Monday, January 26, 2009

activity and association

I don't think we know much about our associative center.

For those of you not familiar with the term, by this I mean the relatively automatic part of ourselves that files, collects, and associates data.

This part works so automatically that we don't even notice it. Its work forms what might be called a consistent "drone," a background noise so ubiquitous and persistent that we filter it out during the ordinary process of life.

When I lost my job three weeks ago, what I didn't know ( it's so obvious I should have known it) was that my associative center had formed over seven years of habits in conjunction with this job. So when I lost the job, the associative center, which had a whole routine and pattern of things figured out, was left floundering around with nothing to tack itself onto.

Consequently, I spent several weeks watching my associations concoct an endless (or so it seemed) parade of events and circumstances that played out dream scenarios about the job and the past. The after-effects of that are still echoing through me.

The experience drove home a fact that it is easy to forget after many years of work. We are terribly habitual, and we don't even notice it.

Our automatism is a form of hypnosis, and this is what separates us from the real experience of Being. And it is not that we are in denial; we are, simply put, unconscious. It verifies something Mr. Gurdjieff said throughout the course of his life: we are not awake. Even when we hear that we are not awake, and think we are thus somehow more awake, we are not actually awake.

Even the information that we are not awake is processed through habitual formatory and associative mechanisms.

So our separation from God, from real Being, and from all the forces that might be able to help us live in a less partial way, is derived strictly from a lack of attention. It is derived strictly from our habitual and mechanical nature. If we could free ourselves from this tyranny-- it may be a gentle tyranny, but is a tyranny nonetheless --much might become possible. But the power of our habit overshadows us, even in the midst of our efforts to be more whole.

It strikes me that these observations may sound a bit dry after some of the deeper territory I have been delving into over the past few posts. But I think the point is important, and it is one that keeps coming back to me at this moment in my work.

How much do we really know? We flatter ourselves, that we understand something about "spirituality," and yet we don't seem to be able to penetrate the obstinate thickness of our own psyche.

The only path to understanding begins with a connection to the organism. This is a connection not manufactured by the mind, but arising through relationship. And it is only from within the context of this connection than any understanding can begin to form. We need to become less separate, in order to see that separation exists. Until that process begins, we live in a world of assumptions about ourselves.

On another note.

On Saturday night, I visited the Orchard Café, at 58th St and 3rd Ave in Manhattan, where I was fortunate enough to see a fine little film by friend Patty Llosa about the Alacitas festival in La Paz. (I understand the documentary is available by contacting, but a quick visit to the website did not turn it up.)

Anyway, what struck me about the evening, above all, was the relationships between people as we gathered. Just as every moment in life can be a prayer, so every act of relationship can become something sacred. In the midst of our habits, this is too easily forgotten.

So in the midst of my habits, the mechanical nature of my life, I am touched by a vivifying vibration in the moment of relationship with another. And for this, I feel true gratitude. I am somewhat adrift in life right now: unemployed, moving from moment to moment without knowing what will happen next, and yet discovering joy and laughter in the midst of uncertainty. There is a peculiar freedom available in this moment of professional stasis, during which a bit more relationship can be discovered.

Perhaps the moment that best summed up today went like this:

We were at the Javits Center, at the gift show. I handed two women who were doing rather delightful lamps my personal business card.

They laughed when they saw that my job description said "Supervisor of Various Engines of Creation."

Everyone laughed even louder when I said,

". . . Mind you, it's not a high-paying position."

Well, there you are. We are all supervisors of various engines of creation. Every cell in us is an engine of creation, and whether we are good at it or not, ultimately, we supervise all of them.

If the factory produces enough laughter and joy, no matter what the pay, well, the work on the floor for that day has been good.

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

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