Beyond words

After writing yesterday’s blog entry I came across the following words by Maurice Frydman, from the amazing book “I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj”, which is kind of my personal bible. It relates to our need to move beyond the limiting realm of concepts, ideas, words and language – which make us think we know things, when in actual fact all we know is a concept or abstraction – and to redirect it to simply looking and being open, aware and curious.

“The mind was originally a tool in the struggle for biological survival. It had to learn the laws and ways of nature in order to conquer it. That it did, and is doing, for mind and nature working hand-in-hand can raise life to a higher level. But, in the process the mind acquired the art of symbolic thinking and communication, the art and skill of language. Words became important. Ideas and abstractions acquired an appearance of reality, the conceptual replaced the real, with the result that man now lives in a verbal world, crowded with words and dominated by ideas [sic].

“Obviously, for dealing with things and people, words are exceedingly useful. But they make us live in a world totally symbolic and, therefore, unreal. To break out from this prison of the verbal mind into reality, one must be able to shift one’s focus from the word to what it refers to, the thing itself.”

I’ve found myself working with words a lot! But I can see how easy it is to become lost in them and to mistake words and thoughts, as being reality itself rather than symbolic representations of reality. The best art, in whatever form, points us back to reality. It redirects our attention to what’s real, or perhaps allows us to view things in a different perspective, thus expanding our narrow focus.

So I suppose I’m a writer with a distrust of words. I try to live, whenever possible in a nonverbal world. Instead of plastering labels on things and thus convincing myself that I know it all, I imagine that I’ve just arrived on planet earth and have never seen any of it before. Instead of mentally categorising the sunset as “sunset”, I actually stop and gaze at it in wonder. The word “sunset” means nothing – instead I actually allow myself SEE it! The simple act of seeing act makes me feel immeasurably more alive, awake and creative. It’s invigorating and fun – and, I believe, essential for artists of all varieties.

“The whole of life lies in the verb ‘seeing’.” ~ Teilhard de Chardin


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