In Peter Brook’s epic adaptation of Gurdjieff’s autobiography, Meetings with Remarkable Men, Father Giovanni advises the young Gurdjieff: “Listen, you have now found the conditions in which the desire of your heart can become the reality of your being. Stay here, until you acquire a force in you that nothing can destroy.” What would it mean to have a desire of the heart? The desire that Father Giovanni speaks of has a different quality, as though there are two very different realities or two different worlds. In the first one, I think that I know just about everything, and I am pushed and pulled by every passing desire. The second world is far more mysterious and it seems to call for us to participate in it. We find ourselves motivated to seek answers to questions like, ‘Why am I here? What is life? Who am I?
The writer and editor Margaret Anderson once wrote: “The great thing to learn about life is, first, not to do what you don’t want to do, and, second, to do what you do want to do.” In this seemingly obvious statement, Anderson hints at the difficulty of pursuing an aim in life that one sincerely wishes for. The forces of life send us floating downstream so quickly that it is very difficult to simply grab onto a tree branch or a rock, and for a moment to stop to consider, “what is it that I truly want?”
Later, in that scene with the young Gurdjieff, Father Giovanni instructs: “then you’ll need to go back into life, and there you will measure yourself constantly with forces which will show you your place.” As seekers, we all need each other to remember the desires of our being. Similarly in “Ten Rungs: Hasidic Sayings.” Martin Buber writes: “When a man is singing and cannot lift his voice, and another comes and sings with him, another who can lift his voice, the first will be able to lift his voice too. That is the secret of the bond between spirits.” And like the tenth painting in the Ox Herding pictures from the Zen tradition, we also need to be a part of this world as well.
See you in the marketplace.