The Blessing Called Getting Knocked Off Your Horse

For the longest time, perhaps as long as you can remember, you’ve been riding along on your horse, heading in this direction or in that one, going toward this place or that place. All without a hitch.

Yes, sometimes you’ve crossed some scrub grass or clanked down on some hard pebbles or almost lost your trot on some loose sand, but each time your horse and you nimbly adjusted and went on as if nothing much had happened. Had someone asked you afterward whether there had been any incident along the way, you might have forgotten to mention it.

You know how this story is going to go, don’t you? Likely you do and you don’t. Well, one day out of the blue you get knocked of your horse.

Perhaps your horse gets up quickly and, spooked, runs off without you. Or perhaps you show some preternatural strength of the kind you didn’t you know you had and, restraining yourself, you refuse to get back on the horse. Something tells you not to and this time you listen. Either way, you’re horseless, ergo directionless, ergo also placeless.

This moment I call an “existential opening,” also an “uncanny blessing,” a moment, that is, that is the condition of possibility for being truly available to a matter of ultimate concern. Now everything may change for you.


What does “just going along on your horse” mean? Nothing but unexaminedly and therefore unconsciously following some script or other: going to school after school, taking job after job, taking up career after career, presuming calling after calling, pursuing relationship after relationship, raising child after child, tasting pleasure after pleasure, engaging in activity after activity. The mystic Gurdjieff would describe this as the life of an “automaton.” He would say that you cannot yet be and that you cannot yet do.

Yet something almost inexplicably marvelous happens when, having been knocked sideways off our horse, you do not get right back on it. And what is that? A painful crack in your being opens like a sinewy thread and out come ultimate questions that may first transfix you before, should you stay with them while nurturing them, they’re able to transform you.

That’s what.