The Darkness Closest to Us: Don’t Get So Absorbed in the Universe of Words that We Lose the Universe of Being
One thing I love about many of my good friends is that they’re honest with me and willing to find and kindly tell me about holes in what I’ve said or argued, and to hear what I didn’t speak.
A great friend and college roommate found a point in a recent blog of mine that I had left unexplained and that had filled him with questions.
The lines were: Black holes the shape of trees, buildings, and hillsides stood silhouetted against a gray sky, a massive gray cloud filled by moonlight, yet with no moon visible. And the darkness appeared to begin in close to myself and lessen as it spread out into the distance. And he asked: “How did the darkness appear closer to yourself?” Or “why did it appear darker the closer you came to yourself?” Did you realize the implications of what you said?
Perceptually, the world was darker closer to myself because the only physical illumination was far off, from the lights of a nearby city, or from the moon itself. But I rebelled against my own first understanding of the psychological or metaphorical meaning of the line. I heard “dark” as meaning sinister, something negative or evil. But I didn’t mean sinister or evil.
I later realized other meanings of dark, as in unknown or unknowable. As in beyond words. As in unrealized possibility. As in the unknown before from which everything after emerges. Before we speak there is an emptiness, a silence. Buddhists, Taoists, mystics speak of this.
Lao Tzu spoke about the emptiness out of which the universe, or fullness of life, emerged:
“In the beginning of heaven and earth there were no words,
Words came out of the womb of matter…”
Of course, since we don’t know what will happen or what will emerge from the womb of time and matter, we can feel frightened. We don’t know if what emerges will be helpful or hurtful. We don’t know if we’ll have the ability to face the unknown or do something with it we can be proud of.
We often think we know so much about ourselves, maybe too much. We might think we are so clear, obvious, unchanging. In fact, we can never fully know or fully capture ourselves or be contained in any number of words, thoughts, judgments.
Each word, each thought is an abstraction, a recording, or occasionally, as philosopher J. L. Austin argued, a performance or action. Think about an officiant saying. “I now pronounce you man and wife.” Or when we are overcome with beauty and all we say is “wow.” Words facilitate remembering and can help us evaluate, analyze, think about something. They can be so beautiful⎼ or painful to see or hear. They can lead to rumination or take us out of it. There’s so much that just can’t be spoken. Yet here we are talking.
In every moment, we have this choice….
*To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.
I hope you have a wonderful celebration of Juneteenth, and a Happy Father’s Day.