Monday, May 3, 2021


January 21, 2021

Questions about ambition have come up lately. 

People want to be something. They want results. 

"How do I maximize the opportunity to be here?"

I fear these questions come from the world of things. It reminds me of Popeye. The cartoon character says, “I yam what I yam.” 

"I am what I am" makes me a thing. 

But I am not a thing

I am a human being

I am as I am.

I am as I am. How is that? Is it about results? I don’t think so. 

The question of possession comes in here; because in a cosmological sense it is about results, and “I” am a result; yet I am not my result. 

When I am as I am, the result does not belong to me. I simply inhabit it and see it. Paradoxically, this doesn’t really subtract from I; it adds to it. 

Yet it adds to it by stripping it. Think about that for a while.

The difficulty here is that I want the effort to be something, rather than being something within myself. 

I make an effort. I don’t make an effort. The effort should be like this or it should be like that. It was good, it was bad, and so on. Now all of a sudden it’s currency that I hoard or spend. Maybe I’ll be able to buy myself something really wonderful with it.

The exercise is a thing. The result is a thing. The effort is a thing. Every object, event, circumstance, and condition is somehow turned into a thing, like a piece of metal that can be forged or hammered. Then I have control over it. I can do something. Not only can I do something; I must do something. Gurdjieff told me this. The work told me this. Jesus said it to me. Or whatever. The point is that I don’t want to be as I am; I want to make things happen, don’t I?

I’m here to evaluate without judging, not judge without evaluating. Yet what I always do is judge without evaluating. 

To be here is to evaluate: to perceive, to receive, to appreciate value. Here I am… here I am… here I am. 


I've pointed out before that the mind lives in the past, the body lives in the present, and the feeling lives in the future. Expanding on this, the mind feeds on the past, the body feeds on the present, and the feeling feeds on the future. Yet the only force that can bring the mind and the feeling into the present is the body, because it is the master of the present. The master of the past and the master of the future need to come here to the present to work together properly. If that happens, if I discover myself within the authority of the body; when I observe, when I evaluate, I can relax and enjoy it. It’s not a chore.


By now, over the course of a lifetime, I’ve attended hundreds upon hundreds of Gurdjieff meetings. I jotted down some notes to myself about suggestions for how to conduct oneself in a meeting. How to bring yourself to a group. The list is by no means complete, but it’s a starting place.

Rediscover yourself in the middle of everything and say only half of what you were going to say. Better yet, start from there.

Don’t engage in soliloquy about the wonder of it all.

Cancel the excursions. No rambling.

Don’t qualify what you say. Don’t end by saying, for example, “if that makes any sense.” Do so doesn't make any sense. 

Avoid beginning with those phrases that everyone else is using. Don't use them in the middle, either. If a word is becoming too commonplace in the exchanges, vow never to use it. Stop instead and find a different way of saying it. 

Always different. Always a little effort. 

Be aware of repetitiveness and avoid it. See how the emotion of fear interferes with what you are trying to say and inserts tropes and defensive mechanisms. They aren’t needed.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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