Friday, September 26, 2008

aware enough to care

With the financial world in disarray, the planet's ecosystems under siege, one impression that strikes me over and over again is how completely indifferent the ordinary processes of nature are to the societal nonsense we human beings manufacture.

The trees and the birds don't care about whether or not Wall Street is healthy. Every process nature has continues to cruise along as best it can, given our depredations. And no matter how badly we damage the ecosystem, life in some form will always survive, even if it isn't in human form. Life, after all, is persistent. It is been around for billions of years, and exists in environments -- such as on the deep ocean floor -- that we stand little chance of impacting in any major way.

Unlike our cat Nefersweetie (who exudes an air of calm no matter what, except for those brief moments when the famous dog Isabel goes after her) I am caught up in this nonsense like everyone else. The ordinary part of me has to be concerned about jobs, food, and survival -- just like everyone else.

I hardly know of a person in the Gurdjieff work who isn't thinking about these things. Pretending we can be separate from the insanity of man is sheer foolishness. We are all men, and we are right here in the middle of it: representatives, as it were. We might as well--we must--participate, as best we can. Participation means doing all of the same things that everyone else is doing, but remembering oneself while one does it. The practice of presence is not a practice of separation, where we discover ourselves apart from circumstances, but a practice of unity, where we find ourselves within circumstances.

One of the side effects of all of the uproar in society right now is that there is a lot of excess energy available. This means it is somehwat more possible to maintain a more intimate inner connection than it often is. And I think it behooves all of us who find it thus to make more of an effort to be quiet within ourselves when we can--to be more intimate with ourselves, and to remember to offer the most human touch we can in each encounter we have with another person.

After all, we ourselves experience the fact that there is a lot of anxiety around. It's not just the planet that needs our efforts. The people immediately around us need them just as much.

I am reminded of something that Victor Frankl said. He observed that there are only two kinds of man: decent men, and non-decent men. I think that this observation lies close to Gurdjieff's question of a man without quotation marks. The decent man makes an effort. He considers outwardly. Even if the whole world around him is going to hell in a handbasket, he is concerned about others in a real way -- not just their material welfare, but their emotional welfare. The question leads us back to Christ's statement that "greater love hath no man, than to lay down his life for his brother."

In these times of turmoil and destruction, the personal intimacy we seek and cultivate within ourselves helps us to blossom more outwardly in acts of love that are less reserved and less constrained by the pettiness of our egos. A personal intimacy, an intimacy born of a less partial connection between the centers, leads us to better understand that pettiness, and attracts forces that can help us rise above it.

We have reached a moment in the planet where self-serving behavior no longer serves anything. Now is the time for all of us, within our group and within our spiritual and secular communities, to expose ourselves and offer ourselves more nakedly and more intimately to each other--not in any crass sexual or physical sense, but in the sense of who we really are and how we really are.

We can't help each other if we keep hiding.

I am as weak and as frightened as you are. We are all tiny, relatively incapable creatures, and the ones who do not admit this to themselves, in an intimate, more three centered way, are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. It is only in the discovery of our own nakedness -- first within our essential self, and then in the offering of that essential self to others -- that we can humble ourselves enough to receive what we need for our development.

Well, this idea isn't well understood. Even I don't understand it too well, despite the moments of grace that illustrate it to me graphically. We Gurdjieffians all talk a good game.

It's when we stop talking a good game that the tire hits the pavement.

Once again, as I did several posts ago, I remind myself to make a personal effort, a special effort, to be present both within myself and to the other person, in the moment of contact. I need to bring more to the moment than I usually do. My own work depends on it.

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

1 comment:

  1. Dear Lee,

    I am feeling particularly "sensitive" this morning as a result of a weekend of work and after reading this post I came across a passage from Lao Tze that resonated with me as well as with your words.

    I feel it relates very strongly with this mystery of standing in between the inner and the outer that you speak of.

    The Tao Te Ching
    Lao Tzu

    Change the world? It's a fool's errand.
    What is, is. What is, is Tao.
    Seers agree you can't squeeze
    blood from a stone.

    Sometimes you're in the lead,
    at other times you're pulling up the rear.
    Sometimes you're like a whirlwind
    —a tornado that must eventually unwind.
    Even great nations decline.

    You're weak, you're strong.
    You're down, you're up.
    Your still center is the hub
    of all motion at its rim,
    when turmoil rules, go in.

    Can you see the isness of things
    and take it well?
    Stay simply aware. What need have you
    for whistles and bells?


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