A Personification of Difficulty

A Personification of Difficulty

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

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

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

From Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart

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Once someone who was considered to be a good-for-nothing by all said of himself, “don’t think I am absolutely useless. I can at least serve as an example. As the spiritual director in the story explains, in the total absence of evil around, we have less opportunity to know the difference between good and evil. In that sense even the presence of bad tempered persons has tremendous pedagogical value for us.

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