George Adie recalls a verse from Rudyard Kipling (Sunday 13 November 1988 III)

These exchanges are from the dinner of Sunday 13 November 1988. The first question was from Ludmilla. She said that she had been doing the washing-up with a steady rhythm, when she saw someone else. She saw that r arose in her an assumed superiority and a criticism of the other woman.

“What is your attitude towards it? How would you describe it?”

Ludmilla replied that she had been pleased that she had a nice rhythm and wasn’t rushing.

“But you suggested that there was some criticism of someone else?”

The other person was in a hurry, said Ludmilla, just as she has been so often.

“Well, how are you going to make use of it? Do you bring this as a sort of penance, or what?”

I have never admitted to myself, replied Ludmilla, that there is this sort of process of superiority.

“It’s not really clear why you wish to bring it.”

“I have never seen it before?” Ludmilla was now beginning to question herself.

“Really,” asked Mr Adie: “you’ve never seen it before? You wish to understand how damaging it is, how in the past you must have upset the work very much?”

“I hadn’t thought about it like that,” said Ludmilla.

“How else to think about it? Even if you don’t see it, other people do. What is the feeling when you see it?”

Ludmilla said that she had a shock, but it turned into something positive later.

“And how does it feel?”

“It’s almost like a sort of remorse.”

“We have to be very careful about how we bring things,” counselled Mr Adie. “There is a definite danger in noticing something undesirable and sort of scouring oneself as if there were some benefit in that, or making a public apology. That is not our work. There is a danger in it. I seek to right myself by making this noble confession. I want to know very clearly exactly why I bring it.”

“When I sat here,” said Ludmilla: “I thought, I don’t want this in future. It might grow if I say nothing.”

“If you are to understand it,” replied Mr Adie: “then the feelingis necessary. But in what you have said, the feeling isn’t very clear. It is very necessary that I know that, otherwise there is a possibility of making a confession out of it all, or even rectifying myself my admitting it. I have to admit it to myself. As far as others are concerned, all I can do is wish to be different for their sake, not only for mine.”

“I was once or twice quite horrified in London with one or two people who had been in the Work for years and years, and they would bring the most outrageous observations about themselves with a broad smile, and a nice smooth tone of voice. It was really distressing. I mean, that’s an extreme example of what we need to avoid.”

“But you have two separate things there. You have your own satisfaction, and then you have your criticism of others. Two things. And then, of course, there is the effect of the work on that: the external effect. If that adds to it, good. Good.”

Bob said that he had two clear experiences of being too tense, and having a poor attitude towards his work.

“In what way?” asked Mr Adie.

Bob replied that he had not been giving it his best.

“Maybe. That is interesting. You do something to get it done, perhaps because it’s quicker or easier, or you don’t want to be on that job with this person. It means that when a little snag crops up, instead of being more interested still, a sort of dreary reluctance begins.”

“Yes,” Mr Adie continued: “I am glad you’ve seen that. It isn’t your standard at all. You can turn out something quite beautiful just like that, but today you turned out something not quite rectangular, ready to split at any moment.”

“If I go half the afternoon with nothing to show, I have to take it seriously. I have to adjudicate: am I doing it too poorly or too well? Where is the right medium?”

“To begin with, when one comes to the work, one is more normal. Then, in the work different new relations are established.         That causes some very interesting complications. But every now and then something falls away. That is a sign that some work has been done. Maybe not a great deal, but it can make a difference, and that is a relief. It may not last very long, but if I take it the right way, even a small opening can give me a great deal.”

Now Alex, whose question at lunch was noted here, , brought another question: “At lunch time, when you suggested I stop every five minutes, something in me really warmed to that idea. It was a marvellous thought, and I really wanted to try it. I did, and I found the whole attitude to the task changed. I did miss a few five minutes, but the nature of the entire attitude changed … although I saw that there were things to be done, it didn’t distract me as much, because I wanted this time to myself. That was the difference from this morning, because this morning I still think it was more “a good idea” than a task I took warmly to. After lunch, the whole idea touched me very much. I felt I could deal with things. I noticed I missed one of the five minutes once, and when I looked back, I saw what took me, it was a bit of a challenge, something to think about and I got completely engrossed in it. And now I know that that kind of activity takes me. I knew that in a way before, but this highlighted it. Because I took a different attitude to the task, the whole afternoon went differently.”

Mr Adie was very pleased. “So you see the interval is such that you can almost remember from one point to the next, so that it is there, and then it is here again. I almost have the experience of two aims simultaneously. I have to have the aim to do this job, but also the aim to remember myself. And these two aims almost come together, making possible a division of attention there. It doesn’t stop this computer in the head, but even the ordinary head works differently: it has less frills about it, it is much better directed. Comes to a point.”

“I feel the work went very differently, because of the different attitude,” added Alex. “If I could have some of that in life it would be something.”

“You could try and stop for five seconds every minute, for some definite period. Five seconds is quite a long time. You can run a long way in five seconds. Fifty-five seconds in the minute for the job is considerable.” Mr Adie then changed the tack of the answer:

“Kipling was a jingo, but he had this rather interesting verse. “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, yours is the earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more – you’ll be a man my son!” Well, it’s very jingo, but it’s rather interesting. He came quite near to experiencing something true, with his colourful poetry.”

Joseph Azize, 8 April 2018

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