Tuesday, August 28, 2018

understanding fails

If one reaches the point where understanding fails, this is not a tragedy: it is simply a reminder to stop thinking and start looking.  Perhaps there is nothing to figure out after all: perhaps we only need to wake up.

A monk said: "I have been with you (Master), for a long time, and yet I am unable to understand your way.  How is this?"

The Master said: "Where you do not understand, there is the point for your understanding."

In the first two chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul distinguishes between two kinds of wisdom: one which consists in the knowledge of words and statements, a rational, dialectical wisdom, and another which is at once a matter of paradox and of experience, and goes beyond the reach of reason.  To attain to this spiritual wisdom, one must first be liberated from servile dependence on the "wisdom, of speech."

St. Paul compares this knowledge of God, in the Spirit, to the subjective knowledge that a man has of himself.  Just as no one can know my inner self except my own "spirit," so no one can know God except God's Spirit; yet this Holy Spirit is given to us, in such a way that God know Himself in us, and this experience is utterly real, though it cannot be communicated in terms understandable to those who do not share it.  Consequently, St. Paul concludes, "we have the mind of Christ."

~ Thomas Merton
excerpts from Zen and the Birds of Appetite
art by Van Gogh