“Now is far as I can see, the basic mistake is that we’ve invented this wonderful system of language and calculation and that it is at once too simple to deal with the complexity of the world, and also we are liable to confuse that system of symbols with the world itself…” Alan Watts
People have been asking why it is that I want to go on silent retreat. So here are some thoughts on that:
I think a lot. I think in words. And I think a lot in words about words. I think about etymology. About hidden meanings. I think a lot about what it would be to know an ancient word. To speak an ancient language. I wonder, what was the first word for love? I think about how the first person to say “love” must have meant exactly that. Because she said a word that was created to express her exact feeling in that moment. The beauty of that.
I think about the Alan Watts quote above, I think that maybe today we’re so fed with words that the world is shaped by them rather than the other way around.
I think about how words drive a wedge for us, between consciousness and the present moment.
I think about how I can’t not read the words. How I can’t not think the words.
I think about how the words, the good ones, strung together well, point earnestly at something wordless just to their left. I think about how they can bring me to tears with their gestures. But is it the words that bring me to tears? Or is it what they are aiming at?
I think about the word “God” or “god” depending. I think about Spinoza’s word God. I think about the Jehovah’s Witness’s word God as I pass them on the way to the train in the mornings.
I think about how much I hate the word “God” and the pronoun “he” which is used most often as it’s pronoun, and which, at this point, has become inextricably linked to the word “God” for me. I think about how that single word may be keeping me from calling myself a Christian.
(That and maybe Jesus’s divinity. I have no problem with Jesus’s divinity, as long as the rest of us have it to.)
I was raised a Christian by two good people who may or may not have known what the word “Christian” meant. As I get older I realize I maybe still don’t know what the word “Christian” means.
But I do know that at some point the word “God” became one used by others and not be me. Someone else’s idea of a power, of other, of some masculine benevolent (ish) thing in the sky that looked like King Triton or Ted Neely. Some embodied man.
I think about how words, in cases like these, keep me separate from others rather than drawing me nearer to others.