Saturday, October 5, 2013
To organize is to destroy. ~Lao Tan, quoted by Thomas Merton in The Way of Chuang Tzu
“Neti, neti” is a Sanskrit expression from ancient Hindu texts. It can be translated as “Not this, not this.” The words are meant to express the inexpressible, what the Tao Te Ching calls the name that cannot be named, or the way that cannot be told.
We humans are dependent on language to think and to communicate, at least most of us are. The idea of something that is beyond linguistic representation can be unnerving. We like things labeled and properly categorized, from science to Tupperware containers in our freezers.
Nowhere is this more evident than in matters of faith. We choose one belief and reject another. We seek those who share the beliefs that we have chosen, and we form groups around these beliefs, excluding those who don’t share them. And then we argue, and even fight, to prove by might that we are right. Chogyam Trungpa called it spiritual materialism.
It’s so important to us to believe that we have chosen the right belief that we close our minds, and even our hearts, to thoughts and people who might threaten our inner security. We organize our faith until it’s safe and tidy. Until that which cannot be named or told is lost.
I just finished a book by three women – a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian. (A Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian walked into a bar.... No, that’s a different story.) These three women, who all lived in New York, were moved by the tragedy of 9/11 to begin a dialogue, a dialogue that was not safe or tidy. It entered the dark shadows of stereotypes and cliches, the Holocaust and the West Bank, the cross and jihad.
They called their group Faith Club, which is also the title of their book. And unlike Fight Club, the first rule of which is not to talk about Fight Club, they talked not only to each other but to their friends, families, and faith communities about Faith Club.
And what they found was their deep and true faith, not in a set of beliefs, but in the openness of their hearts and the willingness of their spirits, in the humility of not having all the answers, and in the grace of knowing that the answers weren’t so important after all.
If you can understand it, it’s not God. ~St. Augustine
related posts: Tapping of the Heart; The Way of No Way