Sunday, December 17, 2006
assumptions and support
If the first question I asked myself about my relationship with other people was how I could support them- really support them in a meaningful way- I'd be getting somewhere.
Too much of my life is lived in circumstances where I see people from the point of view of what I want them to be- not what they are in and for themselves. The fact is I spend little or no time trying to really see how they are and what they need. Every time I devote even a moment to making that effort, the very first thing I see when I open my "inner eyes" is that everyone else- including all of those closest to me- is a mystery to me.
I don't- and can't- actually know what is inside them, how they are feeling, what they are thinking. Instead I have a series of ready-made assumptions about them which I apply to just about every interaction.
The assumptions are a form- just like our religious forms- that provides me with a template upon which to base my behavior. These inner templates aren't very useful. Whether we are approaching God, our spouses, co workers, or our children, they just get in the way.
Whenever possible, I can try to remind myself: isn't there the possibility of having an unmediated experience with this other person- an experience, that is, that isn't touched by the soiled fingers of my assumptions?
An experience that is honest and true and direct and just allows everything to be as it is, instead of how I want it to be?
In moments where that becomes possible- they're rare enough, that's for sure!- a new kind of vibration is present. I'm not speaking figuratively here- there is a literal vibration in the being that is different. It produces a humility that is totally absent in me under ordinary conditions.
Well, perhaps we shouldn't speak of these things. But perhaps we should. Do we really know, really understand, that something inside us can be fundamentally, radically different? That a revolution, a turning, can take place wthin, and that everything can change?
That we can perceive and receive with parts that until now we did not even know existed?
If we aren't willing to allow for that much miraculous, perhaps we should hang up our hats and settle down in front of the television, where effortless miracles are served up digitally 24/7, without any need for effort on our own part.
That's enough for some people, for sure- those immune to the troubling wasps of conscience- , and blessings be upon them. As for myself- I'm a Dutchman, and Dutch people are idiots and hardheads. They expect things to be harder than that, and they expect to work.
Hell, they like to work. And when they see dirt they have an irrepressible, uncontrollable urge to scrub it clean. Inner dirt, outer dirt: it doesn't matter. Dirt is dirt to a Dutchman.
My work these days turns out to be mostly with the people in my life, all of whom are perpetually teaching me a lot of stuff I didn't know: furthermore, stuff I didn't know I didn't know. People like me, you see, wake up every morning convinced they know just about everything, and today will no doubt be the day to fill in those last little dark corners of ignorance and dust our hands off in satisfaction at a job well done.
All the people in my life- even, perhaps especially, the ones I don't like- are constantly teaching me that they need my understanding- my compassion- my support. Like me, thay all have challenges and broken parts and screwed-up ideas, and we're all in this same messy business we call life together.
As Mr. Gurdjieff often put it, "in galoshes up to our eyebrows." Or, as we say in AA, "There but for the grace of God go I."
So if I put those lazy "inner eyes" to use the first thing I may see is that I ought to be compassionate- Gurdjieff called it "outer considering-" and try to see how I can support the people I live and work with instead of faulting them.
Being this active within calls on more than my usual set of assumptions. I need to be within the present moment and ask myself a lot of questions:
Just how is it that I am?
Just how is it that the other person is?
Just how are we together?
And once again I am drawn back to that perennial, inevitable, infallible question my teacher asked me so many years ago:
"What is the truth of this moment?"
I think a significant part of that truth always lies within an effort to support. An effort I forget all too often in my rush to make sure that I am supported.
In this question of support, perhaps it would be good if I remembered to always give it first, and never bother to think about the getting of it.
Anything else is just dirt, and even when it's seasonally gift-wrapped in my elaborate rationalizations-
dirt is dirt.