Saturday, January 28, 2012

Speaking of Insufficiency II

Scott Bradley

Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know.
These must surely be some of the most liberating words in the Taoist canon — if we are willing to turn them on their head.

Unfortunately, we generally take them as a rebuke, a pronouncement of our failure to 'know'. Or, more likely, we take them as a rebuke of others who speak, our own speaking being perceived as under the special dispensation which accrues to those who know that one should not speak.

I speak. I speak because I do not know. Blah, blah, blah. What fun! Speak! Enjoy being human! Just don't believe that you speak of what you know.

I would that I could speak better than I do, for then I could better speak to myself and to you about how liberating it is to speak. Instead of considering Laozi's speaking as a rebuke to our own, what if we took it as a carte blanche to speak? What if, instead of believing we are supposed to 'know' something, we realized there is nothing to know, or at least nothing we can know, or at least nothing we do know? Gone would be this ridiculous addiction to Truth and Arriving. All that would remain would be to be human, to be insufficient. A daunting task, no doubt, but the only one set before us.

Instead of believing that our liberation lies in knowing something, achieving something, arriving somewhere, what if we believed it lies in being and accepting what we already are just at this moment? Then our 'liberation' would consist in realizing and affirming our insufficiency, not in trying to obliterate it. Take your pick. Believe what you wish. I will try and not rebuke you for speaking your mind.

Who knows? Let her speak up now, or forever hold her peace.

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

1 comment:

  1. It's a very nice point whether it be the point or not.

    Many people say of this line that you must infer what I now put in brackets.

    Those who speak (of the Tao)
    Don't know (of the Tao)
    Those who ...etc

    I really like your idea of flipping it to give the message that there is nothing to know, and so then we speak, dance, work, play and marvel in unknowing - rather than try to explain the mystery.

    Then though we are living and speaking, but as the verse says, not speaking of Tao. Just speaking like the bubbling brook or tweeting bird.

    Either way ultimately agrees the same conclusion.


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