Experience and experiences (R9)


Humankind has Experience

Or rather it has experiences which it builds into what it likes to think of as the invented abstraction ‘Experience’. Things happen down the years and it—humankind, better thought of, with its eager bombs & drones, as ‘humanunkind’—builds them into some kind of homogeneity—‘Experience’.

Things happen—they are built into an edifice called Experience. Then that is shuffled more or less randomly into something called ‘consciousness’, a somewhat mysterious continuum appearing to last from birth to death.

‘I’—this little portion of ‘Experience’ here now early on an autumn morning long before sunrise, sickle moon in the dark eastern sky—am, in consciousness, precisely the same as the very little boy watching his father sitting under an oak tree ‘over the allotment’, as we used to say (“Just going over the allotment…”), blowing smoke rings after puffing on his home-made cigarette all of seventy years ago. I haul that moment of consciousness right down the years into the here & now; there are many more such moments to be hauled.


‘I’, this sentient being, sitting at its desk, bare feet becoming rather cold but ignored while the focus has been on the writing task, turning to look at its reflection in the dark window, am all of a piece with the little lad sitting on a wooden horse laughing—in a characteristic manner, I hope—with his baby sister who died in 2005 of a ghastly creeping disability that rendered her more and more helpless but very mentally active—one with the little lad demanding to know of his father how smoke rings happened. As I connect this with that across the years all else fades away. As I take hold of another bit of remembering so it all fades away again. It’s like ANWhitehead’s searchlight analogy:-

…history can be conceived as a series of oscillations between worldliness and other-worldliness, or as a theatre of contest between greed and virtue, or between truth and error. Such points of view emphasize religion, morality, and contemplative habits eliciting generalizations of thought. Each mode of consideration is a sort of searchlight elucidating some of the facts, and retreating the remainder into an omitted background. Of course in any history, even with a restricted topic, limited to politics, or to art, or to science, many points of view are in fact interwoven, each with varying grades of generality…                                (The Adventures of Ideas)

Many different experiences all interwoven.

What, as a matter of habit or progamming, do you care to train the searchlight on?

Assuming that somebody is reading this, as you are now, they too will be able to do this: haul a bright, vivid, but ordinary, moment, deeply felt, as it might be the remembering of diving across the carpet at a party to catch a plate before it stopped spinning in order to win a little prize—a pack of pristine cigarette cards, maybe—vivified because at that moment you were full of energy and aware with all your senses alert, seeing, hearing, moving and feeling at the top of your Being.

Tipping oneself into the homogeneity we call ‘Experience’ dulls remembering; like all abstractions it makes us immune to the specifics of what goes on endlessly, tirelessly.

Part of All That I Have Met

At 20, I had grown weary of the whole experience of our relationship, her and me, but, because of the experiences that spilled over from it—the walk to Newlands Corner in the dying autumn day, the Choral Symphony in the Albert Hall, the Silent Pool on a summer Sunday afternoon, the cat that disturbed us in a kissing alleyway—I could not bring myself to put an end to it. All the discrepancies… After an evening out for a meal and a concert—Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, it was—during which my Being consigned itself into staying in Playing-at-being-aloof-I for three or four hours, she suddenly rounded on me on the concourse of Waterloo Station and said, “Go to Hell!” And that was the end of it.

I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.

Tennyson’s Ullyses does it for me: all these little bits of experiential data go to make me who I imagine myself to be; as a solid clump of things, a homogeneity, a single brick-built archway, a thing; concrete ‘experience’ prevents the delving. Contrariwise, the delving can seem like self-indulgence and so we lose the importance of experiences that way. And we can’t get beyond the archway; the world beyond is never travelled; as I move so experiences become part of the archway itself. Margins fade.

My experience can only make sense to me. What is it to anybody else that a cat leapt off a fence and surprised her & me while we were kissing?—I don’t suppose for a moment that she carries the memory into her seventies. Why does it come back to me so vividly—‘as though it were yesterday’?

Each man to himself and each woman to herself, is the word
of the past and present, and the true word of immortality;
No one can acquire for another—not one,
Not one can grow for another—not one.

The song is to the singer, and comes back most to him,
The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back most to him,
The murder is to the murderer, and comes back most to him,
The theft is to the thief, and comes back most to him,
The love is to the lover, and comes back most to him,
The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him—it cannot fail,
The oration is to the orator, the acting is to the actor and actress
not to the audience,
And no man understands any greatness or goodness but his own,
or the indication of his own.

(Walt Whitman: Song of the Rolling Earth §3)

Why do the things that you remember vividly from long ago stick in your something-or-other?—call it ‘mind’, if you wish. Why are your neurons wired together thus? You could pause now to give some point to all this by bringing to mind three or four things from whatever you think of as ‘the past’—nothing special, pausing on a hump-backed bridge over a stream in Dorset after a long day’s cycle ride in 1955, hearing a fly buzzing in an empty room in 1961, standing in the shade of an out-field waiting for a cricket ball to come your way in August 1948, the moment I found a copy of Richard Jefferies’ Story of my Heart in a trash tray outside Foyles in Charing Cross Road 1953—turns into a moment of blissful thankfulness—it’s here on the desk in front of me…

Why & How Do These Small Things Come Back to Haunt Us from So Many Years Ago?

It was not till 1977 that I began to get some answers to such questions. I have often tried to express what happened to me when I discovered The Fourth Way. I have made several attempts to put the ‘fragments’ of the teaching together so they become a bit less than fragmentary. This is a revision of what I called ‘Beginning One’.

*

Thirty years ago, [as I began to write in 2007] by chance, during a time of some personal distress, I walked in Hampshire & Surrey through a long cold night and in the morning bought Ouspensky’s The Fourth Way in Charing Cross Road [iconic landmark—then still full of secondhand bookshops—now in process of destruction in the inglorious name of Progress] and gained immediate comfort from the words of the ideas expressed therein: I instantly saw that a possible simple explanation for my distress was that, though apparently ‘conscious’, I was in fact ‘asleep’, theoretically ‘successful’ as a teacher of English Literature and Education Studies but sleepwalking my way through life; I had been systematically lying to myself, placing ‘buffers’ so successfully between the way I really felt and the absurd way that I had been choosing to run my life that I concealed the discrepancies from myself, living quite contentedly in ‘false personality’ in the way that we do. The simplistic, undigested, merely surface, interpretation of Fourth Way ideas worked at that time to drag me out of my distress but I did not then apply Ouspensky’s ideas systematically—I work on myself a little more now!

What was it that made me successful as a teacher? The things of my Personality: the way I managed to be silent while people talked so that the pattern of their thinking became apparent; because I somehow managed to still my thinking processes I was able to build on wherever they happened to seem to be; my Personality had acquired a certain way of looking at the world—in being trained as a teacher it had itself, without prompting, learned to strike a balance between the Gestalt and the Behaviourist schools in psychology and came to settle in the writings of Herbert Mowrer—a systems-based position—and, more practically, in Miller, Galanter & Pribram’s Plans and the Structure of Behaviour (1963) which presented learning as a feedback loop depending on the way testing things out resulted in provisional hypotheses about the structures of behaviour evolved. This is simply stated as TOTE—Test, Operate, Test, Exit—the time for making an exit only happens when things seem to have settled to some kind of sensible order—I take it that this is what Gurdjieff meant by ‘verifying’ things for yourself. This is what I always encouraged in my students. Sometimes they listened.

Personality is what gets us to a position which can be recognised as a life-comfortable adjustment to the way things are; it pays the mortgage, helps a family along, looks after the cat, pursues what some might call a ‘career’—I never think of myself as having had one: after a few false starts after leaving school (as they say), I just did things that I thought were the right thing to do in a context.

Personality can go in two totally different directions: it can begin to realise that its positive aspects come from what The Fourth Way calls ‘Essence’—the way one was born to be; or else, as is usually the case, it can be corrupted by life and its demands and fall into a deep sleep that prevents any hope of its being able to return to essence.

How Does the Corruption work?

During the course of developing Personality, in life events, there’s the danger of choosing to lose, or forget, self by focussing on negativity and duality—the things that corrupt by making us bitter and twisted in various ways. These are some of the dragons that I have found myself fighting with over the years—I have to say that I imagine that most of them are long dead!:-

I don’t deserve to be treated like this…<> This is just what I deserve…
People don’t give me enough…<>I get my due recompense…
People don’t pay me enough…<>I get what I’m owed…
People don’t appreciate me…<>I am greatly appreciated…
People don’t value me…<>My contributions are valued…
People are not sufficiently polite & courteous…<>They treat me properly…
It’s them out there that are the problem… <>It’s never my fault…
They did me down…<>I’ll have to get my own back… (= Making Accounts)
They criticise me…<>I need to defend my corner… (= Self-justifying)
I know I’m being got at…<>I keep them in their place…
I feel cheated….<>They meet my every need…
I want to be noticed…<>I don’t want to be noticed…
It’s so unfair…<>I’ll put the world to rights…
This weather gets on my nerves…<>I wish it was always sunny…
It ought to be better than this…<>This is as good as it gets…
I’m better than they are…<>I’m not as good as they are…
I’m not to blame—it’s their fault…<>It’s always my fault…
It’s always been like this…<>This is totally different…
Am I of no account then…?<>Who do you think you are…?
You have everything you want…<>I get a raw deal…
You wouldn’t understand…<>I never understand you…
Nobody likes me…<>Everybody likes me…
I can’t help what I do…<>I shall make great changes…

This is the structure of False Personality which keeps us firmly locked in the Prison of the Mind, ruminating, puffing and blowing and leaking energy all over the place. The task, when you hear yourself uttering or thinking any of these things is to use the utterance or the thought as a cue to do something different or simply to shout STOP! at yourself.

“I’m not in a Prison—I am a free spirit,” you hear people say and you know that they have not even begun to recognise their prisoner status.

Gurdjieff:-

You do not realise your situation. You are in prison. All you can wish for if you are sensible, is to escape… One person can do nothing. But let us suppose there are ten or twenty of you—if you work in turn and if one covers another you can complete the tunnel and escape….  No one can escape from prison without the help of those who have escaped before. Only they can say in what way escape is possible or they can send tools, files, or whatever may be necessary…  ISOTM p30

How Can We Escape the Prison of the Mind?

Well, first of all, before we can even think about escaping we have to realise that we are imprisoned and understand the nature of our imprisonment. Look around the prison walls, dripping with water and fungus-growth, hear the prison-warder jangling his keys in the morning, feel the icy blast from the high place where your prison is built.

If we don’t realise how imprisoned we are we cannot wish to escape. It’s also impossible to escape by oneself; you need others to help with digging, ropes, maps, files, tools and so on.

Prison is like sitting on the floor in the kitchen or basement of your house. Prison is sleep, mechanical behaviour, playing the same old tunes, going along with the beliefs of other people, politicans, god-freaks…

Help comes from those who have escaped before and have written eloquently about their escape or proclaimed the process from a plinth. These are called ‘B Influences’ in The Fourth Way, as opposed to A Influences which are all those things that bind us to the wheel of life and help us to lose ourselves in identification with what, fundamentally, is really not necessary: jobs, mortgages, sporting passions, political affiliations, god-freakery…

But first it’s necessary to realise the full extent to which one is imprisoned. For a long time one must just observe—no analysis and no beating oneself up with nettles which is only too easy to do if one takes it all too seriously. No expression of negative emotion which can have the effect of spoiling your whole day.

Different People Will Respond Differently

So, ten years later, I acquired the five volumes of Maurice Nicoll’s Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky and began to renew my acquaintance with the ideas of The Fourth Way, realising that many of them had become a part of my other-than-conscious thinking even if the ‘I’ that might have been able to do so was not directing its attention to putting them into practice. Maurice Nicoll’s brilliant gold mine of thoughtfulness is full of warnings about the need to make individual effort towards a new level of being for yourself.

Books of self-development abound, but always the key question is how, during the rough and tumble of the ‘foul rag and bone shop’ life we live, do you cue yourself  to be constantly aware that individual effort is needed right now during this crisis to get to a different level of being, a different vantage point with a different view of how things are, instead of constantly identifying with whatever’s going on and going round the same old treadmill. The fact is that self-development can only be done paradoxically in freedom from ‘self’, which is merely a convenient, imaginative, invention that we habitually dump ourselves in for want of something better: how do we claim freedom from ‘self’, from Imaginary-unified-I, from False Personality?

Nicoll many times reminds us that there is mechanical thinking and conscious thinking; we kid ourselves when we imagine that our thinking is always conscious: the way we think and act is habitually based on well-worn tracks of mechanical effort, requiring very little thought; to engage in the relative freedom of truly conscious thinking requires a leap from one  level  of  being  to a higher one in which we can see things from a completely different point of view, not weighted down by past programming; using different language, different metaphors, moving towards thinking and behaving out of an ‘I’ that’s quite different from Imaginary-I.

You can either practise this Work or not. But you must understand that if [when] you practise this Work, now, at this moment (not tomorrow), you are making effort beyond mechanical effort. The point of the Work is to transform daily life... [when] you merely listen to this Work and do not practise it, nothing will change in you. (MN I, 342)

Haunted by the idea that ‘… [when] you change nothing in yourself, your life will endlessly repeat’ (MN III, 1126), there is something in me that recognises now, not too late, that Ten-years-earlier-I had merely read Ouspensky’s words and did not practise the ‘Work’ (the name, emphasising its practical nature, given to Gurdjieff/Ouspensky’s system that’s not a system) with any proper degree of directed attention.

In the last fifteen years or so [I wrote in 2007] I have gained a certain fluency in the eclectic discipline, or art, of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and have gained a fairly comprehensive working familiarity with Stephen Covey’s model of what it might be like to be a ‘Highly Effective Person’. One of the reasons why I found myself comfortable with these systems, while I was teaching them, was that the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky Work discipline, predating them by fifty-odd years, had already made a preparatory other-than-conscious impression in my mind; I was already thinking in the Covey and NLP way before coming upon their robust and elegant neatness and economy, the one taking the form of a comprehensive model that is powerful when you get beyond its surface mechanicality and the other being an organic collection of exercises based on the premise that ‘if it works, it’s worth doing…’

One of my minor purposes  [I wrote in 2007 about the book that will never be written] is to supplement the practical study of NLP and Covey with alternative ways of considering those systems: but NLP is so eclectic that Ouspensky’s ideas run the risk of simply being gobbled up by it and lost without trace; the process of coming  to  terms  with  ‘Habit One’ in the Covey model, for instance, is considerably enriched by practising ‘Self-remembering’ which is  fundamental to a study of Gurdjieff & Ouspensky’s ideas.  My concern to preserve G/O’s names for their seminal genius comes from the fact that Being-intellectual-I deems it more than respectable to acknowledge sources of ideas.

The main purpose of [the book I intended to write in 2007] was that it should stand alone as a signpost towards a comprehensive and profound and unique way of approaching the conundrum of self.

A not inconsiderable sub-purpose was to celebrate the work  of Maurice Nicoll.

There Must Be Something More to Life than This…

The title of my proposed book was taken from Ouspensky, THERE MUST BE MORE TO LIFE THAN THIS… Only people who have heard themselves saying something like that to themselves (or even out loud) are suitable candidates for the status of ‘Good Householders’, one of the Fourth Way categories of human types. The categories are as follows:-

TRAMPS are not necessarily poor people; they could very well possess riches but still be tramps in the  metaphorical sense of those who wander from idea to idea, from one way of living to another without homing in on any fundamental organising philosophical principle with any specific enthusiasm; they treat all ideas as equal and have no permanent home in any belief-system. Professional pococurantes without any feeling of responsibility, they can be recognised as tramps when you hear them say things like, ‘Everything is relative… there are no permanent values… everybody is entitled to their own opinion…’

LUNATICS are likewise not necessarily ‘mad’; indeed, they may be very learned people and occupy public positions of great importance; the word is used as a metaphor for those who are locked into fanatical dogma without the ability or inclination to accept that there might be an alternative point of view; lunatics indulge in cut and dried ‘either-or’ thinking (‘formatory thinking’—and believe that they can effect change on their own by means of rules and laws deriving from whatever dogma they happen to have attached themselves to. Any one of the modern Power Possessors Bush/Hitler/Blair/Bin Laden might be described as Lunatics, unless they fall into the next category.

HASNAMUSS is Gurdjieff’s word suggesting the idea of those with criminal tendencies who ‘never hesitate to sacrifice people or to create an enormous amount of suffering, just for the sake of personal ambition’ (4W, 300). Hasnamusses gain power over others by trickery; their well-being depends on the non-well-being of others; they will engage in acts of sabotage or wanton destruction. [The current Global Capitalist Conspiracy dedicated to eradicating any form of Welfare State is run and supported by Hasnamusses…]

GOOD HOUSEHOLDERS    also are not necessarily people weighted down with a mortgage and the problems of rising damp and leaking roofs. The term is intended to describe the kind of people who, early or late in life, have achieved a degree of detachment from its demands (made worse by the excesses of the Power Possessors)  through having a ‘successful’ career, commitments, responsibilities and yet still feel that ‘there must be something more to life than this…’ A good householder is the kind of person who never rests content with the way things are and is always looking for a more expansive, comprehensive, coherent explanation for ‘the meaning of life’; good householders will have achieved a feeling of security and the sort of wisdom that results from the drive to satisfy a need to achieve integrity of spirit—they feel that they owe it to themselves to create meaning from an existence that seems to have no ultimate purpose. The ‘house’ that is held can be the ‘house of the mind’; good householders feel very much at home in their own mind and take steps to keep it that way.

Ouspensky is very clear that this terminology is not sacrosanct; indeed, he says, ‘Try not to think about it in these terms. Find your own words to describe what you think is meant by ‘householder’, what is meant by ‘tramp’, what is meant by ‘lunatic’? These words are not a description, they are only a hint at certain possibilities’… (4W, 301) He also points out that once we have become clear about the individual categories—and it is essential to do this first—we can begin to see how each one of us contains elements of each in different combinations and at different times: ‘struggle with formatory thinking [= if it’s this, then it can’t be that…] is struggle against lunacy in ourselves, and the creation of discipline and self-discipline is struggle against the tramp in us… (4W, 300)

Of the categories, only Good Householders are likely to get anywhere near being able to apply the thinking of the Work to their lives; they are waiting for some answer to what amounts to a plea for help— “I have got so far but there is an emptiness at the centre of things; surely there must be something more to life than this…” Good Householders have the capacity to acquire or strengthen ‘Magnetic Centre’—a something or other inside them that enables them to attract and organise positive B Influence ideas so that they fit together with coherence and order.

The book I intended to write in 2007 was to be addressed to all Good Householders! But it would be interesting to consider how Tramp, Lunatic and Hasnamuss might respond to the book that will not now be written. Let’s consider what their responses might have been in turn:-

TRAMP: “This sounds like the latest band-wagon; I’ll give it a whirl though I don’t suppose it will yield up anything different from all those other fashionable self-development systems I’ve read about. It’ll look good to have the book on my shelves, though, so that my friends will notice that I am bang up to date with all the latest fads…”

LUNATIC: “I must hire the Albert Hall, introduce this Great System with Loud Music and Full Lighting Effects; there’ll be salespeople to sell T-shirts and stickers; there’ll be tapes and videos. There’s been nothing like it in the history of civilisation; it replaces all previous philosophies. We must legislate…”

HASNAMUSS: “We shall pretend to be enthusiasts and, having ingratiated our way in to the Albert Hall, we shall plant a [real or metaphorical] bomb there…”  (There is no hope for a Hasnamuss; no way of progressing towards becoming a ‘Householder’ of any kind…)

GOOD HOUSEHOLDER:   “I like the book’s title—in fact that’s why I bought it: it sounded like something I’ve been waiting for these many years. I’ll read it quietly to myself, discuss it with a few friends who are in the same kind of frame of mind as I am and we’ll see whether we can support one another in working through its ideas…”

The Book was intended to celebrate Maurice Nicoll, taking off from his very challenging if rather homely, Commentaries to explore the ideas of Gurdjieff/Ouspensky (G/O) in a way that was intended to be as practical as possible; when you do the exercises it is really important to ask yourself these questions

●    Am I just doing the exercises ‘to become a better person’
●    Is my aim to find out ‘what G/O’s all about’
●    Is my aim to ‘improve my career prospects’
●    Am I just ‘passing the time on a railway journey’
●    Or do I have a genuine desire to come to terms with the Work idea that Knowledge + Being = Understanding?

Nicoll’s Commentaries were delivered on a weekly basis to his study groups between 1941 and 1953; there are intimations that the group went away to practise ‘conscious effort and intentional suffering’ and many of the Commentaries appear to start from a question asked by the group or from discussion which has taken place between meetings; tantalisingly, there is no record of the discussions and the group never speaks for itself. The only person I knew who had attended Nicoll’s study groups is dead and, true to Work injunctions, he was not greatly forthcoming when I knew him briefly.

To have gained any benefit from the book that will not now get written the advice was to practise the ideas for yourself and preferably work with others as well as interpreting the Work ideas for yourself as they work out in practice.

G/O are very clear that there are three tensions to be set up in relation to the Work which may be diagrammed systemically:-        
To work on only one of these or even on just two in any combination is to risk perpetuating Mechanical Behaviour: to work only for yourself increases self-love and self-vanity; to work only with people of whom you approve is to select out those with the same prejudices as yourself—the same buffers (barriers that we erect between incompatible beliefs or opinions in order to save ourselves from recognising  discrepancies); to work only in relation to the Work is to make the mechanical assumption that proficiency in it is merely a matter of committing a number of principles to memory.

Sleep

The basic premise of the G/O system is that humanunkind is asleep, hypnotised by life into operating in a purely mechanical way—using formula phrases (the kind that politicians are expert at, for example) that maintain an air of familiarity in familiar situations, reflecting ritualised behaviour to cope with events that appear to have similarities, recourse to an automatic and repetitive inner voice talking through and going along with habitual responses, employing a mental card index of how to behave and so on.

Right now, we can choose to continue to be asleep—behaving mechanically is, after all, comfortable and unchallenging—or we can choose to awaken and begin to make conscious effort—even to get to an inkling of which will entail a good deal of soul-searching.

I’ve never been associated with a Gurdjieff ‘School’ but it’s pretty clear from observations I’ve made in Internet groups on the subject that there’s a real danger that adherents to the unsystematic system fall foul of ‘the use of formula phrases that maintain an air of familiarity in familiar situations and ritualised behaviour…’ Gurdjieff Wars are also pretty common.

Good Householders will make conscious effort for the sake of their soul, always on the look out for answers to the statement ‘there must be something more to life than this…’ Tramps will do a few exercises because it will seem fashionable to do them until something else comes along; Lunatics will glance at exercises to establish whether they can be added to the rules already in place as a blueprint for the efficient running of human affairs; they’ll ‘dumb down’—the current cultural wheeze for simplifying things for the A Influence entertainment and spurious enlightenment of ‘the masses’. A Hasnamuss will figure out ways of sabotaging anybody’s attempt to do exercises. No matter how close we might get to the status of Good Householder, there’s always a bit of Tramp, Lunatic and Hasnamuss in all of us…

Only Good Householders, though, when on top form, never asserting superiority for fear of falling into mechanical traps themselves, are engaged in other than Mechanical effort. Even Good Householders find it necessary constantly to do battle with Mechanical effort but they relish the opportunity to use consciously selected examples of it in their own behaviour to change their responses in future; they work from an emotional base that enables them to commit to whatever they discover in themselves. There is no learning without emotional commitment. ‘Knowledge can only unite with being through some emotion, through some desire, through willingness. One must will what one knows…’    (MN I,93)

There is one true vocation for everybody—to find the way to your self. You might end as poet, lunatic, prophet or criminal— that is not your affair [right now]… Your affair is to discover your own destiny, not something of your own choosing, and live it out wholly and resolutely: anything else is merely a half life, an attempt at evasion, an escape into the ideals of the masses, complacency and fear of your inner soul… I am an experiment on the part of Nature, a throw into the unknown…               (Hermann Hesse: Demian)

The Start

What first attracted me to the Fourth Way was the idea that in order to get some kind of enlightenment one did not need to lay on a bed of nails or sit on top of a pole for twenty years (the First Way—the Way of the Fakir—physicality), one did not need to enter a monastery (the Second Way—the Way of the Monk—emotion-based), or engage in rigorous mental exercise (the Third Way—the Way of the Yogi). These Ways implied the separation of the work of the Centres. The Fourth is the Way of getting to a Balance, emotion in intellect and vice-versa, action from intellect with emotional commitment and so on, all capable of being practised in ordinary life without the need for ritual or special meditative exercises.

Then I came across the concept of Self-remembering… In saying to myself on so many occasions, “I shall remember this moment for the rest of my life…” I was, in spite of what Ouspensky says somewhere about its impossibility, experiencing what I would later come to call ‘Self-remembering’… The Laughing Boy came home to himself and relished all his experiences.

6 thoughts on “Experience and experiences (R9)

  1. Isn’t that the aim, to come home? What I enjoy about this essay and many of the others you write, is the idea that they offer the reader some things they might want to try out. There is an aspect to them that nudges the reader into new ways of going about with their lives. These essays are about the author, but contain another “I” that is clearly being playful with goodies for the reader. One of these goodies is thinking about abstractions as verbs. This idea shifts perception so that our habitual inner motion might be reluctant to try and pin things down. In this particular essay there is the use of a photo. The photo and the back story about it gives this work an extra weight. I was stopped in my tracks by the photo, suddenly given a glimpse of essence, I felt something grab at my guts. The baby sister and the boy’s curious desire to know how smoke rings are made is a powerful juxtaposition of two lives forever connected. It sent me off to Emily Dickinson and William Blake. E. Dickinson spent most of her life in solitude, a recluse who didn’t conform to what we mechanically refer to as having many experiences. Yet what nonsense this is after spending a day with her poetry. Blake was a madman and that’s all we know, see him conjuring light in the devil’s tree. Another example of what can happen after someone thinks they have had an experience with Blake, and leaves it at that. The power of an impression can blow open the prisoner inside.

    The book that will never be written is another element to this essay. It will never be written and yet here it is! Wherever we shine the light something recedes into the background. The photo also helps in cropping photos in our own mind’s eye about what we tend to do over and over again, leaving out anything that might need some extra effort. This idea of cropping moves to G/O who if anything, are about cutting the fat and living a proactive life free from the bondage of our self prescribed knowing. All things are connected and at the end the photo returns, and I felt something, it was a shudder, a ripple, a quiver of silence.

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    1. Oh Patrick! My great mate from across the long long waves. What a write-up! Thanks. I did have the overall poetic structure of the thing in mind and you fish it out for scrutiny. Masterful!

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  2. At first I was going to do something with the enneagram but the photo kept working me and I found myself going back to it. At the end an image of a single leaf rose up into my mind. I didn’t share this in my write-up. I’ll selfishly keep it to myself for a poem.

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  3. Colin,
    Of all the many posts I’ve had the pleasure to read since discovering your blog, this one is by far the most poignant. Patrick’s comments so resonate with my own response that it will suffice for me to simply thank you both – you for the insights you’ve provided by sharing these intimate experiences from your life, and Patrick for the clarity he has shone on those insights via his commentary.
    Tom

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