You can take my sight, but my mind will still see what it must, and my fingers will become eyes. You can take my hearing, I will imagine what I must, and my eyes will become ears. You can take my tongue, but my body will shout what I must, and my hands will speak volumes. The only thing you cannot take is my words, for without them my prison would be complete and I would be rendered mute, deaf and blind, and that is a fate from which I could never hope to emerge.
You may come asking questions, and perhaps the teacher will answer you with a discourse. If you go deaf and hear nothing, if the words flit like so many mayflies just as soon gone, if no word finds purchase you will have a grasp the heart of the Dharma.
A reflection on Case 54 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye)
It is hard, looking back, to recall just how many hours I spent searching with a fair amount of diligence for just the right song to express my love. Most often I would find it, but only after that love had been replaced by another, demanding a new song — you cannot use the same song for two different loves, that crosses well over into tacky. I have to admit I’ve given up totally on that quest, even as the number of available songs has grown exponentially, or so the various streaming services suggest. I have only a single lover now, have for twenty years, and as her hearing has slipped away it is her lips that read mine, and that is all the song we need.
There is a blessing in silence that we so often deny ourselves, unaware that it lies just beyond the noise of our minds and lives. We crave it, beg for it, and hearing the beggar, shun him for the noise he carries like the skin he cannot molt. Beethoven understood silence in his later years and filled with a music none of us will pause to hear.
It is a precarious balance, really, more an exercise in tottering and teetering than and standing still. Some prefer stasis, others, I included, find it leads inevitably to a loss of energy, to an entropy from which it is difficult to escape. I don’t walk along the edge of the precipice, but I do peer over amazed at what lies below, that I hope to never see up close. It is a precarious balance, but one that can be maintained if you just close your eyes and sense what actually lies around and beneath you.
She only wants to know
what lies deep within silence.
He says he imagines it
is a place he can never visit
locked away from humans,
whose minds deny the quiet.
She says she is willing
to continue the search,
for even if she cannot find it,
she may find something like it,
and that respite would
be sufficient for her.
He says he fears silence,
for the loss of all
of his delusions would be
far too much for him to bear.