Sunday, January 11, 2009

Love and understanding

By now readers may be wondering where I have been over the last two weeks.

There has been a great deal of preparation for the Gurdjieff name Day celebration. In addition, I lost my job last Tuesday, which created requirements that precluded posting to the blog. This is a planetary condition, and probably good to suffer under. Like war, our current circumstances are almost certainly created by tension between planets we don't know anything about. Pretending we are in control of it is a waste of time.

I am, however, over the initial hump (both emotionally and logistically) -- at least I think I am. And today, Sunday, I am not going to spend time worrying about a job hunt. I woke up very early (4:45 a.m.) and it seemed appropriate to spend a bit of time writing about questions of the heart. So I am going to ponder questions here, ponder them for myself, and we will see what emerges.

What is our real wish for our self? I get this confused all the time. The temporal and literal requirements of life often convince me that my wish is for money, success, and so on. This is true despite my acute awareness that there are two natures at work in me. Even being aware of this is not enough to guarantee that I will see the differences, or where my priorities ought to lie.

I don't know what my real strengths are. Almost everything I think is a strength springs from my ego-and is actually a weakness of one kind or another. It takes an unexpected blow to shatter my ideas of what my strengths are. Real strength in myself begins with support from a higher influence. That does not, cannot, come at my bidding, although perhaps it is attracted by my effort.

So this morning, I find myself immersed within the question of what the real priority is. And I see immediately that the priority lies close to my ongoing questions of sensation, of openness, of willingness to be available and to receive; of willingness to press against the cloud of unknowing.

The personal contacts I have had over the last week, especially since I lost my job, have reminded me once again of how vital relationship is to the exploration of life and its real meaning. Sleep -- that lack of attention that we so ardently study, but so rarely rise above -- takes us away from relationship. It is a forgetting of value. And, as is always the case, a good hard shock shakes that tree a bit and we see how our whole life, if we live in the right way, is built on a foundation of relationship, and, indeed, love.

And why do we work? If we'd don't work to acquire a real understanding of what love is, what else is there to work for? Immortality? To be immortal without the presence of love would be a curse. In fact, in all the romantic literature, it is love itself that is declared to be immortal. Of course that idea is driven by mankind's vast engines of sentiment, but there's a kernel of truth in it nonetheless. So perhaps there can be no separation.

This week -- today, now -- I am reminded of how incredibly fortunate I have been in my friendships and my relationships. I see how each individual I have formed a relationship with over the years--even the ones I detest-- has fed me. And I begin to see even more my own responsibility for feeding them in return with something that is better than just a mechanical response.

Am I able to do that? After many years in a spiritual work, I profess the ability, but do I understand it?

Do I understand how to love? Do I love understanding? And, perhaps most of all, this morning I ask myself whether it is possible to love without understanding. Is this question related to the question of faith? Surely, it must be, don't you agree?

Let us say that we meet. I come to you, arrogant, or naïve, or probably just indifferent and self-involved in one way or another. That's the way I usually am. But within that meeting, I feel an impulse to offer something better than the usual. It's born of a small spark of attention -- nothing big, mind you, I'm not capable of that -- but it remembers, that spark of attention, that each one of us is human, that we will all die, that all of us are on a treadmill of our own petty concerns and self loves. And it decides that maybe something more than the usual egoistic impulse may be possible.

In other words, a wish is born in me for relationship with you.

I don't know much about that relationship. In fact, it's clear -- you may be a friend, or someone at the supermarket scanning my groceries. Or you may even be my child or my spouse. But it's clear, I don't understand you. I stand in front of the mystery that is composed of my inner and outer worlds, and I see that I don't even understand my own inner world, let alone yours. The two of us are like icebergs, with our eyes and our senses only at the top. Neither one of us can see, down under the surface of the water, the immense mass that supports this tiny bit of us that sticks above the surface.

So most of us remains forever hidden from one another.

I don't understand you. But I see that the two of us are here together within this mystery, facing death -- we forget that all the time, but it never goes away -- and maybe needing support from each other, a support that is not jealous or greedy, but a support that offers part of ourselves to each other honestly. A support that is willing to say the encouraging word; to affirm, rather than to deny; to be gentle, rather than brusque; to acknowledge my own inability, even as I admit that you have abilities I don't.

So I don't understand you. I come to a moment between us where I see that it's possible to feel love towards you even without a real understanding.

And there arises the possibility of a faith and a relationship between us; the faith between two strangers that meet on the road and are willing to believe that they can help each other--rather than try to carve each other up with knives and rob each other of what little gold we have hidden in the belts under our robes.

Of course, until we meet, and have the opportunity to practice, this is nothing more than philosophy. It will never be anything more than philosophy if it just takes place in my head. It can't be real unless my sensation and my emotion participate: unless I meet you on the common ground of our own humanity.

So -- can we love without understanding?

We must love without understanding. We must have the courage to love before we understand, because we will never understand enough. It is the risk that love requires of us that begins to make us human.

Christ took that risk. He loved mankind, and it crucified him. He understood that that would be the outcome, because, unlike any of us, he did have understanding. And he understood, I think, that to be real, love has to be offered unconditionally--

even to the enemy.

That is a concept many of us can, perhaps, understand intellectually--but to understand it intellectually means next to nothing. It is the struggle to understand it organically that leads us towards what is real.

One final personal note. For those who may be interested, I've uploaded a wider selection of artwork and music from my earlier years to my page at

Some of the older songs are from my years as a rock song writer. The material also includes a few amusingly gruesome pieces of art noire from my series of oil paintings "The Seven Deadly Sins."

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

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