So, now that we’ve discussed the first line of work, let’s touch on the second line of work: take the first line — work for the self — and the psychological ideas – i.e. observing yourself, recording your own mechanical-ness, multiplicity, etc. – and turn the focus outward to your “essence friends”. School adopted the term “essence friends” as a way to identify fellow students. It also indicates a more exclusive and precious relationships than your little “life” relationships; after all other “sleeping” people will not demand from you anti-mechanical efforts; your life relationships aren’t helping you to “evolve”. Your “life” relationships keep you asleep.
Soon you see in others what you observe in yourself. Therefore when you reflect back to your “classmates” their “mechanical” qualities, you are doing the second line of work. You are “helping” your “essence friends” to awaken! You are demanding that they recognize and break free of their mechanical-ity/false personality/multiplicity for a moment, right? Or, the savvy seeker might say that you are adding your voice to the chorus — in deference to the voices of teachers – and contributing to the shaping of good “students” who will increasingly turn over their little, insignificant, cyclical lives to “school”. If we are all mechanical, then why not become machines that work for the greater good of “school”. At least then we have a chance at evolution.
In a typical scenario of “second line of work” one of your “essence friends” stands up in class and says something like, “I need some help with my boss.” Maybe his/her boss expects that person to stay late every night and keeps asking about the commitment on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You offer feedback, or advice, mainly using the “school” ideas of observation, false personality, multiple Is, etc., occasionally throwing in some common sense from “life” having had “known” this person for a while (albeit mainly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and only in contrived and monitored “discussions” and environments orchestrated and controlled by “teachers”). In this case, of course, the “help” would begin with the “school” is “private”, “just for you” brand of “help” and then careen into the “maybe if you tried harder” brand – get to work early, be an exemplary employee, be in a state of “external considering” (which means, simply put, functioning through the lens of “what can I do for you?” as opposed to the “internal considering” lens of what can I get from this.)
Given some time school begins to marinate its students in an idea called radiations – my limited understanding of radiations is this: the energy we put out into the world reflects either fineness or coarseness. Fine radiations are those of thinking high and fine thoughts, feeling gratitude for your good fortune, etc. Coarse radiations might include stewing in complaints, feeling self-righteous, indignant, self-pity, etc. We were taught that the world reflects back to us the inner radiations we project out to the world. Thus another neurosis-induced prison begins to take root, as we begin to fear these “coarse” states of being and that we are projecting them out. If your boss is giving you a hard time, it is your fault for putting out the radiations that would elicit his unreasonable demands.
As you can imagine, second line of work can run the gamut from compassionate, loving and helpful, to annoying, infuriating and – at its worst – a feeding frenzy of humiliation; in my experience most times fellow students offered sincere and compassionate feedback to their “essence friends”, especially in the early days of school. But the feeding frenzy takes root when souls become increasingly desperate for approval and acceptance; like children aching to get a nod of approval from a parent figure.
I recall one scenario in which one “student’s” alcoholic mother was visiting; like a good “student” he had come to class, but he knew that she was back in his apartment drinking. He asked for help, understandably afraid that she might hurt herself or trash the apartment while he was in class. Never mind school’s do it or die insistence that all students attend class come hell or high water — alcoholic mother visiting, or not, you show up. Never mind that this good student, showed up understandably worried and asking for help. In return school reamed him out emotionally: how could you leave her alone in the apartment? That’s dangerous! Why didn’t you prepare for this before she showed up? Blah, blah, blah. Teachers, of course, initiated the verbal lashing, and, we, his “essence friends”, took the cue and picked up the ball chiming into a chorus of blame and disgrace.
I sat there mute, awake to the feeding frenzy and horrified by it. I imagined standing and saying, “This isn’t helpful. Don’t you think he knows that it’s dangerous to leave his drunk mother at home? Isn’t that why he stood and asked for the help? Why do you suppose he came to class?” I did not stand up against this chorus of soul-ripping freaks. In the moment, I recognized that the “help” was fucked and I was not completely hypnotized; but I have never stopped regretting that I lacked the courage to speak up. I also ignored the red light indicated by fear of speaking up. Instead, I watched as this student shrunk and apologize.
“I know, I know,” he would reply. “What should I do?”
“If you know then, why didn’t you (FILL IN WITH ACUSATION)” came the Greek chorus o’ shame, on and on and on and on.
This brand of help becomes increasingly typical the longer one is in school. I recall times when Robert would challenge us to be more confrontational with each other. His insistence would sometimes ring an almost combative tone to it. Now that I know more about school’s true history, it rings with distant echoes of the San Francisco branch, i.e. Alex Horn school of yore; the one in which its enlightened leadership encouraged the men to fight each other — for starters. If you can stomach the insanity of it, you can visit David Archer’s Supping with Alex to get a first-hand account of the Alex Horn days. Thanks to Archer’s snarky humor, it is a horrifyingly, ludicrous and hysterical read chronicling what I imagine to be California cult culture in the 1970s.
Fortunately, my class never devolved to the point of fist-i-cuffs, but I can remember moments in which I added some of my own “wisdom” into the mix when a fellow student was asking for help and getting that nod of approval from Robert. Nothing felt better than the moment where I got the approving teacher nod and especially from Robert. I felt as though I really must be getting somewhere. I can see things about this person that s/he cannot and Robert recognizes that. I remember noting, at a certain point, that most of the time when I stood to comment, the teachers would call on me, whereas others might stand a long time, increasingly agitated and anxious to say something. Sometimes the topic of discussion would be waved away before those others got to speak. I felt very special that the teachers often welcomed my comments, as though they saw in me some real potential, some wisdom, some leadership qualities – given some perspective, time and more knowledge I now wonder if this was really something to be proud of.
School paints its students a certain way, hanging labels like ” in self will” , “precious”, “vain”, etc. We responded. Then we felt pleased with ourselves for it.