A Day in the Life of a Free Man

A Day in the Life of a Free Man

In order to emphasize the absence of any will whatsoever in the ordinary man, there can be added here a passage from another of Gurdjieff’s talks, in which the manifestations of this famous will attributed to man are picturesquely described.

Addressing one of the people present, Gurdjieff said:

“You have plenty of money, luxurious conditions of existence, and universal esteem and respect. At the head of your well-established business concerns you have people who are absolutely reliable and devoted to you; in a word, your life is a bed of roses.

“You dispose of your time as you please, you are a patron of the arts, you settle world questions over a cup of coffee, and you even take an interest in the development of the latent spiritual forces of man. You are not unfamiliar with matters of the spirit, and you are quite at home with philosophical questions. You are well educated and widely read. Having extensive knowledge in a variety of fields, you are reputed to be an intelligent man, adept at resolving any problem whatever You are the very model of culture.

“All who know you regard you as a man of great will, and most of them even ascribe your success to the result of the manifestations of this will of yours.

“In short, from every point of view, you fully deserve to be imitated and are a man to be envied.

“In the morning you wake up under the influence of some oppressive dream.

“Your slightly depressed mood, though rapidly dispelled on awakening, has nevertheless left its mark a certain languidness and hesitancy in your movements.

“You go to the mirror to brush your hair and carelessly drop the brush; you have only just picked it up, when you drop it again. You then pick it up with a shade of impatience, and so you drop it for the third time; you try to catch it in the air, but . . . an unlucky blow of your hand, and the brush makes for the mirror; in vain you try to grab it . . . too late! Crack! . . . There is a star of cracks on that antique mirror of which you were so proud.

“Damn! Devil take it! You feel a need to vent your annoyance on someone or other; and not finding the newspaper beside your morning coffee, the servant having forgotten to put it there, the cup of your patience overflows and you decide that you cannot stand the fellow any longer in the house.

“It is time for you to go out. As the weather is fine and you haven’t far to go, you decide to walk. Behind you glides your new automobile of the latest model.

“The bright sunshine somewhat calms you. A crowd that has collected at the corner attracts your attention

“You go nearer, and in the middle of the crowd you see a man lying unconscious on the pavement. A policeman, with the help of some of the ‘bystanders,’ puts the man into a taxi to take him to the hospital.

“Thanks merely to the likeness, which has just struck you, between the face of the taxi driver and the face of the drunken monk you bumped into last year when you were returning, somewhat tipsy yourself, from a rowdy birthday party, you notice that the accident on the street corner is unaccountably connected in your associations with a cake you ate at that party.

“Ah, what a cake that was!

“That servant of yours, forgetting your newspaper today, spoiled your breakfast. Why not make up for it right now?

“Here is a fashionable café where you sometimes go with your friends.

“But why did you suddenly remember the servant? Had you not almost entirely forgotten the morning’s annoyances? But now . . . how very good the cake tastes with the coffee.

“Look! There are two young women at the next table. What a charming blonde!

“You hear her whispering to her companion, as she glances at you ‘Now that’s just the sort of man I like!’

“Do you deny that on accidentally overhearing these words, perhaps said out loud for your benefit, the whole of you, as is said, ‘inwardly rejoices’?

“Suppose that at this moment you were asked whether it had been worth while getting worked up and losing your temper over the morning’s annoyances, you would of course answer in the negative and promise yourself that nothing of the kind would ever occur again.

“Need I mention how your mood was transformed while you were making the acquaintance of the blonde you were interested in and who was interested in you, and what your state was during the whole time you spent with her?

“You return home humming some air, and even the sight of the broken mirror only elicits a smile from you.

“But how about the business on which you had gone out this morning? . . . You only now remember it. Clever . . . well, never mind, you can telephone.

“You go to the phone and the girl connects you with the wrong number.

“You ring again, and get the same number. Some man informs you that you are bothering him, you tell him it is not your fault, and what with one word and another, you learn to your surprise that you are a boor and an idiot and that if you ring him up again . . . then . . .

“A rug slipping under your feet provokes a storm of indignation, and you should hear the tone of voice in which you rebuke the servant who is handing you a letter!

“The letter is from a man you esteem and whose good opinion you value highly.

“Its contents are so flattering that, as you read, your irritation subsides and gives way to the ‘pleasant embarrassment’ of a man listening to a eulogy of himself. You finish reading the letter in the happiest of moods.

“I could go on with this picture of your day—you free man!

“Perhaps you think I am exaggerating?

“No, it is a photographically exact snapshot, taken from life.”

—From Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson