Words Always Fail: On Writing, Language, and Reality
In religion and literature, words are only pointers. Glorious, magical gestures.
Welcome to The Living Dark. I’m Matt Cardin, and this is my blog/newsletter on creativity for writers, situated at the intersection of religion, horror, nonduality, apocalypse, dystopia, consciousness, and the numinous unknown.
Dear Living Dark reader,
It’s an early Sunday morning as I type these words, so maybe the fact that this is “the Lord’s Day” in the Christian tradition—and was devoutly practiced as such in the Protestant evangelical branch of that tradition in which I grew up—is what prompted the following thoughts (see further below) shortly after I arose.
Or maybe it’s the fact that for several weeks now, I have been slowly making my way through the collected pointers (aphoristic writings that gesture toward transcendent truth) of nondual teacher John Wheeler, and that shortly after I got out of bed this morning, as I was doing my daily spiritual reading, I came upon this one:
The problem with all the “systems,” be they Vedantic, Buddhist or whatever, is that the original insight, which must be nonconceptual and beyond language (if it is to be the unconditioned reality), ends up getting confused with the pointers and concepts. Subsequently, such recorded teachings are studied by seekers and the whole undertaking gets pulled down to the conceptual level. While that may have its merits, it has virtually nothing to do with actual self-knowledge.
More likely, it was the confluence of the day, and that paragraph from Wheeler, and the general focus of my recent thoughts and energy—including the thought and energy that went into the creation of my new ebook, Transmitting Vision: Essays on the Writer’s Path—that prompted a flow of words to emerge from my hand this morning on the relationship, and the gap, between religious scriptures and the living reality toward which they can only point.
This matter is significant not only for understanding the place and function of such scriptures, but for understanding the place and function of words, writing, and language in general in our experience of life and our approach to truth.
Here is how this all expressed itself when it came to me:
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