Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Burnt Toast.

Burnt Toast

This is an old work story called burnt toast. There was a man who woke up one day feeling wonderful and full of life and very excited about the day ahead. He was married to a fine woman, had a nice house and a nice car and a wonderful career where he never felt like he was actually having to work, but that his work was fun, and brought Win/Win situations to every endeavor.

However there was one thing he hated, and that was when his wife would burn the toast. So today he wakes up feeling wonderful, gets dressed and starts down the staircase to the dining area but his nose perks up and he thinks he begins to smell burnt toast. His wife had been preoccupied with one of the children and had in fact burnt the toast. She tried scraping it and put another couple of slices in the toaster, but he had smelled the burnt toast. His good mood was destroyed and he stormed into the room and asked his wife what she smelled, and she admitted that she had burnt the toast. Now she also, lost her good mood in the smell of burnt toast.

The man ate his breakfast hurriedly and went to the garage and started his car and began backing it up into the street but he wasn't really thinking and his rear end collided with another car coming down the street. The driver of that car had been in a very good mood this morning – he had gotten a raise and had proposed and was now engaged to be married and he loved it. Until that unconscious bastard banged into his car. Now that guy was fuming and he smelled burnt toast. They exchanged insurance information and each went on their separate way smelling and tasting burnt toast.

The man's secretary had woken up in a great mood. She had finally caught up completely with her work at the office and this allowed her a little bit of free time to attend to her own needs, such as polishing her nails. Her boss, our man, roared into the office screaming at her for polishing her nails and telling her to get back to work. Now the secretary smelled burnt toast instead of nail polish.

The men had a meeting that was almost certain to earn him a great deal of money but because he was in such a foul mood he transferred the taste of burnt toast to his client who promptly fired him and went somewhere else.

Perhaps you can begin to see how negativity spreads like a contagion – just like a virus on the border between life and nonlife it spreads like wildfire, and by the end of the day perhaps 1000 people have been affected by this one event of the wife burning the toast by accident.

That's the story of the Burnt Toast. There is nothing more to say and it is a perfectly true story being played out all over the world. People have requirements, no matter what they are, and if they are not fulfilled – well then, burnt toast.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

What is the Work?

What is the Work is a question often posed at the beginning of each semester at the Gurdjieff Foundations as well as the question: "Why do you keep coming here?"
These are questions not easily answered, as one's ideas of the meaning of Gurdjieff's Work tend to change over the years. At the very beginning when he showed up in Moscow and began to accept pupils the first thing he would ask them was, "Why are you coming to me?", And "What is your aim?" And then he would say to them that if their aims and his correlated (and at the time he declined to describe his personal aim), then they could walk along together for a while. But at some time in the future perhaps their aims will diverge, at which time they would of necessity go their separate ways.
He made all of this very clear to everyone who came to him – that to follow him was not easy and would never be easy but only get harder and harder, because "man" is a swine, unbalanced and malevolently formed. Gurdjieff said the same thing that Jesus said: "Man's name is Legion."
In physics work is defined as a certain amount of energy required to stimulate activities among the molecules of water in order to raise their general temperature by 1°. That's pretty cheap work, and Mr. Gurdjieff emphasized the fact that his Work was very expensive, requiring many zeros. One, 10, 100 and so on. He once said to the D Hartmann's that he could raise their temperature to 100°C (the degree at which water turns from liquid to vapor), but that they could not remain there but would return to their own temperature. He told them that they must work on themselves to increase their temperature to 100°C and keep it there.
Notice that if you have water in a container and you heat it up to 100°C it will evaporate and become water vapor and no longer constrained by the container that held the liquid – now the vapor is constrained by the shape of the room you may be in, and there is no way (according to entropy, the second law) for the vapor to condense back into the bottle. So, not only do you need an alchemical vessel or bottle but you also need it to be in the shape of an alembic, so that the vapor condenses in the alembic and drips down into another container, but that which is in the new container is purer because the contaminants and debris remain in the alembic.
So, as an alternative method of looking at this one can use the image Gurdjieff used of the vessel containing metal powders, where they heat will melt them into larger and larger chunks – less "Legion", and more single person. That is the right direction.
These larger chunks can be made magnetic, or radioactive or radiant. There are many things one can do once one has become a single individual that are not within the scope of powers of the ordinary man.
Of course, these new powers must not be used, because they are simple signposts that one is headed in the right direction – they are Great Natures own powers which as a last resort she bestows upon a man in an attempt to get him back inside the net of illusion. One must recognize them as what they really are – signs that escape from lower orders of laws is imminent. This means that that point is that where a man must be more discriminatory and vigilant in order to congeal these new powers so that they cannot be taken from one – one must fuse them into one's own being.
But most of us are so very far from that. One of the aphorisms that used to be in Dr. Welsh's basement and which came from the Priere said "I Love He Who Loves Work".
Once upon a time it was a thorn in my side – I did not know what the work entailed and I did not want to work, as far as I knew as my associative thinking allowed me to consider what work was.
Now I see differently, and I am eager to work, according to the five strivings: on myself, with others and for the Work itself. I have become a grateful servant, a watch guard on point, and I Am Responsible. I Have an Aim and cannot be dissuaded from it.