The Limitations of Language

Today I came across these words in Ecclesiastes 6:11

The more the words,
The less the meaning,
And how does that profit anyone?

One of the lessons I learned from the Zen meditation tradition (back in my twenties) was the limitations of language. In Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, Shunryu Suzuki observed, “The more you understand our thinking, the more you find it difficult to talk about.” This realization that words can confound rather than enlighten is not limited to Zen masters however; it is also expressed repeatedly in the Judao-Christian scriptures, particularly the book of Ecclesiastes. Sometime words obscure meaning, rendering communication meaningless.

No matter how much it frustrates us, language has its limitations. And the more the subject of discussion transcends ordinary experience the more difficult it is to express in the language of ordinary experience. How hard then to speak of the One who transcends all else! Christian mystics like Dionysius understood this only too well. True understanding requires us to move beyond words into direct experience. Yet in Jesus we have the ultimate enigma, the One who transcends everything becomes immanent to everyone. The Word of God became embodied and walked amongst us.

Thousands of years ago the apostle John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life…”

In Jesus, the Word transcends mere words. My challenge to meditation practitioners is the same: seek more than mere words of wisdom but a direct experience of the Word who is Wisdom.

Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.
Therefore stand in awe of God. – Ecclesiates 5:7

The bible is never truly translated until it becomes your lived experience.

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