TWO DIFFERENT LESSONS IN ATTENTION
He [Gurdjieff] started his car with a race of the motor that belched smoke from the exhaust and I swung out behind him into the boulevard traffic, galvanized by the single fixed purpose to let nothing get between us for the next thirty-eight miles. I lost him a dozen times before arriving on the outskirts of Paris. He drove like a wild man, cutting in and out of traffic without hand signals or even space to accommodate his car in the lanes he suddenly switched to . . . until he was in them, safe by a hair. Black French sedans exactly like his seemed to fill the streets. I learned to watch ahead for the one being driven the most erratically, then – gripping the wheel – to try to follow it. In the breathing spaces at red lights, I sometimes saw him off to the right or the left, black fur cap set at a jaunty angle, puffing tranquilly on a cigarette. He always got away first on the green light even (so it seemed) when he was one or two cars behind the starting line.
Outside Paris things were a bit easier but not much. I could keep him in sight for longer stretches on the 'route nationale', but the chances he took overtaking buses and trucks were terrifying. I watched with suspended breath each time he swung out around a truck and headed directly into another coming toward him on the narrow two-lane road.
Somewhere midway or possibly beyond (memory retained no data of village names, route markers or mileposts passed) the black sedan on which total attention was riveted appeared to be slowing down. Presently it pulled off the cobbled road to a halt beneath some trees. Gurdjieff got out and walked toward the Packard pulling in behind. He gave us an enchanting smile and said, "Here we make pause ... we listen to 'grenouilles'."
'Grenouilles' ... frogs! I stuttered to Wendy. We got out and listened. Frogs were singing somewhere off in the marshes beyond the trees, a chorale of splendor issuing in chirps, croaks and trills from hundreds of amphibian throats.
Seeing Gurdjieff smoking, I lit a cigarette with shaking hands, watching him warily over the tip of my lighter's flame. He held up one finger, cocked his head toward the singing and said, "You hear?" with a possessive smile as if the frogs had turned it on for him alone, knowing he would be passing that way at that magical sunset hour.
~ Kathryn Hulme "Undiscovered Country"
"MUST ALWAYS LOOK AT ALL SIDES BEFORE MAKE JUDGMENT"
We drove a very short distance on a narrow, lightly travelled road, and Gurdjieff stopped the car. We descended and he told me to bring the coffee with me, and went to sit on a fallen tree near the edge of the road. He had stopped a hundred yards or so beyond a group of workmen who were laying a stone water-ditch at the side of the road. Their work consisted in bringing stones from either one of two large piles at the side of the road, carrying them to the unfinished section of the ditch, where other men were placing them in the dirt. We watched them silently, while Gurdjieff drank coffee and smoked, but said nothing to me. After a long time, at least half an hour, I finally asked him when the lesson would begin.
He looked at me with a tolerant smile. "Lesson begin at ten o'clock," he said, "what you see? Notice anything?" I said that I had been watching the men, and that the only unusual thing I had noticed was that one of the men always went for the pile that was furthest from the actual work.
"Why you think he do this?"
I said I didn't know but that he seemed to be making work for himself because he had to carry the heavy stones further each time. He could just as easily have gone to the nearer pile of rock.
"Is true," Gurdjieff then said, "but must always look at all sides before make judgment. This man also have pleasant short promenade in shade along road when he return for next stone. Also, he not stupid. In one day he not carry so many stones. Always logical reason why people do thing certain way; necessary find all possible reasons before judge people."
Gurdjieff's language, although he paid very little attention to the proper tenses, was always unmistakably clear and definite. He did not say anything more, and I felt that he was, partly by his own concentration, forcing me to observe whatever was going on around me with as much concentration as I could. The rest of the hour went by rapidly, and we returned to the Prieure, he to his writing and I to my housekeeping. I was to return the following Tuesday at the same time for the next lesson. I did not dwell on what I had — or had not — learned; I was beginning to understand that "learning" in Gurdjieff's sense did not depend on sudden or obvious results, and that one could not expect any immediate spurts of knowledge or understanding. More and more I began to have the feeling that he scattered knowledge as he lived, oblivious of whether or not it was accepted and put to any use.
~ Fritz Peters “Boyhood With Gurdjieff”
FREE WILL IS NOT AN ORDINARY PHENOMENON; IT CANNOT BE HAD FOR THE ASKING, NOR BOUGHT IN A SHOP
QUESTION: Has free will a place in your system?
GURDJIEFF: Free will is the function of the real “I,” the result of finding the master of the equipage. He who has a master, has will; he who has not, has no will. What is ordinarily called will is adjustment between willingness and unwillingness. For instance, the mind wants something, the feelings do not want it; if the mind proves to he stronger than the feelings man obeys his mind. If the two are equally opposed the result will be opposite (conflict). This is what is called free will in ordinary man; he is ruled—now by the mind, now by the feelings, now by the body. Often the order comes from the automatic apparatus. Still more often the man is ordered about by the sex center. Real free will can only be where one “I” rules, when man has a master for his equipage. But an ordinary man has no master—the carriage constantly changes passengers, and each passenger calls himself “I,” Free will is reality. It may exist; but we, as we are, cannot have it.
QUESTION: Are there no people who have free will?
GURDJIEFF: I am speaking about the majority of men, those who have will, have wall. But free will is not an ordinary phenomenon; it cannot be had for the asking, nor bought in a shop.
~ "Gurdjieff's Early Talks 1914-1931"