Nonsensical Words of a Wordsmith


As a bona-fide, proud card-carrying wordsmith member, I cringe every time I open up the Tao Te Ching, and the first words of Chapter 1 pops up at me:

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name…

As a wordsmith, the written word is my playground.  Anything I wanted to express, I could easily do so simply by tapping on my keys and displaying the contents of my mind in various eclectic, artistic formations.  I have hit a wall, however in my varied and relentless attempts to grasp and comprehend the Tao.  This wall is well-documented in Taoist texts.  Chapter 15 of the Tao Te Ching states:

The Tao masters of antiquity
Subtle wonders through mysteries
Depths that cannot be discerned
Because one cannot discern them
Therefore one is forced to describe the appearance.

Taoists of all ages took pride in not having to explain myriad things with the inaccurate and often ambiguous words, preferring instead, to allow the human spirit the chance to explore and experience for themselves, the wonders of the universe.  For Taoists, knowlege, when acquired in the ‘nondoing’ is the ultimate achievement.  After all, as Confucius was purported to have said:

Tell Me and I Will Forget
Show Me and I May Remember
Involve Me and I Will Understand

So how does one go about documenting the efforts when the very tools that one uses to document are ambiguous and inherently inaccurate to start with?  How does one go about transferring the knowledge to the next generation?  How does one keep a record and dialogue of one’s mastery over time, even if it is only for the purpose of self-examination and self-enrichment?

To answer that question, I had to dig into scientific methods of documentation – namely mathematical formulas and equations.  Interestingly enough, science also has a hard time utilizing words to document the highest forms of scientific knowledge, preferring instead, to encrypt it in elegant shortened mathematical formulas and symbols to take the place of chapters and books of prose that do a poor job of describing said knowledge.

Unfortunately, even scientists have to use prose to explain the mathematics, as inaccurate and inadequate as it is, because once mathematics is used exclusively, it is removed from the everyday experiences of the human mind, and without any correlation between the symbols and the knowledge base of thinking human beings, it becomes meaningless.

The ancients realized this quandary, and therefore, utilized poetry, images, hexagrams, and evocative imagery along with ye olde ordinary words to tap into the subconscious mind to access those momentary flashes of insights, those nuggets of memories that sear into our minds, at the moment when we are not utilizing our higher intellectual minds.  Scientists describe these momentary flashes of understanding as the ‘Eureka’ moments, when, upon logging thousands and thousands of hours at attempting to understand a concept, upon the moment when the mind is at rest and not consciously thinking about the problem, it is then that the answer comes in a blinding flash of insight.  This is that momentary state of Wu Wei—- when we do by not doing, understand by not rationalizing, see by not focusing on our vision.

The ultimate achievement of Taoism then, is to develop the mind so that it does not ‘over-think’.  All those so-called mystical methods of meditation to reach that level of consciousness called Wu Wei… it all boils down to emptying the mind so that those flashes of insights can have an empty place to download.  And the ultimate achievement of Taoism is for the mind to remain in that Wu Wei ‘Eureka’ moment ALL THE TIME!!!

That is extremely cool!  And this Tao Babe likes extremely cool stuff.

6 thoughts on “Nonsensical Words of a Wordsmith

  1. The fractal analogy is a great one. I like it.

    Actually with mathematics, it has limitations as well worth exploring. One can look at Goedel’s theorem which says you will have results that we can neither prove or disprove. (I’m simplifying).

    I’m not sure I’ve experienced Wu-Wei. I’ve had my mind open by asking questions, I’ve felt connected to things I couldn’t explain. Wu-Wei may be something I lack after all.

    And yeah, this is extremely cool.


  2. Wow. 🙂 Now I’m nervous and intimidated. I’m writing about science, and SCIENTISTS are reading the blog. Perhaps I should abandon this thought process and leave it to the more enlightened. Can you tell me more about the Goedels’ theorem?


  3. Yes, I can. But have to take some time to think how to explain it better. My knowledge of it is a bit rusty. An awesome book for “normal” people exists that covers it called Goedel, Esher, Bach. You might like that.

    Roughly speaking the theorem states that any axiom system that includes the natural numbers (or something with the same properties) is either inconistent of incomplete. Inconsistent means that at least one thing is both true and false, meaning everything has to be. Incomplete means that there are theorems than can’t be proven using the axiom system or disproven.


  4. I’m not as gifted of a writer as you, are, but I definitely am a wordy thinker, a talker, a reader. It’s a challenge to empty myself of words, but I have had a couple of beautiful insights as you describe, Eureka moments, whatever, when I wasn’t trying to. I find it benefical to spend solitary time in nature where words are not the language of the life around me.


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