Thursday, March 3, 2011

Relationship, Duty, and Understanding

I'm don't understand the nature of relationship.

Yet I see today that it is my duty to understand the nature of relationship.

Maybe that sounds odd, so I'll try to explain.

My failure to understand relationship causes everyone around me to suffer. I manifest in one way or another, in other words, and everyone else is affected by it. They have to tolerate it, experience it, and deal with the consequences. Thus, if my actions are born of ignorance, are unconsidered, and lack discrimination, everyone around me has to pay for them.

Of course, I think I am the one who has to pay–one way or the other, good or bad. How I affect other people isn't necessarily a question for me... it is, course, if I want something from them; but this attitude is a consequence of my transactional approach to life.

The word relationship means the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected. So I see it as my duty–my obligation–to understand how I am connected to the world. Ever since I was a small child, I have had an instinctive and organic desire to understand how I am connected to this phenomenon I experience, called life. It's not a mystical calling; it's an active, living question.

This particular instinctive and organic desire finds its expression in human beings in ten thousand ways. Most of them are outward and mechanical, automatic– sense-driven, centered around transaction and extraction-- because of the childish ego: everything is me, me, mine. There are, nonetheless, forces in man that can cause a man to see, with a sense of wonder, that the questions are much larger than this.

Above all, the sense of wonder, of mystery, derives from an awareness of Being. Despite the weirdly "technological" sense of inner work that P. D. Ouspensky ultimately derived from his study with Gurdjieff, the tangible ground-floor of the Fourth Way, of inner work as Gurdjieff proposed it, has always been a tactile and human affair.

It's about being in this body, sensing it: pondering, as Gurdjieff said, the sense and aim of one's existence.

Last night, at 11:00 PM, I sat in bed doing nothing. Uncharacteristically, I didn't have a book out; I wasn't using my iPad; the television was turned off. My wife asked me what I was doing. She couldn't understand why I was just lying there that late at night, doing nothing.

I wasn't doing "nothing." I was actively engaged in this task of pondering the sense and aim of existence. It involved being still, and actively sensing the organism.

Rather more of this is owed to one's life than one gives, and yet, it appears as though nothing is being "done" when one works on this.

The question of the sense of existence–what is it? Why does it even matter?–and its aim–in what direction is it going?–seem to me to be intimately connected to this question of relationship, which is a duty, and requires understanding. There don't seem to be any clear answers to this. I simply found myself trying to have an experience of life, as it was. To be in relationship with myself–to try to discover what it means to be connected to myself.

The question of what life means arises in the act of the sensation of the self. It does not need to be answered: it needs to be experienced. This doesn't involve any outward doing. it involves beginning where I am.

If I don't understand how to discover an inner relationship, it strikes me, there's no point in exploring the question of outer relationships. How can I know the nature of where things “end”–outside me–if I don't know the nature of where they begin? It's the nature of this beginning–of the root experience of life itself, which either does-- or does not-- have that unique, elusive, and mysterious quality called “Being”-- that I need to understand first. That's why I am in a practice that asks me to perform seemingly technical tasks like “self observation” and “self remembering.”

These tasks are, I think, profoundly and frequently misunderstood. In my experience, they aren't technical: they're not on the order of observing and cataloging. They are on the order of experiencing and encountering.

Until these actions become a tangible, physical, intelligible, and emotional experience, they are just thoughts. It is the actual inhabitation of life, the insertion of the self and of Being into the definite and real immediate moment of inward and outward motion, that fosters an understanding of what these tasks mean. There's nothing technical or dry about them. They aren't about lists or judgment. They are simply about living. From where I am, it looks to me like I know how to live–but that simply isn't the case. When I begin to look, I see that I don't know. I have instead a set of rote formulations that I try to apply to an unformulated movement.

It's my duty–my obligation–to live. I have a responsibility to it: there is an organic need to act within the context of discrimination, not outwardly imposed moralities (although those are, of course, not all bad, and should not perhaps be utterly abandoned) but a lively inward sensitivity. In order to do this, there needs to be a bit more awareness and attention than I usually apply.

Jeanne de Salzmann repeatedly spoke of asking us to see our “lack.” This is a big thing. What do I lack? What does that mean? Circling the question–in orbit around it, so to speak, but unable at this moment to penetrate directly into its heart, to let the gravity of the question pull me into it–I sense a taste of a lack of relationship, a lack of understanding.

I don't see the connection.

In the midst of all of this work, attempting to understand what I am, I am continually visited by the impression of a deep and graceful love, supporting every effort, mercifully, and unconditionally, without regard for my fallen state or my separation.

This deep and graceful love is not a theoretical or imaginary force. It is spun into the very thread of the universe itself–the carpet of reality is woven from it. How strange that I do not always sense it; how strange that it cares not how little I care for it; how strange that I am unable to open myself to it in the way that seems so absolutely necessary.

How strange that I so consistently betray it.

Ah, yes... here I have arrived at the end of yet another of my rather personal pieces, which asks so many questions, and may even seem obscure.

May our prayers be heard.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.