This morning we were up at 6 am and walking the dog Isabel along the creek. The idea of service came up.
All of life finds itself in service. It's one of the conditions of existence. The chain is magnificent; suns serve to create elements. Elements serve to create planets (and more suns.) Planets serve to create life. Life serves...
what does life serve, anyway?
In order to approach this question I will be digressing in multiple directions. Apologies.
According to Gurdjieff, organic life serves an intermediary role in the life of planets. It helps to receive and then transubstantiate certain arcane energies in the service of planetary evolution.
This is pretty heady stuff. I used to really get into studying and analyzing the massive encyclopedia of ideas in the Gurdjieff work about these matters, and I still retain more than a fair amount of it. I also like to flatter myself by believing that I understand more than a good bit of this material.
Alas! My egoistical indulgences are in vain. The Gurdjieff work contains so many vital ideas, and the subjects that it touches on are so vast, that by the time one begins to understand any of it- that is to say, understands its context within a relationship of inner vibrations rather than just with the intellect alone- one realizes that one doesn't understand anything.
It gets worse. The things that can be understood turn out to be gloriously subtle and all but impervious to the reductionist battering of words. Leaving us all in a hell where what perhaps needs to be expressed the most cannot be touched by what we use the most to express things with.
Hence, we may presume, all the apocryphal tales about teachers teaching their work with their backs.
Or perhaps even their backsides. After all, much of what is taught to mankind is so obviously taught by asses.
As I get older, it becomes more and more difficult to expound on ideas. There is simply so much that needs to be said that can't be said effectively. On top of that, the tendency in the Gurdjieff work is, all too often, to cleave to the form and adopt an imitative tone drenched with the same victorian overtones that colored the admittedly great works of Ouspensky and Nicoll. That doesn't work for me- I urgently feel we need something more tangible, more immediate.
I often think that as much as we may respect them, we cannot rely on the work of dead people to carry us forward. Hence this blog, which tries as much as possible to speak in my words, from my experience, about these matters in a contemporary manner that may somehow touch people from today's work in today's life, not from the work of yesteryear.
Probably it's arrogant. In addition, it's almost intimidating to go to the myriad other web sites and blogs which brilliantly recycle, reprocess, and regurgitate the Gurdjieff material in a thousand different ways more clever than anything I think I could ever come up with.
I think to myself, "maybe I should be doing that." But I'm not.
OK, now I'm done digressing.
My morning impression of this idea of service is that we all have to serve something. In this life, in this moment, I am in service of forces greater than myself. We all are. If you want be strictly scientific about it, you could say we are in the service of evolution. Or, in other words, Great Nature, as Mr. Gurdjieff calls it.
Now, we can be in service involuntarily- out of fear, with the pressure of our animal needs driving us forward like lambs to the slaughter- or we can choose to be in service voluntarily, that is, with acceptance.
To serve as animals, as slaves to nature, the highest art we bring is patience. But patience needs exercise, and has its limits.
Acceptance has muscles that never lose their tone; it knows no boundaries.
Patience is a human virtue: a cautious, beautiful woman confined within the borders of the self.
Acceptance is a solar force: exploratory, expansive, fearless. It slays ego where it stands with a sword forged of compassion.
A friend of mine named Red Hawk who writes poems has a collection called "The Art of Dying." (He writes in a powerful, uncompromising voice- go buy it and you'll see what I mean.)
I think that acceptance is a big part of the art of dying- dying to myself in order to discover a willingness to just say "OK" to the conditions of my life-
instead of resisting it at every turn.