12 December 2008

Finished: Of Water and the Spirit

I'm taking it slow these days -- this week in particular I've slept more than I have in a long time -- but with books in particular. I remember skimming How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler (along with his Six Great Ideas) in the midst of my undergrad education when I was reading too many books a week. Adler couldn't stop me from engulfing myself in the words of other for the sake of an "A." Nowadays, I'm taking it easy. Of Water and the Spirit is the first book I've finished in about a month it seems. And, it was great.

Malidoma has me questioning words.

I recently was looking at the word "logos," which to my understanding is translated as "the word" in Greek. In the famous John passage about the word became flesh, I came across a study that argued the word "logos" could have been more appropriately put as "sophos" or wisdom. This is fascinating to me because being a word nerd myself -- I've been struggling with understanding how words are not adequate to express the complete feeling or meaning. Wisdom -- and with it I believe comes less words and more of an image, like Sophia -- might hold the key to greater understanding I'm thinking; the wisdom became flesh?

Nevertheless, tis hard for me to forsake my occupation -- English Literature person that I am -- as well as my passion -- I identify as a writer. Poetry, some argued (I'm thinking of Laura Riding -- a next read), was the key to what I would put as a link between words and wisdom.

Malidoma is really questioning questioning or the desire to intellectualize or take apart meaning. Here are some passsages I found most moving:
I became conscious of an overwhelming urge to analyze and intellectualize everything I was seeing and experiencing. This impulse to question was cold and purposeless. I was tired of getting nowhere in my thoughts, tired of being constantly defeated in my understanding. I felt trapped, caught inside a stone wall, trying uselessly to break out. But I didn’t know where I would be if I escaped. (200)

But, I kept telling myself, one cannot continuously ask questions. One cannot always sculpt theories to frame experience, or top experience with the roof of theory. The techniques of indigenous learning were revealing themselves before my eyes, sweeping away my preconceived notions of how learning was accomplished. The contrast between this state of mind and what I had been accustomed to at the seminary was the same as the difference between liquid …living, breathing, flexible, and spontaneous… and solid. What I was learning made sense only terms of relationship. It was not fixed, even when it appeared to be so. (203)

I cannot repeat the speech of the green lady. It lives in me because it enjoys the privilege of secrecy. For me to disclose it would be dishonor and diminish it. The power of nature exists in its silence. Human words cannot encode meaning because human language has access only to the shadow of meaning. (222)
Meaning does not need words to exist. (258)

Questions are the mind’s way of trying to destroy a mystery. The mind of the village elder has become accustomed to living with questions while his heart dances with the “answer.” (264-5)

The speech of silence is achieved when words, and their potential ability to hurt meaning, are done away with. Words entrap meaning, torture it, slice it into pieces the way a butcher cuts the meat of a slaughtered animal and serves it to us. The speech of silence has profound respect for the integrity of meaning as an entity separate from language. In silence, meaning is no longer heard, but felt’ and feeling is the best hearing, the best instrument for recording meaning. Meaning is made welcome as it is and treated with respect. (272)
Crazy enough, some of my Unity Bridges friends have attended Malidoma's trainings, and I'm hoping to attend his Intensive Retreat in ritual for 2009 up in Santa Rosa. http://www.malidoma.com/intensive2009.html,

1 comment:

Max Weismann said...

We have recently made an exciting discovery--three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos on the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

When we discovered them and how intrinsically edifying they are, we negotiated an agreement with Encyclopaedia Britannica to be the exclusive worldwide agent to make them available.

For those of you who teach, this is great for the classroom.

I cannot over exaggerate how instructive these programs are--we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

Please go here to see a clip and learn more: