Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

It’s Not Complicated

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. 

Oh dear.

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?
Him: No.
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.

8 thoughts on “It’s Not Complicated”

  1. As of late, I've been reading inspirational blogs as usual, and yet finding myself questioning the words written by others, and just not "getting" it. Galen, I don't know how you personally view this, but I'm feeling "under attack" by the one who wants us to no longer grow closer to God. My gut tells me it's not that complicated, and it's not about my feelings. It's all about my commitment to the One who saves, putting Him first. He must increase, and I must decrease. Maybe the enemy chooses to go after those who are searching for truth, and are becoming too close for his comfort.
    Thanks for this most excellent post, my friend! Blessings!

  2. Thank you for your heartfelt comment, Martha. I don't think about things in quite the same way you do, but I understand your perspective. And perhaps that is the key — the connection between people that bridges different vocabularies and concepts, the connection that makes others less "other." And maybe that is what seems so complicated but is really so simple.

  3. I have never felt your posts are too dense for me to understand. I'm not trying to race to some kind of answer to our dilemma of being creatures with minds in an unfathomable universe. It's just the way it is. I love your posts so I hope you don't change them.

  4. When I found your blog less then a year ago, I was so happy to find a writer who I can identify with. I really appreciate the skill that you present complex thoughts in a limited but concise form. This kind of writing is not for everyone. Everybody is at a different level of consciousness. I get the impression always that my thinking don't fit with the mainstream of thought, either. That is why I enjoy your blog. You write in a way that is artful, inspiring and impressive. Thanks Galen for all another awesome post….. smile

  5. DJan, I'm not sure how I could change them. The observations I mentioned reflect less on the abilities of the reader or listener and more on the inherent challenge of using words to communicate about something that is by its very nature wordless. Others write much better than I do about the mystery, yet even the best writers run into the same conundrum. I appreciate the honesty of those who so sweetly and often with humor acknowledge the issue.

    I love your description of "our dilemma of being creatures with minds in an unfathomable universe." Perfect. And so true. That made me laugh.

    Thank you for your kind words and I'm glad you like the posts!

  6. Thank you, Brian! I am pleased that the blog offers something to you and I enjoy our conversations.

    As I said to DJan, I think some of these comments I get are not so much about levels of consciousness as they are realistic acknowledgments of mystery. I take no offense at them and indeed they are offered by people who are dear to me and who do continue to read the blog. Their comments ground me in reality and I appreciate them.

    This is what I wrote to someone who commented on Facebook:

    "Your comment reminds me of one of my martial arts teachers. If you manage to grab hold of him while sparring, he'll say "Oh you got me." Then with a deft move he "disappears" like a cloud and says with a mischievous smile, "Do you?" So every time I think I have a grasp of the mystery, it vanishes with a twinkle!"

    A blog necessarily involves words, and words will inevitably fall short. We can "talk" about the mystery, but it is a poor substitute for the experience. Our best teacher, in my humble opinion, is our breath!

  7. Hi Galen! Well philosophies which have a truthful simplicity are probably by their very nature hard to interpret into words. I think you do a great job, you stretch me and my thinking, and that is wonderful in itself. And you always use some real life experiences to illustrate the more abstract concepts by which I enter into some understanding. So please carry on as you are, you have a talent for conveying the truths of Taoism and so much more besides!

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