A New Perspective for American Anthropology
How Much Feeling--and What Kind--Should a Man Have?
Discussing My Life, the Life of Fusiwe--a Head Man
of the Yanomami People--and Men of America
By Arnold Perey
Part 1
This paper was first presented at a seminar at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City on October 23, 2003.
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When a man is asking how much feeling he wants to have--and what kind of feeling--he wants an answer that will hold up and that he can count on. 

The answers we generally go by don't hold up. A man feels on the one hand that he doesn't want to have any feelings, the less the better: they're too damn complicated. I wanted to be like a rock or iron. My feelings were too up and down. I would feel all was well with a friend and myself, then get angry at him and insult or glower at him, and then feel so sorry I felt like crawling. I would think I loved a woman, go full steam ahead, and find out my feeling wasn't reciprocated at all or that I myself had cooled. I once wrote to a friend from college, in an optimistic mood, that I had made a great discovery, that life is worth it after all! and felt a few days later I was up to my neck in pessimism and the boredom I had come to feel I was going to live with forever. I tried to make sense of it, I even diagrammed my dilemmas, but nothing worked. 

On the other hand, I also felt "nothing ever happens to me" and I tried many things to find excitement, but nothing lasted. When I heard Eli Siegel's poem, "Must I wait All My Life, or The Misery Song" I felt what every man who hears it feels: This is me! It begins with these lines:

Must I wait all my life for a certain thing to happen?
Must I spend all my days just in dozin', just in nappin'?
Isn't there to be a fire? Won't some color come?
Am I blind, have I no luck, am I just plain dumb?
Must I wait all my life for a certain person's comin'?
Will I die, my life gone, and still a love tune hummin'? 
Aesthetic Realism has made it clear that what a man wants is to have as much feeling, and as accurate feeling as possible. We don't want our emotions to be sloppy and excessive but we don't want them to be inadequate and dull  either. In an Aesthetic Realism lesson Mr. Siegel explained,
When a baby is born the purpose of that baby is, One: to make a relation between himself and the whole world, and the other thing is to make a relation between his capacity for despising things and his capacity for liking. That is, his pro and anti feelings, which everyone has. [27 December 1970: p. 39]
I saw no relation between my liking things and my despising.

I was to learn in Aesthetic Realism classes with Eli Siegel that the difference between what a thing deserves and what we give it is contempt for that thing. I learned what contempt was: a "disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside world." And I had it. But contempt is not what the human mind is made for. And as an anthropologist I was to see this is true wherever one may be, in any culture--as proved by the abundant literature describing world cultures in every college library. 

Tonight I will be looking at one of the most important accounts of a man's life that I have ever seen in the literature of anthropology--the life of Fusiwe, a tushaua or head man of the "The fierce people" or Yanomami tribes of the Amazonian rainforest. It was written by one of his wives, whose Indian name was Napagnuma. Her name at birth was Helena Valero. Napagnuma means white woman in Yanoáma and is the name given her after she was captured by the Yanoáma--another name for the Yanomami peoples--when she was a young girl. Her family were traders deep in the rainforest of Venezuela at the time of her capture. She came to "belong" to Fusiwe, because he was strong enough to prevent other men from taking her from him. She became a mature woman in his band of about 100 people. 20 years after her capture, when Fusiwe had been shot with poisoned arrows and was going to die, he told her to leave the forest and find her people again. When she left, she met the Italian anthropologist Ettore Biocca who took down her story in the book Yanoáma--from which I am quoting tonight.

Ms. Valero writes with beautifully accurate memory of the ways of her adoptive tribe and gives a picture of Fusiwe--the feelings he had, their ebb and flow, and what they were about--that every man can learn from.

That is why I love anthropology so much, the subject I teach and which Aesthetic Realism has had me care for more than ever. The principles of Aesthetic Realism enable you to see, in the studies of tribal cultures, what men and women the world over really want--and that includes you.

Continued in Part 2, "Men Are Mixed Up about Hard and Soft"

The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel--which was founded in 1941--is taught in classes and in public seminars and presentations at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City.  I am proud to be on the Foundation's faculty, teaching anthropology, education, and in seminars and consultations.

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