Monday, November 29, 2010

Conscious Altruism


I am taking up altruism because I had a heated ( but still warm) debate with a very close essence-friend of mine in the work about the subject last Saturday.

He maintained–I will say up front, I think, incorrectly–that there was no place for altruism in the Gurdjieff work. I found this bizarre, to say the least, because it seems to me that the fourth and fifth obligolnian strivings are nothing if not altruistic:

"The fourth: from the beginning of one's existence the striving to pay as quickly as possible for one's arising and individuality, in order afterward to be free to lighten as much as possible the sorrow of our Common Father.

"And the fifth: the striving always to assist the most rapid perfecting of other beings, both those similar to oneself and those of other forms, up to the degree of the sacred 'Martfotai,' that is, up to the degree of self-individuality.

(p. 352, Beelzebub, second edition)

In order to wend our way through this discussion, we first had to dispense with the standard forms of dismissal in which I am told that words have hundreds of meanings (viz. Gurdjieff's dissertation to Ouspensky on the word “world” in “In Search Of The Miraculous.") Sophistry of this kind can be used to negate the value of any word whatsoever, and those who wield this sword routinely do so in sheer defiance of the fact that Gurdjieff's whole point was that we have to know and agree on what our definitions are when we are using words (something, BTW, I have discovered many people turn out to be rather weak at, when I become disgruntled with careless word slingers and open the dictionary.) This was, in fact, the whole point of his request for a more precise language when we exchange.

As I have pointed out before, our general tendency as we drift further and further from the temporal locus of Gurdjieff himself is to employ words like “something” ever more frequently, which does not (at least for me) do anything whatsoever to contribute to precision.

In any event. I am becoming crabby and irascible–which is certainly deeply ingrained in my nature–and we are drifting from the subject at hand.

The definition of altruism–which, by the way, I don't think is all that complicated or subject to multiple obfuscating interpretations– is a selfless act performed on behalf of the well being of another.

It is–lo and behold!–more or less the opposite of the word egoism. Yet we rarely hear about it--mostly, I guess, because we enjoy egoism so much more. The word egoism is wielded like a club in most spiritual works, where we are perpetually beat over the head with its awful badness and its myriad limitations.

In all fairness, Gurdjieff was probably the only teacher who found a positive and sensible place for egoism in his work, by labeling conscious egoism as a necessity, rather than a liability. What he was saying there, I think, is that we need to do something for ourselves.

This does not mean that we have to only do things for ourselves. The idea of altruism is one of the higher universal laws. I will now explain that proposition in two parts.

Firstly, let's take a look at how biologists understand the word. Altruistic behavior on behalf of organisms is almost exclusively understood in the context of genetic preservation. Whenever we see altruistic behavior, it is undertaken by organisms in order to help ensure that their genetic material–or that of their closest relatives–is passed on. It is, in other words, an essential feature of most, if not all, living systems. It even functions in bacterial communities.

Altruism, in other words, preserves and passes on value earned through effort. The study and understanding of altruistic behavior has become an essential part of understanding the meaning and function of biological systems. I have, for example, an entire hive of bees in my backyard, and almost without exception every single one of them (except the Queen) is a dedicated altruist, with spectacular-- and very sweet–results.

A second example of altruism, taken not from the biological but the spiritual realm, is the fact that the Bodhisattva vow is considered to be one of the highest vows of Buddhism. I've pointed out before that the fifth obligolnian striving certainly bears a striking resemblance to this vow-- if it is not, in fact, identical to it, which I rather suspect. The point is that this is a very high law indeed. We can take further steps into Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and other religions, and repeatedly discover that altruistic or selfless behavior is considered vitally important to spiritual development and spiritual practice. Perhaps Christ's admonition that “Greater love hath no man, than to lay down his life for his friends," (John 15:13) is the example that comes to mind most immediately.

Altruism, in other words, is a necessary function for organic and conscious beings. Something on the highest level demands that we sacrifice our effort (make it sacred) by undertaking it not just on behalf of ourselves–although that is necessary–but, ultimately, on behalf of others-- without expecting anything in return.

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but my track record in this area is spotty. What I believe to be altruistic behavior is still usually accompanied by a sneaky little voice down underneath everything else–which I keep a very close eye on, mind you–asking me what I am going to get out of it, even if it is as simple as dividing up the meat and putting it on plates for myself and my guests... even more insidious, I see myself making sure the other person gets the best piece because then I'll be "good"... that is, altruistic, just like Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha... and, last but hardly least, my mommy... said I should be.

This kind of attitude pervades most of what I do, and I have thick, heavily padded buffers between me and that kind of behavior, so that it can be very difficult to see how the ego motivates everything.

This raises a fascinating question. If altruism is, indeed, the opposite of egoism, what would it be like if altruism motivated everything? Given the current set of circumstances, it seems clear that that ought to be equally possible–but it almost never works that way in human beings.

Does it now?

Like its counterpart egoism, altruism needs to be conscious altruism if it is to be meaningful or functional altruism. Altruism rooted in egoism (which is the most common form of altruism we encounter) is bogus, even if it produces "good" results; altruism engaged in reflexively and mechanically can have bad results–one can selflessly do something on behalf of another and then later discover one has done the absolutely wrong thing.

So altruism, much like Jacob Needleman's “good,” (in context, they are, I think, intimate) only has value if it is born of something essential and unified. In that context–admittedly a rare context indeed–altruism can serve a "reproductive" function that preserves and passes on a sacred impulse.

We might say conscious altruism is a de facto reflection of the action of the highest, which is unendingly and unerringly altruistic. The Creator eternally and selflessly emanates love and mercy; the gift of life devolves upon the material universe from said emanation.

Only through acts of altruism, conscious altruism, can we honor this generosity and reflect even a tiny portion of it back in the direction it has come from.

I could probably say a great deal more about this, but it would quickly devolve into even more wiseacreing than what I have already engaged in.

May our prayers be heard.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

within the living of it

Today marks the fourth anniversary of this blog. In keeping with my tradition from earlier years, I'll be changing the sign off I end every essay with.

This morning, I decided to drop kick this particular post–that is, speak directly from the moment, without any preparation–so I have no idea of what that sign off will be.

Yet.

It's a time of transitions. It's been a year when several people we knew died; others got cancer; some lost their jobs, and the world has been unsettled and quite difficult. We are all influenced by this. People who claim that they are not must be made of better steel than me.

I'm called to the question that Jeanne DeSalzmann consistently brought and put in front of us: what is there in me–can there be anything in me–that is stronger than this influence of outside life?

On a daily basis, I see that there are two currents working in me. One of them is an inner current that is connected to and arises from the formation of an inner solar system. The other is the current from within my associative parts, which is strongly formed by all of the things that happen around me. I'm quite attached to that.

Yet there is always a thread that connects me to sensation and reminds me that I live within this body.

I don't follow these threads that bind me to an active inner work very effectively. Even though the organic sense of being is perpetually available, I don't pay legitimate attention to it. This is a real question, because at this stage in my work and my life, there is a powerful underlying force that does not leave; it tugs at me all day long, physically reminding me that I ought to make an effort within my life. I suppose there are many who work who think that if they had such a force, it would fix things, and they would actually work instead of sitting on their asses.

Unfortunately, as I can attest, it does not happen that way. Such miraculous forces can and do indeed arise; yet I am terrifically resistant to them. (This is not all that surprising: the Bible recounts example after example of men being personally visited by God and categorically refusing to follow His instructions.)

My mechanical influences and my slavish devotion to external life-- including the repetitive obsessions and the childish pleasures–have a lot of muscle. They have been building up for a lifetime, and the forces in me that are more alive and connected to something higher have nowhere near that much practice. I find myself sitting in the middle between these two sets of influences and discovering that I am almost powerless, at many times, to go towards what is more inner, and what feeds me more.

For example, last night at dinner, my daughter Rebecca was back from Brown University and I took her out for dinner along with my son Adriaan and wife Neal. It was very ordinary, and yet I sensed at all times that there was a demand I was not meeting. There was a blank spot in me that ought to have been filled with something–that I wanted filled with something–and what it wanted to be filled with wasn't inner effort. It was external stimulation and a conventional, understandable, predictable and known set of facts, circumstances, and relationships.

I was sitting there with absolutely nothing in me except what was in front of me, and I was not invested in it.

I wasn't satisfied.

I saw all of this. It left me flailing around in an inner sense. It's easy to talk about having the wish to be in front of the unknown, and we encountered this idea constantly in “The Reality Of Being.” The fact, however, is that we have no such wish–and the unknown is something we prefer to avoid at all costs. When I discover myself naked and alone in front of a situation like the one I was in last night, I see how empty I usually am. And the first thing I want to fill the emptiness with is not Being, but doing.

This is a conundrum. Even with experience, and with help, we are relatively helpless. If we climb 3 rungs of the ladder, we are still close to the bottom of the ladder. The view is a little better from here, but we are a long way from the roof. A lot of climbing is necessary, but exhaustion sets in very early on.

I think one of the great dangers in inner work is to attain anything whatsoever. The instant I attain, I think I am higher up on the ladder–higher up than where I was, or higher up than other people. I think I can stay there; I think I can reproduce it; I think I “am” something. In other words, delusional behavior sets in very early on once energies are active within a being.

The only way to Work is with a great deal of suspicion and the willingness to renounce, in an effort to see more and to move further.

All of this may sound harsh to those who feel they have attained nothing, or those who feel they have attained something. Either way, I think we have it wrong. There is no attainment. There is only existence; there is only living. Life, and being, is discovered within the living of it. It is always in movement; only the living act of a question in this moment is in the direction of Being. And it's always a direction; it isn't a state.

So, on this eve of our great festival of Thanksgiving–a festival which should be devoted exclusively towards thanks directed at His Endlessness, the creator-- I have these questions about my helplessness, about my attraction to the lower, despite unambiguous and unrelenting support from a higher level. I suspect that this may well be connected to what both Gurdjieff and the Christian fathers described as sin–knowingly going in the direction of the lower, with the conscious knowledge that one ought to be headed the other way.

The Christians, for their part (regular readers will know, I count myself among them) subscribed to a dogma that says man's inherent nature is sinful. I don't think that this dogma means we are bad; rather, it means that we are consistently attracted to the lower, and are all too willing to be dragged down. My experience bears this out.

In reading both Gurdjieff's texts (in their massive entirety) and "The Reality of Being," I'm struck by how consistently DeSalzmann and Gurdjieff insisted that our efforts fall short. The optimist in me believes that we have possibilities; I could even say that the realist in me understands and knows that we have possibilities.

The difficulty is that I believe in the optimist a little too much. We are, collectively, in front of a very difficult struggle with limited resources. We take the support we get too much for granted, and we rest on our laurels more often than we should.

Self-flagellation is no solution either. I have to get out there and face life from within this organism in the best way that I can; even if I fall short, it is the effort that counts.

May our prayers be heard.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Machines and universes

Neal and I bought this orchid as a seedling (well, technically, a cloneling--hybrid orchids are almost all grown from clones, not seeds) on our honeymoon in 2002. It just bloomed for the first time ever.

No matter where you go “in” the Gurdjieff work, you always encounter the statement that man is a machine. People in the Work make this statement as though it were some miraculous revelation, even though biologists recognized this a long time ago, and it is commonly understood in all the sciences. Why we make such a big deal about this concept is a question for me.

What is frequently forgotten is that Gurdjieff told us the entire universe is a machine–which, in fact, is another hard-core revelation that the sciences came to a long time ago. Gurdjieff was, in fact, quite enamored of the sciences, had an interesting grasp of them, and displayed a Socratic and scientific mind of a high order. His cosmology, peculiar though it may be to some, was essentially scientific in nature. It presumes a fractal organization in which consciousness is an emergent property. I've explained this many times in earlier pieces; anyone who wants to can do a search on the terms within the blog posts and come up with plenty of material to bore themselves with.

The ramifications of this recognition–that the machine is the whole universe, not just man–dovetails neatly into some of Gurdjieff's other teachings. People often speak about "attaining consciousness" as though it amounted to “escaping" mechanicality. If we rightly understand his cosmology, however, there isn't any escape from mechanicality, because we live within the machine and will always be a part of it. We have the potential to dwell on a different level of the machine–we have the potential to develop an awareness which is superior to the automatized awareness of this level–but in one sense or another, that awareness is always still a part of the machine. One would have to literally leave the universe in order to completely escape the consequences of being within the machine, and a part of the machine.

What we are able to do–as he explained–is put ourselves under different sets of influences. We will always have to be under one influence or another; what we do have is the ability to make a conscious choice of which influence we fall under. This idea of “free” will–the ability to choose our position–is common to most religious practices, and even atheists believe that there is such a thing as free will. Gurdjieff's contention was that our will can't be free on this level–we are trapped in a set of automatic reactions, and it is only by putting ourselves under influences from a higher level that we can be less trapped, under less automatic reactions. (Don't forget that according to Beelzebub, when the universe was originally created, consciousness itself evolved automatically. It was only after a cosmic disaster referred to as the "chootboglitanical period" that the automatic evolution of consciousness was forever suspended.)

Astute readers will be able to easily substitute the word "laws" for “automatic reactions.” The influences we are under are, after all, laws, and the laws are what create the mechanical nature of the universe. On each level, a specific number of laws affect the way things work, and one is under more and more laws as one descends by level. The analogy of the “weight” of the ray of creation applies here.

I'm bringing all this up because it strikes me that this fact–that we will always be a part of this vast machine, and that we are always under one set of laws or another–is almost forgotten. There is a zeal to believe that we are going to break on through to the other side and burst forth like a butterfly into some cosmically wonderful new world of love.

Unfortunately, the sorrow of His Endlessness–which was what Gurdjieff described, more or less, as the basic and most essential quality of the universe–more or less precludes the idea of glorious cosmic perfection. (Lest you wish to argue the point, refer back to Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, in which terrible things are constantly going wrong, and even the highest being bodies make the most atrocious mistakes.) Underneath the fabric of material reality, there is an essential suffering that must always be faced and cannot be escaped.

This is not to say there is no joy, or that there is no love. I am saying, however, that although I value and crave the experience of these things, I cannot afford to be hypnotized by the idea that they are going to overwhelm "evil" and save the universe. We live in a complex system where suffering and joy are both elements of the same energy. They need one another; efforts to eliminate one in favor of the other are doomed to failure.

Readers who follow this space regularly will know that I have spoken on any number of occasions about my highly personal observations regarding the nature of sorrow, and its place in work. In my own experience, the deepest and most true experience of the higher always has an extremely powerful element of this sorrow in it, which is also a form of joy. Sorrow and joy are, in fact, perfectly blended in the Godhead.

The nature of the machine is that it is a whole. Efforts to live within one part of it or extract one part from another fail to take the conditions or consequences of existence into account. The earthy, pithy, contact-based encounters with Gurdjieff, as recounted by those who knew him, underscore the fact that Gurdjieff was not one to avoid conditions and consequences.

Instead, he created them.

It takes a bold man to do that. I'm hardly made of that stuff. I can, however, recognize and admire a man who has the courage to live that way. That's one of the reasons I am in this work.

May the living Light of Christ discover us.



Monday, November 15, 2010

Expression

I am an expression of a force.

In fact, everything that material exists is the expression of a force. Physicists more or less recognize this; there is an understanding that somehow forces are unified at some subtle level which we cannot access. Hence the idea of what is called a “unified field theory,” an overarching understanding that brings all of the energies together under one umbrella.

But this is merely an intellectual construction. All the energies are already together under one umbrella. Here I am; I am the expression of a single force. The sound of my voice is part of the expression of that force; trees and sky, planets and elements are all expressions of that force.

The nature of my awareness is such that it is also an expression of that force. There is a possibility for me to be in relationship with that... or not.

Everything depends on my relationship to this question. I dwell essentially separated from this force in my mind, in my consciousness. My ego thinks that the force which I am part of is my force; I think that my life is my life; everything that happens is personal.

I find myself unable to escape this impression. Yet when I sit in the morning, or when the energy connects me in a specific way to myself so that there is gravity present, I begin to see that "I" am not "I." I am not what I think of myself as; instead, this entire manifestation which is referred to as “I” is simply the expression of this force.

It's interesting to try and contemplate this; pondering it requires a willingness to inhabit a place where there is nothing but expression, where the elements of personality are assigned a different and subordinate place.
This is probably an impractical place from which to attempt to conduct daily affairs, but it's possible to keep a thread alive. That thread is organic and connected to sensation and to the body. When it is there, there is food available to help support all the other efforts, even while the other efforts are flailing around and spinning off in their own stupid directions–which is what most of my life consists of.

I was pondering, along with this question of expression, my general level of effort these days, and what I am actually capable of. This often happens when I have jet lag; the body is pretty much wiped out, and by the middle of the day, I feel like a lump of lead, unable to do just about anything effectively, most especially inner work. 100% of my inner work is dependent on forces I have no command over; I cannot do. Of course, I don't admit that to myself; being Mr. Superhuman, I think I can do a very great deal, most especially, wrestle cosmological and metaphysical forces into position so that I will eventually attain enlightenment.

I sometimes wonder if all of us in various spiritual works are not delusional on that point. We are, as Peggy Flinsch said at a sitting I was at many years ago, “tiny little creatures.” That's the sum total of it. Betty Brown used to comment to us that we were arrogant in our presumption that we could achieve anything.

It takes a force as unstoppable as jet lag to bring me up against that and admit to myself that, basically, I am helpless.

Rather than trying to wrestle with the metaphysics, it might be possible for me to allow the act of living to become something more simple: an expression. I don't have to be in the way of that; I can participate, instead of directing. This may be in the direction of what Betty meant when she admonished me, “don't force it!” There is a need to discover way to be within the expression and allow it, rather than trying to be the tyrant, i.e., one who seizes power without a legal right.

So I think I'll explore this question of inhabiting the expression of a force for a few days, and see where that leads.

May the living light of Christ discover us.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Creativity, part 2


It may seem peculiar to suggest that man has an obligation, or a responsibility, to be creative. No one, however, would dare argue that we don't have a proclivity for it; consciousness and creativty seem like very nearly indivisible forces. Art critic Ellen Dissanayake has argued (to great effect, in my own opinion) that creativity is at the very heart of what distinguishes man from other animals-- a trait hard-wired into the species.

I think we can safely label creativity as the most mysterious and extraordinary of forces readily apparent in man. It mirrors the mystery of life itself: material appears as if from nowhere, taking on shapes and forms no one could have foreseen. It's furthermore quite clearly connected with our emotional capacity: it not only appears, in most cases, to arise from emotional roots, it stimulates us emotionally in powerful ways, connecting it to the selfsame emotional forces which Gurdjieff always said were indispensable to the development of man's soul.

To be sure, the idea is hardly unqiue to Gurdjieff; that theme has surfaced countless times throughout history. The understanding, however, translates quite directly to the inner work we do. Inner work is, in the end, an intensely creative act, and remains so regardless of whether we mistakenly believe that we "do" the work that leads to inner development--an unfortunate dilemma originating in and exploited by the ego-- or acquire an unbrokered experience of the creative action of the divine, Mme. De Salzmann's "higher energy," within us.

The very act of opening, of allowing a higher energy to enter us, may superficially appear to be a destructive act--certainly, there is more than one work that speaks of the "dissolution" of the ego, as though something were being destroyed or lost--but it's actually a stepping aside to allow the mysterious generative forces which the human being is inherently endowed with to do their work: a work our ordinary psyche routinely interferes with.

Indeed, if there are destructive impulses in us, they are the property of the ordinary mind, the mind of this level. The higher, as it's referred to in this work, is endowed exclusively with a most unique and extraordinary positive creative power: one of the aspects of Mercy.

I've spent a lifetime in the creative arts, with mixed "results." In the process of living this act of what I would call perpetual discovery, I've had to endure countless encounters with my own egoism; at the same time, I've had to endure the objective embarassment of praise that comes my way for being "talented," even though I can honestly say I have never felt talented... only
interested.

And what interests me is this way in which truly good work
does not come from me.

When a piece of art is worthy... When a painting has a magic to it, when a song very nearly writes itself, when a poem emerges from some unknown space and thrusts itself on to a page while I sit by watching, I am invariably baffled by the question of where it comes from. There was nothing there a moment ago... and suddenly there is a new thing: this artifice which contains a quality of sacredness appears as if from nowhere, and is born into the world.

It reminds me in a way of the big bang: every time it takes place, I feel all over again as though I am miraculously present at the creation of a new universe that did not exist before. Of course the anaolgy may be stretched a bit too thin... After all, a poem is hardly a whole universe... Yet there is a definite relationship between the two actions. They share, put in different and "more scientific" terms, a property of emergence, which is the driving force behind the evolution of complexity... and hence consciousness itself... in the universe.

The Deepest Heart

I wrote a piece for my last CD, "
Elapsed Time Remaining," called "The Deepest Heart." The piece is what it is-- and it's certainly a bit atypical of my compositions. But the title points towards an inner space which receives, and understands, the act of creation differently.

The ultimate repository of creativity in man's inner being--the "deepest heart" of his obligatory creative pulse--lies not within the object that is materially seen, or the musical vibrations which arise in the air. Yet in reviewing and interpreting the "results" of art--be it an Aerosmith song, a Beethoven symphony, or a van Gogh painting, we often make the mistake of thinking that it is the material existence of the artistic piece which is significant.

I say mistake because the ultimate value of what is created--whether by nature or by man-- is never in the material creation itself, but
always lies in the seeing of it.

It is this act of
seeing, so often revisited as the core practice of inner work in "The Reality Of Being," wherein true creativity resides. It's true enough that there is an inherent reciprocity, but through an organic act of receiving more deeply--of allowing life to flow into the centers in a new way, so that we actually live in a less superficial manner--we are able to see that art lies in the seeing and the living, not the doing and the making. The doing and the making are merely paths leading us in the right direction. Ultimately, if we wish to participate in the most intimate form of creativity, we must do this through the receiving of impressions in a much deeper way.

And this is, indeed, exactly why the act of creativity is obligatory for man, why we crave it, and why it is so central to "saving the planet," as Mme. used to say. It is, in fact, what man evolved for, and lies very close indeed to the most essential purposes of his existence.

May the living Light of Christ discover us.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Creativity


I'm on my way back home from China today.

It occurred to me that it's a rather sobering job to carry on this effort of presenting material- both personal, and of a broader scope-- in a contemporary voice representing a viewpoint which is, as best it can be, formally aligned with the Gurdjieff Foundation, and the lines of work established by individuals who knew Gurdjieff personally.

No one ever asked me to do this... and perhaps I'm a fool for trying. There are times when I hardly feel up to the task, and no matter what, I am certainly "standing on the shoulders of giants," as Newton put it.

Or at least trying to.

Nonetheless, the effort is what counts. We must all do our best to meet life as honestly as we can in the midst of our shortcomings, without pretending that they either negate our actions, or excuse us from taking any action.

Along these lines, today it occurred to me that man is under an esoteric obligation to engage in creative work.

One of Gurdjieff's "obligolnian strivings" is an ongoing effort to understand the laws of world creation and world maintenance. This striving cannot be undertaken passively or intellectually: the understanding that's called for here must absolutely be three-centered, since anything short of that isn't real understanding. It needs to be organic.

In order to understand in this way and at this level of Being, a specific kind of participation is required. Now, we all automatically and mechanically participate in these laws--in this no choice is offered (short of the absolute refusual of suicide, the danger of which was, readers may recall, why the notorious organ Kundabuffer was originally installed in man.)

However, a mechanical participation isn't enough. We are called on by our Creator to participate actively in the creation and maintenance of worlds- both inner and outer. That is, a call comes "from above"- from a mystery which we are born into, but have for the most part forgotten how to sense-- to participate consciously in the action and consequences of world creation and world maintenance.

This means that man is actually under a cosmological obligation to create. It's not for the glorification of ego, or of humanity (goals we are all too easily lured into believing in, by the largely secular forces of this level), but for the fundamental support of the universal process of evolution of consciousness.

In the arts, we see levels. There are more and less conscious elements. (Poetry, for example, is "more conscious" than prose: it is able to transmit what is inwardly formed at higher rates of vibration.) Make no mistake about it, creative endeavors are all, in one way or another, part of the effort by the universe to raise the level of vibration-- a subject Mme De Salzmann broaches multiple times in "The Reality of Being."

Man, as part of this general effort, is triply obliged to make efforts to create, as a consequence of this obligolnian striving: first, to help himself understand his own inner world (the aim of all artists); second, to help men understand each other (the aim, collectively, of "the arts"); and third, to help men understand God--the aim of mankind.

Even atheists can comfortably sign on to the first and second premise, but perhaps that's beside the point. What we are investigating here is the fundamental obligation and responsibility of men and women to engage in creative activity.

I recall Betty Brown telling me, years ago, that Mme used to say that man's creative activity would be what "saved the planet." And indeed, we all taste something of the essential in the creative act: an undercurrent that reminds us that this is-- after all the uproar-- what life is for.

What we may not see is how vital this effort is to the nurture of not only our own Being, but also that of mankind, and the planet itself.

I hope, insh'Allah, to write a further entry on questions of creative effort later in the week. But this is enough for now.

May the living light of Christ discover us.