Our heart has something to say, and we can do two things.
Give it a nurturing story in which to say it and then speak.
Or we can choose to remain unconscious by swallowing
the myriad narcotics of distraction.
— Roy Charles Henry
It is the realistic artist, the one that seeks the experience of reality, which can only be found in the present moment, who comes closest to realizing the deepest fulfillment of human aspirations. “The realistic temper is older than Defoe and Fielding, even older than Homer. It is as old as the human race itself. It exists whenever man deliberately chooses to face facts, to let truth prevail, and confronts dreams with actuality.”[i]
We will see that other characteristics of the realistic temperament harmonize with P-A. First, realism above all seeks to reveal the truth. This means that the illusions prevalent in P-B are often exposed. Take the distinction between feeling and emotion. There is no room for sentimentality in the prose of the realist. The emotional reaction of an immature ego seeking affection or esteem would not be regarded as healthy behavior by a realist. The immature character would be exposed as exhibiting self-destructive behavior. “‘The only reason for the existence of a novel,’ says Henry James, ‘is that it does attempt to represent life.’”[ii]
Secondly, the realist understands, to some degree, the psychological dynamics of the three energy centers of the false self in driving human behavior. “With realism, too, has come the greater reliance on psychology.”[iii] The characters in a realistic novel will often unconsciously and out of habit be seeking power, security and/or sensation and as human motives dominate the action, “we learn that it is only dulled senses which prevent our seeing beauty and truth; that habit is a husk which, torn aside, reveals strong, healthy grain.”[iv] That “strong, healthy grain” is the True self.
The ability to be an objective observer also distinguishes the realist from the romantic. In the pursuit of truth, he understands, at least to some degree, the importance of knowing the difference between reaction and response. In other words, the realist will be less likely to identify with his own body, mind and emotions and interject them into his creation. “He must not manifest a great emotional sympathy with his hero; he must not confuse his own lot with that of his characters.”[v]
Realists, because the truth is so important to them, are understandably skeptical about relying on the senses and instead tend to trust intuition. “Realism is not limited to what may be seen by the eye; at its best it makes manifest to us truths of which we are aware only from within.”[vi]
Not surprisingly, the First Noble Truth looms large in the subject matter of the realistic writer. The painful consequence of failing to transcend survival strategy behaviors is a critical part of the truth that the realists are seeking. “Realism knows well that happiness secures its greatest endorsement from the presence of pain.”[vii] There is no escapism or denial for the characters in the realist’s narrative. The courage to experience reality as it really is, is the path to truth.
And finally, and importantly, the realist writes about the NOW. “The realistic writers leave to romance the picturing of the past and prophecy as to the future.”[viii] In the stories of the “realists” we can, by reading with awareness, find the truth that we all seek. The greatest human attainment is to experience reality as it really is in the present moment. And this is the truth that we all yearn for, consciously or unconsciously.
[i] Hibbard, Addison, and Horst Frenz. Writers of the Western World. New York: Houghton, 1954, page 890.
[ii] Ibid., page 893.
[iv] Ibid., page 895.
[v] Ibid., page 893.
[vi] Ibid., page 895.
[viii] Ibid., page 894.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry.