Monday, December 5, 2016

My exasperated nerves

Ceiling detail
Alcazar, Seville

While going through an archive of original Gurdjieff material from the 1920s and 30s belonging to a personal friend of mine, we came across an original letter signed by Mr. Gurdjieff in which he discussed some of his personal struggles with the ordinary world.

The text in it (edited in the interests of brevity) that touched most on my own questions was as follows:

The obligation... which she has willingly taken upon herself for the period indicated, consists in this, that she must obtain and put at the disposal of the notary at Fontainbleu, 350,000 Francs for wiping off the mortgage taken on the Prieure by near people around me six years ago... and the payments for which mortgage, by the way, were personally for me all these latter years, an almost absurd what is called 'bottomless barrel', and very frequently exasperated my nerves, already sufficiently exasperated without this from intensive work.

—G. I. Gurdjieff, Dec. 28th 1930 (?) or 31 (as annotated by the owner)

 We all go through periods in our lives, as we grow older, where we have to take on enormous struggles with the outer world which cause us stress. 

Now, there's a subtle expectation in me that with "real" spiritual development comes relief from such stress; and that I will eventually reach a Guru-like equilibrium with my ordinary world that sets me apart from such trials. 

Ah! What a rich imagination I have in this regard. I'm actually nothing like that — the outer world produces all kinds of stress, outer reaction, and — yes — exasperation on my nerves. 

I suppose that after more than 30 years of various strenuous efforts at inner work, some of it accompanied by "success" (ha ha ha), I will find myself above it all. Yet instead I find myself on the underside of the bus, looking up. The bus is old and dirty; the pavement is wet and dirty. I am sandwiched between the two by my very nature.

Sound familiar?

What inspires me about the text from Mr. Gurdjieff is that he reminds me, without even trying to — after all, that was not his original intention hee— that he, as well, had to deal with all of the inner and outer conditions that make our work difficult and produces the very struggle within us that is so necessary for our growth and development.

What a relief to discover that he also found himself stressed and upset by the ordinary day to day requirements of life! If I find myself in the midst of conditions like that, I can take heart. 

If we find, in the midst of seeing ourselves, that we are old, irritable, and grouchy, it is expected. These are things that we have to process and deal with along with our imaginary candidacy as angels.

So this post is for all of you who can relate — to the stress, the anxiety, the exasperation of real life, which will not leave us alone. 

My exasperated nerves are one of the real conditions I'm required to work within. 


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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