Friday, February 24, 2012

The disease of tomorrow

Many will be familiar with Gurdjieff's reference to man's problems with what he called "the disease of tomorrow."

What did he mean by that? Perhaps it's a bit more complicated than just the general and rather ordinary idea of procrastination, which we are all familiar with. Is something more subtle going on here?

 Every human being has an inner clock. That clock ticks away with an extraordinary sensitivity to many different factors, some of which are environmental—for example, our circadian rhythms. Others are more personal; still more of them relate to what might be called extrasensory abilities, such as the ability to sense the future—intuition comes from this particular property of man's psyche.

The point is that the inner clock is an extremely sensitive device. If it isn't interfered with, it rarely, if ever, makes mistakes. The problem is that the inner clock in man has been fundamentally tampered with. One of the chief villains in this tampering is thought itself, which can't resist fiddling around with anything it comes to, including the breathing and so on.

Gurdjieff taught movements because, among other things, they provide an access to the inner clock.The movements, practiced over long periods of time, gradually affect and change the function of the cerebellum—the part of us that regulates the inner clock. I had an exchange with Paul Reynard about this a few years before he died, and he was greatly interested, because he immediately saw the relationship between this work and this very tangible part of the brain, which we need for our general functioning.

 We routinely interfere with the work of the inner clock. Our Being—our essence—knows exactly when things ought to be done. And when things ought to be done, it presents them to us. Generally speaking, the first instant that a thought that such and such or so and so ought to be done arises in us, that is the appropriate and exact time that that thing needs to be done. Not later. The inner clock knows these things, and unless we are well and truly messed up, it presents such things with an exquisite sense of timing.

The problem is that the rest of us, the part formed around personality, has absolutely no idea about such things. The usual reaction is to decide that such and such or so and so need not be done this minute. "There's more time," we say to ourselves. "I can do that tomorrow."

 What we don't sense is that the inner clock knows how long it takes to do things and when they need to be initiated. All our lives, it has been working and observing life on a certain level appropriate to its own type of work that we don't have access to, and it knows a lot more about when things ought to be done than we do.  It's so sophisticated that it doesn't even limit its action to the immediate; at various times of life, it knows in a gross sense what's necessary.  It has, in other words, both finer and coarser abilities and properties, all of them appropriate to both the general picture and its specific details.

So when we ignore it, we are asking for trouble. The moment that one thinks one still has time left, that is the moment that one is already called to action, and the moment when there isn't any time left. By the time our ordinary parts think we ought to be doing things, we are already late, because they don't work at the speed necessary to identify what needs to be done, and when.

Those who are interested in this question ought to study it during movements. It won't take very long for you to see that the movements illustrate these principles in fairly precise detail, all the time. It pays to have a sense of amusement and a certain level of objectivity in these situations, because frustration and anxiety ("I can't do the movement, damn it...") interfere with what one needs to see.

 In any event, it's worth observing in a quite ordinary way in ordinary life that one should, as best as possible, take action at once in the moment that action is called for. I have always raised my children, and told the family members and individuals around me, to do everything now. That is, take action at once. Never wait. There is never any time but now to do things, and everything must be done now, because there is no time for anything else to be done. 

It's very important to constantly go against the part that wants to do things later. Those interested in the aphorism "like what it does not like" ought to study it in this context, because perhaps above all, "it" does not like doing things right away.

I'll admit; this is a simplistic explanation, and there are indeed things we should not do now. The practice of discrimination dictates an exercise of intelligence in these matters; and one must not be an idiot about it. 

Nonetheless, one needs to see what arises and understand the immediacy of what arises. True freedom, which is discussed a lot but no one actually understands, consists in a very great measure of the ability to be free of the considering that interferes with what must be done now. In real inner freedom, what is done now is what needs to be done, nothing more, and nothing less. Nothing stops it; nothing more or less than what is done is necessary.

 It's true, a higher energy—a much finer energy—must support action of this kind. Nonetheless, in the effort to become available to such energy, we must first become available to the idea behind it, to an understanding that we don't know what is needed. And a sense of today—as opposed to tomorrow—can enhance that effort.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.


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