Saturday, February 1, 2014

A baker's crumb

Buddha, Cave 259
Mogao, China
Circa 386-557 A.D.
Zhejiang Art Museum, Hangzhou, China

Because of the lag between when I write posts and the date they are published, this particular post dates back to January 15, the day after I returned from China. So I'm jet lagged; trying to reabsorb my whole life as it stands here in the United States, seeing it once again briefly as an outsider, as peculiar as that may sound.

This question of the wholeness of life came up with my wife this afternoon. I was trying to explain to her the great danger in believing that the "special" things that happen are the "real" ones. Reading Meister Eckhart over the past week or so, I'm reminded of his last words to his students, in which he advised them that the small things in life are often far more interesting to God than the large ones. What he was getting at is that the nooks and crannies, the individual small moments, in life are the ones where real feeling can be discovered, where real truth resides. It isn't always in the things that we think are grand; to the contrary. The brush of a feather or the curl of a cat's tail may have more of the Buddha in them than all the vast sculptures and elegant sutras.

It's as though one were a baker, baking bread, pulling one warm loaf after another out of the oven; yet it is the crumb that one dabs up with a moist fingertip and puts in one's mouth that is the most delicious, the most valuable taste of the bread; not the grand loaves that one eats with butter later in the evening.

There is often this idea that other, more special people can help us discover our inner work; that being around them will make the difference, that there is an inside circle we need to be in. Yet all of the work we need to do is within ourselves; we need to discover this and own it without the interference of outside agencies. So looking to the guru, the master, the special visitor who calls from afar with magical properties in them, is inevitably a mistake. Just look at how far Gurdjieff went in intentionally disabusing his pupils of such notions.

 Looking back on it, the entire contents of The Reality of Being is most definitely about discovering one's own work; not following someone else's. I must become responsible for myself in every way. Every time I look to another for the right direction, I forget to look within myself, which is the only place any right direction can arise. 

Maybe this is because I don't trust myself; maybe this is because I'm too passive. Maybe both. But neither attitude is sufficient if I want my work to be alive. I must stand up within my own life and appreciate it; and this involves difficult and unpleasant struggles with many different inner factors, as well as the recognition that there are no saviors outside me who will clean the mess up with their nuggets of purported wisdom. A man who wants his stables clean must clean them himself if he wants the job done properly.

I remember when I was younger and used to look to luminaries around me for guidance. It seemed real at the time; but there is a moment when all of that has to be put aside forever, when one must confront the bottom line of one's own need and responsibility, instead of outsourcing everything about the work to some external agency.

Well, there seems to be a lot more to this thought, but I'm just about passing out, so I'll leave it at that for today.



  1. Of course I agree but that is not what mme de salzmann 'instituted'. She set up an autocratic foundation...which was definitely not about u finding your truth with the guidance of the system...I remember Michel de Salzmann literally scolding me in a group meeting led by Pauline de Dampierre for talking to my friend about the 'work'...He started ranting on about this 'nectar' that we can't just talk if could see yr blog he would turn in his grave :) and what's this with the baking and the stables....?! Do u have horses...actually we did have a horse for a while and I luv baking...speciality pizza and ciabatta :)

    1. read: 'without the guidance....' :)

    2. just having a little fun...I know u have bees and luv cooking...

  2. The foundation has enormous value. We have to struggle with institutions both inner and outer; that's lawful. Like all structures, it has its weaknesses and flaws. These are the products of individuals and not representative of the higher aims that organizations are formed for. It's like blaming the Catholic church for the sins of the priests. The church doesn't sin; the people in it do. Don't confuse the two.

  3. debatable...there are individuals in the foundation that have value...It is worth remembering what Ivan Illich said about the catholic church..'Corruptio optimie quae est pessima. [The corruption of the best is the worst'] Through the attempt to insure, to guarantee, to regulate Revelation, the best becomes the worst...I live with a profound sense of ambiguity. I can't do without tradition, but I have to recognize that its institutionalization is the root of an evil deeper than any evil I could have known with my unaided eyes and mind.' (The Rivers north of the future). Or as David Cayley puts it in the book 'the utter singularity of modern society can only be understood as the result of a perverse attempt to institutionalize the Christian gospel, and that this corruption of the best produces a unique evil that only becomes fully intelligible when one grasps its origin.' In fact one could almost substitute foundation for church in the following comment by Cayley: 'the church illich says is an unavoidably ambiguous creature, but this ambiguity could have been recognized and brought into awareness. Instead the opposite occurred. The church became less and less capable of discerning in the image of Anti-Christ its own tendency to substitute power for faith...' And Illich's final comment:'the message of Christianity is that we live together, praising the fact that we are where we are who we are, and that contrition and forgiveness are part of that which we celebrate..' (The rivers north of the future: the testament of ivan illich, House of anansi press, 2005). There is something about the foundation that may be essentially flawed, not just a flaw that's their fruits they shall be judged :0

  4. of course this could just become wiseacring...I have met remarkable people involved in the foundation in france....but they don't have a monopoly on remarkableness......


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