Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Memory and Hope, part II

Vezelay, France

This question of my position in time — defined by memory and hope, which represent the past and the future in my psyche — is one of attitude. That is to say, understanding that the present is a fulcrum upon which memory and hope are balanced, and against which they leverage one another within me actively at this moment, is critical to seeing that my attitude is what makes the wholeness of my understanding of life and time.

My attitude is the position in which the fulcrum finds itself.

The relative length of the arms of hope and memory are determined by where my attitude lies. Now, attitude has multiple meanings. First of all, it can mean a physical posture of the body proper to or implying an action or mental state. Secondly, it can mean a habit or settled way of acting. Third, it can mean a position which is intentionally adopted.

The first definition implies a simple fact: this is my attitude. The second definition describes my habit: I build my identity through sameness, so consistent attitudes create my identity. For example, my politics are always this way or that way. Third, the attitude of intention — which is the most critical of all the attitudes, because it is only with an attitude of intention that I can determine where the fulcrum lies within me in regard to memory and hope.

The word attitude has its deep origins— germane to the theme of this essay, a memory of itself — in a Latin word meaning fitted or joined. Generally speaking, the implication is that attitude involves having something correctly positioned. Yet of course this is quite difficult; after all, both memory and hope jockey for position to position the inner fulcrum of now in their own favor.

Think about this. Intention must be properly fitted into my life. (This, by the way, is precisely how Emmanuel Swedenborg described the essential need for a proper intention.)

It’s why it is so important to have an awareness, an identity—what Gurdjieff called “I”—that can resist the subjective stress and temptation of memory and hope. These incubi  do not actually exist except as phantoms that attempts to exercise an influence on the now — in their perpetual action on the position of the fulcrum of my attitude.

My attitude, my fitness, my position all ought to be rooted in the now — and derive their essential intelligence from this impression of now. In a certain sense, only after that should they allow the participation of memory and hope, who have useful roles as servants but often make poor masters. If there is a master in the household, he has to exercise his authority now, using an awareness and intelligence that is not determined by the servants.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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