THE LIMITS OF WORDS

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Use your words, they say. But recently I saw a sunset that was so sublime words couldn’t even get near it. The subtlety of colour and form of the endlessly changing expressionist painting in the sky, the deftest touch, the impossibly tender sensibility of the creator. There’s really nothing I could say that could begin to describe it in a way that anyone else could experience what I witnessed.

So words fail absolutely here, and in so much else. And to think, this brief sweet sunset was just one partial, momentary, fleeting expression in an infinity of space and eternity of time, from one single perspective. Such staggering creative intelligence and beauty on an unfathomable scale. What an artist — bravo, Maestro!

And so we put too much hope in words, too much weight. We imagine they carry all that we need to know, or at least the most important parts. But think of a lover’s breath on your skin or an infant’s tiny fingers held in your own; try to describe those moments and those feelings in a way that another can feel them too. It’s impossible. The experience of one single moment, this moment, any moment, is utterly beyond description. So if we think that the truth that we seek can be contained and communicated in a few lines of verbal code or even a vast tract, then we are pitifully mistaken.

But it’s good to recognise this, it’s good to try this on and see it for ourselves. Because then we might see that we may be looking for truth in all the wrong places, and we might start to pay attention to the experiencing itself rather than our rather paltry thoughts about it.

So why bother talking at all? Maybe just to say, “look at that sky!”

Martyn

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