don't like it; and our own selves are likewise incomplete.....we can get too excited, or we can become too cold. We can expand ourselves in a sloppy fashion, or contract in a hurtful fashion...
This describes what I did. The way cool and warm were separate in me, and also intermingled badly, confused me because I largely didn't have good will.
I was most often cool to a person's troubles and went about my own business, saving my warmth for my own concerns. This, and the way I was hotly argumentative, hoping to be superior; the way I could be loftily apart, and then become explosive—be an icicle that got hot under the collar—were forms of contempt and they made me dislike my life very much. Mr. Siegel once said of me, commenting on my coolness and heat: It's hard to think this of such a calm being, but he has been "Furnace Perey."
The place I felt most composed and most excited was as I studied anthropology. In graduate school I began to learn what is called participant observation in courses with Margaret Mead. For example, I remember liking the feeling I had when I went to a service at a mosque on Riverside Drive for an assignment and took part in the ritual, observing other people's responses and my own. And when I wrote my description, which I called The L-Shaped Room, I tried to be exact and show my feelings.
But this was very different from what I felt most of the time. In college, with women, the way I was excited and cool, what I was warm to and cold to, did not make sense. For example, on my first and only date with a girl, Linda, a counselor at an upstate NY camp, while we were driving and having a very interesting conversation, I got hungry and brought out the "emergency" cold chicken sandwich that my mother had made for me. I was amazingly unaware of Linda and didn't offer it to her. She asked, "Can I help you eat this?" I felt a flood of warmth and said, "Of course." Not only had my mother served me in making the sandwich, but another woman was going to assist my eating it! As I waited for Linda to feed it to me, she gave me half and began to eat the other half herself. Suddenly I realized what she meant: she really wanted to help do the eating! This incident was emblematic of my social life--—the way I was too often warmed and excited by the wrong things and separate from, and cold to, another's feelings.
A great worry arose in me and it is something that affects many men. In college there were several women whom I thought pretty and intelligent and gazed at with melting looks, but then, when close bodily proximity came to be, I felt nothing—the seeming flame I had felt before was just cold. This made me feel deeply incomplete as a man, and I was afraid that there wasn't any answer.
How often this happens, and how many men want to be warmer, is evidenced by the explosive popularity of prescription drugs such as Viagra. But while a chemical remedy is presented, the deep cause of insufficient response in how a man sees, remains generally unknown.
Some years later, in an Aesthetic Realism lesson—the one place I ever really thought I would get a solution for this—I spoke about my concern. I was very surprised when Mr. Siegel asked me if I was against my own conceit. "Do you believe," he asked, "there is a desire on your part...to combat [your] lofty tendencies?" There was! He explained what was not present in any book dealing with the subject—and I had read quite a bit—that this difficulty about potency was an elaborate way of punishing myself for, he said, "declaring yourself to be better than" people, including women. And I began to see, with great relief, that there was an answer. As my study of Aesthetic Realism continued and I heard incisive criticism of how I had exalted myself and lessened a woman's mind, her ethics—this situation decisively and definitely changed.
And I'm proud that my colleagues and I have been able ask questions in Aesthetic Realism consultations on this subject, such as: Have you felt so ashamed of your desire to use a woman's body without respecting her, that you have been unable to be close to her? Do you think a man can feel the world itself, including in the form of a woman's body, is not good enough to please him? If a man is angry at a woman, which would he rather do: punish her by being cold, withholding himself at a crucial moment, which is deeply mean, or try to strengthen her through being critical with good will, which is the real warmth?