Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Organizational skills, part III

 I suppose that readers are wondering of what possible use this detailed analysis of inner organization can be; but if we want to understand why our outer lives are disorganized, we can't do it without a careful examination of the question.

 Organization has to arise from a wish. Although the intellect and the material need to participate, there must be a feeling-wish that arises within to participate actively in the expression of order. This arises from understanding one's place, and seeing that one has to serve something. Without the understanding of a greater meaning, and the vision of one's place within that picture — one's position, one's place in the order — no one can engage in inner or outer action that has significant meaning. It is, on the other hand, unusually easy to engage in chaotic, destructive, or selfish behavior if one has no understanding of inner order.

Generally speaking, I have always told people that the outward order of their lives reflects their inward order. How I am outwardly, the way I dress, the level of cleanliness I have around me, the neatness and orderliness of my environment, the systemized (or not) nature of my action — all of this expresses my inward order. I may be able to have a marginal effect on my inward order by ordering myself outwardly; but this has its downside, which is a long discussion for another essay. The point is that I need to have order and structure. And that order and structure needs to be reciprocal, that is, my inner and outer conditions need to have order and structure that complement and supplement one another.

 That structure and order must furthermore not be rigid; each one, inwardly and outwardly, has to have a creative flexibility so that they can respond to one another and to new situations without breaking. The more rigid my structure is, the more prone it will be to breakage. One of the mistakes most of us make inwardly is believing that if we create an extremely rigid inward structure, it will be durable and be able to resist anything that happens. This works up to a point; but the minute an unusual stress takes place, it breaks. This is the whole point, in a way, of the book Antifragile by Nicholas Taleb, and he does — to his credit — touch a bit on the fact that the principle applies to inward as well as outward circumstances. (His argument, by the way, is that the strongest systems gain from encounters with disorder— which is a reflection of the basic principle that the bad is the servant of the good; hence, avoiding the bad does not actually help the good. The true good gains strength from encounters with the bad.)

So we don't want a rigid structure. At the same time, we want to have a structure — and we don't attend enough, so our structure is weak. The practice of keeping things neat and clean, of picking up, even of carefully folding the laundry and putting it up, is part of the reinforcement process to help our attention attend both inwardly and outwardly. Monastic practices have a pretty good understanding of this, but the general level of disorder that the average person is willing to put up with in their immediate surroundings is, in my experience, staggering. One must pick oneself up off the couch and create much better outward order if one wants to begin serious spiritual work. Anyone who sits around in an inward house filled with garbage and things thrown all over the place imagining that they are in some lofty spiritual state is in the depths of a severe delusion — and, unfortunately, this kind of behavior abounds. This is the kind of thing Gurdjieff was referring to when spoke about tramps and lunatics.

Keep in mind that the outward house reflects the state of the inward house. It's a sign of how just unconscious people are that they put their inward nature on display outwardly at all times, and feel absolutely no shame whatsoever about it. It's not just about whether or not there are clothes on the bedroom floor or dirty dishes in the sink; our relentless destruction of our planetary environment stems from precisely this kind of mindless behavior. There is a certain class of people, particularly politicians, that not only engage in disorder; they celebrate it, and even make a living from it. Such people are not only in the grip of demonically selfish forces, they derive enjoyment from it. The forces of disorder have a great love of presenting destructive arguments and pitching them as constructive; and this is true not only of societal forces, but of the force within our inner order. We need to learn to recognize this inwardly.

 One needs to make clear, specific efforts at both inner and outer organization, and one must attend to them regularly — that is, all day long. Every thought and every process ought to be properly ordered so that they follow one on the other and help to achieve the organic goal of living within an entire context.  One has to attend to the process of thinking in order to understand that correctly. When I do not, I live within fractions of context, instead of within a whole context. This is one of the esoteric meanings of the Tower of Babel.

Zen Buddhism's mindfulness, as one example, is a comprehensive practice that helps individuals to understand how to live within an entire context, instead of fractionally. Christianity used to have this practice; and it is common to all the great religions, if they are properly understood. However, in the selfish world we have created today, everyone wants to live within their own context, not the context that the great tradition bestows upon us.

The great tradition ultimately bestows, after all, a context of universal brotherhood; and while everyone is eager to prattle on about how much they love their brothers and sisters, in today's world, everyone actually wants their brother's and sister's stuff more than anything else.

Hosanna.



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