Was just considering on another forum, like the sub-Zen bottom feeder that I am, the old Zen adage that 'Zen is beyond words':
Seems to me that the notion (and so often it seems to be taken no further than a notion) that 'Zen is beyond words' needs to be qualified with the direct observance that words are already beyond words, and that meaning is already beyond meaning, and that that 'beyondness' is nothing even a hair's breadth separate from the quality that allows them to exist and function in the very real ways that they do in the world... Otherwise 'Zen' might be a load of redundant old waffle.
Now, as if quoting myself wasn't pretentious enough, I'll go on to EXPLAIN (with words, no less) what I MEAN...
How are words already 'beyond' words (I might just as well say that they are 'before' or are 'thus come')? Well, there is the undeniable quality of words that they have consensus meaning (in general use), so we have some sort of experience-based, stored-up idea of what 'dog' means (but surely this changes, sometimes drastically, over time-experience: your first puppy; your old pal who has just passed away; the neighbourhood dogs that chase you on your paper round...) and we know what 'sky' refers to, for e.g. But, words always also mean something different in any given current situation... they are coloured by the present situation and how they are used in that situation: a different dog seen in a different way and referred to for diverse reasons from diverse perspectives, a particular shade of sky that will never be quite the same, a different hue of tense... So, even before we descend into the philosophical waffle of the 'emptiness' of words (which often results in the heady dead-end of their being negated as in some way unreal, or less real, than an imagined Absolute that is 'beyond words') it can be seen that they are not static, unchanging things even if we often assume that they are (and whose fault is that?) Words have a very real, functioning immediacy, a spontaneous meaning, at any given moment besides always retaining a weight of lived, diverse experiences; and they have an even more awesome potential to attract and contain experiences and associations across time.
Words are powerhouses of life. To reject them is to reject life and devalue the vast treasure trove of human experience. And they are that which can make silences so meaning-full.
And so dear, dear Emily Dickinson, our Venerable Ancestor, was able to deliver the Lion's Roar...
|COULD mortal lip divine|
|The undeveloped freight|
|Of a delivered syllable,|
| ’T would crumble with the weight|