Thursday, January 25, 2007

Aim, meaning, prayer

This week was a bit overwhelming for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the cruel axe of corporate cutbacks- whose wicked swings fortunately missed yours truly. Instead, friends were vocationally decapitated-quite traumatic enough, thank thee kindly. The sobering "there but for the grace of God" moments are still reverberating.

Less lumberjacks- more logs to jockey. I have had little time to post, and now that I do, I have a somewhat rambling collection of musings rather than elegantly organized thoughts. So please bear with me while I kind of think out loud and touch on a number of things that have been milling around in me over the past four days.

Today at about noon, as is my habit, I took a cup of coffee and sat down in the cafeteria room at work. I pulled up a chair and looked out the window at the faint ghost of the sun, partially obscured by clouds, but nonetheless overpowering.

As soon as we leave the atmosphere of this planet, I thought to myself, we are dealing with cosmological forces on scales that humans merely pretend to comprehend. The universe is vast- as my web home page, the astronomy picture of the day site, continually reminds me- but even this solar system is vast.

This ever-shining sun of today, and the planets, do their work without regard for the intense dramas being played out in Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on. In fact, taken all at once together as a single entity, the frenzied activity of all mankind is a small force. It only seems large to us. As Gurdjieff mentioned to Ouspensky, man is a "microcosmos" (In Search Of The Miraculous, P. 329.)

We're tiny. Yet we assign ourselves tremendous importance. It is certainly true of me, anyway- I am arrogant and competitive and don't see how beholden I am to forces greater than myself. It's only as I have grown older that I begin to acknowledge this, and accept the fact that I am in service to something greater than this small thing called self. I'm merely one infinitesimal (yet functional) part of this massive engine called the cosmos.

I perceive myself as separated and intact, but I am, in a grand paraodx, both connected and fragmented.

Why do I say that? I'm connected because I am a particle of this vast ocean of matter, and I am fragmented because I fail to see or sense my connection to the whole.

As usual, I have it backwards.

This may sound theoretical, but to me it is not. In the midst of this confusion, where do I seek my own meaning and where do I find it?

Another way of saying this might be, what is my aim?

In life, everything just happens. No matter what we do our how we organize it, the unexpected arrives. How do we get our bearings in a sandstorm like this?

As Gurdjieff puts it, a man must have an aim. And I think every aim consists in a way of an attempt to acquire not just knowledge, but also understanding.

Ha! You say. That's utter nonsense. And you're probably right.

So let us say just this: in any event, in my opinion every aim should consist of just such a thing. That is, to acquire the raw metals of knowledge through the organism, test them in the forge of experience, and hammer them into understanding on the anvil of being. It's a physical act, this thing: not the way of thinking myself into meaning, but of digging into the earthy ore of meaning with my bare hands.

An ore found without prejudice both inside and outside the vessel of this organism.

Perhaps my efforts are too organically based. I don't know. Whether that is true or not I can't say. I only know that it's strictly through the direct experience of sensation, living within this organism, that I seem to be able to acquire anything approaching meaning. And what is acquired by that means does not lend itself readily to definitions.

I read a lot of spiritual literature, but don't find much said about the efforts to grow a root of being down into the deep mud of the body. Where are the comments about this effort? Where are the texts about developing the shimmering sensation of being, the organic vibration of the marrow that verfies we are alive?

Perhaps this type of experience is too ordinary--or even too obscure-- to be considered transcendental. For myself, I don't think so. The heart of the ordinary beats with the most extraordinary of forces. The vibration from which we arise penetrates every instance of reality. Our Father can be sensed with the body.

I use the Lord's prayer every morning at the beginning of meditation. Over time, its meaning keeps changing for me. This week I see that the whole of the Lord's Prayer is a call to relationship.

My study of this prayer has, over time, helped to provide me with both aim and understanding.

It reveals its treasures slowly, but they are glorious.

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