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These pages are just the musings of a (newly) retired person, living in a small village in North Hampshire, England. The range of topics is eclectic, as reflects my life in general; I hope you find something of interest.

Intent

This post has been inspired by the words of a fellow writer [Lake Superior Spirit] who has been writing about some subtle teaching on the topic of “intent”. We all recognise, I am sure, the common use of that word, meaning an often half-baked decision to achieve some goal: a decision that may or may not even be remembered, let alone completed. Even though the word is often used that way, we also see that there’s very little “intent” in such a case. At the same time, we all recognise that the word can also be used to depict the attention that can be placed into the making and execution of a careful plan. An attention that must also see the proper consequences of achieving the goal, and those of failing to do so. It is, of course, not unusual for the English language to use one word for two concepts with such different meanings, but I suggest that we use the word as if the required attention will follow, but we say it from a mode or train of thought that lacks the ability to make such a commitment, because it lacks active attention itself.

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Who Chooses Your Agenda?

With a question like that, it’s extremely tempting to say “I do”. As an answer, it satisfies our assumption that we control the expression of our being and, of course, it very quickly dismisses the question. But is it true? Is it even partly true? Or is our agenda simply a sort of “weather vane”, whose direction is determined purely by external influences? Our default view of ourselves is that our “I” stands between the external world and a carefully managed, internal model of the world and our place within it. Our “I” – we believe – filters the influences that impact upon us, determines their significance, adjusts the model if necessary and chooses an appropriate reaction. But I suggest that this view is both incomplete and fundamentally inaccurate.

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Suffering

One of the questions that arises frequently, in any culture that embraces the idea of an all-powerful God, is “Why does He allow such suffering to exist in the world?” Many of these cultures have gone on to invent a dark “anti-God”, whose cosmic purpose is to tempt men into evil and destruction. These two entities then get fused with race memories of the warmth and relative safety of day, versus the coldness and dangers of night. In some of these cultures, both “powers” have legions of minions, who walk amongst men with their true natures hidden, working the will of their respective masters. In other cultures, suffering is caused by angry spirits. Taoism, which has no God, says that suffering is merely what happens when a man walks a path that is contrary to the flow of the universe. Buddhism teaches that suffering is merely the result of attachment – of the wish for things to be different than they are.

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Identification

One of the more elusive concepts in Gurdjieff’s “Fourth Way” system is that of “identification”. For many people, it equates to those moments when our attention is grabbed by something to such an extent that we are not aware of time passing. Or perhaps to moments when we are so sure of something that we defend it passionately, as if we are defending ourselves. Again, the “modus” of this state is supposedly that our attention is focussed on achieving one outcome. But this is not “identification”. For sure, it is “attachment”, but these are quite different things. We can be “identified” even when our attachment seems faint, or non-existent. As J.G. Bennett once pointed out – we can be identified, even when we feel “awake” – even when we feel we are not “attached”. So how do we recognise this condition?

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Motivation

Everyone has the potential to become a “bodhisatva” – a being of perfect knowledge – and yet all start from a state where how they imagine themselves and the world is what actually motivates any action. Only a very few find themselves motivated to pursue real knowledge – real inner sight – and of those, many just end up making a new, imagined world. There are so many places on the journey for seekers to “rest on their laurels”. Even as the centre of gravity of the seeker’s “being” changes, he (or she) continues to carry the baggage of the past, including the motivations that caused one to begin to seek.

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Walking The Path

To many people, walking a path of enlightenment is a meaningless act. They may feel – deep down – that life is just a cruel accident: that the essence of consciousness is merely suffering. Or perhaps they reject the suffering and instead count only the pleasure. Perhaps they believe that anything that smells of religion is just a bunch of hokum and that it’s all just about people and power. Or maybe they feel they are already in the arms of their God and, as long as they follow their particular set of holy commandments, their soul is “saved”. Perhaps they don’t believe in any God, but do believe there is a natural order to the universe and that any pain and suffering arises merely from being out of alignment with that order. Perhaps they are living with a constant threat of hunger or violence and merely seeing another dawn is blessing enough. Are they, perhaps, walking a path of enlightenment anyway, despite doing nothing in that direction? Is it, perhaps, something that all life is “doing” and everyone is along for the ride?

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A Moral Tale

There was once a non-conformist swallow who decided, one year, not to fly south for the winter. The autumn was unseasonably warm, and he enjoyed flitting through the air in the golden sunlight. But gradually the insects he fed on disappeared, and the days grew shorter and colder. The swallow was determined not to have to admit his error to his fellows, and decided to stay. He would find a nice, warm nest, like other birds did. However, one day an icy wind blew from the east and froze the poor swallow in mid flight. He fell from the air and landed in a field. “This is it,” he thought, “my life is about to end in a frozen field.” Just then, a cow wandered by and let fall a slushy pat of poo, right on top of the swallow. “It couldn’t get any worse,” thought the swallow, “now I’m freezing to death and covered in poo.” However, the warmth of the cow-pat gradually revived the near-frozen bird and he began to believe he might survive. A passing cat, seeing his struggles to get out of the poo, reached out a paw and lifted him to safety. The bird was so happy that he trilled out his thanks to the cat, who promptly ate him.

This tale has three morals:

• First, when someone dumps a load of poo on you, they are not necessarily your enemy.

• Second, when you are up to your neck in poo, but warm and comfortable, it’s better to keep quiet.

• Last, when someone pulls you out of the poo, they are not necessarily your friend.

Post Lockdown

A friend asked me, just recently, whether I had noticed any effects on people, as we all begin to emerge from “lockdown” mentality. It’s easy to say “No, they’re just keen to get back to normal,” but I had to acknowledge that there’s more at work than that. I considered the various things that had struck me as either odd or different; after all, I could also have been affected by a subtle drift. It seemed to me that people are a little less tolerant of each other – a little less “giving” or “conceding”, at points of social conflict. I don’t mean major conflict: just the many, minor conflicts that happen when people live together and interact. Whether we queue; whether we defer to someone who is temporarily in our way; little things like that. But of course those also spill into the larger arenas of racial and cultural conflicts.

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The Price

In business, it is said that “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” When someone offers you something that seems to be free, there’s always some expectation of some favour in return. And it’s not just business where that principle applies: people are transactional in all areas of their lives. It comes from our animal heritage: the physical body is always weighing up whether an expenditure of energy will bring a return. You could sum it up as a constant under-current in our lives of “What’s in it for me?” We only abandon it with our very closest “life allies”, and even then only when we have become certain that those people “have our backs”. There are many who will say they are “in love” but who still act in a transactional manner to their partner. And this trait also lies at the heart of our darkest natures: belief in a “just reward” can become fanatical. It may hide under the banner of “justice” – of “freedom from oppression” – but it is still only the animal equation.

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The Art Of Living

One of my “pet” projects is to make versions of my board games that can be played online – just between myself and my friends. This project is as much about extending my understanding of the programming tools that I use, as it is about a way to enhance a Skype/Zoom meeting. (My friends, who used to live nearby, are now spread across Europe.) I am now on my third or fourth iteration of the project: each time starting again with what I learned in the previous attempt. And in doing so, I have noticed that just about anything that we do repeatedly, whilst paying attention, results in a growth of “art”. And yes, I do mean “art” in terms of craft, as well as in terms of aesthetics. The more we use a tool or a medium, for instance, the more we grasp, intuitively, how its form and function intertwine. And the same is absolutely true of life itself.

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