A Personification of Difficulty

In the spiritual community that G.I. Gurdjieff led in France, an old man lived there who was the personification of difficulty–irritable, messy, fighting with everyone, and unwilling to clean up or help at all. No one got along with him. Finally, after many frustrating months of trying to stay with the group, the old man left for Paris.

Gurdjieff followed him and tried to convince him to return, but it had been too hard, and the man said no. At last Gurdjieff offered the man a very big monthly stipend if he returned. How could he refuse? When he returned everyone was aghast, and on hearing that he was being paid (while they were being charged a lot to be there), the community was up in arms.

Gurdjieff called them together and after hearing their complaints laughed and explained: “This man is like yeast for bread.” He said, “Without him here you would never really learn about anger, irritability, patience, and compassion. That is why you pay me, and why I hire him.”

Reflection Questions

  • Who in your life right now is a lot like the old man in the story? What lessons could you foresee him/her teaching you if you opened yourself up to that possibility?
  • Have you ever behaved like the old man? If so, how could the people you then encountered have treated you so that you felt cared for and honored?
  • Now expand your awareness to the global level, Pramodh. Are there any areas of the world or populations of people that either behave like the old man or have been treated as such? How might you show them compassion?

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