Thursday, April 9, 2015


Pet market, Shanghai

I brought up the question of trust in my post on April 7; and this post follows directly on the heels of that one, since I am writing it the same morning here in Shanghai (April 4, for those of you who like to keep track of time.)

I'm sitting on the 59th floor of the Le Meridien hotel looking out over People's Square in Shanghai; it's a strikingly foggy day, with clouds blowing through the city at a steady pace. The view from my window alternates between complete whiteout and bleary glimpses of the park and streets below me. It reminds me of my inner landscape: blank spaces punctuated by an occasional perspective from a high level.

My teacher Betty Brown often used ask us what we trusted in ourselves. I think this question of trust is critical; yesterday, as I was examining my life — I was in the elevator area directly outside our Shanghai office — I saw that I really don't trust my life as it stands. I'm a suspicious creature; send me all the Grace and love in the world, and I will persist in my belief that something is wrong, that life isn't the way it should be, and that there may, at any moment, come some awful event that will really screw me up.

As if I weren't already there.

I suppose one can hardly blame me. Such things have happened. Yet every supposedly awful event led me onwards in life to something that I needed; a change that had to take place, a lesson I needed to learn. My paranoia when it comes to change doesn't match up with the facts; all of the changes I've encountered, even the most apparently catastrophic ones, have eventually been for the good. I feel sure death will also be like that. 

But I don't trust; yet if I take to heart the lessons of the Masters, as well as the influence of Grace itself, which has taught me equally—in fact, even better, much better, since Grace does not come from books — I ought to trust implicitly. I am like a little kid who has been told this over and over and still won't listen.

This is the contradiction between me and the authority of God. I really do think I have the authority. I think I know what should be done in my life; and yet when these significant and extraordinary things are done they are emphatically not things I would ever do to myself. 

If someone came up to me and said, "you really need to go marry someone who will abuse you for 16 years", or, "you really need your sister to die now," or, "now you need to be fired from your job," I would tell them they were insane. 

If I told myself such things, I would tell myself I was insane. 

Yet these are the things that did happen; and every one of them had enormous benefits in terms of deepening my understanding of life. There were benefits for others in these objectively difficult situations, as well; so it's clear that I don't know, in the context of life, exactly what good and bad things consist of, or what ought to be done. Really, I don't know a damn thing. I'm pretty good at navigating business situations; and I'm pretty good at predicting risk and mitigating it — but I don't know where stress and disaster can be usefully applied, which is an art and a science unto itself. (Read Antifragile, by Nicholas Taleb.)

I don't trust. 

I don't trust God, and I'm afraid He is going to play horrible tricks on me that will cause me to lose things, or even die. 

Well, of course, He is going to do those things; but they aren’t tricks, and they aren’t horrible – they are simply what is necessary for the development of my soul. I myself — and those around me — are categorically incapable of knowing what those things need to be; so one has to trust in God and allow life to happen as it happens, meeting it over and over again with a willingness to stand up and go on every time one is knocked over.

This lack of trust in me is interesting, because Betty brought it up so many times when I was younger, in my late 30s and early 40s. I don't think any of us knew what she was talking about then; by that time, she was into her 70s, and had a perspective one can't gain except through age. I recall Peggy Flinsch bringing up exactly the same subject to groups of generally consternated individuals (what is she talking about?... and of course they were right, no one actually trusts anyone... with good reason!) in later years.

Really, none of us get it.

What do I trust?

Well, it's evident, I can't really trust myself; and the point I made about finding a niche of inner presence that I can take refuge in in the midst of my own insanities, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and the emotional weather of life brings up the one place and the one circumstance that I can trust: a relationship to a higher energy that manifests within me and offers me sanctuary.

This isn't a way of hiding; it's not that kind of sanctuary. It is simply a place where the real Self, the one I don't really know very well, but which is alive and organic, preserves its integrity and remains intact as everything around it is a whirlwind. 

There are Gurdjieff movements that illustrate this, particularly movements based on the enneagram; and no matter how complex the activities in some of these movements are, it is always the one who stands firm and tall and still in one place that represents this opportunity to be present, to receive something real, and to come into relationship with the Lord in the midst of life, no matter how difficult life may be.


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