Scrawls on the hide of a whale almost words more than scrawls almost more than words a kind of history of victories & defeats rough encounters in dangerous seas mad love crawling syllables ampersands asterisks slashes coherent by half call out wounded its migration done it crawls to land to teach its young.
Invasion of the Night
(after the painting by Roberto Matta)
Time, times, and a half the wicked judged you and I our bodies chased and caught invaded by the night and crushed upon a darkling sky as stars burn out flames from a lick chaos in a jar an absence of civility and light in our final hour.
All religious scripture speaks on many levels, in a multitude of ways. Some who read scripture believe them to be literally true, while others see them as poetic, symbolic, allegorical. They see metaphors where others see history. And all writers of scripture no doubt realized this vast sea of difference. They all realized that their work would be interpretated differently, given the context, the culture, the times, the levels of literacy and education. The best of them wrote in such a way that multiple interpretations could live harmoniously and effectively, side by side, for centuries.
Buddhist scripture was, of course, no different.
The concept of “rebirth”, for instance, lends itself to a great many interpretations. For me, as a Western novice, as one who views Jewish, Christian and Moslem scripture as literature, not history or fact, the Buddhist concept of “rebirth” carries the weight of metaphor, not physics. I see it as an aid … Click to continue . . .
There is no real relationship between a word and what it represents — outside our minds, outside our desire to forge that relationship. Outside the web of communication between one mind and the next, beyond the catalog of accepted naming conventions, there is no natural connection, correspondence or exact match. It is, in a word, arbitrary, empty, functional. The word “dog,” for instance, tells us (rather, demonstrates) nothing, really, about the actually existing animal, and the actually existing animal exists with or without our language, with or without our rather lame attempt to name it and describe it.
Many great writers felt the crush of this, this realization that they were condemned to forever fall short in what they did, what they loved to do. What they lived for. Samuel Beckett, par exemple, ran away from his native tongue, English, and wrote instead in French, and then moved further and further toward … Click to continue . . .
Reading the poems above, watching the phenomenal movie, Tree of Life, and moving further along the path of Zen, I thought about images versus language. I thought about the way that words can never capture what we see, feel, smell, touch or hear. They can never be more than an approximation, a translation, yet we think in language alone — not in images, not in other dimensions. We think in words. And as long as we think in words alone, we can never truly cross over. We can never truly release ourselves into the void to become one with it, to force a union between form and emptiness, emptiness and form.