The More Words, The Less Meaning

“The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you’ve gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?”  ― Zhuangzi

There are times I can be quite chatty (and possibly obnoxious and overbearing).  But I wonder if maybe the reason that I talk so much is that I am trying vigorously to communicate something for which words do not exist.  Something that can only be felt in the deepest part of being.  Something that goes beyond words and their usefulness.

Is there such a thing?  A truth that cannot be communicated?  Wisdom that cannot be spoken?  an idea that cannot be uttered?  What characteristics would it have?  How would we notice it, or think about it; study it, or perceive it?  Could we?  Would we?  In a world of instant access to unlimited information, it seems almost absurd to seek after something that cannot be encoded into language.

This is exactly how Lao Tzu describes The Tao in the Tao Te Ching, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao, The Way that can be named is not the eternal Way.” But how can we have anything but a superficial understanding of this Great Truth when all we can do is speak or read about it?  Perhaps it can be reached through meditation.  Focusing on your breathing, moving into your body, getting in touch with your surroundings and filling your mind with the present moment.  This may get you away from words, but as the story goes, meditating to reach enlightenment is like polishing a brick to make it into a mirror (it ain’t gon’ happen)

[I have tactically chosen to leave the remainder of this post empty, instead of finishing it, in order to leave space for Wordless Truth.  Let me know if you see it]

















Understanding Our Stories

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you
don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not
doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or
less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have
problems with our friends or family, we blame the other
person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will
grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive
effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason
and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no
reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you
understand, and you show that you understand, you can
love, and the situation will change”

― Thích Nhất Hạnh

There are a lot of things about myself that I would like to change.  My eating habits, my organizational habits, my tendency to put things off, my fear of failure.  I have been going about the process with the idea that I just need more self control, or I just need more grit, or a commitment, or a magic word, or a rubber band around my wrist that I can snap every time I reach for a brownie.  And while these can be good things, they aren’t really working for me.  In fact, they never have.  Why then, would I continue to use methods that do not work?  Because I believe they work.  I have written them into my story.

From the moment we are born, we are writing a story, the story of our perception of reality.  This story covers every aspect of our lives, and answers questions such as “Can people be trusted?”  “Am I worth loving?”  “What is Truth?”  “What is Justice?” or “What will it take to make me happy?”  Most of the important questions are answered before we even know we are asking them.  Each of us has written a unique story, and none of them are perfect reflections of reality.

In the parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant, each man experiences a different part of the elephant, and each man comes away with a different idea of what the elephant is, and what it’s for.  Each man possesses the same amount of truth regarding the elephant, but what they have to gain from each other is perspective.  So it is with our stories.  None is any more or less true than the other.  We do not need to seek truth from others, we have it within ourselves, but what we do need to seek is perspective.  With understanding, and without judgement, there is much that we can learn from our fellow humans, about life, and about ourselves.

But other people are not the only ones who need our understanding.  We need to stop judging and blaming ourselves.  There is a reason for our behavior, and if our behavior needs to change, it is easier done with love and understanding than with any amount of self control.