Monday, May 2, 2011


My wife and I woke up this morning to the news that Osama bin Laden is dead.

There was no sense of joy. The reactions some people are having–celebration, jubilation–seems so far from the actual organic feelings I am experiencing that I don't quite understand them.

They seem bewildering and awful.

Let's be clear. The man left little, if anything whatsoever, to like. However, there is, in my eyes, no way to celebrate the death of an individual, no matter how reprehensible their behavior, or how deserved their end may seems to be. As I said many years before in another essay, a society can have a death penalty, if the will is there... but no one ought to feel good about it.

I think what the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said sums it up from my perspective:

"Osama bin Laden, as we all know, had the very grave responsibility of spreading division and hatred amongst the people, causing the death of countless of people, and of instrumentalizing religion for this end. In front of the death of man, a Christian never rejoices but rather reflects on the grave responsibility of each one in front of God and men, and hopes and commits himself so that every moment not be an occasion for hatred to grow but for peace."

There is a deep sorrow that penetrates the entire universe. On this level, it is related to the conditions we inhabit. It isn't for me to say why that sorrow exists; all that I can say for myself is that it is tangible–organic–real. The human organism, when it is working in a right way, inescapably senses this as a substance, not as a theory.

Gurdjieff said that the aim of responsible beings was, ultimately, to "share in a portion of the sorrow of His Endlessness." This aim has resonated powerfully in me for years now. I daresay that from my own point of view, there can be no more important work.

On hearing this news, that sense is very strong in me today. What right-thinking, right feeling, right sensing individual cannot palpably experience the air of outright tragedy that surrounds the way we conduct our affairs on this planet–both individually and collectively?

It takes a rather deeper and more organic kind of alignment to sense the underlying Weltschmerz that permeates reality: nonetheless, the situations are in relationship, and the expression of sorrow and anguish on this level, whether temporal and event-based or metaphysical and even–dare we say it–objective, has a legitimate reciprocal action at the level above us.

It's too bad that I have to use all these complicated words and ideas to express something that is in fact simple, direct, and unambiguous.

Unfortunately, we don't have any other tools.

May our prayers be heard.


  1. Bin Laden's death and all the hoopla today have led me in some unexplained manner to the following G.I Gurdjieff quote from C.S. Nott's Journey of a Pupil (Weiser, 1962):

    "In order to be able to assimilate the involving part of air (apparently the only part of air which can actually help us at this level of the universe where we are currently living, D.O.), you should try to realize your own significance and the significance of those around you. You are mortal, and some day will die. He on whom your attention rests is your neighbor; he also will die. Both of you are nonentities. At present, most of your suffering is 'suffering in vain'; it comes from feelings of anger, jealousy, and resentment toward others. If you acquire data always to realize the inevitability of their death and your own death, you will have a feeling of pity for others, and be just toward them, since their manifestations which displease you areonly because you or someone has stepped on their corns, or because your own corns are sensitive. At present you cannot see this. Try to put yourself in the position of others - they have the same significance as you; they suffer as you do, and like you, they will die. Only if you always try to sense this significance until it becomes a habit whenever your attention rests on anyone, only then will you be able to assimilate the good part of air and have a real 'I'. Every man has wants and desires which are dear to him, and which he will lose at death.

    "From realizing the significance of your neighbor when your attention rests on him, that he will die, pity for him and compassion toward him will arise in you, and finally you will love him, also by doing this constantly, faith, conscious faith, will arise in some part of you and spread to other parts, and you will have the possibility of knowing real happiness, because from this faith objective hope will arise - hope of a basis for continuation."

    Three young boys are riding their scooters in front of our home at this very second. I try to imagine that I will die some day and that they too will die some day and something on the inside is touched. I can actually feel it. It does not feel morbid but instead clean and deep. I will continue this exercise later today and also on my trip to NYC tomorrow where there will be tons of opportunities to try it again.

    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me.

    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me.

    Lord Have Mercy........

    Lord Have Mercy....


    Don Olson
    May 2, 2011, 7:30 pm EDT

  2. In the almost two weeks since I wrote the comment to this post, I have tried the exercise in the "Journey of a Pupil" quote very often (maybe 20 times). It is a highly effective, even magical, method of realizing how deep my identification really is. Nothing I think is real.

    It's worth a try for any serious student of G.I. Gurdjieff.


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