The truest things cannot be understood, because they themselves understand, and what understands cannot be understood.
Take a man or woman. We peel off their star chart or Spotify most-listened tracks of 2017 and we see them for what they are in their complexity, and we tell them, “In this, I think I see you.”
We try to understand by encompassing, by bringing the object within ourselves and analyzing it, feeling out its soul. Within, within. Deeper, deeper.
But there is no object, no fine prism so bewitched with their soul-light, that they cannot say, “It is not I, who is now speaking, that you hold in your hands.”
This is true even in our beloved’s arms.
“That is my IQ, my funniest joke, the content of my bedside table. It’s the color of my eyes. It’s not me.”
We give up on all these physical things, and, in a stroke of inspiration, ask, “What about your words? In fact, what about your very protests that you cannot be understood? In the ‘it is not I,’ do we not hear the speaker, negated but present?”
But every time, at every train station and at every wedding, they’ll say, “That’s not I, which is not I.”
So we set out to gather up all the not I in the world, the alarm clocks, the sand, fruit flies, and the reefs, every non-straight line and every non-black non-raven, but the realization dawns that it’s not enough.
Through this method we will never know what it is to sit square on the hypotenuse or fly on black wings.
We cannot, through negation, understand one who understands.
“I” is a lonely thing, which probably has something to do with why so many of us hurry to define ourselves this way and that and pretend that they can be understood, when really they can only understand, and turning that faculty in upon themselves yields no data.
The dissatisfaction of trying to understand the “I” rankles.
There’s seemingly no recourse; they are as real as we are, and so cannot be contextualized, systematized, and made to cohere.
These processes only begin with the understander as a given.
How, then, are we even aware of an “I”?
We can see them.
Sight is the wrapper of things so profound it takes generations to speak their name. Though I cannot understand the understander, I can see the seer.
It is not something I try to do; trying can be understood.
It is something that falls upon me, that take me by surprise.
Where once we struggled to understand, the “I” is suddenly present in his totality; but as we attempt to approach, it disappears.
Before the image fragments, we see him framed, in his wholeness, in his resisting presence. His soul is, just for a moment, present within us. Our reality does not encompass his. It gives way before his, allows him to float in the negative space we’d collapse by our slightest breath.
This is what it means to eat and grow more hungry.
Understanding is filling; the good becomes our own flesh. Things stitch together in our minds like reconstituted proteins.
But the understander, the other soul, is not found in chemicals, cannot be described by logic, even though those are the tools he uses, the letters and words for his meaning.
We take him for food but he cannot be digested. He can be seen but not touched. he can be known only at a distance.
We see, and give way to his reality, and remain empty. We cannot eat it; we can only see it.
We see in the depths of their eyes another soul, another understander, and know we will never be satisfied, that we will never be one.
And, despite what you may have heard, there are options open to us other than eating.
Because, though we cannot prove it nor convey it nor properly understand it ourselves, the “I” is the same as our “I”.
Imagine if all you could eat was yourself. You are starving and start at your feet. You work your way up into the torso, past the navel, and are struck by a strange notion.
You realize before you reach your own stomach that it already resides where you would send it by eating it. This cannot be. You will never be full this way; eating this way will undo your eating.
But maybe your mistake is in your approach. Perhaps you’ve had it all backward.
Who says your stomach is more “I” than an apple just because it’s on one side of your skin?
Perhaps the world is all you, all within you, and your skin is not a sleeve holding you together but a mobius strip, a membrane with only one side.
If an “I” cannot be a brain or a stomach or an apple or anything negotiable, what, then, is it?
G-d is everything other, and also our deepest self, and our skin only has one side.
There is one G-d; we are, in our inscrutability, as real as Him, and He is all that’s real.
The One who understands is, at the deepest place, the only One who understands, behind every pair of eyes, at the deepest reach.
He is different everywhere because His Torah is true and He is One with it.
The Torah is the decryptor finding in the encyphered essence of every rock and rock song the Rock of Ages.
And if all souls are one as they spring from the Divine Truth, then we not only eat or see, but inhabit the same verbs from the inside.
It is G-d, and therefore ourselves, and therefore G-d, whom we are trying to assimilate.
Between the one who sees and the seer who is seen lies only a perfect prism casting illusions, and our mission is to unmake it by seeing through it, to show it what it is and therefore that it isn’t.
We hunger deeply for that which we already possess but cannot, in our striving, see.
It will not do, either, to cleave to inertia and hope it will fall into our laps, for if this were the expectation, why do we exist at all?
We are “I”s who are meant to understand, in the end.
So, we must confront the layered complexity with which we’re entangled and settle not for food that satisfies nor hungry visions.
We must delve into these modes, find the non-being that delineates their fences, and push through to the seeing Seer, the knowing Knower, the Truth at the heart of and above everything, the One G-d.
The world is ours if we eat ourselves; G-d is in our own hearts.
The subsumer, in turning his being upon himself, is subsumed; the understander gives up on understanding, and attains, in his nothingness, freedom.
This is religion.