I often find myself (R6)


I often find myself dipping into Gurdjieff’s Meetings with Remarkable Men or watching the brilliant film with Alf Garnett playing the part of Gurdjieff’s dad.

Then I start to think about how to make an answer to the question

What is a Remarkable Person?

And what is it that counts as a meeting with them?

Many of the remarkable people I’ve met are long dead: Socrates, Walt Whitman, Richard Jefferies, the Hermanns Melville & Hesse, Beethoven, Emily Dickinson, Paul Klee, Ben Nicholson to mention but a few…

These are people who have shifted the tenor of my life permanently and cumulatively down the years through their words/music/art—through the being I projected into them.

A remarkable person is perhaps somebody in whom you find at least part of yourself, however you ‘meet’ them… You would not be able to recognise a remarkable person were there not some part of you that already possessed something of them.

The remarkable people I’ve met in ‘real life’ are very unremarkable by the world’s standards; maybe it’s just that that makes them remarkable to me. My dad for his quiet unassuming practical contentment in the face of various adversities; my sister for her humourful persistence against the unbelievably cruel ravages of crippling disease; an artist/inventor friend who never makes anything of his brilliant work through TRUE humility—his motto: Ah well, on to the next thing. There have been various teachers who have nonchalantly tossed things my way without stopping to see whether I’d caught anything; there are people with whom I now get into the flow of musical improvisation and there’s an old guy who busks in our town on a stringless guitar with silent singing in every kind of weather and suffers all the derision of passers-by… An anchor for Persisting-I to whom slip a five pound note from time to time. All remarkable people… As are my son and daughters and grandchildren on whom I model.

I think that the way I recognise a remarkable person is to find myself saying to myself, “I’d like a bit of that… I wonder how they do it…”

Then there are the teachers I’ve had!

In the Third Year at Grammar School (age 14) there was an English Teacher who was generally regarded as being crazy. Excellent! I make a bee-line for ‘crazy’…

One Autumn afternoon he came into the large wooden-floored classroom and bellowed, “Put your heads down on the desk so you can’t see anything! Right! Now I’m going to walk round the room…” We were easily able to hear his footsteps on the wooden floor. “You will put your hand up when I have walked the appropriate number of steps,” he said just before he started. After quite a time—shortly after I had put my hand up—he said, “Right, that’s it. You may look up now… Do you know, boys, every single person in the room put their hand up exactly at my 32nd pace…” Of course we had to take his word for it because we all had our eyes covered!

There was no follow-up. It remained almost the most tantalisingly beautiful lesson I ever learned in that school… Or any other time, come to that. The notion of appropriateness… That was the lesson I learned anyway—the meaning of a lesson is the way it is received!

Almost the most tantalisingly beautiful lesson… Except that we had a music teacher who was also regarded as crazy and who, one afternoon that same year in the school hall, sun streaming through the windows & dust motes dancing like it was yesterday, suddenly said, “Listen to this, boys!” It was a record of an Alois Haba quarter tone string quartet. I suppose he intended us to be shocked & horrified but I was suddenly utterly transfixed: the dust motes danced differently and I said to myself, “So, you can write music like this…” And so now I do—that afternoon was the only ‘musical training’ I ever had or needed…

Almost the most tantalisingly beautiful lesson, except there was… And so on…

That school (Kingston Grammar School http://www.kgs.org.uk ) after the second Great Bout of World Reciprocal Destruction was crammed full of complete eccentrics and if there were a god who’d listen I’d thank him/her that I chanced to go to a school at that time with so many remarkable men in it! It was then an all-boys school…

A question worth asking is: How do all these different learnings from so many different remarkable people get blended together inside us?

One thing I’m very convinced of is that I would not be the person I am now if I had not modelled on ‘crazy’ and come to realise for myself that ‘crazy’ entails being totally open to all experience. It is impossible to be serious until you can do ‘crazy. And we might find it useful to consider the role of the Fool in King Lear…

And whatever happens to make the blend, it goes on in the bottom part of the Figure of Eight…

Who are the Remarkable People in your life and where do they live in your Figure of Eight?

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