Conduct and observance

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

impressions and scale

We're told in the Gurdjieff work that there are three kinds of being food: material food that we eat, air, and impressions. Each of the foods is necessary, but air and impressions are at higher rates of vibration- that is, air is a finer food than what we chew and swallow, and impressions are a finer food than air.

There is a major, lifelong work to be undertaken in understanding the matter of ingesting impressions. I won't get into that here. Suffice it to say that there are moments- rare, to be sure, but as real as the day is long- when we can experience the ingestion of impressions much more tangibly. In such moments, the physical impact of impressions is quite different and we can experience their materiality in a different way. When this happens our centers take impressions in more deeply. They reach parts of us that they usually can't connect with.

Today I had such a moment at breakfast when I saw scale. For a brief moment I saw how absolutely tiny we are.

In that moment I was observing myself observing the bustle of the buffet at the hotel we are staying at here in Germany. We're at a big trade fair and there is a terrific amount of loose, ambient energy. A lot of it is sex energy running, like an animal, wild and free, but there are finer energies present too. Huge gatherings like this attract such energy, and some of it is just up for grabs.

Anyway there I was poised between healthy spoonfuls of pasty German Muesli- grains and oats with yoghurt- when all of the frenzied activity struck me as being on the level of bacteria.

I often think about the world of bacteria -for example, the immense wars that are fought ought within our own bodies. A mere pimple represents heroic unseen battles fought between foreign microorganisms who invade our pores, and the macrophages (white blood cells) who, in their role as selfless warriors on behalf of the organism, slay them wholesale using a wicked array of molecular weapons.

To us, the pimple is an annoying blemish. To that tiny world within us, it represents a killing field. Millions and even billions have fought and died on that swollen battlefield, and it is filled with the pain and anguish of that trial. As clumsy and insensitive as we are at this grossly larger level, we can still can feel that.

Our whole body is like this. All our trillions of cells are continually engaged in hyperactive explosions of activity which we can't even see. If we sit in Zazen and meditate to the point of a supreme and infallible inner stillness, on the microscopic level our inner state is still one of unrelenting, urgent movement and exchange. Our immune system does not have time to sit zazen. One moment of lapsed vigilance could spell a cold- or the flu- or cancer.

Human activity looks way large to us. This morning, everyone I saw before me appeared to be big, doing big things, going about big lives. In fact my perception of myself is that way- I'm big and important.

At the same time something came into me with the impression which measured it in a way I cannot fully explain and I saw that all of the activity was extremely small. There was a fleeting understanding that we are all bacteria- or perhaps even less. For a second humanity was in relationship to the planet in scale and it could be seen from within this level. This is perhaps the equivalent of a cell knowing how big it is and where it stands in relationship to us.

The whole idea became- for a moment- more than an idea. It was physically tangible, more real-


This raises many questions for me about what we are and how we live. In my more connected states, the entire collective, crazed enterprises of human life seems completely invalid to me. At least our immune system and bacteria seem to know what they are doing. I'm not sure we are even close to them in approaching that kind of understanding about ourselves and our place. In its delusions of grandeur, humanity forgets the humility appropriate to tiny creatures.

The writer of Ecclesiastes offers us a powerful set arguments that all of man's ordinary activities add up to one thing: vanity. That is to say, everything comes from ego. Looking at my experience of my own inner United States of Reaction, I'd tend to agree.

Ecclesiastes doesn't leave us groping. It concludes with the statement that only one task in life is truly important-

to worship God.

Making a more active effort to sense the scale of my life might help to remind me of that occasionally.

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