Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Teachers, teaching, and the logical end of things

For some time now, I've been pondering the extent of this blog and the logical limits of both the medium and the enterprise.

When I established the blog over a year ago, I set out to offer a contemporary record of the Gurdjieff Work from my own perspective--in action within one single life--on a more or less daily basis. I did so because I felt a "public face" to the work of this kind was fundamentally lacking--so much of the Gurdjieff Work is conducted behind closed doors.

That was the summary intent of the blog; the "all and everything," so to speak, behind its raison d'etre.

I think this aim has been accomplished.

Two days ago, a reader left a derogatory comment to the effect that I have a "diseased" wish to be a "teacher." It was accompanied by a command (!) to cease the activity.

This comment probably derived from a superficial reading of the blog's material, which spans over 340 posts to date. In addition, it probably came from a person who does not know me personally--or, if they do, certainly cannot not know me very well.

I'm glad this comment came up. It has provoked a number of useful questions in me about the idea of "teaching" and the role of "teachers" in the Gurdjieff work. And it occurred to me that we're conflicted about this in general. Perhaps, not in small measure, because many people who do set themselves up as "teachers" in this day and age seem to attract a lot more membership than the Gurdjieff work does. Are we jealous? (Should we set out to recruit Eckhart Tolle to the work?)

I wonder. And at the same time I wonder, why this fear and denigration of teachers? What's bad about teachers? ...Just asking questions here, folks.

Before Michel de Salzmann died, he said a number of times that "the community is now the teacher." This appears to suggest everyone in the Gurdjieff work is actively engaged in teaching each other.

Today, people toss the comment off almost casually, but to me, this instruction of his was nothing short of spiritual genius. First of all, it is inherently true.

Second of all, by codifying it, that is, stating it as the current premise of the Gurdjieff Work, he acknowledged the need for all of us, collectively, to take responsibility for teaching each other-- which is what all of life is really about anyway--and to begin the gradual deconstruction of the pre-existing leadership structure by introducing leaderless (peer) groups.

Third (for better or for worse) he directly empowered the whole community with ownership of the tremendous force that has been established within the Work itself.

If we handle that badly, it's our own bad. But we cannot have it both ways. Either we all pull up our pants and collectively teach each other, or we wait for the power-possessing beings in the chairs at the front of the room to tell us how "it" is, and how we ought to be. Personally, and with all due respect, I'm a little too old for that.

We must become our own teachers.
In that context, the whole point of the Gurdjieff work-- and of group work in general, as I learned during my membership in AA--is to trust and share one another's experience.

The last time I checked, accusations and demands were not compatible with trust and sharing.

If we don't tell one another about our experience, our effort, our personal insights, where is the group work? Imagine Ouspensky's men in a prison together who agree to escape but then refuse--or are afraid--to share their information with each other? How far can they get, if they need each other, but won't trust each other? Does that concept remind you of anything? ...Your group? ...Your life?

Think about it.

In my own experience, those actually willing to share any truly intimate parts of their own work are rare. We're all fearful, defensive, and stingy most of the time. We spend our time secretly concocting our own private plan for escape, distrusting those around us--who may be, we suspect, devising inferior plans.

How "open" are we, really? Do we just talk "open" or do we do "open?" This question is just as valid from an inner as an outer point of view.

In summary, if the community is the teacher, we're all teachers. And indeed, these days, I try to take the position that everyone I meet is a teacher of mine. Every life situation is a teaching, and I am always learning. When it hurts the most, I am learning more. The more exposed, the more emotionally naked I am, the more I accept what arrives, and the more I am learning.

If I began (or have conducted) this blogging enterprise out of a wish to "teach" people, I'm not aware of it. I set out to share my own personal studies, observations, and opinions, which may or may not be accurate. As regular readers will probably know, I may revise them as necessary.

In addition, every reader can freely come here (and leave) accepting or rejecting as little or as much as they wish. I don't expect any comments; I don't await any praise or accolades; in most cases, I don't even know who reads the blog, or why. What little food my ego gets from this activity (and I must admit this is pathetic) consists of looking at a sitemeter count of recent visitors. Something which I will admit I do rather frequently, and derive some small pleasure from, seedy little human thing that I am.

Aside from this dubious 'payoff' the only benefits I appear to gain from this enterprise are from the regular demands I place upon myself to examine the questions raised by both my own spiritual experiences and the material I read and develop in the context of my own search.

Yes, it's a fact: I present it all as if it were true. But if I didn't think and sense and feel that it were true, it would not be worth writing it down, or worth reading. And every time I publish an observation, I run the risk that someone else will evaluate that observation as crap. So I have to expose myself, to drop my defenses, in order to disseminate.

If this is all an exercise to acquire importance or in a "diseased" way set myself up as a "teacher"--then so far, it seems to be a resounding failure.

My entire life has been one lesson after another in how unimportant I am, and an ongoing process of confrontation with my own inadequacy, arrogance and contentious behavior. Every time I think I have made a little progress, my life rises up to slap me down one more time and make sure I understand my place. Readers who actually follow the blog--as opposed to dropping in on it to make special grand, impromptu pronouncements about my intention and effort--will have read a few posts about those experiences.

Anyway, enough of that. The point is that no enterprise can go on forever, and I believe it would be better to end this experiment intentionally than to let it trickle out.

As such, there is a forseeable end to the Zenyogagurdjieff blog, and--no matter when that end may be--it is, like all other endings, inexorably creeping up on us.

As it happens, I am already considering what "new" type of blog may follow on its heels, something a "a bit different."

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

7 comments:

  1. Lieber Lee!
    Ich wage es, Ihnen auf deutsch zu schreiben, denn ich weiss (Sie haben es irgendwannmal in Ihren posts angedeutet), dass Sie Deutsch sprechen, mein Englisch ist nämlich sehr arm in der schriftlichen Produktion.

    Ich kann gut verstehen, dass Sie mit dem Gedanken spielen nun mal Ihrer Tätigkeit in diesem blog ein Ende zu setzen oder dass Sie aus verschiedenen Gründen Ihre ungeheur ausserordentliche Leistung in Frage stellen. Ich würde Ihre Entschreidung respektieren (müssen...) wenn es so weit ist und Sie Ihren blog schliessen.
    Aber bevor das passiert, will ich Ihnen etwas sagen:
    Sie können sich gar nicht vorstellen, wie Sie mir persönlich und anderen Mitgliedern der Gurdjieff-Gruppe in Bogotá, Kolumbien geholfen haben. Sie haben mir neue Türen und neue "Augen" in der Arbeit geöffnet. Ich bewundere nicht nur Ihren Mut, Ihre Grosszügigkeit und Ihr Verständnis der Arbeit sondern die Fähigkeit, die Sie besitzen, es mit so einer Tiefe zu Papier zu bringen.
    Ich will mich bei Ihnen bedanken und... vielleicht überlegen Sie es sich und bescheren uns noch eine "Weile" mit Ihren wertvollen posts.

    Wie Sie sagen, der Punkt ist "to trust and share one another's experiences". Danke dafür, dass Sie so lange mit uns allen Ihre Erfahrungen und Ihre Ideen geteilt haben.

    Frohe Ostern noch

    Ofelia López

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  2. Sometimes only two members of AA show up for a meeting, and they look at each other and ask,"Should we just go home?" Then a newcomer straggles in and says, "Thank God, I found this meeting."
    My experience (as a newcomer to the Work) with this blog has been like that of the newcomer to a small AA meeting, "Thank God, I found this blog." Newcomers like myself remind oldtimers of what's at stake in "suiting up and showing up" and also of the limits of their influence.
    I can verify that your posts in this blog have presented a model of practice and not a recitation. And your particular style has shown me that there is a community in the Work to which I am welcome.
    Thank you for sharing your work.

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  3. In the early am - before the strong current of daily life is present, i come to this watering hole to read & ponder & to connect to the work - my inner life.

    Even though i am hidden from your view - your comments, photos & experiences support & remind me of The Work.

    "One of the best means of rendering ineffective the predisposition present in your nature of the crystallization of the consequences of the properties of the organ Kundabuffer is 'intentional suffering';and the greatest intentional-suffering can be obtained in your presences if you compel yourselves to be able to endure the 'displeasing manifestations-of-others-towards-yourselves.'"

    The best teachings have always led me to the questions that i may explore, try to digest and gain some understanding. Thank you, Lee

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  4. Ofelia,

    Ich danke sehr... ja, ich versteh' schon Deutsch, leider ist es nicht so gut als vorher... nach dreissig Jahren vergeht es mir etwas, das Grammatik, Vokabular, undsoweiter.

    Ich werde versuchen, ein "path" zu finded, wobei ZYG noch existieren kann, wenn auch "scaled down," sozusagen, "with less posts."

    Ich schlage mir vor, ein neues blog zu erschaffen, subject "inner Christianity" Das ist wohl nur ein Idee, aber es passt schon mit meinem heutigen Interessen, und koennt bereits ein groesseres readership finden.

    Mein persoehnliches geschaefts-email (the best way to reach me) ist
    "lee.van.laer@francomfg.com." Feel free to write me anytime.

    Alles gute---!

    Lee

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  5. Many thanks as well to Christopher and 'anonymous' for your support.

    Rest assured, ZYG is "not dead yet" (one of my favorite Monty Python expressions, I use it almost daily to answer the question "how are you?")

    In one form or another, the public exchange of ideas will go on. Where that leads, we don't know... it's the adventure of discovering that keeps our work alive.

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  6. Sorry, I just inadvertently deleted a comment before I even read it. Proves I'm a spastic.

    My apologies to the comment poster.

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  7. here's david's comment, which i accidentally deleted last night because I'm a klutz.

    Sod these people who accuse you of their imaginary foibles and think "The Work" can somehow be preserved in amber. Gurdjieff was never averse to the smart use of technology and blogs such as this one won't misguide anyone who has a strong enough magnetic center. On the contrary, this blog can be a help--as long the individual actually applies Gurdjieff's ideas under experienced direction.Keep on going, Lee.

    --thanks, David. Hopefully readers will understand that we all have to weigh and measure what others say through our own experience. Anyone who doesn't "verify for themselves" fails to follow Gurdjieff's primary directive. So, hopefully, no one will ever "take my word for it"-- but will only tuck my observations under their belt and then go out to live their own lives and do their own work.

    I believe that's the aim: not to mechanically and habitually listen to or follow others, but to discover how to actively listen to ourselves, from within.

    In this way we discover our own personal authority, instead of that conferred on us by outer circumstances or other individuals.

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