Thursday, August 23, 2007

Existence

Today I wrapped up the end of "From the Author" in Gurdjieff's "Beelzebub."

If there is one overarching theme in this book, it is man's failure to sense reality properly. In this sense it's utterly doctrinaire: despite Gurdjieff's proclamations about the uniqueness of his book, it delivers the standard message:

we're all screwed up.

Looking around us, does anyone doubt it?

And lo and behold... towards the end of the chapter- synchronicity abounding- Gurdjieff broaches the subject of... you guessed it... death.

His treatment of it here is intricately bound up in man's possibilities "after death," so to speak, (I'm referring to the "two rivers" addendum, which provides more than a passing intimation of the presence of reincarnation in his teaching) but one of the chief points he makes is how terrified we'd be... and how utterly bereft of aim or hope we'd probably find ourselves- if we knew exactly when we were to die. He hammers home the fact that we all believe we're immortal- maybe true, maybe not- and how oblivious we are to the fact of our death, which distracts us from doing anything "real" about our dire circumstances.

I think he sells the subject a bit too hard. Many people end up knowing they are going to die- modern medicine, for all the contempt he showed it in his own time, has become pretty good at telling people when their condition is mortal, often months or years ahead of the fact. So many men live with the certain knowledge of their own death.

It doesn't take doctors, either. As I have pointed out before, developing a more intense connection with the body, particularly through the breathing, can help a man develop a greater conscious sense of his mortality. Sensation is a path to understanding both life and death organically. This inhabitation of the organism- as Dogen puts it, skin, flesh, bones and marrow- in a more comprehensive manner certainly brings one to the conclusion that the residence in the body can be nothing more than temporary. When it's possible to sense the struggle that keeps one alive, the prospect of an end to that struggle becomes more tangible.

In fact, there come moments when one realizes that there is a part of us that will welcome death.

That is something to ponder indeed. For myself, I'm certainly not finished with that chapter.

This weekend I have family obligations that may make it difficult to post. I'll do my best, but if you should visit and find no new material, well, there is plenty of older material to peruse...

and in the meantime...

May your seeds fall in fertile earth, and grow green with summer.

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