Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sympathy for the Devil

Our cat Max runs around the house smacking things off tables, tipping over flower vases and splashing water about.

He can't help it. He's a cat. Every cat has its idiosyncracies, but all in all their cat nature carries a guarantee. We have to learn to live with that. I get irritated with him but in the end it's for me to see that he's a cat, not for him to see he ought to behave like a human.

Our habitual parts are like that. They are part of the machine and they have their own nature. Inevitably they are going to run about tipping things in life over and making a general mess of things.

Getting angry about these habitual, mechanical parts serves no purpose. Whether we are angry or not, they are what they are. We can't get rid of them- to do so would be the equivalent of killing the cat. We have to learn to include them in what we are, to coexist with them, to accept them. In other words, to have sympathy for this devil of a self we inhabit.

Self-observation teaches me that my habitual manifestations include a lot of irritating, negative, and even some downright disgusting parts. Everyone is like that. There's no way to wipe the slate clean; as I pointed out in my posting about forming an inner solar system, once matter has fallen into our gravity well and ended up on the surface of our inner planet, there's no way to get rid of it. The amount of energy it would take to eject it back into orbit is excessive. Instead, through the practice of acceptance, I need to come to terms with what's there, and through diligence and right attitude make an effort to rearrange the inner state so that what is there doesn't do damage. It's kind of like tying the cargo in a sailing vessel down so that it doesn't roll back and forth below decks smashing into everything.

So as I practice, I try and form new habits that will serve me better. I can try to express negative emotions less- which doesn't mean I don't have them, just that I don't use them as cudgels to club myself and those around me. I can try to love myself- to use the phrase "it's not so bad, really" not just in regard to external events but also to my inner reactions and my bad habits. Only by seeing and accepting can I acquire the opportunity to change anything.

It's true that I am mechanical, insensitive, and helpless. All of mankind lives within this set of conditions. Forming and feeding an inner cult of self-criticism, however, is worthless. It does not amount to right practice. Instead, right self-valuation is paramount.

We all have a devil within us. Hating him won't do us any good. Remember: the one good thing about your enemies is that they can never betray you.

Or, as Gurdjieff said of man, every man has an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. The devil you can trust.

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