“The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
But few can put it into practice.
True words seem paradoxical.”
~ Stephen Mitchell (trans.), Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (New York: Harper Perennial), 2006.
“Every word,” Emerson wrote, “was once a poem.” Everyone knows this is true, but few—poets, that is—but it into practice.
But not just poets. We are too precious about what poetry should look life and who counts as a poet. Children are natural poets; for them, every word is new. The Greek root of the word, poeisis, can be translated as “bringing forth.” When the child cleaves off a piece of the world and attaches a word to it, she brings forth meaning from sound.
Over time, of course, the novelty wears off, poetry settles into prose, and we forget the creative power not just of language, but consciousness itself.
True words seem paradoxical because no words are “true” or “false.” Every word is an interpretation that reveals and conceals the world. But even this conceals a deeper truth—that there is no “true” world beyond our perception and language.
True words seem paradoxical because reality is paradoxical. Once we cease and desist from treating paradox as a problem to be solved, once we concede that existence is not even but fundamentally odd, the world—and the Word—can once again speak to us and through us.
New to the Dao Du Jour? Check out “Day 0.”