Jimmy Cagney — or Does the Way We Fight Make Us Strong or Weak?

James Cagney

James Cagney

By Bennett Cooperman

I’m glad to feature this important paper by my colleague, actor and Aesthetic Realism consultant Bennett Cooperman. –Anne Fielding

Aesthetic Realism explains that every fight we have is based on either respect or contempt for the world. For example, when people fought the Nazis in World War II, they were fighting in behalf of respect—for justice. But most fights are based on the desire to have contempt, to be superior, and this desire causes hell in bedrooms, on city streets, and between nations. When we have contempt we hope for fights and this makes us cruel.

For much of my life I did just that. I remember a typical morning years ago. Getting ready for work, I was sure that later my boss was going to pounce on me and find a flaw with something I did. As I put on my tie and walked to the subway, I planned my counter-attack. But when I saw my boss he looked up and said in the friendliest way, “Oh hello, Bennett. Good morning.” I was shocked.

I am very grateful to Aesthetic Realism for showing me how to criticize my desire to fight with the world and people, and for teaching me that what I want most is to care for things in a large, accurate way. Because of what I’m learning, I have a happy life.

In this paper I’ll speak about my own life and about one of America’s most loved actors, Jimmy Cagney. I’ll show the two ways we fight—how one strengthens and the other weakens us—and how these were in both the life and the art of Jimmy Cagney. Read more…

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