Thursday, November 29, 2007

The long view

Last night, I had to have a difficult talk with a good friend who is facing some very hard decisions.

In the process, in order to be honest, I had to make recommendations I did not want to make, and I felt positively awful about them. Vibrations arose in me that penetrated my being and gave rise to tears. The situation reminds me of just how difficult the situation we find ourselves in on this planet actually is.

All of us, in life, are inevitably going to confront situations that bring terrible emotional difficulty. It's easy to be optimistic when things are going well, but it is much more difficult to keep ourselves, our interior, intact in the face of the moments that truly test us.

Most of us have managed to arrange pretty comfortable lives for ourselves; it's a safe bet that if you are reading this, you are not in the Sudan, with half your family slain, no house to live in, and no food to eat. None of us have had to confront situations this difficult. We all have opinions about how well we would handle it (and of course, we think we'd handle it well, right?) but none of us actually ever know what we will do when things go wrong, or even what we should do.

Last night, when I was speaking with our friend, it was apparent that no matter what choice was made, the consequences would last for the rest of a lifetime, and within every alternative, there was a price to be paid, and inescapable remorse to be suffered.

In these objectively real and somewhat terrifying circumstances, the question came up about where the center of gravity lies in the question of forgiveness.

Are there really choices that can condemn us to what the Catholics and fundamentalists would call hell?

Gurdjieff always said that there was a heaven and hell, and that they were right here with us now. They lie within us. In other words, we are the creators of heaven and hell, not the inhabitants or the victims. It is in the choices we make and the way that we take responsibility for them that we learn the meaning of heaven and hell.

God is not a punisher. If there is one message I feel it is essential to understand in support of our mutual search, it is the absolute, irrevocable, and universally true message that God is a reservoir of infinite mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. The only wish that His Endlessness has for any and all of his creations is that they open themselves to receive his love as they suffer their lives.

He has no need to punish us -- we take care of all of that on our own.

Some people believe that we are here to make the "right" choice. The whole concept of moral fundamentalism is based on the idea that there are right and wrong choices, good and bad things, and if you do the good thing, you are good, and if you do the bad thing, you are bad.

Gurdjieff trashed that idea pretty soundly. In the same way that Dogen insists that all there is is truth, Gurdjieff insisted that good and bad are two ends of the same stick.

That stick is choice.

We always find ourselves in the middle of choice. Everything in the universe does. If you look at the very root of reality -- the quantum state-- it has to choose, in a sense, between position and momentum.

The poor quantum state. It doesn't know what to do. Is it good to be moving but nowhere? Is it good to be somewhere but paralyzed? The dilemma forces a choice somewhere -- abracadabra! Reality arises from that choice. The quanta have been transformed. Now they are in a completely new situation--either right here, or moving over to there.

Is here "good?" Is over there "bad?" No one knows. No matter what, the fact of position and momentum now have be dealt with.

Choice creates the universe. Choice permeates the universe. Between the Scylla and Charybdis of holy affirming and holy denying forces, choice becomes the holy reconciling force. Perhaps it isn't what kind of choice we make, but rather, the way that we take responsibility for it that matters. If we spend the rest of our life beating the crap out of ourselves for the choices we have made, well then,

...welcome to hell.

Every recovering alcoholic has to confront that one early on.

Choice does not make us good or bad. We can choose "badly" and still be "good;" we can choose well and still be "bad." Anything we choose can and will produce both good and bad, because the two cannot be separated. They are all one thing. Everything is one thing.

That one thing is truth.

In choice, we confront truth in this moment. We look it right in the eye. Truth, in its turn, demands something from us, and that is our effort to Be.

Truth and Being, in other words, are engaged in the same dance, the selfsame act that we examined yesterday: the Law of reciprocal feeding.

Think on it.

One last note. There is, of course, the danger of foolish people interpreting this understanding as a license to do any old thing they want, no matter how brutal or indifferent.

We run that risk. No one is able to protect the universe from intentional ignorance. In this matter, too, Gurdjieff had words. He told Ouspensky that it is possible to intentionally serve involutionary purposes--even consciously--but the tendency is inherently unnatural. Eventually such situations bring a logical end to themselves.

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.


  1. I really found this post meaningful. I have been reading your blog for awhile now and I enjoy it.


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