What Lies Forgotten Behind Language, Ideology and Religion?


“Deliver us, O Allah, from the Sea of Names.”

– Ibn al-Arabi

How to be grateful for being gifted an entrance into 2014?  How to create-live the possibility of being a clearing for kindness, generosity, harmony and aliveness?  Perhaps through some passages that speak to me and get me present to that which lies forgotten behind language, behind ideology, behind my taken for granted way of living.  I share these with you – may one of them will call to you and provide you access to living a ‘richer’ life this year.

Rumi:

“Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make sense any more.”

Wendell Berry:

“Thy life’s a miracle. Speak yet again

This is the line that calls Gloucester back – out of hubris, and the damage and despair that invariably follow – into the properly subordinated life of grief and joy, where change and redemption are possible……

One immediately recognises that suicide is not the only way to give up on life …….we can give up on life also by presuming to “understand” it – that is by reducing it to the terms of our understanding and treating it as predictable or mechanical. The most radical influence of reductive science has been virtually the universal adoption of the idea that the world, its creatures, and all the parts of its creatures are machines…..

This may have begun as a metaphor, but in the language as it is used (and as it affects industrial practice) it has evolved from metaphor through equation to identification. And this usage institutionalises the human wish, or sin of wishing, that life might be, or might be made to be, predictable. 

….. whenever one treats living organisms as machines they must necessarily be perceived to behave as such……. Whenever one perceives living organisms as machines they must necessarily treated as such.

…. to reduce life to the scope of our understanding (whatever “model” we use) is inevitably to enslave it, make property of it, and put it up for sale. This is to give up on life, to carry it beyond change and redemption, and to increase the proximity of despair…..”

Ibn al-Arabi: 

“Do not attach yourself to any particular creed exclusively, so that you may disbelieve all the rest; otherwise you will lose much good, nay, you will fail to recognize the real truth of the matter. God, the omnipresent and omnipotent, is not limited by any one creed, for he says, ‘Wheresoever ye turn, there is the face of Allah’ (Koran 2:109). Everyone praises what he believes; his god is his own creature, and in praising it he praises himself. Consequently, he blames the disbelief of others, which he would not do if he were just, but his dislike is based on ignorance.”

It occurs to me that to walk-live the path pointed out by these speakers is to live a transformed life.

On speaking


As human beings we speak.  Some even argue that language is what sets us apart – makes us uniquely human.  Yet, it is a gift that most of us are born with and simply take it for granted.  Very few of us really think about this gift and how best to use it.  It kind of reminds me of the community that I grew up in – the muslim community.  Almost everyone was born into and embraced the rituals yet almost no-one had any knowledge or understanding of the genesis of Islam nor the social reform and human centred values that were the foundations of Islam.

So we have a gift – this ability to speak with our fellow wo/man and be understood if we speak the same language.  Now the question is what frame can we put around this gift of speech, of communication?  More importantly, what is the most beautiful use of this gift?

When it comes to frames we have many choices. We can simply put no frame around it and continue as we are: spraying our words all over the place, they land where they land, they have the impact that the have.  We describe stuff, we make up explanations, we complain, we criticise, we gossip behind each others backs, we make up lies, we provide directions, we command, we compliment, we give form to our dreams and so forth.   This is the hidden, taken for granted, frame which gives form to our speaking.

I’d like to suggest a very different frame.  What if each of us, even most of us, were to view gift of speech in a radically different way?  What if we reserved speaking for creating affinity, affection and connection with our fellow human beings.  For example:

  • we share our likes and dislikes and what we want and need from our fellow human beings instead of criticising others – what they have or have not done;
  • giving ourselves and our fellow human beings wings to pursue our interests, ambitions and dreams instead of squelching them out of fear, jealousy or spite;
  • creating affinity and connection with our fellow human beings through acceptance, validation and the generally sharing of our humanity as opposed to creating distance and hatred which is all to common when we criticise, condemn and diminish our fellow human beings;
  • inspiring ourselves and our fellow human beings to bring the best of our humanity – benevolence – into fruit more often in a wider range of situations;
  • providing information – without preaching – that our fellow human beings are likely to find useful in living a good life;
  • to bring into being the kind of world that we want to live as illustrated by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen;
  • talking about and resolving our differences in a way that recognises our need to find solutions that work for us all.

I am suggesting a frame in which our speaking is such that we do not attack, invalidate, exclude and criticise our fellow human beings.  What kind of a world can we create if I was to step into this frame?  And if you were to step into this frame?  And we were to step into this frame?

How about starting the practice, right now, for now to the New Year?  Are you willing to give it a wholehearted go? I am and I hope that you will join me. if you think that this is easy for me then you really do not know me that well!  I have been immersed in the language of criticism from the age of 5 and I mastered it a long time ago.