Day by Day #42: Stabs of Joy?
I knew this would happen. I knew I would forget. I knew it was wordless.
Now the only thing left for me to do is to collect the fragments of previous thoughts and ideas. I knew it would spoil. I knew I would forget.
Let me start from the beginning.
Yesterday, I went to the beach with a little bit of sunscreen on my feet. I figured it would be enough.
When I got back from the beach, I was surprised to find that my feet had burned. It didn’t look too bad.
When I put on my boat shoes, I found that my feet were burned. I took my boat shoes off and discovered that my feet had turned purple. Funny.
When I woke up the next morning, my feet were not only burned, but blistered and puffy. To walk was to know pain.
My feet are currently in the same condition.
I desperately wanted to go for a walk on the beach with the family, but I knew that my feet would hate me. I wouldn’t enjoy it, I thought, I would curse to myself the whole way. I went anyways. To my surprise, the sand was wonderfully cold and smooth.
Thank God I went on the walk.
As beach walks go, every individual found their own pace and space. Some stayed back, some went forward, some went sideways into the water, and some refrained from going near the water at all. That’s okay. We were there together.
The time came when there was little light to see one another’s face. The sunset stopped being beautiful and the night sky took its position. Some wanted to go back. I went with them, but I wanted to stay a little bit longer, just to see what might happen.
At that moment, I had an opportunity to stay back with some others who were thinking the same thing as me. Others and I were not exactly certain how to get back home, nor were we certain how far we would keep walking.
But we kept walking, without much speaking, but with much thought. We each had our own secrets, our own thoughts and ideas to tend to. Each step forward added wood to the fire of our imaginations.
This is how it was for me, but I wasn’t so sure about the others. One person’s distance gave me a clue that he might be thinking something special, but I really didn’t know. I was only assuming we were on the same plane.
But we kept walking, and it got darker and the waves got louder, but the surroundings seemed more distant. The only thing nearby were hidden thoughts. I only continued walking in the certainty that the others wished to do so. But there was a general feeling that no one knew where he was going.
My thoughts at that time were…hard to pin down. And they are much harder to do so now. I feel silly writing this, because that moment was so fleeting, but so strong. I can barely recall it. I have the misfortune of bearing a message I can’t read. But I have to bear it and try my best to tell the world, “There is something over here!”
When we finally turned back (and it had become sufficiently dark), I asked one of the others walking with me, “So, what have you been thinking?” My primary assumption was that we were all thinking something transcendental, because that is what late night beach walks tend to do to a person. For me, they always put me on edge.
I didn’t think he would respond, or that he hadn’t heard me, or that I had easily offended him, or that I needed to ask again. He responded, “It is not fit for words.”
I chewed on this, because it largely summarized the thoughts I had been having for the past thirty minutes. I chewed on this thought, because it was tangible. It gave words, or it hinted at, something that couldn’t be described, despite what the words actually were. It’s an interesting paradox. Words were used to hint at something wordless. Human words are so clumsy. I didn’t need to push much further. I didn’t need to ask, “No, seriously, what have you been thinking.” I didn’t need to ask, “Tell me, please, tell me! It will answer my questions!” I had complete understanding, at that point, that we were on the same plane. We were in agreement that there was simply no understanding the thoughts we were having. It wasn’t even a possibility that they were different thoughts. They were the same, even if they might be thousands of miles apart.
But then I became frustrated. I wanted words to describe my feeling, words other than “wordless”. I was the student and the teacher at the same time. I was the teacher, asking, “Do you know the answer?” And I was the student, replying, “I know the answer, but I just don’t know how to say it.”
I thought it was silly to focus on thoughts that cannot be described. Someone once told me (a teacher), “If you don’t know how to say it, then you don’t know it.”
But my soul simply could not comply. It was a false idea. There was something there. It was there. I just didn’t have it.
I felt like the old man and the wave. The old man wants to run away from the waves like the child. He wants to pretend the water is lava and it will hurt him. But he is old. He knows that the water won’t hurt him. So he outright ignores the water. He walks away from it into the dry sand. Because he knows better.
But if he knew better, he would have done the silly thing. He would have danced with the water, knowing that it wasn’t lava, but pretending it was so.
He would have danced with the sea, knowing that it was chaos, but pretending it wasn’t.
Wordless meanings are a certain expression of chaos. Chaos to us, perfect organization to someone else. Abundant in words we don’t know. Words that aren’t clumsy.
We want to put those encounters into words, but we just don’t know how to. The realist says, “It’s silly to pretend at all that those thoughts can be put into words, much less that they exist at all.” But I say, “I know these interactions are wordless, but I want to pretend they aren’t.”
I know it’s ultimately unsatisfactory to attempt to put timeless things into a finite grasp. It cannot be done. But what is more painful? Is it more painful to accept the wordless meanings, but nevertheless try to embrace them? Or is it more painful to accept that there is meaning where words are not and shrugging off the entire experience?
I find that the greatest joy is found by dancing with the meaning, knowing that it is wordless, but pretending it isn’t.
As for the question, it is more painful to have sunburned feet.
And much sillier when they are puffy.