Part 2: Care for Yourself & Justice to Others; Do They Have to Fight?

Part 3: Care for Yourself & Justice to Others; Do They Have to Fight?


Aesthetic Realism seminar:
"Care for Yourself & Justice to Others; Do They Have to Fight?"
with a discussion about Branch Rickey
By Michael Palmer

        I love Aesthetic Realism for explaining a crucial question for every person—can I care for myself and be just to others—or do the two have to fight? In The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known titled “Justice Near and Far” Eli Siegel wrote:
"The most beautiful thing a person can do is to be interested in justice so much that his care is a deep cause of his happiness. However idealistic it may sound, a person not caring enough for justice cannot be definitely happy." (TRO #274)
Early in school, I liked learning about people who were interested in justice very much. There were Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson who courageously put their lives on the line in the coming-to-be of the Declaration of Independence and freedom from the tyranny of the British; and Abraham Lincoln who never backed down in the war to end the hideousness of slavery. But, in my life every day, I did not see being just to people as mattering much. I wanted to be liked. I would often entertain friends with comic routines and imitations, but I was not interested in their lives. I deeply felt most people were not good enough for me to know. For instance, my first date, as a teenager, was with Cynthia Hecht whom I had feeling for. We had dinner at the Jade Garden Chinese Restaurant on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. The egg rolls, fried rice and chow mein were great, but I spent most of the time trying to show Cynthia how personable I could be. I thought I was making quite a hit, but I never asked her anything about herself. It didn’t occur to me that I should try to know her, have a truly good effect. And when I asked Cynthia to go out again she politely refused, saying “I’d rather not.” 

     I never asked why, but the truth was that I preferred my own company to being interested in another person. I liked doing things alone, taking long walks and listening to baseball broadcasts, rooting for my team, the Yankees. When they won, which was quite often, I felt I was special—“the number one Yankees fan.” In a lesson titled “Baseball: The Beauty of It,” Mr. Siegel showed why baseball is a great and popular game, how it puts opposites together such as individual and relation, surface and depth. It’s knowledge every player, manager and fan should have to see the true meaning of the game and its real value to our lives. He also explained this important thing—so true about me--how people can use baseball as a symbol for themselves. He said: 

"There’s a satisfaction in having something associated with oneself win out in a team. For instance, in Brooklyn, the Dodgers won and you felt you were a better person."
And I, living in the Bronx felt, because of the Yankees, I was a superior being and didn’t have to think of being just to anyone else. In fact, when the Yankees consistently acquired the best players from weaker teams who couldn’t afford to keep them--an injustice that went on for years--I felt, ”That’s just fine, my team deserves the best. To heck with the others.“ This was contempt sheer and no matter how good my team was, I felt a gnawing sense of shame and, as time went on, I worried about how little affected by people and things I was becoming. I would stay at home a lot, watching TV, feeling bored and then for “excitement,” I’d gamble, bet on sporting events and go to racetracks. I thought, despairingly, this is how I’d spend the rest of my life. 

     But some years later, I had the good fortune to meet the tremendous knowledge and kindness of Aesthetic Realism, and I began to understand myself. In the very first class I attended taught by Eli Siegel, he got right to the center of me when he asked, “Do you care for anything more than yourself?” 

MP.  I don’t think so.” 
ES.  Is your attitude to people good enough?” 
MP.  No, it isn’t.
ES.  That’s right. Courageous, man!
Mr. Siegel showed me that the way I’d really care for myself was to be just to other people. And he explained something that surprised me very much, that a desire to be just was already in me. He asked,
“Do you think there is something impelling you to think well of yourself?  Is there a need to do the best with yourself as you can—a hope that one has a good effect? There is an imperative to think as well of ourselves as we can.” 

     I’m grateful to Mr. Siegel for enabling me to understand what stopped me from caring for people and how I could change. In a later class he said, “Your mistake is not seeing the full possibilities of a person….Try to see what another person is hoping for.” As I began to have this as my conscious purpose, it made for the greatest pleasure and has given me a life that is useful, proud and exciting. I’ve had big emotions about things I never imagined I could have. And I fell in love with a woman, Lynette Abel, to whom I am so grateful to be married. I see wanting to know Lynette, consciously wanting her to be stronger, has strengthened and made for romantic, passionate feeling between us, the real thing! 


I speak now about aspects of the life of one of baseball’s important men, Branch Rickey, Branch Rickeywho had a large battle between justice to others and care for himself, a man who dramatically changed the “face” of the game. 
 Born in 1881 on a farm in southern Ohio, Wesley Branch Rickey grew up in a religious Methodist family, As his grandson Branch B. Rickey writes:
His education...was a one-room schoolhouse but he was so adept academically that he overcame the limitations and went on to Ohio Wesleyan University and University of Michigan Law School. He played pro baseball in the summers and excelled in Latin and Greek in the winters. Academic excellence was his conviction, but baseball was his passion.

Branch Rickey was good enough as a catcher to play in the major leagues with the St. Louis Browns and the New York Highlanders. Branch RickeyAnd, amazingly, during off-seasons he also coached baseball--at Ohio Wesleyan and at Michigan. It was while coaching Ohio Wesleyan in 1903, an incident occurred that was to have a profound effect on his life. Charles ThomasThe only black player on his team, Charles Thomas, was refused a room in the South Bend, Indiana hotel where they were staying. While Rickey was able to talk hotel management into letting Thomas use a cot in his, Rickey’s, room, when he arrived later, he found Thomas crying and pulling at the skin on his arms. Rickey asked what the matter was and

 For Part II click here

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