Where were you a year ago, on the eve of 2016?
Were you alone? Were you partying? Were you watching a firecracker spectacle from your kitchen balcony? Wherever you were, 365 days have gone by and the earth has completed a cycle around the sun. The celebratory nature of this annual milestone (or the lack thereof for those of us who spend it alone) creates memory, so that we can readily envision where exactly we were a year ago and gauge the duration of time that has elapsed. From our humble micro-cosmic viewpoint, we gain a glimpse into the grand cycle of a larger cosmos.
In 2017, the Be Community will superimpose its teaching onto this cycle. We will follow the progression of nature month by month, the way medieval artists followed farming activities and documented their monthly labors. After all, the symbolic consequence of man’s losing Paradise was labor, a labor that would change throughout the year with each change of season. “Because thou hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee not to eat,” says God to Adam, “cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life...” So while the twelve labors of the month are historical documentations of rural activities in medieval times, they can just as well be seen as the symbolic consequence of losing Paradise and the efforts required to regain it (for more about this connection, read What is Paradise?).
In the Chartres cathedral depiction of the Labors of the Month, January is a three-faced deity that ushers in the new year by opening a gate (see featured image atop this post). One face looks back at the previous year, another looks forward to the coming year, and a third looks out at us. This middle face, looking at the present moment, is our starting point. “Today is what it is because yesterday was what it was,” said George Gurdjieff; “If you want tomorrow to be different, you must make today different.”
Where am I today? My ability to remember myself is neither more nor less than the cumulative efforts I invested in self-remembering in the past year. If I intentionally labored to minimize unnecessary talk, then today I am better able to remember myself while speaking. If I intentionally labored to curb haste, then today I am better able to remember myself while moving. And while I will still have to work on maintaining these gains through 2017, standing my ground will be easier than conquering it. The face that looks back at the past year perceives this. It enables the face that looks forward to deduce that whatever I hope to gain in the forthcoming year will come at a similar price. The middle face concludes that if I want the forthcoming year to be any different than the previous one, I must formulate an aim today.
This is our labor for January. Standing at the threshold of 2017 with a 365-day vista in both directions, where do you wish to head in the forthcoming year? Which habits prevented you from self-remembering during 2016? Does any single habit stand out as an overdue area of work? “Aim must be clearly formulated, understood, and remembered,” said Peter Ouspensky. “ Only then is it possible to come to results.” Do not hurry with this formulation. Make sure it is rooted in self-observation, and that your aim originates from something you’ve actually seen about yourself in a moment of self-consciousness. The aim you choose will be adjusted monthly, as the community progresses from one labor to the next.
Share your aim in the comment section below. (For those that have undertaken a research project around the Labors of the Month, this is also where to post your findings on the month of January)