By Roya Monajem, Tehran
From the recent combination of states of being caused by unquenchable search for Truth (what a big word from such a petty being!) I have been constantly pondering about the part that I could find 'worthwhile' to share with the readers of this Corner. And, each time automatically and simultaneously, I went through the following self-questioning.
-Why do you think you have something 'worthwhile' to share anyway?
This again automatically reminded me of an old struggle issuing from an unspoken promise I made as a response to what my older sister told me when I was a teenager. This is the impression I got then: "Don't forget the fact that everything has been said. The other thing that you should not forget is that you live in the country of Hafezes, Molavis (Rumis), Sadii's, Ferdosis, and their contemporaries like Sepehris, Foroughs, Akhavans Sales', Shamlus and...Not disregarding the great figures of the whole world since the emergence of humans on this earth. So watch what and how you write."
Her advice was later fortified by Nietzsche's division of artists into two groups: Those who create out of 'depravity' and those who create out of 'overflowing' and the resulting constant unspoken and now spoken self-questioning: to which group do I really and truthfully belong?
Followed by experiencing long moments of 'nothingness' 'nobody-ness' 'real shame," for 'picking up the pen again' because of this mad drive, craving, need to write, to share, to embrace and felt embraced, to evaluate myself by your evaluation in order to feel 'safe, sane, secure.' The 'therapist' in me tells me that I should really watch my megalomaniac!
Anyhow, this struggle of 'putting down the pen and picking it up again" reached its peak last year when I came across Gurdjieff's definition of Objective and Subjective Art: "In objective art it is the artist that creates and he knows exactly what sort of effect he wants to produce while in subjective art, the work of art is produced accidentally and that is why it can have many different subjective effects."[i]
So true, but shocking! Now the voice commanding "to put down the pen" turned to siren.
That is why each time I attempted "to pick up the pen," in the past few weeks, there were always numerous moments of experiencing the "sweet" truth of "nobody-ness" and "bitter' truth of "egoism" that made me to put down the pen immediately, exactly like a fearful pupil hearing her teacher shouting: How many times do I have to tell you to put down that pen! Shame on you!
But of course we all know how difficult it is to give up a habit. It seems one has to go through the labyrinth of its formation to find the way to freedom from its slavery, and the more-long- standing a habit, the more elaborated is the labyrinth.
And, although by virtue of fifty years of building up of what is called "defense mechanisms" in the language of modern psychology and "buffers" in Gurdjieffian language, these moments of "truth-experiencings" could not last long, yet it was really difficult to pick up the pen this time.
No matter what is the habit that one tries to quit, it is always accompanied by withdrawal syndrome which in my case were numerous dark moments of despair, disability, paralysis, the urge to ask to be 'deleted' from Payvand's news page, to shut down this Corner, to spare your time.
Enigmatically or perhaps understandably and indeed fortunately, this dark state of being nearly always stirs the question "To be or not to be?" which in turn leads to desperate urge -this time positive desperation- to find a way to go beyond this dual life of paradise and hell, this dualism and its resulting dualistic world view which by now it is for sure, if not in our genes, it is historical human habitual thinking. Such a long standing habit, isn't it? So it must have entered our genes by now, no? I suppose that's why 'salvation' is so inaccessible.
Can we really succeed in overcoming all these veils of racial, cultural and educational defense mechanisms, buffers, habits, conditionings we are carrying in our genes, in our minds? It seems an impossible task, but at least it is a 'real' task. It is real, because it is helpful to know and experience what belongs to us as an individual by our conscious choice and what is imposed on us through our genes, cultures education and world views.
Yes, it does seem like an impossible task. For example, when I am so weak and will-less to overcome this one single habit of smoking cigarettes that I apparently and relatively picked up by my so-called personal 'free will' some thirty years ago, which is still nothing compared to giving up lots of other more powerful habits that were 'given' to me from the first day of my birth, many of which I am not even aware of, then how much more difficult it is to overcome for example my cultural historical training automatically and intentionally imposed on me for 'being born as a woman" or worse as a "half-human being," first put in our Persian (Iranian) 'genetic pool' after the Islamic conquest of Persia, one thousand four hundred years ago? Or, how can I overcome this 'habit' of living a 'dual life' of a 'nonbeliever' and a 'conformist' perhaps first entering human genes when men started to write down laws and states came to birth..
In other words, most of the things that make 'us' and determine our life are not 'ours.' And so the haunting question of constantly asking: "Are these my thoughts, my ideas, my feelings, my conclusions or are they all what I have picked up and accumulated from my hearings, readings trainings and other direct and indirect ways of 'learning?' What does really belong to me and is unquestionably mine?"
How can I know? How can I determine 'what really belongs to me and what doesn't?'
I don't know! Yet, the mere realization of this paradisiacal, blissful "not knowingness" fortunately shows the way to looking for a possible answer for the above question of what belongs to us and what is not ours as an individual. What do we do when we don't know something. We study it. Thus came another cycle of "Revaluation of all Values" as Nietzsche taught, but this time more emotionally and existentially rather than mentally.
In the position of a megalomaniac self-reformer, the relevant revaluations for me while experiencing the above states of being, were "Who are you?" Who is this self? What is it made of? Is it the same as the roles it plays? Which part of me is it that prevents me from transcending this 'dual world-view' and the resulting 'suffering'? The 'suffering' that not only we have been told to be the key to this freedom, but by now most of us most probably have sensed and experienced the truth in such 'belief.' How can we transcend all this?
Let's play the rest of this 'game' together.
We all 'have' to play many roles, the most common ones are: the role of a "daughter," "son," "member of a family" "lover" "spouse" "parent" "friend" and...
We are told that all roles are 'masks' and 'veils' which prevent us to see our true self.
"You, yourself are the veil, Hafez, ...
...No! I can't
translate the second part of this verse! Literally it says Rise up Hafez,
however, the Persian words create an image that I am not able to convey with my
present knowledge of English language. Making it a bit poetical this is the
image I see. It is as though a group (perhaps a legion) or at least two people
are sitting down on one of those beautiful Persian Carpets that supposedly
Yet as ordinary humans, playing roles is an imperative, and depending on their number, it is what divides us first into two (I and not I, self and non-self) and then many, exactly like a cell that undergoes division, or like what happens after fertilization of an egg by the male gamete. One becomes two and then many and as there is no beginning without an end, or no going without returning, these many should unify again to become One! "And this melody of grief" seemingly "continues for ever" as Sepehri says.
I really have a great problem with this apparently 'eternal grief' with the fact that 'suffering' is the only way to this unification. I really have problem with this Masculine interpretation of Creation, even though I can't find an escape from it. When I see how deep down nothing has changed since the emergence of humans on this earth as history shows, even though, we are told and see for ourselves that change is the only truth, the only certainty, then my heart starts to bleed for the fate of our kind called Mankind up to now. Do you think there is any chance of this Mankind or better to say Human Kind ever becoming truly Humane?!
Let's leave these sorrowful thoughts alone and go back to Rising up. We were talking about the imperative of playing roles and the imperative for one of them rising up to tear the veil. So let us each go over our roles and see if there is any that has the ability, or power or will to rise up.
For that let us just look at those roles that all of us have to play. They include playing the role of a member of a family, a friend (which in Hafez's language also means lover, god), a citizen of a country, a member of human race and finally a temporary resident of this World, this Earth. So each one of us has at least five roles to play and is thus five different persons. If we include our sexual role, then we have six 'necessary' different roles to play. Finally, if we add the role of being a member of this Universe, a form of existence, a creature of our Creator, then we have seven necessary roles to play.
Which one of these should rise up? Let us not forget that this can only occur at the expense of others. In other words, which "I"s should be sacrificed for the real "I" to rise up to tear the veil?
Now let us leave these seven imperative "I"s that we have to have as long as we want to live in a society and call them objective "I"s and go back to the stage of ordinary life where there are many more "I"s, a "legion" perhaps.
Now let us concentrate on one of these roles, these "I"s which we think we sacrificed the most number of "I"s for it. For example, motherhood seems to demand the greatest amount of sacrifice, so does fatherhood, I suppose. But in order to bring more people into our game, it is perhaps best to take as an example the role of a "lover" and see how much we have truly sacrificed as a lover and by sacrifice we mean "to tread over some "I"s" or "surrendering what one loves or what one considers precious," as the prophet Abraham, for example intended to do with his own son.
By measuring our sacrifices against the above 'scales,' my personal conclusion is: No I can confess immediately that up to now very seldom have I managed to surrender consciously and on the basis of my personal free-will, even a little bit of what I love and cherish. If there has been any "I"s sacrificed, it was done automatically, instinctively and/or forcefully. Why is it this way?
On the most ordinary plane, conscious sacrifice is difficult because what we love, we naturally like to keep, then we become dependent on it, then we become its slave, and naturally feel weak and disabled to give it up. In other words, although we think we are constantly surrendering our personal comfort for the welfare of those we love, but this seems to be only an illusion. Why was it necessary for human beings to see everything upside down?
In this sometimes fierce struggle between willingness to give up a former love- no matter what the object of our love is - which has turned into a destructive relationship and the fear of letting go, if a third force does not come to help, it will continue for ever and a kind of masochism is developed as the result. Yet let us remember that this inner struggle is in fact a struggle between at least two "I"s. So we are back to the first division of primary cell or self, which then becomes the source of that apparently eternal agony and grief and suffering.
So if we wish to put an end to this struggle, we need a third reconciling force. But where should we look for this third force? What is its source? We are told that it is called "Love" and we are told that the whole creation is based on this single force.
And, each one of us has to some extent already experienced that only love has the power to help us to sacrifice our 'selfishness' our 'egoism' and thereby curing that divided self, that suffering masochist. It is the only force that can help us to build up the willingness to Rise up, to tear that veil apart, in the same manner that a fierce hysterical woman - apparently feared by all men - could tear any veil.
It is only perhaps then that we manage to heal this "unconscious suffering masochist" staggering like drunkards between hell and heaven.
[i] What is in the quotation mark is my personal understanding of Gurdjieff's words.
... Payvand News - 5/25/06 ... --