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Series I - Chapter 64 - 'The Flame and the Smoke'

Series I - Chapter 64 - 'The Flame and the Smoke'

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Commentaries on Living

IT HAD BEEN warm all day and it was a trial to be out. The glare of the road and of the water, already harsh and penetrating, was made more intense by the white houses; and the earth that had been green was now bright golden and parched. The rains would not come for many months. The little stream had dried up and was now a winding ribbon of sand. Some cattle were in the shade of the trees, and the boy who was looking after them sat apart, flinging stones and singing in his loneliness. The village was some miles away, and he was by himself; he was thin and underfed, but cheerful, and his song was not too sad.

Beyond the hill was the house, and we reached it as the sun was going down. From the roof one could see the green tops of the palms, stretching in an unending wave to the yellow sands. The palms cast a yellow shade, and their green was golden. Beyond the yellow sands was the green-grey sea. White waves were crowding on to the beach, but the deep waters were quiet. The clouds over the sea were taking on colour, though the sun was setting far away from them. The evening star was just showing herself. A cool breeze had come up, but the roof was still warm. A small group had gathered, and they must have been there for some time.

"I am married and the mother of several children, but I have never felt love. I am beginning to wonder if it exists at all. We know sensations, passions, excitements and satisfying pleasures, but I wonder if we know love. We often say that we love, but there is always a withholding. Physically we may not withhold, we may give ourselves completely a gift; but even then there is a withholding. The giving is a gift of the senses, but that which alone can give is unawakened, far away. We meet and get lost in the smoke, but that is not the flame. Why is it that we have not got the flame? Why is the flame not burning without smoke? I wonder if we have become too clever, too knowing to have that perfume. I suppose I am too well read, too modern and stupidly superficial. In spite of clever talk, I suppose I am really dull."

But is it a matter of dullness? Is love a bright ideal, the unattainable which becomes attainable only if the conditions are fulfilled? Has one the time to fulfil all the conditions? We talk about beauty, write about it, paint it, dance it, preach it, but we are not beautiful, nor do we know love. We know only the words.

To be open and vulnerable is to be sensitive; where there is a withholding, there is insensitivity. The vulnerable is the insecure, the free from tomorrow; the open is the implicit, the unknown. That which is open and vulnerable is beautiful; the enclosed is dull and insensitive. Dullness, like cleverness, is a form of self-protection. We open this door, but keep that one closed, for we want the fresh breeze only through a particular opening. We never go outside or open all the doors and windows at the same time. Sensitivity is not a thing you get in time. The dull can never become the sensitive; the dull is always the dull. Stupidity can never become intelligent. The attempt to become intelligent is stupid. That is one of our difficulties, is it not? We are always trying to become something - and dullness remains.

"Then what is one to do?"

Do nothing but be what you are, insensitive. To do is to avoid what is, and the avoidance of what is is the grossest form of stupidity. Whatever it does, stupidity is still stupidity. The insensitive cannot become the sensitive; all it can do is to be aware of what it is, to let the story of what it is unfold. Do not interfere with insensitivity, for that which interferes is the insensitive, the stupid. Listen, and it will tell you its story; do not translate or act, but listen without interruption or interpretation right to the end of the story. Then only will there be action. The doing is not important, but the listening is.

To give, there must be the inexhaustible. The withholding that gives is the fear of ending, and only in ending is there the inexhaustible. Giving is not ending. Giving is from the much or the little; and the much or the little is the limited, the smoke, the giving and taking. The smoke is desire as jealousy, anger, disappointment; the smoke is the fear of time; the smoke is memory, experience. There is no giving, but only extending the smoke. Withholding is inevitable, for there is nothing to give. Sharing is not giving; the consciousness of sharing or giving puts an end to communion. The smoke is not the flame but we mistake it for the flame. Be aware of the smoke, that which is without blowing away the smoke to see the flame.

"Is it possible to have that flame, or is it only for the few?"

Whether it is for the few or the many is not the point, is it? If we pursue that path it can only lead to ignorance and illusion. Our concern is with the flame. Can you have that flame, that flame without smoke? Find out; observe the smoke silently and patiently. You cannot dispel the smoke, for you are the smoke. As the smoke goes, the flame will come. This flame is inexhaustible. Everything has a beginning and an ending, it is soon exhausted, worn out. When the heart is empty of the things of the mind, and the mind is empty of thought, then is there Love. That which is empty is inexhaustible.

The battle is not between the flame and the smoke, but between the different responses within the smoke. The flame and the smoke can never be in conflict with each other. To be in conflict, they must be in relationship; and how can there be relationship between them? The one is when the other is not.