Jose R. Reyes
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Jose Reyes / Dominican Rep. 1997;
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Published in Listin Diario – November / 1997
In this life we begin to die very, very slowly and imperceptibly but surely. We believe, or are made to believe that death comes upon us as the complete annihilation of the cells in our physical body.
There is another type of death however, called “death before death”. It would be wise for us to ponder this idea as it is part of our own reality, a part we pretend to hide as one who sweeps the dust under a rug and imagines the room to be completely clean.
The real question is, what is it that dies in us as time passes?
-What dies in us is our potential, our capacity to make efforts, in short, our own possibilities. Time flows upon us and we fail to notice that this flow withers our potential.
Our behavior, and the way we tend to respond to life impressions in a way that is so typically our own, is more and more automatic each day. We loose spontaneity and replace it with habits at every level, such as usual ways of thinking, emotional reactions, likes and dislikes…
These threads of behavior and habits forms a sort of web which continuously prevents us from seeing what is required of us in each and every situation of our lives, thus we respond exactly as we have been programmed to do.
We are life’s computer; it has programmed us, now it only has to press a key and we respond. There, all the elements of our upbringing are combined to produce this magnificent program. Our parents, the education we have received, our childhood friends, our social class, what was fashionable in our youth, the slogans of our time, movies and soap-operas, the ideas we read in books and our concept of duty, honor, patriotism, pride and honesty, good and evil, nothing is our own! Everything learned has been inserted in us to form a whole that gives the impression of coherence and immutability from outside, the impression of always being tempered in decision-making, filled with a high sense of justice and admirably incredible qualities overflowing.
At a very early age our growth ceases and often we are emotionally immature even when we are successful in life, enjoy recognition from others, or have power and wealth.
There are two opposing forces in us that constantly pull us in different directions. These are the impulses of essence and those of life or of existence. Each one is useful and necessary for us. The impulses of life compel us to interact with material goods, money and profession. The impulses of essence on the other hand, lead us towards spirituality, towards the higher, to make sense of our existence and seek for the meaning of our lives.
In speaking symbolically of these two opposing impulses Mr. Gurdjieff said that “man has been entrusted with the care of a lamb and and a wolf, he must always be attentive that the wolf won’t devour it, but at the same time insure the wolf does not die of starvation.” Both impulses are necessary and must peacefully coexist one next to the other. They are the two natures in us which must be reconciled despite their opposition, and each must play its corresponding role.
When we devote ourselves to existence, we live as a function of life and she becomes an end in itself. This is how our essential part dies, as we said at the beginning, a “death before death” has occurred, because if the essential part dies it renders life useless, and it’s real manifestations are always less and less. Then, this man is dead in life and is incapable of hearing the call of his soul.
It does not mean one must abandon life and its needs, but of a harmonious balance, and for this continued study and education is required, in other words, an education that will take off where the previous left off, one that can lead us to respond to our own essential needs.
When we speak of an existential void we really mean an essential void. By the same token, if we work and make efforts to answer to the essence impulses, an objective wellbeing is formed in us, a guarantee that we are responding positively to what is required of us. We are feeding both the lamb and the wolf.
When Gurdjieff speaks of this Work, which is necessary for us, he says we must “not to change anything” but to Work while in the midst of life, within our given conditions. It is not necessary to abandon everything and retire to a monastery; on the other hand, the harder the life conditions the better the chances to engage in the path of this teaching.
…we realize that the main cause of our unhappiness lies within us. It does not lie in others, or on circumstances, nor places, nor conditions. The cause is entirely within us, and if we Work the causes disappear. We each have the right to be normal human beings but somehow we prefer to live at sub-human level.
Time and time again in his writings Gurdjieff outlines this condition to which man has become accustomed to turning his back on his own nature and has forgotten how to live as a human being.
To find a way out it is necessary to find a real Teaching.