Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Work

Mr. Gurdjieff said "I love him who loves to work".

I have always found this to be an interesting statement, and one that has lead to all sorts of confusion and misinterpretation in Fourth Way groups.

I have been thinking a lot about the meaning of work lately, mostly because I have been doing a lot of work these last few weeks.

Winter is fast approaching here in West Michigan, and by all accounts it is likely to be a cold one.

When you couple this with the news that natural gas prices are expected to rise by about 40% this winter, it seemed prudent to arrange for an alternate heat source.

Give me a chainsaw and a place to stand.......
(with apologies to Archimedes)

We have a good fireplace with a "heatilator", and with a little testing we determined that the house could be heated just by burning wood.

Of course that meant we needed a lot of wood.

We needed to lay in at least five cords of wood for the winter. (A cord of wood can be best understood as 4' x 4' x 8' or 128 cubic feet of wood) eight cords would be better, the down-side of using a fireplace for heat is that it is not very efficient compared to a good wood burning stove, so you go through a lot more wood.

The woods on our "lower forty"

As fate would have it though, there was a ready supply of good seasoned hardwood right on the property just for the taking.

About two thirds of the property here is woods, and they have been virtually undisturbed for many years.

Even better, the property fronts the river.


The Grand River from "the lower forty"

A good portion of the woods is lowland, which means that it floods every now and again. When that happens it inevitably kills a few trees, which means Standing Dead Wood!

When you need firewood now, rather than having the time to cut green wood and let it season for a couple of years so that it will burn well, you won't do better than standing dead trees. You can use fallen wood, but by the time it has dried enough to be useful it is all too often rotted from contact with the ground.

As it turned out, I was the only one here that had any experience with a chainsaw or with working with timber. When I was much younger I lived in the Santa Cruz mountains, and for a couple of years made my living by cutting trees for firewood and Redwood burl for clocks and table tops. (To give you a sense of how long ago, I rented forty acres with a cabin for US $80.00 a month)

So I began cutting.

I discovered that using a chainsaw is like riding a bicycle, the skills come back quickly. I also found out that I can still drop a tree right where I want it to land.


Me, at the woodpile gym

So up until a couple of days ago I have been spending a good deal of time in the woods with a chainsaw and timberjack. (For those of you who don't know, a timberjack is like a peavey, but with the front spike at 90 degrees to the shaft, and a "foot" that allows you to roll a log end up off the ground for cutting).

The Timberjack, one of mankind's great inventions

I have been fortunate to have some help with getting the cut rounds out of the woods and up to the splitting area from a couple of my Silat students and from the household as time allows.

The local woodchuck, turning a gimlet eye to all the activity in his forest

So I have been going out each morning, felling trees or finding downed logs that have not rotted out. When enough wood has been cut we load it onto a small wagon pulled by a yard tractor and haul it out of the woods for splitting and stacking.

This of course has given me lots of time to think (always a dangerous proposition).

So I have been thinking about work.

Traditionally, a good number of traditional spiritual disciplines have put emphasis on the usefulness of fostering a good work ethic, and building a strong set of manual skills as an important step in personal evolution.

This is in part to help overcome the tendencies toward laziness found in humans (the "workaholic" is often just lazy in a slightly different way than the "slacker").

Another, all too often overlooked aspect of work though, is its capacity to keep the person fit. You cant really successfully work on yourself without sufficient energy, and you will likely only have enough energy if your body is fit.

For general fitness, full body work will get you in better shape than anything you can find in a gym, and for martial arts, tasks like splitting wood with a maul will develop you in ways that little else will.


The winter wood supply

And of course, there is the energy gained through completing an intention, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Mr. Gurdjieff also told his students that there are three parts of energy to right work. One part is the energy that is expended in completing the work. The second part is the energy that goes to "the reciprocal maintenance of the Universe. The third part is the energy that you gain from completing your intention (an no this does not violate the second law of thermo-dynamics) which you get to use for your own evolution.

Of course work should also have a sense of joy associated with it otherwise one is likely to fall into one of the big blunders of the Path.
The Super-Effort Error
Belief that one must approach the Work with a grim determination which produces feelings of tension, discomfort, self-punishment, and competition.
More on this in my next installment.

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