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]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May I Have A Few Words With You?

Desires.  Ambitions.  Goals.  Inspiration.  Dreams.  Motivation.

Doubt.  Fear.  Worry.  Failure.  Regret.  Anxiety.  Depression.

Emptiness.  Oneness.  Clarity.  Peace.

Can Humans Find a Greater Purpose?

Jõhvnööbikud“Why am I here?”  “What is my purpose?”  “What is God’s will for my life?”  “Am I making a difference?”  “How will I be remembered?”

I have often asked myself these, and many similar questions.  We as humans seem to be programed with an insatiable interest in purpose.  We want to accomplish something, we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and we want to know why.  We often imagine purpose as something that we must find, discover, or create.  Or something that must be bestowed, or given to us by some other entity.  But purpose is something that is always with us.  It is an integral part of who we are, and we cannot be separated from it.

Consider Water

Water does not strive, it does not desire, and it has no goals.  It does not search out its purpose.  Simply by behaving according to its own properties, it fulfills its purpose.  As a result clouds are formed, canyons are carved, and life is sustained (The water does not aim to accomplish these things, yet they are still accomplished).  The purpose of water is to be water.

Consider A Tree

What is the purpose of a tree?  Other than to grow and to become a perfect manifestation of itself?  There is none.  A tree does not desire to make a name for itself.  It does not try to make the world a better place.  A tree is a tree, and that is its purpose.

Can we live like the tree, or the snail, or the bird?  With no purpose other than to be ourselves?  Is it possible to stop striving, planning, searching and asking?  Or is longing for a greater purpose simply part of our nature?

“The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and he has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind,
no resistances in his body.
He doesn’t think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work.”  ~Lao Tzu

Perhaps… (A Zen Koan)

Rice_Field_at_Lake_Toba

There was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Perhaps,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “What great luck!” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Perhaps,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Perhaps,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Perhaps,” said the farmer…

I love this.  It is such a wonderful reminder that no event is the be all and end all of life as we know it.  Don’t dwell on the tragedies, and don’t get attached to the seemingly positive.  True control comes from realizing you have none.

Lao Tzu on Time Travel

“Do you want to improve the world?
I don’t think it can be done.

The world is sacred.
It can’t be improved.
If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.”

~Lao Tzu

Eurema_blanda_at_Nayikayam_ThattuIf you’ve watched any movies or read any books that involve time travel, you will know that there are certain issues to bear in mind when visiting the past.  Don’t go see your past self, don’t allow yourself to be seduced by your grandmother, thus becoming your own grandfather (Its not your fault, you didn’t know) and most importantly, don’t try to change things.  Any little change you make can cascade into devastating consequences, up to and including flying baboons, early apocalypse, and the Nazis winning World War II.  In fact, its really best not to touch anything.  If there is one thing your friends will never let you live down, it’s damaging their favorite timeline.

Now I would like to tell you, if you can believe it, that I am a time traveler (Albeit in one direction, and at a slow and constant speed).  I am in fact living in the past of the future, and far be it from me to bring on a plague of killer robots by selfishly trying to change things.

Far too many people treat the world as an object for their own entertainment and satisfaction.  Using it.  Abusing it.  Wringing it out until it gives up the last drop.  Take a step back.  Let the world be.  Preserve the future’s past.

“I’d love to change the world
But I don’t know what to do
So I’ll leave it up to you”

~Ten Years After

BONUS HAIKU!

Eddies in Space-time
are bending the universe
The sofa is gone

Stop Thinking

“Stop thinking, and end your problems.” ~Lao Tzu

IMG_20150428_143905We live in a beautiful world.  Even the small segment that our senses can take in (smaller still what our minds can comprehend) is beyond what we can express with words.  There are infinite opportunities for joy, yet we use so much of our time fretting over the insignificant; the non-consequential.  We fill our days with worry and busyness, trying to get ahead.  We constantly occupy our minds with television and social media, afraid to sit in silence, and be alone with ourselves.  Trying to drown out and silence the voices of fear, regret, and uncertainty.

Stop worrying.  Stop thinking.  You are on the right path; the only path; your path.  Follow it to the end.  Take care with each step.  Feel each breath.  There is no need for fear.  You are a passenger, an observer.  Enjoy the ride.

Learning From Lichen

scan0009Lichens are perhaps one of the most amazing, and under-appreciated natural phenomenon.  They are found in arctic tundra, blazing deserts, rain forests, rocky coasts and toxic spoil heaps.  Growing on bare rock, tree bark, headstones, benches, and bridges.  They can survive drought and extreme temperatures (Although they are vulnerable to air pollution and acid rain).

The secret to their success:  Weakness.

Lichen is actually two organisms, working together, fungus, and algae.  The fungus is unable to supply its own nutrients, and the alga is easily destroyed by environmental extremes.  To remedy this, the algae feeds the fungus, and the fungus protects the algae.  Each of them, without the weakness of the other, would have no opportunity to use its own strength.

lichens can survive in some environmental conditions in which neither the algae nor the fungi could live alone

Can we learn from this?  Can we understand that our weaknesses are not something to be hidden, or to be ashamed of?  Can we stop belittling and berating others for their weaknesses, and appreciate the chance to utilize our strength?  What good do our strengths do in the absence of weakness?  What use is a cure in the absence of disease?  What use is forgiveness when nothing is done wrong?

Be grateful for your pitfalls, mistakes, and problems.  Be grateful for the shortcomings of those around you.  It is a precious thing to use your surplus to help one who is lacking, and a great gift.  We could even say that we are in debt to those who we serve, and that they deserve our gratitude as much as we deserve theirs.

Understanding this is the key to surviving extreme conditions.

“Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.”
~Lao Tzu

 

Forgetting To Know Nothing

I know one thing: that I know nothing”  ~Aristotle

I want to figure things out.  I want to know what life is about.  I want to know that I am doing the right thing.  6 years ago, I thought I had done just that.  I had been reborn into a new understanding.  I finally had all the answers.  Well, I didn’t quite have all the answers, but I had the ones that mattered most, and I could use them to determine the right course of action in most any situation.  About a year ago that all went out the window, when people started asking me questions I could not answer, and poking holes in my belief system.  Some of these holes were small, and could be ignored (In fact that is exactly what I had been doing with them) but others were quite large, and things were beginning to fall apart.

Seeing my situation, I retreated.  I pulled myself back to a point of not knowing.  “I don’t know” was my new mantra, and I shouted it from the mountain tops.

Over the coming months, I studied many different religions and philosophies, just to gain some perspective.  I read the Tao Te Ching, and I really liked what it had to say.  I often came back to it, pondering the wisdom that it contained.  “This is good stuff” I thought.  “This will really help me live my life well,” “It’s so simple, this is why people have so many problems!  If only they could follow this simple advice!”  I didn’t realize it, but I was coming back to a very familiar place.  A place of having it all figured out.  It is a dangerous place to be, and it makes learning very difficult.

One day I was at work, and listening to the Tao Te Ching on YouTube.  The last chapter was read, and they there was a brief commentary afterward.  Included in this commentary was a quote from Shunryu Suzuki that made me realize I did not at all understand the philosophy that I was coming to rely on.

“There is a big misunderstanding about the idea of naturalness.  Most people who come to us believe in some freedom or naturalness,  but their understanding is what we call ‘Gyen ken gedo’ or heretical naturalness.  A kind of let alone policy or sloppiness.  For a plant or stone to be natural is no problem, but for us there is some problem, indeed a big problem.  To be natural is something we must work on.”  ~ Shunryu Suzuki

That “misunderstanding” as he calls it was exactly the way I had come to interpret the the message of the Tao.  How embarrassing.  I have been given, once again, an opportunity to learn this lesson.

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ” ~ Shunryu Suzuki