It is all to often debated what sets humans apart the other species, and that will not be agreed any time soon (which a cynic would note is one such thing itself).
Freud would claim it is only our ego, our sense of self, which may explain why people are so capable of being self- ish, and I suspect he was certain he was wholly correct but I would give him only partial credit.
It is far simpler than that: record your voice, record a Sandhill crane and play them back and I assure you that you will say you sound nothing like what the recorder heard while the crane will nervously look all around for his unseen kin.
There is probably much that could be said, a bit less that should be said, but I I’m not the person to say it, and remain silent. You are surprised by the silence — it is not what you expect of me, and that you find disconcerting and a bit unnerving. If I asked you what you would have me say, I doubt you could find anything in particular. It is more the sound of my voice you expect, not the words I choose to utter or retain. It all comes down to words, doesn’t it? And yet they fail us with such regularity, we each must wonder why we speak at all.
archetypes symbols arrayed arranged precise meanings elusive multiplicative hearer dependent no Carrollean wishes fortresses erected below the tide line await waves minor etchings Durer or trivial seen or ignored Lot cast either diamond or salt pillar eroded by rain adrift torn by tongues cast to ash.
First appeared in Eureka Literary Magazine Vol. 5, No. 2 (1997)
You must pause and marvel, if you will, that only the flute – from the simple wooden to the most elegant metal – when played by skilled hands, can transport the listener. Some would say to heaven, others to hell, and often at exactly the same moment.
He sits on the cushion
staring through hooded eyes
at the wall in front of him.
He expects exactly nothing to happen,
expects there to be no sound
within his mind, only what
happens without, expects that time
will cease for him, or
will at least cease to matter.
He is not disappointed.
The bell rings, he arises,
and walks back into the world
where everything happens,
there is only sound, and
he stares at his watch knowing
time has moved on in ways
he can never hope to fully grasp.
Between this point and that lies a vast uncharted space noted on every cartographers chart. If you ask how this could be possible, I reply it’s like listening to silence and hearing each sound deeply embedded in the one next to it, a glissando of what exactly? Uncertainty? That is the whole point in the final analysis, for between that point and this one everything exists in that one place.
The crows were at it in the park today, unable, it seemed, to agree on anything and unwilling to let any other have the last word. I asked them to stop, and that bought all of fifteen seconds of peace before one decided the debate needed to go on. It was a cacophony hard on the ears, and I wondered if the person who decided that crows in groups were a murder had ever stopped to listen, for to me any group of crows is a cacophony. As I thought this a small gathering of wrens took up their autumn song, and in the face of that sweet, trilling chorus even the crows fell silent.
When the Buddha offered true wisdom, no one was present to hear it. Those who were not there understood it fully. Where will you look for true wisdom? Will your ears here what your mouth cannot say? Only with closed eyes will the light become clear.
A reflection on Case 36 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye).