In the end he ran away. Literally. I stood at the door and watched him hurry down the pathway and beyond the hedge, as if he were late for his next appointment. A few days later he left a message to say he would not be returning. Robert was an engaging character: erudite, highly educated and a master of language. Unfortunately, as far as his development process was concerned, his intellect (or rather his cleverness) was his downfall. Karaj highlighted it many times to him, but it wasn’t enough.
I learnt a lot working with him. A fatherly figure, he supported me in my writing and my development, and his presence in the group taught me valuable lessons. He was often the catalyst for moving the group forward because of his eagerness to get into the garden and start digging. He was a fountain of knowledge with a great appreciation for nature. I remember us laughing together uncontrollably, and our conversations on the parent–child relationship helped us both in our respective family roles.
But he never truly surrendered to the work we were doing. He undoubtedly benefitted, yet there were times when it was clearly difficult for him, as if abandoning his intellect – even if only momentarily – could not possibly have any advantages. He clung on too proudly and too stubbornly, using it to undermine others’ observations or challenges. Here is a good example, taken from the journal post, ‘Different Ways Of Supporting Each Other’:
George challenged Robert’s religious fervour from the valid standpoint of a lapsed catholic. Robert objected to George’s wagging finger and responded that George should not argue about religion with him because he could easily defeat him in any theological debate. Here was Robert’s problem in a nutshell. His inflated impression of himself felt challenged on an intellectual level, at a time when George’s point had been anything but that. He had been trying to make clear to Robert that he did not necessarily need the catholic church, with all its teachings and rituals, in order to live the life he wants to lead. Instead of hearing this, Robert felt assaulted and immediately blocked George’s support. This should have been a signal to us all that Robert is not ready for the next step on his journey.
In that same post, and related to a completely different matter, I wrote the following: Robert has a high opinion of himself. Maybe this is why he makes the same mistakes […] over and over again, because he assumes he cannot be wrong. Wrong.
The world needs intellect, but it also needs humility. Surrender, in this context, does not mean abandoning everything. It means stepping back from who we are, in order to see everything more clearly. Astronauts encounter an intense version of this when they look back at the earth from space. It’s referred to as the Overview Effect and for many of them it is life-changing. We are able to experience something similar by accepting that there may be a better way than the one we hold on to so tightly. There is no need to go into space for that. Just let go sometimes.