Thursday, February 23, 2012

the frontiers of language

Where can I find a man who has forgotten words? 
He is the one I would like to talk to. 

~ Chuang Tzu

But before we come to that which is unspeakable and unthinkable, 
the spirit hovers on the frontiers of language, 
wondering whether or not to stay on its own side of the border, 
in order to have something to bring back to other men. 
This is the test of those who wish to cross the frontier. 
If they are not ready to leave their own ideas and their own words behind them, 
they cannot travel further. 

~ Thomas Merton
from No Man is an Island

The unconsciousness
And entire sincerity of Tao
Are disturbed by any effort
At self-conscious demonstration. 

~ Chuang Tzu

In The Way of Chuang Tzu, Merton is communicating his own joy from his spirit’s tower. He has found a new friend who has taught him the irony of words as well as the value of irony. Like the best of Merton’s words, The Way of Chuang Tzu points to an experience of contemplation, while it reverently and wisely backs away from providing or insisting upon such an experience. Just as Merton kicks away Chuang Tzu like a ladder after experiencing the unknowing Chuang Tzu describes, Merton invites us to climb his own words and to forget them as well. 

~ commentary from slow reads