Tuesday, January 29, 2013

description, explanation

Shortly before 5, this mind woke up and, before the aches and pains kicked in, began Tinker-Toy-ing idly ....

Perhaps it is better to describe than to explain. Description, while freighted, is less freighted than explanation. Maybe to describe is better, kinder, less self-involved ... describe, and let others find their own explanations.

Or maybe it's apples and oranges ... another useless deconstruction along the lines of the silly joke question, "What is the difference between a duck?"

It's silly on the one hand and yet, perhaps, worth a look on the other.

More often than not, both description and explanation seem to carry with them the desire to control and limit and make bite-sized-morsels out of the great out-there. If I claim to know, then I don't have to admit I don't know; if I control, then I don't have to face the fact that I can't control; if I limit, then what is limitless (whatever that means) is not quite so threatening.

Description and explanation are not bad or naughty or less worthy in some sense. But I have a hunch that clinging to them -- either or both -- puts sand in a perfectly good gas tank.

Are these times being overwhelmed by explanations? I don't know, but sometimes it seems that there is a willingness to skim over the descriptive facts in a rush to explain or issue an explanation, whether 'out there' or 'in here.'

Quick! Duck and cover! Two paragraphs back I used one of those spiritual-life fire-alarm words -- "clinging." Spiritual lifers may be quick-quicker-quickest to explain how clinging or attachment screws up a peaceful life. It's as if, by explaining it, clinging or attachment could be outwitted ... I would be in control ... and the explanations could camouflage or obliterate the fact that I actually do cling.

Bill, my stepmother's longtime partner, used to be into antiques. Not oak, but rather the stuff you see in museums behind the velvet ropes. Americana was his working world. Although I know little about antiques, still I was impressed with the fact that Bill was not just some milk-sop crowd-pleaser who wore insistent cologne and pranced around what he was trying to sell. Bill could tell you who made a particular piece, where it came from, whether it was a good example of a particular style and, yes, how much it might be worth on the open market. But Bill also knew, literally, how the chest or chair or dresser had been built, the very-particular steps that had been taken to bring the wood out of the forest, to cut and shape and join it, and to finish it. He knew a lot ... enough so that he never claimed to know the mind of the man who made the piece. Bill could describe but seemed to leave explanations to the less-well-informed.

In Zen Buddhism -- or, for those with no interest in Buddhism, "in life" -- there is a saying: "The hard stuff is easy. The easy stuff is hard." It may be hard indeed to reflect on the constructs of this very personal life -- to examine what up until now had gone unexamined. Deeper and deeper the reflection may go. Harder and harder it may become. Back and back into the forest that provided the wood for this particular antique. How it was cut and planed and connected and polished. Like de-layering an onion, it can seem endless and bring tears to the eyes. Hard, hard, hard... until at last there are no more layers and the onion-ness is all that's left. Easy as pie ... and that's when things get hard.

Who could describe or explain or understand a yawn? Who could build a piece of furniture? Who could cling or weep or laugh? It may be easy as pie, but it can also be harder than diamonds.

Another description. Another explanation. And now it's time for breakfast.

No comments:

Post a Comment