Friday, September 18, 2009


Yesterday, a negative comment was posted. It was, as usual, a useful moment for me, because it gave me the opportunity to see my emotional reactions and my own negativity.

I like to make negative comments a special feature in the blog. What better way to make sure the commenter's voice is heard?More often than not, in pondering such comments, an expanded set of questions is raised.

The very brief comment was about yesterday's post, "Mystery," and read as follows:

"Just another of Van Laer's (sic) self-serving screeds."

Unfortunately, in addition to overlooking the finer points of attention about how my name is spelled-- it's a SMALL "v", thank you--, the author doesn't seem to know what the word "screed" means, although they did understand that it's a put-down of some kind, which is undoubtedly why they used it.

Let's set the record straight. In general terms, the word "screed" is usually used to refer to diatribes, that is, bitter, sharply abusive denunciations or attacks, which--I think it is fair enough to say-- is hardly the category the post fell into.

Then again, if one takes only 23 seconds to read a post--which is what my tracking software indicates-- one has not spent enough time reading the post to understand its overall tone, let alone any of its contents.

The comment was, of course, posted by "anonymous."

This is how it is with all of us, most of the time. We hide behind a mask that buffers us from who, and what, we truly are, and from that imaginary position of security, where we think we are smart, we judge others. In the midst of that, most of us imagine ourselves as intelligent, sensitive, compassionate... or, more darkly, perhaps we don't. Some are criminally proud of their ability to be arrogant, dismissive, to treat other people poorly. They justify it... the intellect is very good at that. There are those who are like this, even among people who believe they are in the work, believe they are "developed."

I think this is one of the points yesterday's post tried to make: unless I am in touch with something real in myself, my behavior invariably misses the mark. For as long as I hide behind the mask of all the different selves I have, and I am not in touch with at least a tiny sliver of my true self, I am always willing to judge, and to harm the other--sometimes, even intentionally harm them.

It is only when something real touches me, and the process of a real, deep, terrifying, and anguishing inner remorse emerges within me -- such as was discussed yesterday -- that this propensity disappears. If I am in touch with anything real I cannot harm another person-- as Needleman points out in "Why Can't We Be Good?", real compassion, organic compassion, does not allow that kind of activity.

Usually, we are unable to use the better parts of our emotional center to see what a terrible mistake that is -- how every single moment that we look at others and think and react this way emotionally--by rejecting--, we are failing to see how we are.

The source of all harm to others begins right here, within this blindness of arrogance, where we presume to judge. It's a sobering fact.

There is another question that deserves examination here, and that is the question of self-service. The commenter was right; every post on this blog is self-serving.

Very little comes out of man, out of any of us, that is not self serving. We ignore this fact at our peril, and the comment very deftly highlights that point. It was also self-serving: it scratched an itch in the writer to communicate his or her inherent superiority, their position "above" where the blog post came from.

It probably made the writer feel powerful; and this is hardly unique behavior. However, as I said in July, this is not how we work. Not where I come from, anyway.

Gurdjieff said on more than one occasion that he was not interested in working with people who could not help him move his own aim forward. He was, in other words, very self-serving indeed.

There is a principle at work here: there must be an aim that serves the self. It may be a mistaken aim, a flawed one: we are hardly able to make "good" aims in our present state. We must, nonetheless, try. If we do not learn to serve ourselves responsibly and with respect, we can never learn to serve anyone or anything else--right up to and including God.

This blog is an exoteric service, to be sure. My own aim since its establishment has been to offer readers a contemporary commentary on one individual's personal experience, as viewed from the perspective of the "formal" Gurdjieff work-- the Gurdjieff Foundation membership, as opposed to the hordes of people on the internet who have never worked in a direct line, but presume to understand the work.

Every post I write attempts to serve that definitely personal aim of this "compound self" in one way or another... some well, some not so well. Serving aims in this public manner inevitably exposes one to criticisms. As an artist, writer, and musician, I am familiar enough with the process to absorb it, even though it's often unpleasant.

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

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