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A few weeks ago, over tea with my philosophy mentor, we talked about language, as we usually do, after we have exhausted our complaints about the failures of most artworks (and artists) to open themselves to the Other. As I explained that my son is developing language right now, he interjected to say that the one thing he would teach his child is a classical language, and then his work would be done — the foundation for thinking, for being in the world, would be in place.

Before I could blurt out my futility on this subject, he described the pre-classical Chinese verb, to exert. In bone oracle script, the pictogram of the word, to exert, looks like a vase with a hand using a brush to sweep out the inside of the vessel. With that action, the vase is emptied, ready to receive — receive god, solitude, Nothingness, the Other.

This week, the man who was grandfather to me told the doctors that he had enough of chemicals, tubed interventions, and medical oxygen. With an almost unspeakable courage, he announced to everyone to stop it all, knowing completely the grave consequences. He was awake and lucid as the staff removed the devices, and remained awake in utter openness of what was to come. His water-blue eyes gleamed as he stared out. Some heard him state, They are all here, and then he was gone.

How quickly the moment of his grace was replaced with our tears, regrets, stories of proofs, of trite edification — an insertion of self, when there should be just an apologetic respect for silence, the eternity of absence, and if necessary, the awe of our inferiority in the midst of his example: he had exerted himself utterly.

Today’s Advice: “A silence both safeguarding and trying to transcend the limits of speech which are… also those of death.” Steiner