Thursday, October 11, 2007

Daily bread, and the four personalities of man

Here I am again, in the business class lounge of Korean Airlines international Airport in Seoul. Posting a blog entry from this location has become almost a tradition; a peculiar one, to be sure, but we have to take traditions as they come.

Due to the miraculous capabilities of VOIP, I just spent 20 minutes talking to my wife, mostly about questions raised by the passage from the last chapter in "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson" which I cited in my posting two days ago.

When we speak of what is referred to as "daily bread" in the Lord's prayer, we might consider it from four separate points of view, every one of which corresponds to a particular personality of man. A man takes in many kinds of food every day. He ought to become more aware of each kind of food, and have a respect for it that leads him to seek it in an appropriate manner and at an appropriate time.

The first type of food is the food that feeds the organism (the "third personality" mentioned in the lecture.) This is the food that we chew and eat, the chemical substances that are transubstantiated within us to construct this organism we inhabit.

Let's pause for a minute right now to sense ourself and consider that this entire thing we call a body arises as if from nothingness from the countless trillions of atomic and molecular elements that we ingest over the course of a lifetime. I did this the other night, lying on my bed, and was for a moment completely astonished.

This ongoing creation of the body is an act of magic, born of energies we do not understand and mediated by forces that are cosmological in nature. Our presumption that our body (or anything else, for that matter) "belongs" to us seems absurd in the face of this mystery, doesn't it?

The second kind of food which we discussed two days ago is the food contained within air, which contains much subtler substances than we generally sense or get involved with.

The third kind of food is the overall food of impressions, the totality of sensory impressions that are received from all of the organic tools designed to receive them.

These are the only three specific foods that Gurdjieff mentions. I think, however, that we might conceive of the totality of the experience of life as a fourth food. Admittedly, this is hardly doctrinaire, and may be stretching it. Nonetheless, when we consider the blending of the three foods within us, they are supposed to form a fourth totality, the fourth personality, the real "I" or or real mind of man. The formation of that "I" or Being is supposed, ultimately, to feed our Work, which in its overall aim and effect needs to be be greater than just the act of Being itself.

It's quite important for us to try and give ourselves a little special food in every area in each day. For example, we might want to eat something that we take particular pleasure in -- just a little bit of it -- and pay a precise attention to that pleasure with a real sensation of gratitude. My original teacher and group leader gave me that task when we were first working together, at the time when I was first getting sober. It is only now, 25 years later, that I appreciate how subtle this very simple task is.

The second thing we can do is pay specific attention to the breath in the manner that was discussed two days ago. This practice can be extended to a much broader set of exercises which I have not published. Realistically speaking, most of it can only be offered in person.

The third thing we can do is try to discover the fundamental organic reservoir of gratitude within us, and receive all the other impressions of our life from the point of view of acceptance and openness, invested as deeply as possible within the practice of what Gurdjieff called "outer considering," which in other practices is called compassion.

And the fourth task that we can give ourselves in feeding ourselves is to meet these three foods within our life, pondering the meaning of their blending, and seeking to understand what the wholeness of life is as all three of these foods support us in our effort.

So when we say, in the Lord's prayer, "give us this day our daily bread," we are actually asking for support in the undertaking of the task that has the deepest roots, the strongest trunk, the broadest canopy within life. It is no one small thing, even though it is always composed of the small things.

In fact, it is everything.

May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.

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