Thursday, April 30, 2009

Happiness, authority, and illusion

It seems as though I am only able to get to about one post a week these days. Starting this new job has been a time sink.

I've been pondering a number of subjects over the past few days, and decided to see if there's a way to cover them all in one post.

The question of happiness comes up around me a lot these days. My older stepson, just graduated from college last summer,  has had a hard time grounding himself. He wants a job doing something that will "make him happy."

 I pointed out to him that most of my jobs have not made me happy. What has happened as a result of that is that I have grown. I don't think we grow much if we sit around blissed-out and feeling utterly fabulous about everything.   Don't young people see that we need friction in order to grow?

This question of happiness never came into it in my life. It was understood from the time I was very young that the primary thing to do was to meet my responsibilities. This is how my parents raised me. Meeting my responsibilities was not about being happy; it was just about being Responsible -- what Mr. Gurdjieff would call being an Obyvatel,  a good householder.

 This, to my mind, is a critical point of personal work.

We spend a great deal of time worrying about our happiness in this life. I'm not sure that is the point at all. This planet -- and, in fact, the universe -- were created for reasons aside from our happiness. There are much bigger things going on here. There is a rampant narcissism afoot in humanity,  with little discussion about whether or not it's appropriate. If mankind began to really look at life on the point of view of meeting responsibility, everything could be quite different.  

As I have said before, the key is to discover happiness within conditions, not try to create conditions that lead to happiness. The first can be achieved through inner effort; the second is always doomed to failure. That's because one of them begins with the aim of inner transformation, and the other one is aimed at the manipulation of circumstances and the outside world, which actually remain forever beyond our control. 

This brings me to the next question, which is the question of  authority. One of the chief difficulties facing the Gurdjieff work today is the dogged persistence of the oldest generation. This is not an obstacle because there is anything bad about the oldest generation; some of them, in fact, are extraordinary people and extraordinary teachers.  And bravo to all of them for this fraction of their work effort!   

On the whole, however, my observations suggest that other significant fractions (or should I perhaps say factions?) are falling victim to a syndrome that is all too common everywhere: a refusal to let go and let the next generation step in. There is a mistrust;  a concern that the younger generation is misguided, that they (the seniority) are vested with an authority that must be exercised right up until the moment they die.  Let's face it: people want control. Anyone naive enough to believe that doesn't happen in spiritual works needs a major reality check.  The Gurdjieff work-- which has "evolved," and continues to "evolve," as an oligarchy by nature-- is no exception.

The failure of the senior membership to move people forward and step aside so that they can make their own effort has caused an unfortunate shrinking of membership.   Able and dedicated younger people get frustrated and leave.  At first it was possible to be self-righteous about such things, but the fabric of the membership is a little too aged and threadbare to allow that attitude nowadays.  To highlight the issue, I was recently in a room with over a hundred members where it was suggested that "the younger people" speak up-- and I suddenly realized, with a shock, that at the age of 53 I was one of the youngest people in the room- probably the youngest 5%.   

It makes one wonder.

I hardly have the answer to this problem, and I know there are plenty of self-justifying things the older membership can say to explain how wrong I am about this. I have already heard some of them from some of them. Nonetheless, as they watch the ranks dwindle, you might think they would figure out that they are doing something that doesn't work too well.   

It's really very simple. There is too much control being exercised.   Younger people have to be moved into positions of authority and allowed to make their own mistakes.  Mistakes have to be made. Learning will not take place, and the work will not grow, without them. 

This paranoia about doing things wrong has got to go. As Martin Luther said, "since we must sin, let us sin boldly."  

The older generation never wants to let that happen. It is a story as human, and as old, as the Bible. And older.

 A great deal of this behavior arises, I think, out of the mistaken belief that the authority we earn  and exercise within ordinary life is a "real" authority.  Mankind is utterly hypnotized by this idea.

I don't think anything could be further from the truth. The authority exercised in organizations, in man's day-to-day endeavors, stems directly from the will of man. Almost none of it comes from the will of the Higher, which is the only real authority that can be exercised anywhere.  

Of course, it's unrealistic to expect the will of God to become manifest and show up anywhere, isn't it? So I guess we are stuck with our own will, which is flawed. Nonetheless, this belief that any of us have authority is illusory. Only by completely surrendering our belief in our own authority do we discover any real authority, and  if  that by chance should happen, immediately, we see it is not our own. 

So where does real authority come in? How can one see and know a real authority?

I suppose we will all have different opinions about this. I can only offer my own.  And it begins with the premise that authority has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with a wish to control. 

Real authority invariably arises from the fertile and sacred root of humility and compassion. If an action does not begin in humility and exercise compassion, it has no authority. Or, rather, it has the crude kind of temporal authority that we believe will help us get what we want, make others behave the way we think they should, and so on. 

Well, some of that is necessary. When one looks at the example of younger people who can't sort things out, guidance is certainly needed. But when it comes to dealing with human beings, face-to-face, peer-to-peer, on the common ground of our own humanity, if we do not begin in humility and exercise compassion, from the most organic and deepest roots of our being, we are bogus. 

Our "authority" is bogus. 

It's only in the moments where the organism is alive and  an impression is received without prejudice that I begin to get a taste of what real authority is--

--and I see, when that happens, that it never belongs to me, and it never has anything to do with most of the nonsense we get ourselves up to on this planet. 

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

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