Saturday, May 10, 2014

Who are we?

I don't think we're ever quite sure of who we are.

We go from one moment to the next distracted by other things; and we don't seem to be solid enough inside to resist outer forces. Maybe this is one of the meanings of the idea of temptation. To be sure, one of the meanings of the word is to be probed or tested; this is why we have the word temperature. So in a sense, temptation is to take the measure of something; and the outer world always takes the measure of us as it meets us.

Now, I usually think I am measuring the outer world; but that's because I think I have mastery. In reality, the outer world measures me; my stature, my height, is determined by my own inner relationship. If I have the strength to resist the influence of lower forces from the outer world, of the wish to do wrong things, especially the wish to harm other people for my own self interest, then I measure up well. But if I put myself before others and I'm harmful to them, then my measurement is poor. I am a small man, in that case.

So I need to know who I am first, before the outer world comes to measure me. To the extent that I'm aware of myself, perhaps I can resist, and be who I wish to be, not what the world wishes to make me.

Gurdjieff brought us the powerful prayer, "I am — I wish to be." But perhaps this isn't quite clear; just what do I wish to be? Without any intention to be something concrete, I might as well not be at all.

My thought is that I wish to be human; not in the lower sense of my pettiness, my greed, and my evildoings, which we are all guilty of, but in the sense of the best values I can muster. That begins with an honorable and just treatment of others. Not what I can get for myself, first, which I see is an impulse that runs powerfully through all of life, no matter how noble I think I am or I think I wish to be.

These are the things that I ponder this morning as I wait to board the plane from my trip to China. It's true, no doubt, that the great philosophers and masters have pondered these things for centuries, and I could read books about them; but here, in an airport, I am left to just try and think them out for myself.

I do that within the organic presence of this vessel, this body, which I inhabit; and it is a friend in this enterprise. It wants to know who I am, too; so maybe together we can bring something to it.


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