Words, Boundaries, and Illusions
I am disillusioned with language in general. My main issue is with descriptions and distinctions are no more than linguistic conveniences. Any international border, for example, is linguistically meaningless. “This grain of sand belongs to Idaho and this other grain belongs to British Columbia.” Doesn’t that even sound stupid? The distinction is artificial at best and totally illusory at worst.
Words are necessary. How else could you say, “I’m thirsty. Please get me a cup of water,”? That’s how communication occurs and needs get met. That’s what words are for.
The reality, however, is more interconnected than that. The distinction between groups of people is, like the grains of sand, artificial or perhaps even illusory. Everyone is related, if you go far enough back. Scary but true.
The problems occur when we take what we say as real. Words are concepts. Dennis Genpo Merzel says:
“Without concepts we find ourselves unbounded, undefined; and our greatest fear is to live without boundaries, without definitions. Of course, when we have no boundaries, we are vulnerable. Everyone, everything can come in….First we define ourselves: me versus you, me against not-me….One day we turn around and we realize what we have done: we have imprisoned ourselves. We can keep the world out, now we are stuck inside.” (The Eye Never Sleeps: Striking to the Heart of Zen, p. 118)
This is the misery of it all: instead of using words to communicate with and free each other, we use it to deceive ourselves and others into living in a self-imposed prison. We need to use language to free each other, not to impose power and control. Language is a means to connect. When it is used to dis-connect us, it serves no useful purpose and can be abandoned with no negative consequences.