Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Silence

Silence
by Scott Bradley


I am visiting my father at the moment. He's a watercolorist and paints mostly land- and seascapes. One of my favorites (and his, which is why it is hanging on his wall and not sold) is a bit of a mountainscape reminiscent of the Sierra Nevadas of California. There is a lot of pristine snow in this painting, and white, for the watercolorist, is the absence of color. Much of the painting is no painting at all. The unsaid is what gives meaning to the whole.

To my untutored mind, the greatest art is that which is understood only when it can only be understood as experience. I was once sitting before one of Monet's paintings of the lily pond and its bridge which were still in his back garden a few meters from where I sat. He was almost completely blind when he painted it, and its 'meaning' was not immediately clear. And then, I saw it. I experienced his beloved garden. And I remember the thrill to this day.

The early Zen masters struggled to find a way to communicate what cannot be communicated with words. Some answered inquiries with absurdist responses. What is the Buddha? Three pounds of flax. These eventually became the koans which are still used today to cause the seeker to break out of the 'understanding mind', the mind that requires words. Others took to shouting nonsensical words. Hoi! Others exchanged slaps and blows from staves. Still others simply remained silent. The message was in the silence, an invitation to leave words behind and experience reality in a different way.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

2 comments:

  1. Oh to meet someone who can remain silent with you.

    Fortunately all conversations, no matter if they be rich or dull, end in silence eventually.

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