Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Eckhart Tolle & Language

I've just started listening to the latest Eckhart Tolle book, "A New World." I've been a big fan of Tolle, who is one of the few spiritual teachers these days who puts off some real heat. Only Nisargadatta can compare for simplicity and directness.

He's talking a lot about language, and identification with language (and therefore thought) as the basis of the individual ego. I think his assertion is basically true: we get obsessively involved in thinking until we forget that the thinking is not the reality, and that waking up necessarily means dis-identifying from thought and the labels of language.

However, something that hasn't come up (yet) in the book is the fact that language itself is (I believe) a mechanism for dis-identification. Before the human species had language, we were completely identified with our bodies and our emotions. The only thing that mattered was hunger, fear, sex . . . the needs of the body were the only reality. Once language evolved, we were capable of abstract thought, and freed somewhat from the notion that we were just the body.

I think this is important to recognize, because too often people recognize the illusory nature of thought, and rather than transcend thought by identifying with awareness, they regress into practices that focus on physical sensation and immediate physical reality. I don't think we can solve the problems of the species by becoming thoughtless animals again. But to listen to many of the Zen and Vipassana teachers, you'd think that that was the only goal.


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