WHEN WORDS FAIL
On a warm afternoon, not long ago, I found myself near an Indian restaurant that perfumed with exotic aromas. I love Indian dishes but to my great sorrow, few of my friends do, so I often find myself eating alone. Lunch on that day was no exception and as I’d spent the morning running errands it was late, nearly 2 p.m.
After ordering a curry, I waited for my meal to arrive by browsing through one of those free health magazines one finds in organic grocery stores. This issue touted the benefits of yoga, for which I needed no convincing, and promoted endless lists of food supplements. At the center of the publication I was rewarded by a short interview with Deepak Chopra. He’d been asked, “What is your understanding of consciousness?” Though I thought it was a staggeringly profound question, the doctor didn’t demur:
“Consciousness is that which makes possible perception, cognition, emotions, personal relationships, biology, biological function, the environment and it relationship to us as well as the universe and its relationship to us. ((“Wise Words” by Linda Sechrist, “Natural Awakenings” 1/2012)
I am a great admirer of Deepak Chopra and own a few of his books, but I found his remark empty, even a tautology. What are words like perception cognition and emotions but synonyms for the word itself. If he’d been asked to define red and had replied, “rouge, scarlet, crimson,” would we have come away enlightened?
Sometimes, it is better to answer a question with the truth: I don’t know. There’s no crime in not knowing and consciousness is as mysterious as the existence or non-existence of God. Certainly, it is one of the greatest mysteries of the universe.
Faced with a profound question, a man would be wise to answer with silence.