The Tower of Babel Dilemma

tower-of-babel

There was quite a while when I didn’t speak with people, other than to exchange empty greetings and conduct routine business. I was so disillusioned, attempts to communicate about anything of substance seemed futile.

During this time, working with the Book of Change kept me in touch with the deeper, better side of myself and the universe. As this work led me to reestablish meaningful connection with others, my aspirations turned towards seeking ways to share this life-saving gift with others.

If the best I had to offer humanity was the same book which had served to keep me whole, how could I persuade others of its value? Whether intentionally or not, what I have come to call “The Tower of Babel Dilemma” – the degeneration and fragmentation of the English language – is a formidable obstacle to effective communication. Glib labels and false assumptions associated with the book led to out-of-hand rejection. “Foreign.” “Ancient.” “Unscientific.” “Unchristian.” “Pagan.” “Superstitious.” “Difficult.”

It seems to me that language has devolved into quite the opposite of the English I’d learned to love and respect in high school. There, we were taught to regard language as the premier tool of logic. When used with Sherlock-like diligence, applied the powers of keen observation and heightened awareness, it could solve mysteries — not only to detect the crimes of evil-doers and the nefarious plots of national enemies, but to unravel the mysteries of life and the universe.

Turned inwards, used with self-honesty, language is essential to cultivating self-awareness. For the truth-seeker, language is a necessary vehicle of information both on the inward quest and on the return journey outwards to share results.

But even people with the best of intentions use the same words to mean very different things. They miss each other coming and going, only vaguely aware of the disconnect.

Tracking the meanings of words, I was fascinated to find that their devolution is systematic. In some cases, the same word actually means not only one thing, but its exact opposite as well.The “positive” word is an important example. Webster’s dictionary lists seventeen (!) contradictory uses.

Instead of being used as a means for unifying human beings, language is often degraded into chaotic paralyzing noise – a weapon for stirring up animosities, division and confusion.

So I set about to build the all-important groundwork for communicating about The Book of Change. I needed to rescue the language – restore it from its debased status as a smoke screen spun to camouflage self-serving intent. To this end, I outlined chapters for The Yoga Dictionary: Answering the Tower of Babel Dilemma.

As a reminder, the biblical story describes defiant humanity’s fall from unity into confusion and separation:

In Genesis, a united humanity speaking a single language and migrating eastward, came to the land of Shinar שנער‎‎. There they wanted to build a city and a tower “tall enough to reach heaven;” God, however, disapproved of such behavior as disrespectful, scrambled their speech so they could no longer understand each other and scattered them throughout the world.

The Sixty-Four Essays found in Part Two of Conscience are an off-shoot of this project. They’re meant to be used, as is the Book of Change itself, to cultivate mindfulness. They bring attention to the complexity of basic words we too often take take for granted and the critical importance of establishing a shared common ground of understanding.

Three-Part Format

Like the 64 images of the I Ching, each of the 64 Essays in Conscience: Your Ultimate Personal Survival Guide is self-contained – a miniature world complete. Each invites the reader to slow down and think carefully, taking the time to examine current beliefs and apply timeless wisdom to immediate personal experience.

There’s a method to the order of the Essays. Originally they were placed in a logical progression that seemed to tell a story. However, there’s no need to read them in sequential order. Using the Alphabetical Table of Contents is another option. If a particular subject stands out as immediately relevant or interesting, choose that one.

A three-part format gives each Essay structure-within-structure:

Part One. Though the Book of Change is dismissed as inaccessible and rarely taught in public schools, the number of influential thinkers whose ideas intuitively resonate with its timeless wisdom aren’t limited by either time or place. Quotes from the work of well-known figures serve as a springboard and bridge linking the familiar with the new.

Contrasting voices speaking to the same universal concerns highlight the yin-yang, old-new, East-West dynamic which everyone everywhere, deeper than deep, share in common.

Quotes from Chinese philosophers inspired by working directly with the I Ching include Confucius, Lao Tzu (The Tao Te Ching) and Sun Tzu (The Art of War).

Quotes from the Old and New Testament which resonate with I Ching wisdom include the Psalms of the musician/poet/ healer/warrior King David and the words of his direct descendant, Jesus Christ.

The Muslim tradition is represented, as are modern day medical practitioners, healers and teachers. Countless martial arts disciplines are based on I Ching science and philosophy, as are Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong. Bruce Lee‘s Jeet Kune Do is one well-known example.

Also included are voices of Westerners in synch with I Ching wisdom, from Plato and Christopher Columbus to William Shakespeare and Albert Einstein; from Abraham Lincoln and Sir Winston Churchill to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela; from Norman Vincent Peale to Peter Drucker, Scott Peck, Steven Covey, Jim Loehr, Norman Cousins, and Tony Robbins.

Voices of creative women in harmony with I Ching wisdom include those of Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Naomi Judd and Oprah Winfrey.

Part Two. “The Front” examines a specific word’s meaning in depth, giving examples with emphasis on its use in I Ching context, elaborating on implications of the quotes. Quite often changes in meaning correlate with the evolutionary path of the chakra system, reflecting an increasing level of maturity and self-awareness.

Part Three. Just as the coins sometimes used to derive I Ching readings have two sides, every idea has its shadow, opposite side. Accordingly, a brief section called “The Back” balances The Front side of each Essay to round out the picture. It briefly describes each universal idea’s mirror opposite, as well as inversions and perversions.

angel-sized

Revisiting these concepts at this particularly dangerous window of time would be a particularly helpful investment of energy and attention, as the gap between an historical election and projected inauguration stands in the balance.

Let those with an ear to hear and heart to understand take heed.

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