The World is Not What We Say it is

A child lies in his crib in a nursery. Through an open window, a hummingbird enters the room. The child is ecstatic. He has never seen a hummingbird before. He’s thrilled by the shimmering iridescence; the color, movement, sound, attention, and presence of the hummingbird. It’s a miracle, when placed against the dull wallpaper and quiet of the nursery.

 Then, Mother, or nanny or whomever, comes into the nursery, sees the hummingbird, and says to the child, “That’s a ‘bird’ baby. ‘Bird’.

And instantly, as he hears the word ‘bird’, the ecstasy evaporates. A piece of linguistic mosaic tile has been placed down over the miracle, and glued in place with a word. From now on, the miracle, which was before boundless, is confined within the meaning of a word.

By the time the child is 5 or 6, no more miracles shine though. Tiled over with language, which has blunted it, every miracle has been confined within the limits of words.

But the magic still exists, although it’s not seen. It’s still outside, beyond the scope of language and all limits that are taught through language.

This happens to all of us. In our cribs, we are separated from our Tao. We are introduced to names rather than realities. We are taught to reside in and be in language. We suppress the feminine, the alien, and the ‘different’. We concern ourselves with statistical norms, and we are warned not to pursue the miraculous. The lights go out.

This is a story told by the late botanist and activist Terence McKenna. McKenna was speaking at the Esalen Institute about language and thought. This talk reached me in a big way. I see its truth whenever I’m in nature, away from the noise of it all. I touch the connectedness that is inarticulatable, but that I struggle to articulate. You do the same thing. We were all taught the same. We all have the same struggle.

Why did I write this? Because someone asked me again why I love all green things that grow. The truth is, I can’t articulate it, and I don’t care to try. I want to love the shimmering iridescence; the color, movement, sound, attention, and presence of what we call ‘plants’, without quantifying them. And anyway, whenever I’ve tried to quantify, it made the miracle feel smaller.

We don’t have languages adequate to describe nature. We have languages made of subject-object opposition, based on past, present, and future. Everything bound by time and space. We have words for the matter of the universe, but not for the inner dynamics of it.

Plants have a mind. Or maybe it’s better to say that everything is mind, and plants are a part of everything. People, plants, animals, nature, and stars are co-partners. Whatever it is about plants that makes me feel alive, exists and is real. We’re uncertain about it, but it is real. We exist and are real. I’d rather not try to tile over it all with mouth noises.

The world is not what we say it is.

Live in peace

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