Saturday, October 13, 2007
From “Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, G.I. Gurdjieff, Arkana edition, page 1090:
“And the fourth personality, which should also be a distinct part of the whole individual, is none other than the manifestation of the totality of the results of the already automatized functioning of the three enumerated personalities separately formed in him and independently educated, that is to say, it is that part of a being which is called "I."
In regard to the passage this quote comes from—“this week’s passage,” as it were--I’ve been attempting to work on three areas of practical observation within life this week.
One thing is to observe the individual perceptions that enter within ordinary conditions of life and relate them directly, within immediate experience (avoiding, if possible, analysis) to the work of the three major centers. I try to approach this using a sense of organic immediacy, intelligent intuition, and empathic instinct, not association.
The second thing is, within that work, to attend to and feed the specific sensations within the inner flowers during daily activity.
The third is to see if, and how, the experience of the perception within the various centers knits itself into a single whole, that is--where and how does “I,” the experience of self, arise?
I’m getting a bit more interested in this in specific relationship to in the work of the inner sensory parts, as related in the allegory of the society of Akhldanns.
More on that in the future.
Today—just a few minutes ago, in fact—I was standing on the deck of a ferry between Nantong and Shanghai, smelling the brackish, muddy bay water, sensing my skin as the occasional fat drop of rain spattered down from dormant, lead-grey skies. Inhaling the acrid, sweat-sweet smell of diesel oil. Water spilled off the edge of the ferry in sinuous foaming brown swirls, every bubble a rounded, effervescent gem, conveying the impression of countless temporary eternities in motion. Freighters and barges spilled off the starboard bow by the hundreds; cities on water.
Planets, machines, fuel, weather:
The moment reminded me powerfully of several other moments in my existence on this planet:
A ferry to from Denmark to Norway when I was 12, watching the golden scales of the sun gleam off the boat’s wake from the porthole of my cabin, feeling like that particular moment was all there ever was, all there ever could be, and that all of the gold in the world, if there was any gold at all, was contained in those waves.
Another moment in Albufeira, on the coast of the Algarve in Portugal, at 13, watching azure Mediterranean waves foam and swirl against the fossil-saturated rocks and cliffs. Realizing that this had gone on…more or less, forever… and how temporary I was. Wanting to scry the ultimate nature of life, to pluck some absolute, yet completely intagible, plum of truth from within that timeless moment of time.
What are we?
The two months I spent working on an oil tanker on the Rhine in the summer of 1972, between my junior and senior year in high school. A land seemingly stained forever by the memory of war; you can still taste it in the air today, a coal-black worm of sin that seams the underbelly of the land with darkness. The bleak loneliness of a German summer sky: cool, slate blue clouds and rain. Neat, manicured rows of plenty: vineyards marching across the shattered, stony uplifts of the Rhineland.
And always, always, the river keeps sliding by: undeterred, unforgiving, and relentless in its rush to the sea.
The uninvited past inserts itself into today’s experiences and colors the picture until it seems as though this moment is a summary of my whole life. I breathe: I stand, my hands resting on the coolness of the bulwark; I remember.
I remember where I am, and ponder the questions of world creation and world maintenance.
I am of this world.
This is a water planet; we live in a universe of temperature, where the liquidity of movement is only determined by degree, and every substance moves from frozen solid, to liquid, to gas as the energies around it affect it.
Where do I stand in this line of time and space? How does this single dew drop of life, as Dogen might call it, compare to the blue ocean from whence it comes?
Seeking self, seeking I, within this state, I see that the very allure of a hypothesis alone already creates the temptation to explain, and we are in many ways unable to explain. It is unnecessary to explain. It is much more necessary to be than to explain, and yet paradoxically, everything—from everyone--morphs into an explanation. Even those who profess to practice silence explain within the very act of their profession.
…Man cannot do. But should he do?
What does “Thy will be done” mean?
Being, as the quote at the beginning of today’s post points out, is a distinct state that arises from within the concerted activity of the three major centers: moving, emotional, thinking. I emphasize the word distinct because I am not sure we are aware of the distinction. For us, being too often arises from a single center, a one-pointed perception of life. We’re not connected to the ship: the propellers, the churning engines, the rudders of our life.
We’re just catching a burnt whiff of spent diesel oil and calling it awareness.
If there is anything we should do, it is perceive: insert ourselves within this life, rising up from the root of our being, accepting and incorporating the sum total of where we have come from, all the results that the merciless heropass (time) has installed and instilled within us.
Then to live from within, as wholly as possible, knitting the tangled yarns of our experience into a single fabric. To avoid the temptation of creating the story, and discover the art of just being the story.
The art of life is never in the making, but always in the seeing.
May your trees bear fruit, and your waters yield movement.