Saturday, January 7, 2017

One third water — two thirds sand

Detail from St. John the Evangelist at his Desk with his Symbol the Eagle
Gabriel Maelesskircher, 1478 

Some months ago, an individual irritated with my expressing of opinion angrily expressed his opinion about it.

 The absurdity of the situation, along with the intentionally harmful negativity directed at me, caused a great deal of thought. 

It turned out, in the end, that his remarks were very helpful because they evoke so much pondering in me, so my initial impulse to thank him for speaking out has been doubly correct, in my estimation. 

Readers may know I’ve been publishing my blog — short, for those who don’t follow such things, for weblog, which is, in essence, an online diary — for over 10 years. Overt the years, I’ve certainly been subject to my share of criticism and attacks for publishing a public diary. Some believe it is an entirely ego-based activity, and that anyone who does such a thing is consumed with their own self-importance. However, the irony of stating such a thing online — a piece of fuel thrown directly on the fire of the critic's own self-importance — ought to escape no thinking creature.

The question I asked myself this morning is, should I be writing a diary of this kind, and keeping it? It's not exactly a new question, but I do revisit it from time to time in this space.

This leads us inevitably to an examination of the question of diaries in general, and — in this case — the diary of Jeanne Salzmann.

Yes, we are referring to the Reality of Being.

Mme. Salzmann’s example suggests there is ample precedent for keeping a diary of one’s inner work. Now, in her day, she could not publish it the way we do today, but she certainly shared almost all of the thoughts in it in one way or another, over the course of many decades of personal work with others. The material in Reality of Being, in greater part, consists of preparation and records of material from her own work which she intended to share with others

No one I can recall has ever accused her of being arrogant, puffed up or egoistic for making her efforts to share her work.... er, well, perhaps a few arrogant, puffed up and egoistic individuals, but besides that.

The whole premise of working together, after all, is to share our work — and if we all start accusing each other of egoism for doing so, well then, we are from the outset damned: both individually, and together. 

This concept isn't even just a premise — it's a requirement. We are supposed to share our work. Failure to do so can even be considered an abrogation of responsibility.

The absurdity of trying to conduct any human affairs whatsoever without ego, anyway, should be self-evident. It’s profoundly mistaken to believe that we can somehow expunge it from our manifestations. 

This brings me, more pointedly, to Salzmann's motives for writing a diary in the first place. She meant, in the long run, for these notes to be published, and left instructions to that effect. 

So she had in mind an activity something like online blogging—that is, its predecessor, the publication of a book. This was a long term aim — to share the work with others. 

One can argue all day long about her motives, and whether or not they were free of egoism (I doubt that had much to do with it, but we must ask the question). The point is that the "result" was inevitably going to be material widely shared in a public venue... even if her result was posthumous.

Times have changed. Today we can share publicly and online. If that helps even one other person—as I have always maintained to myself,  rationalization though it may well be—then it is right and reasonable to share, no matter how many individuals attack one for making public one's thoughts and personal inner efforts. 

Such people cannot, perhaps see their own cruelty (if they do, their shame is doubled) ; but they do show it to others. They are permitted to be cruel, because it’s a free world, in the sense of expression, and they are required to make choices—which may include cruelty. So in a perverse kind of way, even though I feel contempt for such cruelty, I have to respect it and understand that such folks can do no better. In reality, the better parts of themselves undoubtedly squirm inside in agony while this kind of activity takes place; and, imprisoned by it, they can find no escape... having been through similar situations myself, a certain quiet compassion arises. If they really feel the need to vent their negative emotion publicly, it’s their call.  As one can see actions of this kind can trigger good results in many directions, so said outbursts may grow up straight, even if if born misguided.

Although I certainly can’t claim to keep a record of perfection or even 100% consistency on not being negative towards others in my diary space, I do my best. This doesn't mean I’m not going to defend myself if some objectively cruel individual comes on with the aim of doing harm to me or my readers— who must, if they participate, suffer along with me in these unpleasant manifestations. One cannot just lay down like a doormat and allow destructive individuals to trample wherever they want.

Many people have published their records of the Gurdjieff work, and their own efforts, over the years. The activity is hardly controversial by now, or at least it would not be, if it weren’t for those that feel the need to attack others for doing so. One has to wonder exactly what the motive for those attacks is. I can’t dare to say; but no good ones come to mind.

There are those, of course, who claim that the Gurdjieff work has nothing to do with goodness – even though Gurdjieff himself made it pretty clear that it does. Such people sometimes seem like blacksmiths that want to take hammer and tongs, grab the ego with pincers, heat it in a bed of coals and pound it with hammers until it achieves some exotic new shape that they have approved in advance. I’ve seen folk like this in operation throughout my career in the work. Their attitudes speak for themselves. Some of these folk make a lot of "progress" recruiting people and leading groups and so on. 

It's very nice for them, I suppose. It reminds me of what Betty Brown once said to me about such folk:

"All that power. What good does it do them?"

I was meeting with S. yesterday, a local teacher of inner practice, friend, and confidant.

We talked about the entry of feeling — real feeling — into work once feeling becomes voluntary, and not theoretical. She agreed—it's impossible to express this kind of negativity towards another in the moment when voluntary (or better yet, intentional) feeling is present. 

The reasons for this are self-evident to those with an understanding of this; and no one who does not have that understanding can be properly trusted.

Keep this in mind the next time you run into someone who is misbehaving in this way. 

Taking them seriously is like trying to quench one’s thirst from a glass that is one third water, two thirds sand.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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