Alice Bernstein and mastheads

As published in the Tennessee Tribune.

The Genome and "The Equality of Man"

With people the world over, I was thrilled to learn that scientists have mapped the structure of the human genome -- the genetic material in every cell of our body. It consists, the New York Times (6/27) reported, "of two sets of 23 giant DNA molecules, or chromosomes, with each set -- one inherited from each parent -- containing more than three billion chemical units"! 
       What promise this holds for developing cures for diseases, including cancer! And because the genome confirms humanity's common genetic makeup, it underscores this fact: any claims of racial superiority are filthy lies to be thrown into the garbage dump of eternity! 
       An immense cause for celebration is the fact that the genome is a means of valuing truly what Eli Siegel, the eminent poet and scientist who founded Aesthetic Realism in 1941, discovered: that [1] the world has an aesthetic structure, and [2] the truth of the equality of man.
       In her commentary to the international periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, "The Genome and Our Aesthetic Self," Ellen Reiss, the Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, writes:
        The principles of Aesthetic Realism are true about reality, and so every new discovery ratifies them and is clarified by them. I think that fact is magnificent."The world, art, and self explain each other," Mr. Siegel saw: "each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites." That principle is true about the genome.
       I love the various ways Ellen Reiss illustrates this. Discussing one description of the genome as "at least three billion chemical letters long," and, at the same time, "pithy," with "four nucleic acid bases," she writes:
        The genome, then, is a oneness of simplicity and complexity -- as all art is.... Tolstoy's War and Peace is an important novel because we feel that all its wealth of narrative and details arose from one purpose. All came from a single, deeply simple source, the honesty of Tolstoy.... Aesthetic Realism explains what that purpose is, which, if we have it clearly, will make complexity and simplicity friends within us. It is "to like the world through knowing it."
       Opposites which I also see as one in the genome are Impersonal and Personal. DNA is the impersonal biological and chemical makeup of billions of humans beings throughout time. Yet, as recent court cases have proven, how particular our DNA is! The way these chemical units are in us -- in you, dear reader, a unique individual -- in your very bones and lips and heart, is ever so intimate, personal. I find this fact terrifically moving, and a cause for honestly liking the world. Don't you? 
       Commenting on the excitement caused by what the genome confirms about race, Ellen Reiss writes:
       "What is being found is: there is a refutation of racism within the nucleus of every cell of our body .... The genome shows we are much more like one another than the brutal egos of people have wanted to see."
       A Chicago Tribune article by Paul Salopek, which I read, shows this. In it we can see the thrilling oneness of Unity and Diversity, Sameness and Difference, in the genome: "After analyzing thousands of DNA samples...experts are amazed at the genetic unity that binds our diverse, polyglot species. Any two people, regardless of geography or ethnicity, share at least 99.99 percent of their genetic makeups -- a deep sameness that makes a mockery of racist ideologies such as Nazism." 
       As Aesthetic Realism shows the aesthetic structure of the world and people, it also explains the greatest enemy to beauty and life, the cause of injustice: Contempt: "the addition to self through the lessening of something else." Writing about the effects of contempt and the only effective opposition to it, Ellen Reiss states:
       Agony, not only racial, has come from people's feeling that to be an individual I have to see myself as deeply unlike someone else. We need to see that the particularity of our irreplaceable self, our distinction, arises out of our enormous likeness to other people and things.
       I am grateful to say that I know firsthand that learning from Aesthetic Realism how to criticize our contempt, and to see our "enormous likeness" to others, makes for the love, friendship, expression and LIFE, every person longs for. I learned, and it is an amazing and completely scientific fact -- that the more we see our relation to other people -- a parent, a sister, a husband, a stranger -- the greater is our individuality! This knowledge can end racism forever. 


"The Equality of Man"
What Eli Siegel wrote in 1923 in The Modern Quarterly at age 21, "The Equality of Man," was thought that led to Aesthetic Realism. He stated: 
       Mind needs nourishment, care and training .... And the fact is plain enough that millions and millions of people ... have not got this mind's nourishment, care and training.... Men have not had an equal chance to be as actively powerful as they might be. And if they had been given an equal chance to use all the powers they had at birth, they would be equal.... Arguments, I believe, for the Equality of Man, are in man's Love, History, Art and Pleasure, and in man's most beautiful actions.... I wish very much to show the Equality of Man to be true. It is my business to go on showing it to be so.
       Because Mr. Siegel was true to these words all his life, the study of Aesthetic Realism can bring about conditions enabling people to "use all the powers they had at birth" -- which the genome represents -- making equality a living fact! 
       A beautiful showing of the oneness of Sameness and Difference in humanity is this poem written by Eli Siegel in 1970: 


          Only Later; or, The First Line 

          I heard a Negro child crying 
          And it sounded so much like a white child 
          It was only later 
          I found out what I said 
          In my first line. 


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