A Labor In the Dark

Here is how Martin Buber, the Jewish theologian, describes the compulsion of the mystic to capture the fleeting unity of consciousness:

YES IT IS TRUE; THE ECSTATIC [MYSTIC] CANNOT SAY THE UNSAYABLE. HE SAYS THE OTHER THING—IMAGES, DREAMS, VISIONS—NOT UNITY. HE SPEAKS, HE MUST SPEAK, BECAUSE THE WORD BURNS IN HIM. . . . HE DOES NOT LIE WHO SPEAKS OF UNITY IN IMAGES, DREAMS, VISIONS, WHO STAMMER OF UNITY.. . . HE SAYS THE FORMS AND SOUNDS AND NOTICES THAT HE IS NOT SAYING THE EXPERIENCE, NOT THE GROUND, NOT THE UNITY, AND WOULD LIKE TO STOP HIMSELF AND CANNOT, AND FEELS THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF SAYING IT, LIKE A SEVEN-LOCKED GATE WHICH HE RATTLES, KNOWING THAT IT WILL NEVER OPEN, YET HE MUST GO ON RATTLING IT. FOR THE WORD BURNS IN HIM. ECSTASY IS DEAD, STABBED IN THE BACK BY TIME, WHICH CANNOT BE MOCKED; BUT, DYING, IT HAS FLUNG THE WORD INTO HIM, AND THE WORD BURNS IN HIM. AND HE SPEAKS, SPEAKS, HE CANNOT BE SILENT, THE FLAME IN THE WORD DRIVES HIM, HE KNOWS THAT HE CANNOT SAY IT, YET HE TRIES OVER AND OVER AGAIN UNTIL HIS SOUL IS EXHAUSTED TO DEATH AND THE WORD LEAVES HIM. THIS IS THE EXALTATIO OF THE ONE WHO HAS RETURNED INTO THE COMMOTION AND CANNOT RESIGN HIMSELF TO IT; THIS IS HIS INSURRECTION, THE INSURRECTION OF A SPEAKER: RELATED TO THE INSURRECTION OF THE POET, SLIGHTER IN POSSESSION, MIGHTIER IN EXISTENCE, THAN HIS. THIS IS THE BENDING OF THE BOW FOR THE SAYING OF THE UNSAYABLE, AN IMPOSSIBLE TASK, A LABOR IN THE DARK. IT’S WORK, THE CONFESSION, BEARS ITS MARK. (9-10)

I would venture to say that we all know the burning of the Word. We know the work in the dark. And indeed, such confessional work bears its mark.

Like prophets, we go into our caves. We know the peace beyond the commotion of the every day, and we cannot entirely resign ourselves to this ordinary commotion. There is something deeper. Something below the surface, beyond the clatter. There are ways to transcend the commotion and seek an inspired insight that transforms human life.

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an ole smelly goat

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