Monday, January 7, 2008

within this life

This photograph is sure to awaken questions in some readers. It's part of my own collection-a very unique geode I collected many years ago from a glacial moraine on Long Island.

I like this geode, because from the outside it is coarse, pebbly, and looks like a very ordinary stone. Inside, however, there is a rooted structure ( it may very well be a petrified root that originally penetrated the clay and soil where the geode formed) that is hidden from view, but creates an astonishing mystery and beauty that cannot be seen from the outside.

Perhaps that is one of our essential problems. We perpetually attempt to perceive and create beauty from the outside in, instead of the inside out.

Gurdjieff used to tell Ouspensky that his problem was that he was seeking beauty, whereas Gurdjieff was seeking consciousness. There may be some truth to that. However, the two are not truly separated.

Consciousness exists in order to experience and perceive beauty. Beauty can only arise after consciousness exists. Therefore, in order to discover beauty, we need to be within ourselves first, and then within life.

True consciousness originates within, from a hidden place, where the roots run deep, and emerges to contact the outer senses. It is here that the experience of beauty arises, in the point of contact that we call awareness.

With that little soliloquy, I will move on to the subject of the day. I am in Germany, at the textile trade show in Frankfurt. Today I took a walk through the streets of the city on my way to buy porcelain at the Rosenthal store.

As some of you know, I grew up in Germany, so many associations arise within me whenever I revisit the country. Among other things, a capacity to speak German colloquially and fluently which I almost never use emerges as if by magic. I repeatedly have experiences where the Germans interacting with me have little or no idea that I am a foreigner. When they hear me speak, they just instantly assume I'm German, and that's that. This just goes to show how utterly deceiving appearances can be. Just because it looks like a German, and sounds like a German, doesn't mean it's a German.

It's the same way with Gurus.

Anyway, I find myself immersed in the direct impressions which are my life. And once again, these impressions are the ones that form what we call "Germany." Nonetheless, these impressions don't mean "Germany" to me. Yes, they mean this other language, these cobblestones, these signs and buildings and this atmosphere.


To me, it isn't "Germany," it is just--for lack of a better expression--"life of this particular aspect." I know it has this label "Germany," but that label is practically meaningless in the face of impressions that fall into the body and enrich the senses, and even cells themselves.

Is the sky "Germany?" Are the majestic pruned trees against skyscrapers "Germany?" I can plaster the word all over everything I see, but it doesn't mean anything compared to the experience. In fact, it cheapens it.

There is something mysterious and magnificent and remarkable within everything, everywhere, and as I travel across the world I see that this special quality--it touches on the question of what the very name of God is--lies within each event and circumstance. For example, as I sit here dictating this in my hotel room, I see a rubber band on the steno pad to my right. It might as well be "Germany." The label does not tell me anything.

What it is it is miraculous. The object itself and its juxtaposition with paper and the few brief words I jotted down on it two hours ago become a koan of inestimable depth.

I cannot penetrate this. I can breathe it in, but I cannot be within it. I can only be within myself, and receive it.

So here I am, within this life, experiencing sets of impressions related to things that happened to me more than 30 years ago, and recognizing that this class of impression--like my impressions of China--has become a Leitmotif (leading theme) for what I call my life.

I am within this life. I do not know why I find myself here, or what it will be like when it ends. I only know that to bring myself to this moment--with an effort that begins inside, where consciousness arises, and then contact the outside--to experience the true mystery of the taste, touch, sense, smell, and sound of the inner meeting the outer,


that's bigger than Germany.

One last note. I have added a page of my friend William Adie's paintings to the website. Bill does some terrific, unique, and unusual work, and it's well worth checking out his page. He has been engaged in a personal search for his entire life that is unique in my experience and encompasses everything he does.

When I was younger, and needed intelligent advice from outside the family, Bill was always the first man I turned to. He stands as a personal example for me of the truth that an Obyvatel-- an ordinary man who just sets out to do no more than be truly ordinary and responsible-- often achieves far more, and harms far less, than the man with lofty ideals and goals.

For a number of years now, Bill has been experiencing a steady loss of ability to speak and communicate effectively. His stalwart acceptance and his absolute positivism in the face of this irreversible disease are extraordinary and inspiring. God, grant us all this kind of courage when our moment comes.

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

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