The Wisdom of Jokes
by Alejandro Jodorowsky
The Wisdom of Jokes, Part One
A Baby on her Back.
A tenant living in an apartment building in a big city goes to the office of the groundskeeper, who has just had a baby.
“If I may,” says the surprised tenant, “I’d like to ask you an indiscreet question: you’re single, right?”
“Yes,” replies the groundskeeper.
“And who, might I ask, is the lucky father of your charming baby?”
“As for the father, I have absolutely no idea,” begins the groundskeeper. “You know perfectly well that when I’m cleaning the stairs, I’m too busy to turn around at every little occasion.”
This joke reminds me of a story about Mullah Nasrudin, the hero of beautiful initiating Sufi anecdotes:
Mullah Nasrudin, sitting in the shade, looks at the road whereas his wife, seated beside him but with her back to his, looks the other way. She suddenly says to her husband, “how beautiful! There are so many marvelous birds and clouds. What a truly splendid landscape!”
“I don’t see anything… on my side there are neither clouds nor birds.”
Mullah Nasrudin makes no effort whatsoever to look at his wife’s side; he limits himself to seeing his own world.
Likewise, the groundskeeper pays absolutely no attention to what’s going on behind her back. It forms no part of her world and, therefore, it doesn’t matter to her.
I worry exclusively about my own little universe and what happens around me doesn’t concern me. Nevertheless, I suffer the consequences.
When someone says “my reality,” I reply, “what reality? Describe it to me!”
What are the dimensions of my world, if I’m a groundskeeper who cleans the stairs and I end up pregnant because I don’t turn around?
In this world where we’ve lost religious tradition and where God represents a sort of infantile object that’s instilled in us during our early years of life, I often ask people about divinity: “How do you see God? What does he represent to you, since you speak of him? Describe him to me! By describing God, you’re doing nothing more than describing your own reality. If God exists somewhere, it’s here. If hell exists, it’s also here. Everything that is exists in the moment. Therefore, if everything is present in the moment, describe that moment as it is for you.”
When the person is incapable of replying, I propose another game. I ask two questions. “First, let’s begin with the assumption that you’re completely atheist. If God doesn’t exist and you must invent him, how would you invent him?”
In the event that the person is stubborn and doesn’t want to answer, I ask another question: “If God doesn’t exist for you, on what premise do you base your reality? What force governs your reality and what consequences do you extract from it?”
What I’m trying to say is, “who is that baby you’re carrying around inside you? One way or another you’re going to find out that you’re carrying a baby inside you, as a result of the fact that you fail to perceive all of reality, that you fail to turn around, that you fail to think what the other might think and you fail to see what humanity sees. You see nothing, not the millions and millions of years of the past, nor the millions and millions of years of the future. You fail to see the infinite extension of matter. Where are you situated? Answer me this: what is your reality?”
If God didn’t exist, we would have to invent him. We’d have to invent him to be the most magnificent, most incredible, least superficial, most tolerant, most loving, most beautiful, and most powerful being. He would be accessible to all, without religious wars, without exclusion, a sort of total being for the entire world.
The Dragon and the Maiden.
The stories of Mullah Nasrudin have always been considered initiating, but what is an initiating story? It’s a story from which we can extract a lesson about life.
Where do we find them? Anywhere. Everything is initiating. A tarot card is initiating. Why? Not for the truth it transmits, rather for the projections, associations of ideas, and reflections it awakens.
An initiated person is one who utilizes everything that falls into his hands as a symbol or an object of wisdom.
In Iran and other Islamic countries, children tell the stories of Mullah Nasrudin as if they were mere jokes; they find them funny. The wise, on the other hand, use those same jokes as paths of knowledge. It’s been known for a long time that jokes are profound in nature.
Here’s a little joke I found illustrated in a “train station book”:
From his castle high above, the king sees a knight arriving. The knight is mounted on a horse and, quite content, carrying a dragon in his arms. The king shouts: “Stupid! Your mission was to kill the dragon and bring back the maiden!”
In the Marseille Tarot, Strength is card number eleven. The animal against which the person is fighting could be a dog or a lion, but also a dragon as well. But is the person fighting or dancing? Perhaps he’s collaborating with the beast? Perhaps they have a mutual understanding of one another?
What do the dragon and the maiden represent? A maiden is a virgin. For Jung, she would be the anima, the sacred part that we all carry within us, our soul. The purest, most virgin part of ourselves. Our spiritual center.
The dragon is our dark side, our fiery side, our mysterious unconscious that causes us fear. Saint George sank his lance into the animal the same way that the spirit, in order to achieve self-realization, must penetrate into the depths of its own mystery. Enter into its unconscious to liberate the maiden. In other words, it must deeply enter into the coal in order to pluck the diamond from its core.
We are simultaneously the knight, the king, the maiden, and the dragon. Regardless of the role in question, our will insists that we must work on ourselves.
If your father is destroying your life by keeping you in his concentration camp, it’s up to you to get out of that camp! How much longer are you going to remain tied to this Oedipus, the incestuous couple in which you’re both victim and executioner, simply because in the past it was he who was the victim and Hitler was the executioner?
The king commands: “Enough! Let’s kill this dragon!” So your spirit starts up: your intelligence, your being advance on your horse, full of strength and might and confront the dragon.
But what does it mean to kill the dragon? It means to deeply penetrate it with the lance. To profoundly enter into the mystery of your unconscious and ask: “What do you want?”
“I fear I may be homosexual. What can I do?” somebody asked me.
“Live a homosexual experience,” I replied. “It’s the most logical thing to do: if you’re not homosexual, you’ll know; if you are, you’ll enjoy the experience. It always brings us happiness to simply be who we really are. Well then, confront yourself! But don’t choose an ugly guy you don’t like as the subject of your experience, because in that case you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Pick someone you really like! And be careful about AIDS—take the appropriate precautions.
We enter profoundly into the dragon and ask ourselves: “Who am I?” What are our criminal, cannibalistic, homosexual and incestuous impulses? What are they?
Once we see the dragon, we direct him toward the light, toward virginity, toward the diamond, toward faith, toward everything. I channel my animal toward my spiritual self-realization.
But what happens to people all too often? They want to kill their anima and awaken their dragon. They want to sit back with the dragon. The result: they come back with the monster that’s going to destroy the castle.
There are individuals who have killed the maiden and full of pride return carrying the beast in their arms. You can see them in the supermarket strolling along with their dragon, feeding him fake meat, fake caviar…
A Frenchman and a Belgian are watching a movie.
“I’ll bet you a hundred francs the cowboy on the white horse is going to fall off his horse,” says the Frenchman.
“You’re on,” accepts the Belgian.
Ten minutes later, the cowboy falls off his horse.
“Ok,” the Belgian concedes, “looks like you win a hundred francs.”
“Actually, I already saw the movie,” confesses the Frenchman.
“Me too, but I never would have imagined that the cowboy was going to fall off his horse the second time I watched the movie.”
I was wondering what lesson I could extract from this joke when I realized just how often I run into situations like this one. The truth is, they’re everywhere.
The typical example is the person who declares: “I married a woman who didn’t love me and now she’s left me.”
Five years later, the same man states, “I married a second woman. She didn’t love me and now she’s abandoned me.”
Ten years later, the same guy says, “nobody loves me; my third wife just left.”
You could say he believes the movie recorded in his brain is going to change; meanwhile, he does nothing but emotionally repeat the exact same act. This is a very common occurrence: repetitive cycles.
I once met a writer who was in love with a woman. He remained in love with her for seven years, at the end of which she married a famous writer. This depressed him quite a bit. He quit writing and began painting. He soon fell in love with another woman. It was a case of impossible love, just as before, because she never devoted herself to him. This situation also lasted seven years, at the end of which the woman married a famous painter. He developed a complex and quit painting. Shortly thereafter, he began to study the flute. He met a woman. He fell in love with her for seven years, but then the woman left him for an orchestra conductor.
Twenty-one years of impossible love! All because he was trying to escape from what?
When an impossible love repeats itself over the course of twenty-one years in a row, that indicates that the man in question hates women. It’s as simple as that! God keep me from people who live impossible love! When you talk about impossible love, you’re really talking about hatred, because love is either possible, or it’s not love.
Now you might think I’m crazy. I’m not… I’m just demented, that’s all.
In love, there’s a man, a woman, hormones, aromas… all abounding in the air… The forces that unite a couple are a mystery. Attraction is spontaneous. So when a man doesn’t obey the scent it’s because he doesn’t love. In other words, when the aroma arrives, the man says, “No way! I prefer ideal love.” And he remains with his ideal love; he continues to cling to his mother.
After a shouting match, this man’s brother went directly to the mother’s house. He took a shotgun, stuffed the barrel into her mouth and blew her brains all over her bed…
A mother calls me and says, “What can I do for my son? He takes drugs, and it hurts me to see him this way…”
“Of course it does! And that’s precisely why he takes drugs, to make you suffer. What he wants is to ask you for what you never gave him. He’s destroying himself in front of your very eyes in order to show you how you yourself have destroyed him.”
“You’re right! I never should have done this or that to him”
“There you go! But it’s never too late. You have to become aware of what’s going on. You have to go and seek his dragon and look for the death impulses that have fed themselves against your son.”
A Marvelous Doctor
Two Jewish mothers are chatting:
“My son is a marvelous doctor,” affirms the first. “You absolutely must go and see him!”
“But there’s nothing wrong with me,” replies the other. “Why must I go?”
“He’s such a good doctor,” the first proudly proclaims, “that even if you don’t have anything wrong, he’ll find something wrong with you.”
Sometimes we try to help, but doing so, perhaps we do more harm than good by forcing the other to receive something they didn’t ask for.
A therapist’s job requires extreme delicacy. It’s not an occupation that permits you to shine your own ego, nor polish your fame and celebrity. If you want to cure someone, you have to do so with all due respect, intervene discreetly and never force them to receive your service. When we try to prove we’re some sort of miracle curer, that’s when we cause the most harm.
God keep us from those who make it their profession to cure with the goal of reaffirming themselves! “I’m nothing, I’m worthless: I need to do something.” As Gurdjieff would say, “they’re so lazy with themselves that they want to help others.”
The Smoker and his Fumes.
A man and a woman share a compartment on a train. Along the way, the man begins to get hot. He takes off his tie. A little later, due to the fact that he’s feeling even hotter, he takes off his jacket. Then he takes off his shirt, soon followed by his pants and socks. In a matter of seconds, he’s completely nude and the woman, more than disgusted, is on the verge of an attack. Just then, the man takes a cigarette out of his pants pocket and, before lighting up, he courteously asks his traveling companion, “do you mind if I smoke, ma’am?”
I don’t know why, but this story strikes me as profound… It deals with the quality of communication between us… Quite often we conduct ourselves in a totally oblivious manner then suddenly, as an act of reflection, by force of habit, we say something so banal as, “do you mind if I smoke?”
This is the story of an old singer who has failed in his career. Always awaiting a contract offer, he lives with his wife in a rundown, barely furnished apartment; nevertheless, he has a table and a telephone just in case someone were to call and offer him contract.
One day, the phone rings:
”Is this the home of singer X?”
“I’m talent agent Z. Singer Y just suffered a heart attack. It’s likely he won’t be able to sing in the concert at the Olympia tomorrow night. We need you to take his place. Do you have a repertoire ready?”
“Yes, of course I do! I’ve got a whole program put together,” responds the old singer, stupefied by his excellent good luck.
“Good! Show up tomorrow at six p.m. at the Olympia.”
“I’ll be there! You can count on me!”
“One more thing,” adds the agent, “we’re still hoping for the rapid recovery of our star. If you don’t hear from us by way of a telegram to the contrary before tomorrow at noon, consider your contract signed!”
“Yes, twelve noon precisely. From that moment on, we’ll know exactly where we stand,” the agent concludes and hangs up.
Excited as a bug, the singer tirelessly practices his repertoire. He doesn’t stop looking at himself in the mirror for even a moment, confirming all the while that his suit looks good on him. The whole night is torture, during which he prays for the death of his rival. At dawn, the man is exhausted after staying up the entire night. He begs the telephone not to ring. He neither drinks nor eats.
Ten o’clock goes by. Eleven o’clock… Quarter to twelve… Five minutes to noon… Four… Three… One minute… At exactly midday there’s a knock at the door. The old singer goes to open it with tears in his eyes. It’s a telegram. With trembling hands he reads it before the anxious and catastrophic eye of his wife… When he finishes, he triumphantly exclaims, “Don’t worry! Thank God it’s nothing important! My mom just died, that’s all!”
This man doesn’t think about anyone but himself. There’s a gap between the world of the emotions and reality. The latter is displaced by the former, which acquires greater importance.
The Little Red Man
A man arrives in tears at his therapist’s office.
“What’s wrong?” asks the specialist.
“Every night when I go to sleep I dream that a little man in a little red hat and jacket comes to visit me and proposes, ‘Let’s go pee together!’ And I wet the bed every night! I can’t take it any more!” the patient sobs.
“Your case isn’t too serious,” comments the psychoanalyst. “I’m going to give you a solution that will soon free you. The next time the little red man appears, tell him, ‘I already went!’ and then he’ll leave you alone.”
“That’s all there is to it?”
“Yes. Just repeat all day long, ‘I already went,’ to condition your mind to this response.”
The man repeats the sentence all day, on the train, on the subway, in the office, etc., even as he’s going to bed at night just prior to falling asleep.
The next day, he returns, crying, to the therapist.
“What happened? Did you do as I advised you?” inquires the specialist.
“Yes, I did!” the patient replies, between sobs.
“Let’s see… calmly tell me everything that happened.”
“I fell asleep and in a dream the little man in the little red hat and jacket appeared as usual; he said to me, ‘Let’s go pee together!’ and I replied, ‘I already went.”
“And then?” asks the therapist.
“And then the little red man said: ‘Then let’s go poop together!’”
In this story, my unconscious questions me. If I have a problem of incontinence, it’s not the little red man that’s responsible. My incontinence is the manifestation of a real problem inside me. So I go to a “guru” or some other type of healer in order to find a solution. I look for someone who can tell me how to suppress the symptom, but in reality I’m shielding myself behind it. I don’t want to know what’s going on with myself.
For example, my marriage is going bad. I don’t want to be told why it’s going bad. I just want my wife to come back. I want things to go back to the way they were before. I don’t want to change. I don’t want to do the work of introspection. I don’t want to evolve. Zero change!
When I agree to follow the methods of the “guru,” the bad that I’m able to suppress in one place comes back to haunt me in another. But the truth remains that I haven’t fundamentally improved my state. I don’t resolve the problem by changing a symptom, rather by working on myself.
Below is an example of how to work on oneself.
A young woman gave birth to a baby prematurely, in her seventh month of pregnancy. I advised her to keep the baby attached to her skin for several hours a day. She followed my recommendation.
“This has done well for my baby, but how long do I have to keep him next to me?” she asked.
“Two months,” I replied, “the time to complete the cycle that he didn’t live in your womb.”
Later, the young woman told me that the baby was getting better, but his three-year-old brother was reacting negatively.
“I suppose his behavior is normal,” she added. “I can’t just reject him or insist that he not be jealous. The boy is only three years old. And he suffers.”
“Have him participate!” I suggested.
“First the baby, then the child?”
“No, not at all. Share. In a family, nothing is experienced in isolation. Problems are shared. Problems are collective. Therefore, when you give the baby your breast, hold your child close to your left side. That way he too will hear your heart beat and enter in paradise.”
Another problem presented itself. The older brother was included, but now what about the father? I advised the young woman, “Place the father beside the child!”
The relationship with the mother’s skin is beneficial, but what about the relationship with the father’s skin? Contemporary psychoanalysis talks about the mother’s skin, without ever referring to the father. Nevertheless, most women know the odor of their father’s armpit. During infancy they curl up in their father’s arms, with their noses in his armpit. Even though it may smell bad, for them it’s a sort of divine perfume. When we have a father, his odor is divine. The father’s skin and his physical presence are just as important as the mother’s. Therefore, in a family with children, we need skin-to-skin contact.
At first, maybe there were problems with the delivery. Later, the mother didn’t have skin-to-skin contact with her baby and now she doesn’t want it. The job at hand is to overcome the rejection. Rejection of contact is one thing; realization of this rejection is another. And to decide not to give in to this rejection (which, after all, doesn’t correspond to our essence) is yet another. Thus, the woman becomes conscious of her rejection of contact, but she vanquishes it. It’s possible that working in this manner, to combat these impulses, the woman might feel bad. Still, once she’s able to overcome this uneasiness, everything works itself out.
Two psychiatrists are having a conversation. One is much older than the other, but he finds himself in great shape. In contrast, his colleague is exhausted to the extreme.
“I don’t understand,” suggests the younger psychiatrist, “how you can listen to all those half-crazy patients all day long and not be affected by it.”
“And who listens to them?” replies the older psychiatrist, as he takes out his Energy Spheres. *
The veteran psychiatrist is sharing a lesson with us. In general terms, people don’t normally want anything more than a presence. The person speaking to you is effectively speaking to themselves. They don’t demand that you listen, only that you perform the act of being present and maintain complete calm. While the other person is unloading their problems, think of the people who are important to you and fly! Put yourself in the eternal state of being! From the perspective of eternity, who cares if people tell you whatever it is they’re telling you?
By the time I was fifty years old, my filmmaking career had arrived at its end. But at sixty it started up again when someone proposed a film to me. Even though I never asked him, he paid me to make the film. As for me, I make myself see these things coming. From the perspective of eternity and at the point in life where I find myself right now, this almost doesn’t affect me at all. Success, failure… I have my Energy Spheres in hand.
Someone once told me, “Why should I make more money? I can only eat two steaks a day!”
With or without the film, I already make a decent living.
Life offers many surprising changes, you shouldn’t turn a deaf ear to all the opportunities that arise unexpectedly… For example, my wife tells me she’s leaving me in December. I accept it. I take out my Energy Spheres; I put a halt to stress and worry. What day is today? October 8. I still have November and December, as well as another three weeks in October. I have almost three months of problem-free living. Three months without problems, that’s great! I have her, she’s still at home.
I once suffered a terrible anguish related to death. It was crazy. Until the age of forty I couldn’t accept the idea that my life was going to stop. But one day I said to myself, “I’ve had it! This story isn’t for me. What do I love most in the world? Life, and I suffer because one day I’m going to lose all I have. I’m disposed to give everything, absolutely everything, to live, and therefore I have what I love most in the world. Consequently, I choose to live, I’m going to be content every second. From now on, every second will be a gift, a jewel, and I’ll live it as such.” I no longer pay attention to that anguish; it does me absolutely no good. Although we possess a dark side in our interior, I’m not going to give in to mine. I’ll live the best I can and that’s all there is to it. If I triumph or not, Energy Spheres; if this or that happens to me, Energy Spheres… I live with delight the seconds I have at my disposal.
If I adore a woman, to spend a minute with her is like an eternity, and an hour is a marvel. I’ll cross the ocean to spend 24 hours with her; if I’m a woman, I’m capable of doing the same for a man.
A pair of lovers is in Algiers. The night is perfectly clear and at their feet unfolds the magnificent bay, with its dark waters and a great arc formed by the city lights.
“Look at all those lights, dear!” exclaims the young woman. “So many people living, loving, cooking, watching tv, talking, sleeping…”
“Well,” her companion intervenes, “I thought all those little luminous points were just street lights.”
These two people observe exactly the same reality but their readings of it are completely different.
Jokes are the same for everyone, but each person understands them and interprets them as they like. The same holds true for the sacred books… they’re the same for everybody, but each person interprets them only as they can and want to. In this joke, the man’s perception is less rich than the woman’s.
Based on my sensitivity, the world is rich or poor. I can see one aspect of reality or I can se another.
It doesn’t matter if the world is poorer for me. What’s important is that my vision isn’t yours and, instead of arguing over it or trying to convert the matter into a question of arm-twisting, that we share our viewpoints.
An amorous, friendly, or family relationship does not have as its goal a common viewpoint. Rather it has to do with being able to share our differing points of view.
“I’m sorry you smoke. That’s my point of view. If you do so, too bad for you.”
“I’m sorry you don’t smoke. You deprive yourself of a great pleasure. Too bad for you.”
Each of us has the right to think what we want, but we also have the right to share those thoughts with one another. We need to tell each other what we think, not fight for a common point of view.
A harmonious couple is one that shares their differences, in which neither member has the hypocrisy to play the part in which they’re similar to the other in all respects.
Undoubtedly, in general terms, women are the ones who typically play this part, given that men are such egomaniacs.
“Come on! The world is this way!” affirms the man.
“Oh dear, you’re absolutely right,” adds the woman.
But the woman thinks the opposite. For her, he’s like that and no other way. To live with this man, she imitates him and sets a trap for herself. Or vice versa:
“I want a spiritual man,” sustains the woman.
“That’s me,” confirms the man.
“Write me a poem!”
“Here you have it!”
I make myself out to be a poet, even though I’m not.
At first, when a couple hasn’t yet evolved, there’s a great neurosis: both members wear masks to make each other mutually agreeable. But then the moment arrives when they perceive their differences because the masks fall off. Since they can’t tolerate the difference, they’re overcome by catastrophe: “I thought you were this way, but you’re not. I thought you were like me and now, suddenly, I realize you’re different. I can’t deal with that!”
Before, we pretended to be twins, which was not reality. Now our union has gone bad, the moment has arrived to improve it and see each other unmasked, to recognize my will and your will, and to come to an agreement in which nobody loses. A psychologist once said, “the solution in which somebody loses isn’t a solution at all.”
One More Banana
A woman on a subway is carrying a large package of bananas in her arms. At one of the stops, a ton of people get on board. As she’s jostled about, she tries to hold on to her package. Somehow or other, she manages to do so by placing one arm beneath the package and the other above it. The hand below the package firmly holds on to a banana. After passing several stations in this position, she hears a little man’s voice tell her, “Ma’am, could you please let go of me? I’m getting off at the next station.”
Sometimes we find ourselves carrying our package of bananas in one way or another and everything begins to fall. Resisting, we cling to false gimmicks. We believe we’re holding on to God but in reality we’re holding on to sex, to passion. Without realizing it, we reassure ourselves by grabbing on to something that is an approximation of what we want.
“Here’s your purple sweater!” the salesperson assures you.
“But no… it’s blue…” you, the buyer, state.
“It’s the light that gives you that impression. It’s almost purple! The truth is, we don’t have a purple sweater… on the other hand, take a look at this yellow one! It looks great on you. Try it on! For the cold, a yellow sweater is just as good as a purple one!”
The result: you wanted one thing and you ended up with another, an approximation. As for me, I plan to take the thing, never the approximation. Do you look for the approximation or the thing? The work you do, the meditation, the spiritual work, material work, corporeal work, etc., does it truly correspond to what you desire? Do you eat the cake you want or the one that looks like it? Although you’re only a quarter inch from the center, the truth is you’re not in the center and, therefore, you do not find yourself on the path.
Another aspect of the same trap can be found in the act of taking the approximation for the thing itself. The following story exemplifies just such a trap:
A monk used to brag about how his arrows always hit their targets regardless of the prevailing conditions.
“But that’s not possible!” the others incredulously exclaim.
“Sure… behind the back, in the dark, or from whatever position, each time I shoot, the arrow will always hit the bulls eye,” the monk boastfully affirms.
The others demand a demonstration. The monk immediately shoots an arrow. It crashes against a wall. The second hits the ceiling, and the third ends up on the couch.
“But… none of them hit the bulls eye,” state the others.
“Of course they did, look! It’s quite simple,” explains the monk, taking a little paint and drawing a circle around each arrow.
Three Glasses of Champagne
A married couple is having a conversation at a cocktail party.
“It’s amazing how three glasses of champagne can transform you!” says the husband tenderly.
“But… I’ve had nothing to drink!” comments the surprised wife.
“But I have.”
This joke in which three glasses of champagne are drunk and consequently reality is seen in a different light reminds me of the maxim, In vino veritas. If we perform psychological and spiritual work, our reality and our vision change (the three glasses of champagne symbolize profound intellectual work, emotional work, and sexual work).
Although the woman was probably perfect before, her husband needed to drink the three glasses of champagne to see the truth.
On one occasion, a therapist came to see me:
“Business is bad. I don’t know what to do.” he said.
“Money does not exist in and of itself,” I suggested, remembering the above joke, “it’s an invention.” We work with “raw materials.” If you try to find diamonds in the horrendous mines of Brazil, you can behave like a scoundrel. If you become a prostitute, you can become cold in human relations. If you’re an unscrupulous shopkeeper, you can engage in shady or vulgar business. If you play the stock market, you can arrange things like a pirate. Your “raw material” will give you the money and the attitude that correspond to you. But if you work in the psychological domain, doing therapy, interpreting the tarot or doing some other type of therapeutic work, and people reveal their human problems to you, you can’t behave like a diamond trader, or a prostitute, or an unscrupulous shopkeeper, or like a stockbroker. The situation changes completely. It’s essential to earn people’s trust and not think in terms of customers or profits. It’s necessary to drink the three glasses, to work on three levels… in a single word, to change!
I know a therapist who took a marketing class. Now, when he elaborates his ads to promote his psychology classes, he always adds to the margin observations such as, “Great novelty!” “A true gift!” “Last chance!” “Act now to take advantage of our benefits!” etc. I don’t know what type of students he’s going to attract… better yet, he should open up a supermarket therapy chain…
With the foot on the brake
A man becomes angry when his wife tells him that her car got stuck one morning because of the cold weather:
“Come on! That mechanic ripped you off charging you a fortune just to tow you a mile down the road! That’s impossible!”
“Yeah, you’re right… but you know, my dear, I didn’t give him anything for free. I had my foot on the brake the whole time!”
In the café where I do my tarot reading just prior to my weekly conference, a woman sits down before me and asks me to read her cards. I invite her to shuffle the deck, saying nothing more. So what does she do? She mixes the cards up and turns them around and around, leaving some right side up and others upside down. I immediately ask her to hand me the deck. But instead of doing so in such a way that the cards would be aligned between us, in other words, creating a union between us, she lays them transversally between us. Unconsciously, she’s creating a barrier between us. Then, instead of turning over the cards like you would the pages of a book, she does so by turning them over from the top, causing a totally backwards reading.
“Why do you want me to read the tarot for you?” I ask.
“Someone at the other table read my cards,” she replies, “but I don’t agree with what they told me. I want a different answer.”
Just like the woman in the car, she wants to be towed a mile down the road without taking her foot off the brake because she doesn’t accept the answer, or the error, or the doubt.
“You’re wondering if you’ve got the right position where you work,” I suggest. “In reality, what you’re asking for is an explanation of your relationship with your boss. Actually, you’ve slipped him the figure of your father.”
“My father just died.”
“Of course. And that’s why you find yourself in the midst of so much conflict. Instead of letting your boss crush you, look for an uplifting father figure… When we’re children, one of two things can happen to us: we can be destroyed by adults or we can find adults who help us grow. Look for leaders who help you and not those who crush you like your father did.”
We want to cure ourselves, but we don’t help our therapist at all.
The Traffic Jam.
Reclining comfortably in front of their tent, two Bedouins relax alongside an oasis in the middle of the desert. Suddenly, the noise of a car can be heard in the distance and the Bedouins see an automobile pass by.
“If things keep up as they are, we’re going to end up with traffic jams! That’s the second car that’s been through here in three months,” one of them observes.
For some people, an event is enormous. For others, accustomed to a much broader way of thinking, the same event is no big deal.
Before devoting myself to my spiritual development, I had a difficult time understanding this concept. I was so closed in my own little oasis in my own little desert that the immensity of divine or social themes, the broadness of the world, never entered in the narrowness of my being. For lack of experience, I found myself surprisingly limited.
Without experience, we look at the world with a jaundiced eye and everything seems to be “too much” for us. But when we go from the automobile to the airplane, this “too much” turns out to be “nothing at all.”
I asked a man to walk fifty miles in the middle of a blizzard. He obeyed and walked that distance in circles. Completely exhausted, having arrived at the limit of his strength, he knocked at my door and said, “I’ve done it.” So I then ordered him to begin all over again. The man reinitiated the walk, convinced that he would die of exhaustion. Nevertheless, when he finished the second round I found him in great shape. He said, “I’ve finished. Shall I start over?”
Gurdjieff sustained that there exists a certain level of fatigue that must be surpassed in order to enter in the next higher energy level, which, in other circumstances, we could never allow to circulate.
We can say that human beings dispose of a very low level of energy and that they never surpass the threshold of their capabilities. When they surpass it they begin to suffer… they get depressed. They feel like they’re dying. Then we say, “Keep going! Push harder! Do it again!”
I worked with Arno on the script for a comic strip called “The one handed prince.” While in a trance, I recorded the story on tape. He put the tape away and later lost it. Instead of getting upset, I committed myself to starting all over. I recorded the same story a second time and the result was much better.
The same thing happened with the novel I wrote in two months. I only had that amount of time to get it to the publisher. I bought a word processor and began writing. Since I didn’t know how to use this new machine, the first chapter got erased four times… and I was under the gun! I had to start all over each time completely unnerved. By the fourth time I found myself in pure ecstasy, because that version was the best of all.
My first marriage failed. So did the second, the third, the fourth and the fifth. In the sixth, instead of entering into it totally worn out, I’ve arrived fresher than ever and everything is working out just fine.
I suffer, I suffer, I suffer, and, suddenly, I overcome the suffering because I realize that pain is one thing and suffering another totally different. I suffer, I suffer, I suffer, and, suddenly, I realize that this suffering is the result of the pain that I myself amplify.
One day, in 1960, I was walking down the street with a very timid boy. A parade of students from the school of fine arts advanced toward us. There were about five hundred students partying, complete with a band and everything.
“Let’s surpass our limits! Let’s stop this parade!” I suggested to the boy.
“What???” replied my shy companion, amazed.
“Sure! We’re going to stop it.”
I just sort of went crazy. I stood up in front of the parade, raised my hand energetically, making a signal to stop, and in a categorical voice cried out: “Halt!”
Immediately the parade stopped… and I didn’t quite know what to do. So I stepped aside and said, “Move along!”
We stepped aside simply because we didn’t have a valid reason to stop the students. It wasn’t important for the parade to stop. Five hundred people… nothing more than a little experiment.
If we can immobilize a parade, there’s no doubt that we can demand lots of things of ourselves.
We should take a look at the domains in which we’re small in order to surpass our limits. In this respect, Luna taught me a great lesson.
Luna was a Mexican comic. He made all Mexico laugh. We put together an excellent show and got a contract to present it in Paris, in la Comédie des Champs-Elysées.
Back then (between 1960 and 1962), the Mexican comic was known as a cross between Marceau and Belmondo. Arriving in Paris, Luna immediately rented a huge apartment in Neuilly. He took photos of himself in front of all the monuments in the French capital. He set aside these photos in an album for his great grandchildren. After the first show, it was said that Luna only had Belmondo’s teeth and nothing of Marceau, except the whiteness of his face. The show was a total catastrophe.
Next, Luna quietly collected his clothes, pretended to unpack his suitcase –to leave unnoticed— and left without paying a cent. He returned to Mexico with complete serenity. The calm with which he swallowed his failure was incredible.
Without a cent to his name, he bought nothing less than a Cadillac. He went out in his new car to look for work, and he found it, thanks to a poster where it was written: “Luna triumphs in France.” And we made the show triumph in Mexico, because Luna was in his element there.
The Deaf Worker.
A worker goes to the hospital to visit his boss. Over the years, the worker has become deaf, but since he’s afraid his deafness might cost him his job, he tries to hide it from his boss. Before meeting him, he prepares his visit, silently rehearsing the following dialogue:
“How are you doing, sir?” I will ask.
“Very well, thank you,” he’ll reply.
“That’s great! And what have you been eating?” I’ll continue.
“Fruit,” he’ll respond, since he’s sick.
“Who is your doctor?” I’ll ask very courteously.
“The best,” he’ll affirm, after which I’ll take my leave with another word or two.
Once he arrives at the hospital, the worker has the following conversation with his boss:
“How are you doing, sir?” asks the worker.
“I’m dying!” replies the boss.
“Ah! Praise God. And what have you been eating?”
“I hope you’ve been enjoying it! Who’s your doctor?”
“The angel of death!”
“Well that’s great!”
Quite often we’re deaf to what people say to us. Without listening to others we anticipate their response and think we’re communicating. It’s important not to attribute a response to someone when it’s not their own, because the reply we’ll receive won’t be the one we expected.
It’s for this very reason that some people are suddenly abandoned when talking to others. They end up surprised at what’s happened to them and think, “I’ve been abandoned!”
The Onion and the Weeping Willow.
One day an onion bumped into a weeping willow. Frightened, he exclaimed, “My god! I hope it wasn’t my fault!”
This joke is pure poetry. How often do we think we’re the ones who produce reality despite the fact that it has nothing to do with us? We tell ourselves, “What happened is my fault,” or, “It’s my fault such and such has committed suicide. I destroyed them.”
Everything, Except My Toothbrush!
A Jew boards a train for Vienna. A distinguished Englishman shares his compartment. At mealtime, the Englishman takes out a sandwich.
“Sir, would you be so kind as to spare me a piece of your sandwich? I’m hungry and I forgot to pack a lunch,” states the Jew timidly.
“Sure,” replies the Englishman, offering half his sandwich to his companion.
A little later, the travelers prepare for bed.
“Sir, could you please let me use some shaving cream? I seem to have forgotten mine,” solicits the Jew.
The Englishman accepts and loans him his can of shaving cream. The moment he’s about to get under the covers, however, he hears his traveling companion ask with complete self-assurance:
“Sir, could you please loan me a shirt? I forgot to bring my pajamas.”
Irritated, the Englishman hands the insolent traveler a shirt, precipitating yet another petition:
“Could you also lend me your toothbrush? I forgot mine.”
“Everything, except my toothbrush!” thunders the angry Englishman. “You will never use my toothbrush!”
“There’s no need to get angry. I haven’t asked you for the Moon,” the Jew explains, a bit upset.
The night goes by without another word between the two men. The next day they arrive in Vienna. The Jew’s wife meets him at the station.
“How was your trip?” she asks.
“The trip was fine, but I had the misfortune to travel with an anti-Semite.”
Sometimes we find ourselves overly demanding. We want the other person to give us everything and the more they give us, the more we ask of them. We make overwhelming demands. When the other person tires and stops giving, we think they’re selfish.
In my book of panic fables I tell a story that my mother lived through in Chile. In those days, my parents were socialists. They wanted to help people.
One day, a young alcoholic knocked on the door of my folks’ house. My mother dressed him from head to toe. The young man left and immediately went out and sold his new clothes. Later, completely drunk and dressed like a vagabond, he showed up at my parents’ house again. My mother said, “When we begin something, we have to see it through to the end.” She dressed the boy again, but the next morning he came back inebriated and dressed like a beggar. My mother was not disheartened. For a third time she bought him new clothes, but had no more success than the previous times. The young man came back drunk. She told him, “Enough! Get out of here, you don’t deserve to be helped!” The young man was furious that he didn’t receive a new set of clothes and threw a rock through the window of my parents’ shop to avenge himself.
When we begin to give, there comes a moment when we need to say, “Enough! I’ve given you enough! I’m not going to give you my toothbrush!”
“Wicked master! You have to see it through. You have to give everything!”
Our black cat died. She had a blood disease that caused her to become weaker by the day. Finally, one night she just died in my wife’s arms. Afterwards, we noticed the fleas abandoning the corpse. It turned out to be such a quantity of fleas that we had to bomb the entire house with insecticide to get rid of them.
It didn’t matter that the fleas had lived on the cat. They ate of her blood and left the body once it was used up. When the master stopped giving, they immediately went someplace else.
Watching their desertion was a great lesson for me. Instead of sucking her blood without offering any form of compensation, the fleas should have helped the cat maintain her health. They should have taken care of her, given her something to help her overcome the illness in order to be able to live a lot longer on her.
Abraham is on his deathbed. His entire family is there to accompany him in his final moment. The dying man opens an eye and asks in a trembling voice:
“Is Joseph here?”
“Yes, I’m here father.”
“And my dear wife?”
“I’m right here,” replies his wife.
“And my brother is here too?”
“Right here,” says his brother.
“And my daughter and youngest son?”
“We’re all here,” reply the kids.
“Everyone’s here, right?”
“Yes, we’re all here.”
“Then, in the name of God!” exclaims Abraham summoning all his strength, “if everyone is here, who’s watching the store?”
Undoubtedly there must be something sacred about this story, because it’s told on the streets of Jerusalem.
I interpret it by supposing that the members of Abraham’s family symbolize my different parts, all present at the moment I make the great mutation of my ego toward my indeterminate Self, my undefined Self… at the moment I’m dying to myself. During the lapse that I effect this enormous mutation, if all my parts are worried about the ego that’s being transformed, who’s taking care of the work? Why abandon the work because of emotional, intellectual, economic, or other types of concerns? I insist that the work must go on constantly! That’s what Abraham is saying.
This same message is found in the legends of Buddha. When Buddha was meditating, he cut off his eyelids to keep his eyes open and threw them to the ground. A plant grew out of the spot where his eyelids fell.
We also find the idea of the person who never sleeps in the description of the lion kept in the bestiaries of the Middle Ages. In those days, when science was of little importance, one of the great qualities attributed to the lion was that he never closed his eyes. It was said that the lion was eternally present, with his eyes wide open.
Let It Be Known…
One day the plant manager of a factory puts up signs in all the offices that read the following message: “Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”
Immediately the secretaries rush to his office to demand a raise, the workers go on strike to protest working conditions, and the cashiers make off with all the money in their registers.
This story perfectly shows how things have different meanings for everybody. We confirm things without realizing that our confirmations could have a completely different meaning for those who hear us.
Let’s begin with the principle that you shouldn’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today. We want there to be a consensus on the matter, but unexpectedly we find that someone else interprets that sentence in a completely different way.
Likewise, I find people that cling to their principles, thinking that they represent reality. The result: they project them on their surroundings and clash with everyone else, perhaps because others don’t have the same principles, or because they have a different interpretation of those principles.
The Ten-Franc Coin.
A mother impatiently awaits her son Abraham. The boy has to leave for school in a half hour. Finally, he comes home.
“Why are you late?” the mother asks. “Did the Rabbi’s Hebrew class run a little longer than usual?”
“No, that’s not it. I was delayed in the street,” Abraham replies.
“Because a woman lost a ten-franc coin.”
“Ah! You were late because you helped her look for her coin? What a good boy you are.”
“No, not at all,” Abraham clarifies. “I couldn’t move for a half hour because I was standing on the coin, so I had to wait for her to tire of looking for it and leave.”
Basically, this boy has done exactly the same as the hunchback who hunted cicadas in The true classic of the empty void, by Liu Tseou, a contemporary of Lao-Tse. Here’s the story of the hunchback:
“How can you catch so many cicadas?” someone asks him. “Most people can’t even catch a single one of them.”
“I used to be a juggler, and I worked with four or five balls,” he replied. “Then, I kept the balls in equilibrium. Eventually, I abandoned the balls and left for the country, where I remained perfectly still, without even moving a millimeter. One day the cicadas came and thought I was a tree. At that point, I just had to close my hand to catch them.”
I have a ten-franc coin under my shoe. Ten is also a figure of unity… which makes me find this story, in spite of everything, religious in nature. Still, at their foundations all Jewish stories are religious.
This story isn’t about a theft, rather about complete concentration. I put my foot on this unity and I don’t move. Come what may, I am here, present. All my attention and all my being are here. I conceal my position, but I’m conscious, totally centered on myself. Without ceding or getting discouraged, I remain in place. My attention is complete. Then, I quickly take my unity.
The other day someone told me, “It’s strange, but basically I realized I need to distract myself a lot, because I can’t concentrate on myself.”
In his wife’s absence, a man has her twin sister over to his house. At that very moment, his wife enters unexpectedly and finds them in bed together. Furious, she screams, “Pig! I can’t imagine what you find sexy in such an ugly woman!”
Our viewpoint is subjective. We do not perceive reality exactly as it presents itself… Our perception is affected by our emotions leaving us to maneuver about the world by subjective value judgments.
When I was preparing The Sacred Mountain, I locked myself up in a house 24 hours a day for seven months with the actors from the film. We barely got four hours of sleep each night, since we were constantly working the rest of the time. Fridays were “objective days.” We couldn’t say anything subjective; for example, “Yum. This spinach is good” or “I’m thirsty” or “I’m hot.” Instead, we would say, “water,” “answer the phone.” Obviously, “ok” and “good morning” were out of the question.
Furthermore, whenever someone would say something subjective, a big bell was rung. On Fridays, the bell never stopped ringing. Finally, we came to realize that ninety-nine percent of our ideas about the world were subjective.
You can try the experiment at home; but living an “objective day” isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. You’ll surprise yourself when you corroborate with the fact that we perpetually make all kinds of value judgments about everything.
In a chemical factory, a worker in the tear gas section appears before his boss weeping profusely.
“I can’t go on like this any longer! You have to give me a raise,” suggests the crying employee.
“I can’t give you a raise, but I do want to see you smile… From tomorrow on, you’re changing sections and will be working with laughing gas,” replies the boss.
This joke is similar to an ancient Hindu story:
The monkeys in a zoo go on strike, considering themselves to be poorly fed. They’re given four nuts in the morning and three in the afternoon. Someone quickly resolves the situation telling them, “from now on, you’ll be given three nuts in the morning and four in the afternoon.”
The monkeys are quite satisfied with the new arrangement.
Occasionally, we think we’ve found a miraculous solution to our life’s problems, but the truth is we’re fooling ourselves. The new solution brings us to the exact same situation as before, but under a different appearance. The problem hasn’t been solved at all. The only thing that’s been resolved is a certain form. In other words, we’re happy for no valid reason whatsoever.
In a book about Lacan, Cent-trente-deux bons mots avec Lacan, I found the story of a man who felt content because he thought he was cured, whereas Lacan considered him to be ill precisely because he thought he was cured:
“Doctor, I’m fully aware of my psychosis,” says the patient.
“Ah, evidently you are a happy man,” notes Lacan.
Later, once the patient leaves his office, the psychoanalyst says to himself, “There’s a happy man. He seems cured. In my opinion, that’s the most dangerous part.”
I apply this story to the man who works in the tear gas section and is transferred to laughing gas: “I’ve suffered a lot in my life, but now, that’s over! Today, I laugh and am very enthusiastic… But the problem’s still there. I haven’t worked it out at all. The only thing I’ve changed is my attitude, from negative to positive, but what good does that do? The wound is still there.”
Can you spare me some money, please?
Jacob runs into Abraham in the street.
“My friend, do you have a little money you can lend me?” solicits Jacob.
“No, I don’t have any on me,” responds Abraham.
“And in your shop? Do you have any money there?” insists Jacob.
“No. I just closed and deposited the money in the bank.”
“And at your house?” adds Jacob desperately.
“At my house everything is fine, thank you.”
This story has a lesson that’s quite Zen. You are not obligated to reply on the same wavelength as the person you’re speaking with.
By your own effort, you can reach a certain elevated level. When you find yourself running into people from your past, it doesn’t take you long to realize that they have remained at a stage that no longer corresponds to your own, but to which they want you to assimilate. They ask you questions as a function of their own level and you fall into the trap. You reply to them on their own terms, and at that moment, they’ve got you.
When they interrogate you, you’re under no obligation to reply at all. You can evade the question by asking yourself as a form of answer, or by changing level or meaning.
“And at your house, do you have any money?” the other asks you.
“At my house, everything is fine, thank you,” is your reply.
By this answer, you change the subject and the other doesn’t get you. Why let someone else, anybody else, corral us into the trap of their projection?
In the end, who catches you in the trap? The others present it to you, they tempt you, but you’re the one who jumps into the trap with both feet… or who doesn’t! You pay dearly for a little bit of human warmth.
The Sex of Flies.
An elderly woman goes into a pet shop to buy two blackbirds.
“I’d like two blackbirds please, a male and a female,” the woman explains to the salesman. “But before I buy them, I’d like to know how to tell them apart.”
“That’s easy, ma’am,” replies the salesman, “you simply buy two flies, a male and a female. The bird that eats the female is your male and the one that eats the male would be the female.”
“You’re absolutely right, it is easy! I’ll take the two blackbirds. Then I’ll go look for the two flies.”
The elderly woman leaves the pet shop with the pair of blackbirds, but returns ten minutes later.
“I’ve got a little problem!” suggests the dismayed woman to the salesman.
“I can’t tell the sex of flies.”
“I see. And what would you like for me to do about it? I can’t tell them apart either. Go ask a fly salesperson.”
This woman buys the two blackbirds like a disciple in search of the truth.
We seek the truth by directing ourselves toward someone. They tell us: “You want to know how to tell the male from the female? I’ve got the answer!”
But it just so happens that they don’t know the truth at all. They tell us to go ask someone else.
And so from truth to truth, we relive our infantile experience, when we tried to verify the truth about sexuality. The only masturbation material at hand was a dictionary. There we looked up “sex” and they send us to “ovum.” Then we look up “ovum” and they send us to “sperm.” We look up “sperm” and they send us who knows where. In this manner, we feverishly cover the whole dictionary in one day without ever finding out about what it was we wanted to know.
The Neighbor’s Wallpaper.
A young married couple moves into a new apartment. Since the couple wants to redo the dining room wallpaper, they go to see a neighbor, who has a dining room the same size as theirs.
“Neighbor, we want to change the wallpaper in our dining room, just as you have. How many rolls of wallpaper did you buy?”
“Seven,” replies the neighbor kindly.
Based on this information, the young newlyweds buy expensive rolls of top quality wallpaper and begin to redress their walls. Upon finishing the fourth roll, the dining room is completely papered. Furious for having uselessly spent a fortune, they go back to see their neighbor.
“We followed your advice about the wallpaper, but we can’t understand why we’re left with three rolls of paper!”
“That happened to you, too?” answers the neighbor, surprised.
We humans are not all identical. Another person’s experience is not our own. His experience has certain virtues and defects for us.
Prior to giving a conference, I was approached by somebody who wanted to talk to me.
“I don’t have any time right now,” I said.
“Ok. But next time I come you can tell me what I need to do.”
“No, I can’t tell you what you should do,” I explained. “I can’t advise you because the solution to your problem has to come from you yourself. My solution is mine. The trick is to avoid being lazy! If I can take the time necessary to contemplate the solution to a problem, you can do so as well.”
The young couple should measure their walls before buying paper. Why ask the neighbor? Why ask him about his experience? Obviously they should ask him. His answer can be enriching, but at the same time we need to carry out our own act, to take our own measures. His word isn’t enough. And this is true not because the other wants to or can lie to us, rather because we are the other.
A pregnant woman asks her mother, “Mom, how will my delivery go?”
“When you open your legs, be careful not to raise them too much. Also, you don’t want to over-contract, but I did contract my abdomen and everything went ok. Just do exactly the same as I did, and everything will be fine.”
The daughter makes the same movements and they don’t work for her at all. It’s a catastrophe. What the mother did has absolutely no bearing on what the daughter must do. We need to understand that nobody, except we ourselves, can know how to bring our own child into this world. You can’t ask for advice!
We can, of course, try to learn about the experience of someone else:
“How did it go for you?”
“For me it went a certain way.”
Still, it’s impossible to say, “since it went that way for me, it will be the same for you.”
A young woman gave birth to a daughter in the seventh month of her pregnancy. She asked me why. I replied: “Ask your mother.” That’s what she did and her mother answered: “You were born prematurely, in the seventh month.” This mother transmitted her vital experience to her daughter, as though it were dogma. The daughter received the dogma and reproduces her mother’s life. There’s no difference; it’s an attack against life.
We need to be very careful in order to avoid working as others, especially our parents and, even worse, our friends and anybody else. We need to build our own experiences.
That’s the lesson I get out of this joke. It’s about a good piece of advice that should not be taken at face value as a result of mere laziness.
“Given that my brother acts in a certain way, I do the same: I imitate him. You must understand that I imitate him because he’s the preferred child and I want to be loved as much as he.”
Six Very Long Days.
A company’s personnel manager calls Sanchez’ old boss:
“Can you tell me exactly how long Mr. Sanchez worked for you?”
“Yes, he worked exactly six days.”
“What? Sanchez just now came to see me and told me he was with you for two years!”
“That’s right, but you asked me exactly how long he worked for me.”
I apply this to myself. If I had truly worked the entire time I’ve given myself, I’d be able to levitate by now. I’d be ten feet off the floor, legs crossed, full of joy, emitting luminous rays and saying: “Don’t worry about a thing; don’t be anguished; give me your anguish and I’ll give you happiness. Give me your money and I’ll give you security; possess nothing; when you have nothing, you’re secure. There you have the truth; give me your being, because I am being.
To arrive at this point, I’d have needed to work on it my entire life.
In reality, if I had wished to become what I truly wanted, I’d have needed to work on it my entire life. But I was lazy… incredibly lazy. As a result of my laziness I didn’t develop myself as much as I’d have liked.
I advise young people who wish for something to apply themselves immediately, because we have the unfortunate tendency to waste a lot of time and fool ourselves. We tell ourselves: “I’m working” when the truth is we’re not. “I’m meditating” when the truth is we don’t meditate, but rather think about everything under the sun. “I’m doing this or that” but the truth is we’re not doing anything. We don’t do anything we want!
Here’s a little piece of advice: think about what you want to do and do it immediately. Right now, put your future in the present!
“Some day I’ll start saving and investing.”
“Don’t do it some day; do it immediately!”
“I’m going to go to the movies…”
“Do it now!”
“I’m going to get married…”
“Do it right away!”
“I’m going to get my emotional life together…”
The Tamer Tamed.
One guinea pig says to another, “I’ve got the doctor tamed. Every time I press this button, he gives me a piece of cheese.”
One For All and All For One.
A sultan spends the night in his harem of three hundred women. As he observes a dancer and listens to his favorite music, he whispers in the ear of the closest concubine: “Your hair is the moon over the desert. Your eyes are stars. Your hips are an oasis. Your lips are a spring of fresh water in the dunes. Pass these words on to the woman next to you!”
The sultan thinks it’s sufficient to court one woman in order to seduce them all. Although he saves himself a lot of effort, he errs by not seeing the difference between one woman and another.
We make the same huge mistakes by thinking what we say to one person can be extended to another two, four, fifty, or sixty. The message we transmit to one person isn’t the same as that which we transmit to another. It’s always different.
Gurdjieff, the celebrated master who taught around 1915, had two disciples, Luc Dietrich and René Daumal, two great French writers. Daumal had tuberculosis. Gurdjieff advised him to make love once a year, and Dietrich to make love to a different woman every day. In those days, AIDS didn’t exist. For an entire year, poor Daumal was going mad with anguish, whereas poor Dietrich had to go to great lengths every day to find a new woman to bring home. He couldn’t go on. Each of them lived tortured lives. It didn’t matter that each had received a different command.
What the teacher says to one person isn’t necessarily valid for another.
We need to realize that each person is different, that words are different, that voice inflections are different. For example, in theater, a bad actor always uses the same tone, the same rhythm, and the same inflections, regardless of who he’s speaking to. A good actor, on the other hand, plays with all these elements. He adapts each dialogue to the other, whether it be to reply in the same manner (loud when the other speaks loudly, soft when the other speaks softly), or in contrasting fashion.
In the course of a conversation, the other can be aggressive and you can, too. Or the other is aggressive and you receive them gently, evasively or with indifference. To each one of his propositions there correspond thousands of possible responses, so the choice of response is always made as a function of the proposition.
In those terrible families where the members have their voices limited to one tone, one rhythm, and one timber, it’s frightening! Whether laughing or crying, screaming or whispering, they never pronounce a single word louder or faster than another. They always use the same rhythm, with no spirit of adaptation. They oblige everyone to adapt themselves to them. They’re tedious professionals. When they arrive, everyone must adapt themselves to their rhythm, their deafness, their narrow mind. They’re deplorable.
To be born in such a home is the equivalent of suffering in hell, because you won’t be heard. You feel neither understood nor loved.
One of the first things we should do every day is see the person we have by our side, listen to them and adapt ourselves immediately to them.
This poor sultan is far from that. I’d bet all his women are frigid. If he uses the same system for all of them, there can’t be pleasure in his harem.
A trucker stops at a border crossing.
“Anything to declare?” asks the Customs Agent.
“Absolutely nothing,” replies the trucker.
“And this?” asks the Customs Agent upon opening the trailer and seeing an elephant squeezed in between two slices of bread joined together by a rope.
“What’s the world coming to, if we can’t even put what we want in our sandwiches?” replies the trucker in disbelief.
It would seem that for the trucker, the elephant is merely a garnish for his sandwich. He sees nothing wrong with his conduct.
This joke reminds me of those people who always consider themselves to be innocent. They feel they have the right to do whatever they want, such as putting an elephant in their sandwich. They have a certain blindness that makes them fool themselves. They downplay what’s bad in themselves, thinking it inoffensive and blameless.
This is the case, for instance, of a friend who once asked me:
“Why is my wife leaving me after twelve years of marriage? Why is she taking the kids and why has she stopped loving me? It’s unbearable.”
“Did you ever think that maybe your marriage is unbearable for her as well?” I replied. “Your wife is telling the boy she’s lived with for twelve years: ‘I don’t love you, and I’m leaving with the kids.’ She’s also faced with a difficult situation.”
In this case, is the man really all that innocent? Doesn’t he have an elephant in his sandwich? In the end, he needs to put himself in his wife’s place and comprehend her suffering if he wants to resolve the matter. What has he done to her? Why is she reacting this way? Before thinking of himself, he should ask himself what’s the real problem she’s facing right now? These questions don’t have the goal of fixing everything, rather that of truly understanding and comprehending.
Otherwise, he’s undoubtedly playing the role of the innocent victim. He’s obviously at least partially responsible for the drama. In any drama, the responsibility is split between all the various actors. This man is fifty percent responsible for the fact that his wife doesn’t love him anymore. For what he’s done to her, he’s also fifty percent responsible for being absent so frequently.
The proof is that one of the man’s friends advised him to spend all of his afternoons at home. He followed that advise and his wife immediately became sick. She couldn’t bear it. She complained of his absence, then fell ill when she had him there at home.
The Lion’s Fleas.
A lady visits a lion show. The lion tamer, seeing she’s getting a little too close to the cages, suggests she be more prudent.
“Be careful, ma’am!”
“Why? Are your lions really all that dangerous?”
“No, but they have fleas.”
When we try to help those around us by giving them useful advice, we become a model that others want to imitate. If we do so with sincerity, speaking to the other and helping them is appropriate. The problem arises when those who want to listen to us and imitate us, by doing so, no longer go their own way. Lacan’s way is Lacan’s way, and Coluche’s way is Coluche’s way. They are the lions.
When we deal directly with the experts, we run no risk at all, because they’re not dangerous. Their students, however, are. The danger lies in poorly applied theories.
Gurdjieff was a lion. Perhaps many of his students were fleas. When we study with someone, we need to know in which category that person belongs. Let’s go directly to the lion! That’s what I always do. I go directly to see the person who lives what they teach. I look for living contact. We often tend to look for fleas in the long line of “kind organizers” of university knowledge, which is not the fruit of experience.
An Appreciated Disappearance.
“Good day, sir,” says a little man to the police officer at the station, “I came here yesterday to report the disappearance of my mother-in-law and implore you to find her.”
“Yes, I remember.”
“Well, don’t bother looking for her!”
“Why? Did your mother-in-law return?”
“No, but I’ve thought the matter over since then.”
Upon careful reflection, this man is satisfied with the disappearance of his mother-in-law. We suffer a lot when we lose certain things. Nevertheless, if we think about it a little, we should realize that everything we lose gives us an opportunity to make progress.
I suffered tremendously when my first wife left me after ten years together. Looking back, today I realize that if she hadn’t left, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere in life. Her departure was exactly what God had to send me. That which I lived tragically at the time should have been the greatest celebration of my life. Later, my ex-wife became an alcoholic. She had very marked self-destructive tendencies that didn’t go with my life at all. I would have ended up killing myself or landing who knows where, because back then I was much weaker than I am today. That was the way God wanted it. And it’s for this very reason I often say that certain losses are, in reality, blessings.
A friend of mine lost an eye. If he accepts this limitation, the loss can become a blessing for him. After his operation, we went out together and I noticed he had become profound, that much of his prior superficiality had broken off.
Before he called himself my disciple, but from one day to the next he truly became my teacher. We were talking with an old rabbi and, at a certain moment in the conversation, I said I’d give five years of my life to know Hebrew. The rabbi explained many things in the course of the conversation, playing with words I would have liked to comprehend. My friend reproached me, however, saying: “Never say you’re disposed to give up years of your life for anything! Life is the most precious thing we have, and instead of making such negative declarations, you should abandon other activities for those five years and commit yourself entirely to learning Hebrew. Life is not to be given away; it should be used for what we want to achieve; don’t complain, act!”
Sometimes we need to lose a part of ourselves, as the result of serious illness; other times we even need to suffer the death of a loved one to finally find ourselves.
Why Not Me?
A passing motorist grazes a pedestrian with his car. The latter runs after the former and, at the first red light, grabs him.
“You are a shameless pig!” says the man to the driver. “If you had even a trace of manners, you’d have stopped to apologize and check the harm you caused me. Then you’d have taken me to your house in your car and offered me a glass of port wine to help me recover. Finally, you would not have left me without first giving me at least a hundred dollars for my suffering.”
“You must be dreaming!” exclaims the driver. “Maybe some other motorist behaved this way with you?”
“No, not with me. But yesterday someone did with my sister!”
This joke is particularly poignant for me, since I always wanted to be my sister.
She was the favorite of the family. She had everything: dresses, a grand piano, friends, poetry… She lived the good life. As for me, I had nothing. I wasn’t wanted; she was. She was beautiful, whereas I was Cyrano with the big nose. She had; I had nothing.
I’ve realized that, just like me, many human beings were not the center of attention in their families.
Perhaps Mom was affectionate with her father, so then Grandpa was the center of attention. Or Dad had been crushed by his own father whom he’d admired and this Grandpa monopolized all the attention, or maybe it was the Great Grandpa, given that he was of nobility or a multi-millionaire or something, or my sister or my brother…
At any rate, since I’m not the center of attention, I see myself obligated to always want to be in the other’s place and live their life. I’m never satisfied with what I have. I don’t know my own true nature. I don’t know who I am. I constantly need company. I become frightened when I’m alone, since I’m empty. I’m nobody.
Perhaps I’ll remain married for ten years, simply to have someone at my side… someone whose maintenance costs me dearly, who eats more than I do… I’d be better off getting a dog to resolve the problem…
In other instances, for fear of solitude, we have children and we transmit our emptiness to them. Or we surround ourselves with friends to fill our time and, when he have no friends, we create an illness to fill our lives, or we devote ourselves to some activity that has nothing to do with us.
I once met a man who didn’t know what to do with his life. Psychologically, he wasn’t exactly in equilibrium. At last, he discovered… he wanted to be a therapist.
“I’ve found my way,” he once blurted out to me, in monotone. “I want to cure others, because I understand people. The story is always the same: we repeat what we lived in infancy; that’s it. If your mother didn’t want you, you’re going to look for a woman with whom you’ll live out the exact same situation. It’s elementary.
A motorist goes to see his mechanic.
“I’d like you to change my horn. It should be about four or five times louder.”
“Why do you want such a loud horn?” asks the employee.
“Because I don’t have any brakes.”
Put Yourself in My Place.
An ambulance arrives on the scene of an accident where a small convertible sports car has just crashed into a tree. Unlike his passenger, the driver had fastened his seatbelt. Now, he’s alive whereas the woman riding with him is lying thirty feet from the car with her skull crushed.
“Very good, young man, you’re safe and sound because you fastened your seatbelt,” the paramedic congratulates him. “You should be happy!”
“Happy?” responds the driver. “How can you say that? You’re just not in my place. Go see what that woman has in her hand and you’ll see I have absolutely no reason whatsoever to be happy!”
This reminds me of how we so often tell someone how everything is going just fine in their lives and they should rejoice and be satisfied. Nevertheless, instead of agreeing, the person will reply: “Sure, that may seem great to you, but you don’t know how I feel.”
As long as we’re not in the other’s place, we can never truly know how they feel. What seems marvelous to us may be catastrophic for them.
So long as we don’t dance with the other, we’ll never know what they feel when they dance. To really know the other, we need to penetrate them, to put ourselves in their situation.
Today a childhood friend and I went to eat in a restaurant. As soon as we sat down, he took out a cigarette.
“I hope it’s ok to smoke here,” he commented. “Is smoking allowed here? Sure it is: there are ashtrays on the tables.”
“Instead of worrying so much about the house rules, you should be more concerned with what the other customers think,” I replied.
“There’s no problem. Our table is far enough from them,” he said serenely, taking a look around.
“Look! Let’s get something straight here. Even though we haven’t seen each other in many years, I still exist, and I can’t stand cigarette smoke.”
“But that doesn’t count with you! We’re buddies!”
“Oh yeah? So that means buddies don’t exist?”
“Of course they do!”
In fact, he never stopped talking about himself all afternoon. We hadn’t seen each other in more than twenty years and he never once asked what had become of me…
After a prolonged, exhausting three-hour battle, the whole family is finally seated in place in their car and leaves on vacation. After barely ten minutes on the road, Fredrick, the six-year-old, blurts out: “Dad, I’m thirsty.”
During the ensuing hour, the child carries on his painful cries. Fed up, the father stops at a restaurant.
“Ok, what do you want to drink?” asks the father of his son. “Lemonade? Soda? A cold glass of milk?”
“Instead of that, could we get some candy?” replies the child.
The Golden Dream.
Two friends meet after not seeing each other for several years.
“So, did you finally marry that filmmaker you were dating the last time I saw you?” asks the first.
“Yes,” replies the second.
“And the Mercedes he promised you as a wedding gift?”
“He delivered as promised; hold on a second while I call her. She’s over there playing in the sandbox. Mercedes, come here; there’s someone I want you to meet.”
She got her Mercedes. Although unexpected, her situation doesn’t seem too bad to her; she’s married and has a daughter. A child is a treasure.
An Exemplary Model.
“You don’t even have an ounce of willpower,” says a woman to her husband. “Your friend John quit smoking the same day he resolved to do so. With you, that’s out of the question!”
“What? No will power? We’ll see about that! From now on, I’ll sleep someplace else and nothing will make me change my mind!”
The husband then goes out and buys a couch for his office and, for the next three weeks he locks himself in every night.
Later, his wife knocks on his office door.
“What do you want?” asks the husband.
“I wanted to tell you… your friend John… has started smoking again.”
We cite an example as a reference point, but then after a while the person changes and our reference point shifts.
Many people say: “You need to act a certain way, because everybody says so.” But who is this “everybody” that “says so?” When, where, and why have they said so? Go to the source. Verify your information with precision. That’s a process we should never overlook, since we so often come to conclusions starting with unfounded information or premises.
Sometimes, one of the members of a couple judges and reaches conclusions without listening to or asking the opinion of the other. Check your information! When you judge someone, tell them, “this is what I think of you. Give me your opinion, before I reach my conclusion and react as a result of it.”
Learn to Cook!
“Dear,” begins a bankrupt businessman, “I’ve got a great idea that will save us a lot of money: learn to cook so we can get rid of the chef!”
“What? I’ve got an even better idea!” replies the wife. “Learn to make love and we can fire the chauffeur!”
This joke reminds me that when we criticize our partner, without fail they will criticize us as well. In love, if the other doesn’t satisfy us, we can be absolutely certain that we ourselves fail to satisfy them. Not even the smallest criticism has a place in true love. If it appears, it becomes mutual. Thus, if we scorn our spouse on certain grounds, they will scorn us on some other grounds. It’s impossible for us to be a prince or princess and the other a frog or toad. To think so is a delusion. A couple is an association of two individual accomplices.
Conversely, the best way to know if the other loves us is to ask ourselves if we love them. Reciprocity works this way, too. The other will undoubtedly demonstrate that they treat us exactly the same way as we treat them.
There are some extremely narcissistic beings that imagine their partner isn’t aware of their true feelings. They feel they’re the only ones with the authority to criticize, that their partner is incapable, and that maybe some day they will rise to their level.
I need to recognize that she probably doesn’t know how to cook, but also that I don’t know how to make love. That’s why the relationship isn’t working and the true motive for which she hasn’t become a good cook. On the other hand, I’m sure she can make a great sandwich for the chauffeur… divine snacks! It’s the hormone that manufactures all these relationships. When it circulates poorly, there’s no harmony and everything goes sour.
Some people tell me, “I can’t form a couple. Nobody loves me. Solitude pesters me endlessly. I can’t solve this problem. Nevertheless, I long to resolve it.”
What these people are really saying is: “I don’t love anybody. Solitude is quite convenient for me. I’m not interested in anybody else. They’re all rogues. Everybody just wants to take advantage of me, use me, and make me suffer. I’m not interested in anybody. No one can offer me enough.”
And that’s why we live in solitude and can’t find anybody. Once we’re ready for the other and prepared to love them, they will appear. The loved one will come knocking on our door.
When I made the movie The Mole, I needed one man without legs and another without arms. I’d found the latter, but not the former. I confidently declared: “This week he’ll come knocking at my door.” The following week, the legless man showed up. When I opened the door, I didn’t notice anything in particular, since the individual was standing up at a normal height.
“I’m the man you’re looking for!” he said.
“How’s that? You don’t seem to be missing your legs,” I commented.
“They’re false. The real ones were cut off. I’m a taxi driver. When I lost my legs, my wife and kids left me. I was left alone. After that, my only options were to break down or to take the initiative. I chose the latter: I didn’t allow myself to give up. I got prosthetic legs and worked hard in physical therapy. Today, I live alone and drive a taxi, and I’m here to work on this movie.”
The armless man, on the other hand, was a person surrounded with affection. He was a mariachi singer. He had ten kids and everybody appreciated him.
During the filming, the two men couldn’t get along. They couldn’t stand one another and insulted each other all the time. They couldn’t work together.
This anecdote confirms that when we’re capable of loving, the loved being will come knocking at our door. It’s all about vibrations. Likewise, regardless of where we are, when we’re ready to teach, the students will come knocking at our door.
When I presented my movie Holy Blood at the Festival of Cannes, people asked me why I hadn’t made any films in over eight years. I answered, “I did as Bodhidharma. I didn’t look for disciples. He sat in front of a wall and waited many years for one to show up. In my case, I didn’t look for a producer; I sat calmly at home and waited for one to come to me. After eight years, one did.”
When I was making The Sacred Mountain, the producer took off with four hundred thousand dollars. He left to buy a hotel in Israel. Since I was left penniless, the filming had to come to a halt. A friend of mine, Bob Taicher, asked me where I’d get the money to finish the movie. I answered, “I’ll ask God to send me four hundred thousand dollars wrapped in newspaper.”
And that’s just what I did. I didn’t move, rather just waited for the miracle to occur. Six weeks later Bob showed up. He was very excited and carried a package wrapped in newspaper. He gave me the package, which was filled with bills. He said: “My father is the biggest shoe salesman in the United States and I’ve decided to invest some money in your movie. I believe in you.”
The Golden Thorn.
A multimillionaire, while enjoying a bowl of fish chowder in a restaurant, gets a bone caught in his throat. Without a doubt he would have choked to death had it not been for the nimble fingers of a surgeon seated at the table next to him who fished the mortal bone out for him. When he regained his composure, the multimillionaire asked his savior:
“How much do I owe you?”
“I'd be more than happy if you gave me a tenth of the sum you were willing to give me one second before I saved you.”
Some people go to the doctor when they get sick, but once they’re healed, they don’t even bother to go and thank the person who treated them. The same happens to people who undergo therapy. Once they mature, they abandon their sessions, cut off all contact with the therapist and never return.
When we’re in trouble, we’d give anything to get out of the situation, but once we manage to get out of it, we don’t bother to offer anything at all to those who helped us.
Then there are even those people who don’t offer anything, even while they’re in the worst of difficulties. I once knew an impotent man who had consulted all the doctors in Paris without any luck whatsoever. Nobody could cure him. One day he came to see me and begged me to help him by reading the tarot for him. I understood his problem when I asked him:
“How much are you willing to pay for me to cure you of your impotence? Name the price of your cure.”
“Two hundred dollars,” he replied, after turning green and thinking about it for a moment.
“If you’re only willing to pay two hundred dollars, it’s because you don’t value your sexuality very much,” I explained. “As long as you fail to reconsider the matter, you’ll never solve your problem.”
Christ explains this very clearly when he runs into a wealthy man who wants to follow him. He tells the wealthy man: “Give me everything you have and then you can follow me.”
“Your husband’s health has weakened considerably,” says the doctor to the sick man’s wife. “I’m going to write a prescription for a disgusting tasting drug that you must administer to him four times a day.”
“Until when, doctor?”
“Until the moment when your husband has enough strength to take the bottle, dash it to the ground, and squash it under foot.”
This joke reminds me of certain treatments of Pachita, a Mexican sorceress with whom I worked for several years. She healed everybody by means of cures that were often unbelievable.
One day, for instance, a man went to see her because he was beginning to go bald, and that caused him a great deal of depression. Baldness bothered him so much that he no longer wanted to live.
“Heal me, or I’ll kill myself! Make my hair come back!” begged the man.
Pachita was a great faith healer. She operated on livers, adjusted spinal columns, and did all kinds of things as amazing as those carried out by the Filipinos.
“I’ve got an infallible cure that will free you of your problem in no time at all,” she calmly replied.
All present were hanging on her words, curious to learn of this miracle cure because, for us, Pachita was a sort of goddess.
“All you have to do is mix a kilo of rat excrement with a liter of your own urine and a little olive oil. Mix this up into a paste to be applied to your head,” added Pachita.
Happy, the man effusively thanked her and left, determined to apply the treatment without the slightest delay. Once outside, he realized the difficulty of the treatment. He had no idea how to get a hold of a kilo of rat poop. He looked all over with no luck. Finally, someone suggested, he go to a laboratory and buy a kilo of white lab rats’ excrement. He followed the advice and mixed up the paste… Shortly thereafter, he returned to see Pachita, no longer depressed, but still balding.
“Did you follow my treatment?” asked the woman.
“I didn’t need to. I realized that going bald isn’t so bad,” answered the man.
In fact, the treatment was so repugnant he preferred not to try it. It turned him pensive.
I applied this principle to some friends who wanted to have a third child but couldn’t conceive. I advised them to carry out a certain psychomagical act extremely complex in nature, thinking all along, “this is going to annoy them so much that, to escape the situation, she will become pregnant before they even finish the act.”
The Smashed Watch.
Sarfana goes into the jeweler’s with a distraught look on her face. She shows the jeweler her watch, which is in terrible condition.
“Can you repair it?” she inquires.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think so, ma’am. What happened to your watch?” replies the jeweler thoughtfully.
“Well, I made the big mistake of letting it fall off in the street and a bus ran over it.”
“I think the big mistake you made was to go and pick it up.”
I dedicate this joke to the savage psychoanalysts of the world, and to those who read the tarot with a desire to help people, above which they really wish to become the new Christ or the new Virgin Mary.
We can help the world, or, better yet, someone, as long as that person hasn’t surpassed the limit beyond which we can do nothing for them. In that case, it’s the ego that wants to help. There are individuals who find themselves in conditions as sad as that of Sarfana’s watch. The bus ran over them. When a person has taken three hundred doses of LSD, they’re not coming back to reality, even if they went to Jung himself for treatment. Their brain has already exploded. The damage is irreversible.
Certain people are living dead. They’re smashed watches. It’s nothing more than vanity to want to help someone who can’t be helped with situations that have become impossible for them. So then, who’s to say that someone’s situation has become impossible?
I’ve become aware that certain psychoanalysts want to regulate the profession, to eliminate abuse. They affirm that occasionally, some colleagues will treat a patient for up to four years. For a five- to fifteen-minute session, they charge as much as fifty dollars. They make a fortune, well aware that they can’t cure the patient with psychoanalysis, since the the patient is psychotic.
As a result of a spinal chord lesion, a certain man ended up with an atrophied hand. I watched a guru perform a thousand mental exercises to return the man the use of his hand. The truth of the matter is that he couldn’t cure him because the damage was irreversible.
I also noticed how Pachita proceeded with irreversible lesions. A young ballerina went to see her after having been in an automobile accident that left her with a limp. This is a true story. Pachita treated her. She added a piece of bone to lengthen the ballerina’s leg. When the young woman arrived in New York, she called me, since I had been the one who suggested she see Pachita. “I’m back, and good as new,” she told me. I went to see her; she no longer walked with a limp… she walked on the ball of her foot.
In fact, Pachita cured her on a mental level. Her leg was still short. Pachita was a genius; she made the woman adapt her gait, and that gave her back her hope.
The Sugar and the Guru.
A mother visits a guru to ask him to speak with her son to get him to quit eating sugar. The guru listens to the woman’s petition and suggests she come back the following week. She does. At that moment, the guru turns to the boy and says: “Young man, stop eating sugar!”
Surprised at the brevity of the intervention, the woman asks the guru, “We had to wait a week for that? You could have said the same thing the first time we were here.”
“I made you wait a week because a week ago, I still ate sugar.”
When we seek advice, our choice of advisor requires rigorous attention.
During the course of a conference I briefly explained about psychomagic and one of those in attendance began to prescribe acts as I did. The results were predictably catastrophic. After the incident, I decided to write a book about the matter, in order for the discipline to be properly understood. It’s impossible to practice it if we’re not profoundly integrated in it.
Jacob goes to his doctor, who tells him: “bring me a flask of urine for testing.”
He comes back the next day with a three-liter bottle completely full of urine.
The doctor pays no attention to the quantity of urine in the bottle and orders the tests from the laboratory. Later, he concludes, “Sir, your urine is perfectly fine, you have nothing to worry about.”
As he’s leaving the doctor’s office, Jacob runs to the nearest payphone and calls his wife to report the results: “The doctor says the urine is perfectly fine. So I’m fine, you’re fine, the kids are fine, and grandma, too.”
Jacob had the doctor analyze his whole family all together in one fell swoop.
Some time ago, I dreamed that a teacher was giving me a philosophical examination. He demanded, “Summarize, in four words, everything you’ve learned up to now!”
I emitted the following four words: “permanent impermanence; nothing individual.”
In Jacob’s case, “nothing individual” means that if the family is in good health, then so is Jacob. But suppose the doctor had said, “You’re sick.” Then Jacob would have told his wife, “We’re all sick.”
Illness is collective, not individual. I have a little anecdote that illustrates this point:
A young woman with a daughter told me of the great difficulty the girl was having doing her necessities. A doctor examined the girl and found no signs of hemorrhoids. The woman came to me for advice. I asked the girl’s age. Seventeen months. Did she still use diapers all the time? Yes. My unconscious dictated the way to go: the girl needed to be freed of her diapers. I insisted, despite the young mother’s surprise and lack of comprehension. “It doesn’t matter that your daughter does her necessities anywhere,” I told her. “That’s just an inconvenience you need to deal with for a few days.”
The following week, the young mother came to thank me for my advice, which she had followed to the letter. From the first day, the girl had done her necessities… twelve times! The problem was solved. From that moment on, the girl began to ask her mother to spend more time with her. The young mother came back to see me and told me about it. When I asked her, the mother told me the girl was born prematurely, in the seventh month. I told her that the girl’s reaction was totally normal, that the girl needed a closer relationship with her mother, and therefore she should carry her around on her back, like the Indians.
She went out and bought a backpack to carry the girl around with her, but her daughter didn’t accept it. So I exposed her: “Evidently, your daughter’s not stupid. She doesn’t want to be packed in a backpack. She wants direct contact.”
I had forgotten to tell her to keep the girl in contact with her naked skin. I corrected the omission. It’s also interesting to note that I needed to insist on three separate occasions that the mother directly reach out to her daughter.
Later, the girl got better, but the story doesn’t end there. The young mother discovered she had problems with her daughter.
“The fact that your daughter has come into the world in the seventh month has to do with you,” I explained. “She was born early; you brought her into the world before her time. There’s a certain rejection on your part.”
“But what did I reject?”
“Ask your own mother!”
“My mother???” she asked me, stupefied.
“Yes, your mother! What was her problem with her own children?”
The woman confided to me that her mother hadn’t wanted her. The rejection was explicit.
During the glory years of communism in the Soviet Union, a worker arrives at the factory panting and confides in a co-worker:
“This morning something strange happened to me. I left home and, five minutes later, I realized I’d forgotten my lunch. I turned around and guess what I found when I got back home? My wife was in bed with the secretary of our neighborhood communist cell!”
“I was lucky: he didn’t see me! Otherwise, he’d have hit me with five years’ hard labor for espionage.”
Given my South American temperament, I’d have hoped that upon finding his wife in bed with someone else, the worker would have become offended and beaten the secretary… In fact, the same situations are lived out distinctly and provoke different reactions depending on where they occur.
When we’re exposed to or told about an event, it’s a good idea to always ask where the event took place, the era, the date, the geographic spot, in which civilization, under which political regime. If we’re not told where, when, and who, we can’t talk intelligently about the matter nor truly understand it, because the bases are too vague. On the other hand, one of our great errors in judgment rises from the fact that we don’t know how to deal with these notions systematically.
The chief of an African tribe has a beautiful daughter. A man falls madly in love with her and asks her father for her hand in marriage.
“If you want to marry my daughter, you need to prove your worthiness by passing three tests,” declares the chief.
“What are they?” asks the man impatiently.
“There’s a lion in the cage over there. You need to enter the cage, fight with the lion, and strangle him to death. If you do that, you’ll find a gorilla in the second cage; you don’t need to kill him, rather since he has a terrible toothache, you’ll need to pull the bad tooth that’s making him suffer.”
“And the third test?” asks the yearning lover.
“In the third cage you’ll find a frigid Englishwoman. You must enter the cage and give her an orgasm.”
The man rushes over to the first cage. Outside, a lot noise of combat and strange violence is heard. After a few minutes, the boy waveringly exits the cage carrying a lion in his arms. Without wasting a minute, he goes to the second cage to meet the gorilla. The combat becomes very violent until the moment when the gorilla is heard howling with pleasure.
“And now,” asks the young man, abandoning the second cage, “where’s the Englishwoman whose tooth I need to pull?”
This joke was told by Bagwan in India. Sometimes we don’t pay enough attention to the facts surrounding a problem we need to solve, causing us to make mistakes.
For example, for many years, the definitions of the various tarot cards have remained petrified. It’s said that The Devil carries a sword in his left hand and that, by holding it, the hand cuts itself off. It’s also said he has breasts and male sex organs. Many things are confirmed even though we really haven’t paid much attention to the details. It’s as if we pulled a healthy tooth from the frigid Englishwoman and gave the gorilla an orgasm.
If we observe the tarot card closely, we’ll see that The Devil isn’t carrying a sword. The object in his hand has a line in the middle; in one extreme, we can see a line that runs one way whereas in the other the line is shorter and seems to close. You could say the object is a compass.
On the other hand, when we look at this character’s sex organs, we don’t find a phallus at all. It looks more like some sort of spider. We could say that it’s the male sex organ, but it can also be said that it’s some sort of image of a terrifying female sex organ.
We can’t really confirm anything about the arcane. To read someone’s cards, we need to recall the meaning of the arcane. Then the cards can be interpreted according to what’s suitable to the situation.
The same holds true when I come in contact with someone. I could behave according to what I had been told about the person beforehand, or I could establish my contact directly based upon what I perceive of that person.
If I opt for the second choice, I’ll observe the person from head to toe. I’ll try to perceive them in their entirety and from there, I’ll create my own image of that person. Then we’ll be able to truly communicate with each other, without letting ourselves be mutually impressed by our titles or our business cards.
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Last updated: March 8, 2005. Copyright ©2002-2005 by Claymont Publishing Company.