Statement by Meryl Nietsch-Cooperman, Public Speaker & Director of Administration, Marketing, and Communications
I am proud to refute one of the lies about the philosophy Aesthetic Realism and its founder, Eli Siegel, by telling an instance of what this education did for me and my family. A few persons are saying on the Internet that Aesthetic Realism is a cult that breaks up the family, that people who study it become unfriendly to family members and stop talking to them. A website that promotes this lie asks with innuendo: “What do your own friends and family think about your involvement with Aesthetic Realism?”
I’m happy to answer that question. But first let me say that I’m not “involved” in anything. I take singing and poetry classes at the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation. And I am an Aesthetic Realism Associate studying in professional classes with Chairman of Education Ellen Reiss. I am no more “involved” than a freshman enrolled in classes at Harvard or New York University.
As to the family, I grew up with my five younger brothers on Long Island. As a teenager, I was very scornful and mean to my mother, Marion Nietsch. I fought with her for years, and though I felt very bad about it, couldn’t stop. During this time I was also struggling terribly with something you read a lot about in the news today. I had the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia, which continued for 10 agonizing years.
When I began to have Aesthetic Realism consultations, I heard questions about how I saw everything, including food and also my mother. Not only did I learn the cause of eating disorders—which ended in me over 25 years ago, enabling me to eat respectfully and with a pleasure and dignity that I am enormously thankful for—but the tumultuous relationship I had with my mother changed dramatically.
In one consultation I was asked about what Marion Nietsch felt with five sons, ages 15-22, all living at home: “Do you think that’s an easy situation?” I said “no” and my consultants asked, “How do you think you would do with six children? “I don’t know,” I said, and they asked, “Do you respect your mother enough?”
MN. I don’t think I respect her enough.
Consultants. Do you really have a sense of what a woman with six children feels? None of us is in that situation, but do you think mind can try to know what that feels like?
MN. I think so.
And with humor, they asked, “Do you think since you were the first…she should have stopped there!”
That’s just what I felt. For the first time, I began to think about who my mother was, as a person in her own right, with hopes and feelings I never knew existed. I was given assignments to write a soliloquy of her when she was 17, and to write a scene from a play about her that took place a few years after I was born. I began to see her with new eyes.
I treasure the friendship between us that resulted, and the many conversations we had, as we sat at Tobay Beach, or near the shore of the Great South Bay, or in the family room. These conversations meant even more after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and in the months that followed. My mother told me about where she grew up in Brooklyn, her later home in Seaford, Long Island, what she felt about my father when they first met, and that she even sang in a band.
One week before she died, Marion Nietsch wrote in a letter to Ellen Reiss, the Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education:
As I sat on the beach this summer on a beautiful clear day, and the sun was shining brightly on the waters, I saw a mother duck and six little ducklings swimming behind her and it brought back many memories of my own children who during the course of their lives had...problems that I was not aware of.
One of the things that I was not aware of in my daughter Meryl Nietsch, was her deep secret concerning food....I began to worry tremendously. I tried doctors, psychiatrists, and diet doctors, to no avail.
I thank Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism for keeping her healthy and alive…She is a very happy young woman,… and I want to thank you Miss Reiss for continuing the kind work of Eli Siegel.
Aesthetic Realism breaks up the family? Ludicrous. It made me a kind daughter for the first time in my life. My father said so as did my five brothers. And one of my sisters-in-law recently told me, “I want you to know that your family is very proud of you and your work.”
To associate the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism in any way with that word “cult” is personally insulting to me and to the integrity of America’s great scholar Eli Siegel. It is bunk. It’s like saying the philosophy of Aristotle or Immanuel Kant is in that territory.