What I’m Not

Everything I can write cannot even come close to capturing the meaning of what I write about. Everything I can think about cannot come close to encompassing the true meaning of the virtues I’m trying to understand. To quote several translations of the opening lines of the Dao De Jing (some may know it as the Tao Te Ching):

“The Dao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Dao.”
“The Way that can be experienced is not true.”
“The Way that can be spoken of is not the true Way.”

Or the one that hits home hardest for me:

可以體驗的方式是不正確的

One of the most insane opening lines in book history. Absolutely crazy, crazy stuff! Thomas Pynchon would read that and lose his mind. He wouldn’t be able to handle it. (Random literary reference. Forgive me. Or praise me, depending..)

Lao Zi (or Lao Tzu), the author, is basically saying, “Ok guys, thanks for reading my book, but just a heads up, everything I write about in here is not what I really am trying to say. In fact its wrong, all of it. Enjoy.”

I love it. Who starts a book by saying that the book you are about to read is not at all close to what the author actually was trying to write about? Lao Zi, thats who. And I think his approach is dead on.

If you have read any of my past posts, you can tell that I enjoy to think and talk about various aspects of my faith. Yet I will go as far as to say any word I write or utter can at best detract from the Greatness and Glory of God.

Even those words, greatness and glory. What do they mean? “Of an extent considerably above average” and “high renown or honor won by notable achievements”. They are nice words. But my point is that since we can even define these words they don’t belong in any sentence trying to describe or praise or worship God. Attaching a word with defined borders to its definition to any aspect of God only limits our outlook to the idea we are trying to understand.

Lets look at someone saying, “All glory to God”.

The key words in this statement (besides God): all, as in everything we know to exist, and glory, high renown or honor. Seems like a very good thing to say, especially to God. But our notion of “all” is infantesimally smaller than the True All, and all the glory we could ever muster wouldn’t even blip the radar of the True Glory that surrounds God at all times. Even the word God isn’t enough.

The demon Screwtape mentions in one of his letters to his nephew Wormwood (from “The Screwtape Letters” by CS Lewis) that the moment one of their hosts (humans) sits down and wishes to pray “not to what I think thou art but to what Thy knowest Thyself to be” then their cause is lost. If for one second we think we can truly consider even the smallest aspect of God we are mistaken. A huge part of our faith is striving for the unattainable, for the indescribable.  The closest our words can get to describing the True Beauty of God is by describing how short they actually fall from the Truth. Praying to something we can understand limits God to a limited section of our limited brains.

Needless to say, He’s a bit bigger than that.

And yes, He’s even bigger than what the above line alludes to.

This line, which was supposed to point out how the above line isn’t anywhere close to capturing how big God is either, is pointless as well. Because God can’t be captured.

Lets not direct our prayers to an old man with a beard, to a crucifix, or towards our notion of the Holy Spirit. Let us send our prayers up on the wings of our faith and let That which Understands Itself receive them as It will.

We have been given Perfect Ideals demonstrated and taught to us by Jesus here on Earth. Along with these we are provided with broken instruments to try and interpret and live out these Ideals. And the only way to even get close to what we are called to is to completely disown any reliance on our own devices. Ours isn’t ours on our own, but only through the Grace of God.

And that’s the kicker. Grace.

God doesn’t leave us alone to struggle up this mountain towards the summit (eternal life, enlightenment, what have you), but he careens down the slope towards us with reckless abandon, shouting our name and signaling to us. He begs us, urges us, to drop our tools and equipment and follow him. Join him. And suddenly that large, imposing mountain is flattened and transformed into a lush, beautiful green field. Ours to walk in, ours to take part in. And it becomes ours because we are no longer our own.

All I believe in, all I stand for, all I claim to strive for is beyond me. I can communicate my reasons and my opinions to you, and I can take comfort in the fact that I truly have no idea as to the grandioseness of the subjects I am touching (if I ever even get close to touching them). And that is a comfort grounded in faith and trust.

I am what I am. And yes, there is power in that.

But the True Power lies in what I’m not.

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