Lenten Observance: Day 11

Tao 21 & 22:

21 is especially fun, with its paradoxes:  “The Tao is ungraspable.  How can her mind be at one with it?  Because she doesn’t cling to ideas.”  and “The Tao is dark and unfathomable.  How can it make her so radiant?  Because she lets it.”  I like the paradox of these statements.  It is something that is puzzling about the Tao — if it is something uncategorizable, or something beyond imagination, how is it that we can be one with it, how can we grasp it.  Of course, the whole Tao is an attempt to somehow hint at the ineffable through words which cannot capture the essence of the Tao (as the real Tao is not the Tao that can be named).  And yet, I think my love of revelation is that — that I’m not looking at things, but something suddenly breaks through, where if I try to see something, I’m not so successful.  Or, in trying to see one thing, I manage to miss all other aspects of the thing itself.  Of course, any system of belief will allow you to see truths that you couldn’t see before, but in doing so, you miss other matters that are outside the radar of the particular system.  Medieval Christianity saw angels everywhere, but scientific thinking doesn’t really allow for angels.  And there are things that science sees that magical thinking misses, but also science has blind spots (the perfectability of people was an idea in 19th c. science, but it seems unlikely now).  As to matters of sexuality, psychiatry only a few decades ago had classified homosexuality as a disorder, that one would see a counselor or an analyst to work your way through that fascination to the relative sanity of heterosexuality.  Of course, that is no longer a position of the psychiatric organizations — and that seems a step forward, but what of other things?  In the 19th c., there was the idea that women who were intellectuals or otherwise had forceful personalities had to learn to submit so that they could live fruitful and enjoyable lives, but we see that now as an attempt to control someone based on a system of beliefs, and not something based in some absolute truth. 

When you are tasting different wines, or different chocolates, or any other foodstuff, it is customary to take a moment to really experience a certain taste and then cleanse the palate before moving on to the next taste, and to repeat the process.  Of course, I’m not sure I have a particularly sensitive palate, and I don’t have the vocabulary to describe what I’m tasting, and so, all the water cleansing would have no noticeable effect on me (so far as I can tell). 

Does one have to build up one’s own spiritual vocabulary so that you have a means of dancing around, with words, the experience so that others can get some dark sense of what that experience is?  Or is having all those words and having distinctions between them just an illusion?  I once saw a painting of a cardinal (Roman Catholic) in the Smithsonian in DC.  The museum card said that there were 67 different shades of red (or something like that) in the painting.  All I saw was red, crimson, a wine color, and then shades of those (darker and lighter).  I didn’t see more than a half dozen or so.  As I have some level of red-green color blindness, I’m not sure I could see all anyways.  And, of course, I don’t know what I’m missing in that experience, because I don’t have the mechanism or vocabulary to express it. 

I once dated a woman who was deaf in one ear — she worked for the state of NY in a department that dealt with issues dealing with hearing impairment (making sure that the state took pains to accomodate, to the extent possible, people with that particular handicapping condition).  We went to a concert where we saw the Kronos Quartet (string quartet that has a rock band aura), and I asked her how she liked the concert, and had she missed anything, and she replied that there was no way for her to know if what she heard was what I heard, that they were likely different, but we did not have the shared experience or vocabulary and so how could that be communicated.  I thought it was pretty observant.

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