Conduct and observance

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Negative emotions

Gurdjieff intimated that there is no center in man for negative emotions.

I've pondered this for some time without reaching any clear conclusions. I can verfiy that there are localized physical centers for all kinds of other arisings and phenomena, but negative emotion seems difficult to get a grip on. I do not see exactly where it arises or manifests in me: I see that it exists but I do not see how it can mastered. Once they arrive, my negative emotions are like dog turds in the front yard that cannot be removed.

To begin with, without any work, I am in the yard with the turds. It seems like they belong there and I make up a lot of excuses for why it's not only perfectly OK for them to be there, but even how absolutely great and even necessary the turds are. I brag on them.

Eventually, as I have gained some perspective on myself- and this is the work of many lifetimes, to be sure- let's say I go inside and view the situation from the living room window. Eventually, as I get a bit of distance from the rich and compelling stink of their presence, I get to see that the turds are... well, turds. The Lord of the Flies, throwing a party for His maggoty offspring.

The bottom line, folks, is that I'm full of shit.

OK. This is progress, I think to myself. I can now see these damn turds a bit better, with a bit less identification, from the picture window of my perpetually-under-construction inner house.

Kinda ruins the view, but there you are. We might say, "Thank God for the view, no matter how bad it is."

Unfortunately, now, I can't seem to find a way to get outside and clean up the mess. I realize that despite the fact that they playfully litter vast tracts of my inner landscape, I know next to nothing about turds. When I am out in the yard with them I automatically love them. When I get into the living room and see them for what they really are, I can't reach them.

Their very nature is mysterious to me. I don't know where the animals that gift me all these turds are (due to my congential blind spots, I can't seem to see them anywhere in the yard) and I can't figure out how to get rid of them.

It's like a bad dream- no matter where I turn in my inner landscape, there they are, immovable, almost immortal.

Why do I say that? -"Almost immortal?"

Because, unlike most of the other parts of my psyche, which are weak and fleeting and do not have a lot of attention, negative emotion has tremendous staying power. Once a turd of this kind occupies its chosen place in the front yard, it just isn't leaving. Even if I use its own weapons of rationalization and inner argument against it to try and weaken its internal logic of self-justifcation, it is well-nigh unbeatable.

It is akin to obsessive-compulsive disorder: once negativity on a subject seizes me, everything I think and see and feel and do keeps defaulting back to it like a vinyl record with a big old scratch that keeps skipping back and playing the same infuritaingly annoying riff over and over.

Why should negativity have such power? In fact it seems to have all the power I wish I had for my inner work.

This tells me a couple of things:

First, the machinery is flat-out broken. There's just no way things are supposed to work this way. I am certain of that. In fact I believe freedom from this tyranny may always be much closer than we think.

Second, we do have the power to focus our inner work. Our negativity routinely inverts it and steals it from us. If we could turn that situation around everything might be quite different in us.

I know from experience that Grace can confer freedom from negativity. I do not know how to "do" it on my own. This, for me, underscores the fact that I cannot do. That raises a whole additional set of questions.

Two years ago I realized that if there was one single task, one aim, I wish to achieve in the next five years it would be to learn how to become free of negative emotion.

In hindsight, I that this a much too big a task. By the time one achieves this kind of freedom one has, in a certain sense, achieved everything. Nonetheless, it seems like it is still at least a good idea to make one of my daily aims the study of my negativity.

I'm going to try to be optimistic here. If I have to live with them, then keeping the turds under an intense spotlight may at least dry them out, kill off the maggots, and lessen the smell.

Not only that, if I can ever figure out a way to carry them out of the yard, they'll weigh less.

Anyone care to join me?

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