I have on occasion had folks tell me, in the nicest way possible, that my writing and speaking about the Tao Te Ching are sometimes – hmm, how do they put it – dense, obscure, inaccessible.
I want them to be wrong, but of course I must admit that they are right. How can words describe the indescribable? More words, different words, cannot explain what the thinking mind cannot label or categorize. The very first line of the Tao Te Ching says “The Tao that can be understood is not the eternal Tao.”
So how do we talk about this mystery, what a Christian monk writing in the 14th century described as “the cloud of unknowing”? Even the author of the Tao Te Ching expressed this dilemma in Chapter 70.
My words are very easy to understand
And very easy to practice
Still, no one in the world
Can understand or practice them
(That passage always makes me smile.)
So why try? Because when we glimpse the beauty of that dark mystery, when for a moment we pierce the veil of the infinite, when the miracle of a single breath astounds us, the strings of our soul are set to humming, and we seek to share this music in harmony with each other in a cosmic jam session.
Yes, I admit that the efforts to share oftentimes obscure as much as they reveal. That is perhaps the nature of the endeavor. We complicate with our words what is simple, so very simple. Here is a conversation I had with one of my teachers last year.
Me: Does it really have to be so complicated?
Me: Can we talk more about this?
Him: No need to. The answer is no.
Yet here I am, still talking about it! Imperfect as it is, there is delight in the trying, even though we recognize that our attempts to capture what will remain ever elusive and free, will fail.
As Adyashanti says, our goal is to “fail well.”
It’s all good.