Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"success"


It's a difficult thing to come back this effort day after day and deliver material of any real quality.

I can't be sure I even achieve quality on any consistent basis; all I can do is show up and make my best effort. Today, I wrote something that was quite clever but fairly intellectual in the morning. I looked at it tonight and I felt that it didn't deliver the goods. So I tossed it.

I can't say why I know it didn’t measure up, except to say that more and more, I try to speak and to write directly from an immediate experience, unless I have some specific and intelligent point to make about work ideas. It's easy for me to blather on endlessly about connections between things, to theorize, and so on. But that practice bothers me when I encounter it. When I catch myself doing it -- which is probably nowhere near as often as it happens -- I try to blow the whistle.

So I'm not going to try and say anything clever today. I'm just going to speak pretty directly about the state of observation.

Today, as I pondered -- as usual -- the fragmented nature of my inner state, and the difficulty of weaving together any coherent fabric from the many threads of energy that arise, all I saw were the deficiencies. This was one of those days when I question what all of the efforts in my life have been worth. I don't feel that intelligent; I'm not sure I have done anything of a clear value in life; in fact, I am not even certain of exactly what that would mean. I have some ideas—but none of them relate to the things I do, or make.

My own personal observations about the nature of life on this planet have deconstructed most of my assumptions about what constitutes value. In a sense, Gurdjieff's "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson" has had its way with me, in forcing me to question all the assumptions I ever had. I realize I may be wrong about everything.

From the outside, others see me as a man who is relatively successful, supposedly somewhat gifted in the area of art and music and writing, and who has been, for the most part, supposedly, a reasonably decent human being.

From the inside, the landscape does not necessarily take any of that into account except as circumstances that exist. I don't find that being "successful" -- whether personally or financially -- consists of the external circumstances. The "talents" I have don’t appear to be mine. The only time that anything of value arises from them is when -- if you will excuse the new age expression -- I am channeling something. That is to say, what is good in my expressive work is not born of me, I am just the vehicle through which it arrives.

On top of that, my varieties of consciousness are fragmented, and it's clear to me that I don't turn my awareness to the service which it ought to be suited for, if I were more whole. My inner weaknesses are apparent, and I can only achieve anything by hoping that help is sent.

I remember that many years ago, Henry Brown told us that we are in the Work because we are weak. If we were strong, he said, we would not need a work, a spiritual path, to guide us. We would already be able to, as Mr. Gurdjieff says, "do." But it's pretty clear in my own case that that is not the case.

There are implicit ironies here, because despite my obvious deficiencies, a great deal was given to me, for reasons I don't understand at all. Maybe in these desperate times, damaged vessels are better than no vessels at all ...and maybe we are all in that position.

I don't write this to imply that I feel negative about life-- that's simply not the case. I am certainly dealing with the routine complement of negativity which everyone sees arriving in their life on a daily basis. That's nothing special. But there is no overwhelming depression, self-deprecation, or self devaluation involved. In fact, I know that I do have a value, and that it is an inherent value that arises with each breath I take. That provides support.

This doesn't change the fact that I see, more and more, what the difference between the quick and the dead is, and ask myself how I can be more quick and less dead.

It is already a big thing to know one's own value. To know how the organism and Being itself supports value. This does not free us from the obligations of self observation and the effort to understand. It does not free us from the obligation to strive to Be more and to bring our efforts more into alignment with what is necessary for a man without quotation marks.

And it's only by sensing our own nothingness -- that is, as is so often said, seeing our own lack -- that we can begin to know what more is needed.

I am reminded today of a tale about a Sufi master who was asked who was greater, the spiritual master who attained a complete and blissful union with God, or Mohammed, who always felt that he fell short.

The Sufi master replied that of the two, Mohammed was the greater, because he understood that no matter how far one goes, no matter how much is given, and no matter how much one "achieves," one must always go one step further.

I have always felt a truth in that story. Mohammed never stopped working; no matter how good it got, he never rested on his laurels.

From my current perspective, that seems to constitute success,

without quotation marks.

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

2 comments:

  1. Beelzebub keeps pointing out how strange we are, how the context of our lives is so different from an original un-augmented context of our creation. I recall a sentence from Alan Watt's This Is It, "The terms in which a man interprets this experience [of the present] are naturally drawn from the religious and philosophical ideas of his culture, and their differences often conceal its basic identity" (p. 19, Vintage books ed.). Personally, without the feedback of the group and the guidance of resources like this blog and today's post, in particular, I would find the way of the sly man to be too lonely. The un-clever moments would do me in, and I would not persevere. Thank you for sharing your work.

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  2. Dear Lee,

    I am touched by what you bring in this post, especially the section regarding the channeling of “something.” It seems clear to me that I don’t own understanding. I see that after a work period certain energy is gathered and along with it these work ideas become mysteriously embodied; they are alive in me, perhaps even organic. There is this widening of the horizon where a clear understanding appears and I feel illuminated from inside. It is as though there is a new body inhabiting the old shell. I found that on the Monday immediately following the work period I attended there was a definite quality that resonated and carried through as I was writing but on Tuesday, when I tried to make “edits” on this piece I noticed that this “quality” had naturally dispersed like water slowly seeping into dry ground. I saw clearly how my ordinary mind was simply chewing on the experience and struggling to capture something that was no longer contained.

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