Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Heart of the Wish

Another in the series of posts from the business class lounge in the airport in Seoul, South Korea.

Life is a lot of work.

It begins for everyone with the sweet urgency of orgasm, and is channeled through the bloody ordeal of childbirth. This is no casual way to begin an enterprise.

Nonetheless, we grow up as if by accident, and everything that happens to us, just happens. Almost as though there were no rhyme or reason. For every man, the living of life becomes a search for meaning. In the process, we egoistically paint life in our own colors, as though we invented the pigments and the palettes... as though they were not already there before we ever came along. We are witnesses who mistake ourselves for creators.

In the end, almost without exception, we take everything much too casually, until we get a terrible shock and see that this enterprise we call life ends.

What does that mean?

This wish for meaning is born of our desire. Of course, the Buddhists say that desire is one of the great roots of our difficulties; the extermination of desire is an aim in Buddhism.

But perhaps Buddhism -- and we ourselves -- misunderstand this idea. It seems clear that desire is at the heart of life. There is no organism that does not have the desire, buried deep down in its DNA, to reproduce, to follow a set of natural laws, to replicate. To live correctly (every cell has elaborate repair mechanisms built into it) within the context of its origins and its destiny.

So we can't really separate life from desire. Without this organic desire, there wouldn't be any need for life at all. Something different must be meant by this idea of the extermination of desire.

What is that?

Whose desire needs to go? And whose needs to take its place?

We -- along with everything else living -- are born of a wish. Only we don't know what that wish is. We grope around like blind men, trying to contact it and make sense of it.

Almost everyone who is reading this (unless they came across this blog entirely by accident) has been fortunate enough to contact the ideas in the Gurdjieff work. We know that this work makes sense.

Peggy Flinsch-- whose masterful reading of "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson" is now available for purchase in .mp3 format—explained last summer that she encountered the work ideas in the form of Beelzebub's Tales when she was quite young, not long after her sister died. A unique and terrifying set of circumstances that prepared a place in her to receive something real.

So when she encountered the ideas, immediately, she saw that life didn't make sense, what other people told her didn't make sense, the church and religion didn't make sense.

But Gurdjieff's ideas -- they made sense.

And why is that?

The work is a way of moving towards the heart of our wish, of discovering this motive force that lies at the core of living itself. That is no easy thing. It begins with a sweetness, like orgasm, that lies in a subtle recognition by the intellect. It has a gestation period. It goes through a phase of bloody struggle and childbirth.

The analogies may sound a bit too clever, but they're real. We are trying to let something new be born in our lives and in ourselves. This is possible. Make no mistake about it. No matter how intellectually we may take the work now, no matter how distant or obscure some of the ideas may seem, it is possible for us to have something new born in us. This is a fact. And once we encounter it as a reality, instead of a theory, all of the meaning in our life gradually begins to coalesce around it. We discover a seed at the heart of this question of wish. It becomes our responsibility to help it grow.

So now I speak a bit more personally about the heart of this mysterious force we call “wish” as I encounter it this morning, very early on, in my hotel room in Incheon.

What is this wish in myself? This wish to be? “I wish to be.” What does that mean to me? I resist the words; as words, they strike me as insufficient. I have never liked them. They fall short. And yet, they are the mantra of this work.

I wish to breathe in and out. I wish to know this. I wish to see it early in the morning, to sense the organic connection that exists between the body and the mind. I wish for the heart to open, for the emotional force that can help reconcile my contradictions to enter and participate in my work.

I wish for the moment when I am reduced to willing helplessness, when sweet quicksilver arrives and penetrates beyond the marrow of the bones, into the watery places at the foundation of being that I do not even know exist most of the time.

I wish to know the Lord, and understand my place. I wish to serve willingly, consciously, to say yes instead of no. I wish to feel the sorrow that has no limits, and the joy that lives within it.

I wish to feel the prayer arise within me, as naturally as the swell of the wave finds the beach:

Lord God our heavenly father,
We praise thee, we worship thee,
We magnify thy glorious name.
Evermore praising thee and saying,
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts,
Heaven and Earth are full of thy glory,
As it was, is now, and evermore shall be,
World without end,

May our hearts be opened, and our prayers be heard.

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