The line divides. The line is a wall or a tower. It defines. We use it to mark the borders between countries. To cross the line, you need permission, although nature will cross the line at will. This is a human invention. We use it to indicate private property and enact laws that will punish anyone who trespasses the line without permission. We use it in a sense to make ourselves out to be authors, as if the land, the products of the land, somehow belonged to us. We have misunderstood our role as translators. Our role is to take what is there and to transform it, hopefully for the better, to make it useful (to ourselves and others). But we cannot do anything without the earth and its gifts, as we cannot cook without ingredients. We are recipients.
But we do not like this idea, because it takes away our sense of control. We like to pretend that things begin with us, when they don’t, they pass through us. We cling to the line, because without the line there is a hole, we feel empty.
The ego in English is a line: I. And so is the number 1. We count up from 1 when we do business. We teach our children to do the same. We forget to count from 0. Once you start counting from 1, there is no end, there is no knowing where you will get to, so it produces a sense of uncertainty, not control. We feel the need to produce things (despite the obvious harm to the environment), to make a profit. We put ourselves in control, in the driver’s seat. We make ourselves the subject: I think, I do, I decide. But this is an illusion, or at least it doesn’t last.
A verb has a subject and an object. The subject carries out the action of the verb, the subject is in the driver’s seat (where we want to be). The object is acted on, the object is the recipient of the action. As we grow in the spiritual life (as we grow older), we begin to realize that perhaps our role is more to receive than to do. We receive help, we receive healing, we learn (we receive knowledge). We embrace that hole we avoided earlier, the circle (0), and find it actually makes us whole. Where is the difference between “hole” and “whole”? It is in the letter “w” at the beginning of the second word.
Language, like nature, wishes to tell us something. It is full of spiritual knowledge waiting to be seen, deciphered, harvested. A tree when it begins life is like the ego: a straight line (I). But it does not remain a straight line, otherwise it will be fruitless. So it branches out. It blossoms. And bears fruit. The tree is a lesson in what we have to do with the line, the ego, in our lives. It is an ego turning to God. The line (1) acquires branches and becomes 3 (think of a child’s drawing). This is why “tree” is in “three” (the only difference is breath, the letter “h”), because if it doesn’t branch out, it is not a tree, it is just a stick.
Nature and language wish to tell us something, but we are completely blind to this aspect. We think of nature and language as a tool to be used to our advantage (in short, to make money). But we are not here to make money, we are here to grow spiritually, so that we can prepare ourselves for the life to come. We are here to gain experience. Experience teaches us, it makes us more humble, it make us realize that not everything depends on us.
“I” is a subject. But God does not want us to remain as a straight line (we will not be able to bear fruit if we do). What is the object of “I”? If “I” is the nominative, then what is the accusative, the one who is acted upon, the one who receives? It is “me”.
I-ME. This is the same process undergone earlier by the tree. If we turn these words into numbers, we will see that “I” closely resembles 1, a straight line, but “ME” (written with capital letters) closely resembles two 3s (all I have to do is rotate the letters). When we cede control, when we accept that control was never really with us, when we allow ourselves to be acted upon, when we embrace the hole, the uncertainty, that is at the centre of human existence, then the process of spiritual growth can begin. Then we open ourselves to healing.
We become like the tree. We branch out.
This can be seen in other ways, too. What word sounds like “I”? “Eye”. An eye when it is closed is a straight line. What happens when we open our eyes? The eye becomes a circle. We count down. I-O. This process of opening the line is what God requires of us. We open our eyes and begin to see (“see” is in “eyes”). We open our ears and begin to hear (“ear” is in “hear”).
And it can be seen in language. Take the word “live”. In reverse, this word gives “evil”. That is what happens when we distort the purpose of human life and act selfishly. But if we count down and replace the “I” with “O”, we get “love”. It is the same with “sin” and “son”. Again, the line has been breached, we have accepted that not everything is under our control and have made ourselves receptive to healing (note that this takes an act of will on our part, it is not the response of an automaton, we have free will).
Now, in language, the consonants, the flesh of language, are divided into phonetic pairs according to where and how they are produced in the mouth. One such pair is “d-t”. These two consonants are produced in the same way, with the tongue against the front of the roof of the mouth. The only difference is that “d” is produced with voice, while “t” is voiceless. So they are a phonetic pair.
And what happens when we add this phonetic pair to “see” and “hear”, the result of opening our eyes and ears? We get “seed” and “heart”. So a seed is planted in the earth of our heart, in the soil of our soul.
On this Good Friday in the Orthodox calendar, when Christ himself counted down (I-O) by going to the Cross, I would like to suggest that while we think of language and nature as being at our service (which they are, but not to be exploited), their real purpose is to teach us. They are not tools to make money, they are tools for learning. We become like the tree and branch out (1-3). Away from the line that divides us. Or we count down (I-O). Proof of this can be seen in the landscape that surrounds us, in the language we use every day and in the Christian understanding of the Trinity (3 in One).
Jonathan Dunne, http://www.stonesofithaca.com