Thomas Merton quotes the Taoist mystic Chuang-Tzu: “Rabbit traps are to catch rabbits, once you have the rabbit you may lose the trap. Nets are to catch fish. Once you have the fish you can lose the net. Words are to catch meaning, once you have the meaning you can lose the words.”
Over the course of our lives countless words form our thoughts and these thoughts are constantly destroyed, remodeled, or newly formed by better words. From the time we are born to the time we die it’s pretty safe to say that because all these words come from elsewhere we are actually incapable of a purely original thought. Even if we look closely at those we credit with being original thinkers we will see that their ideas always, in some way, build on thoughts and words they got from somewhere else. The question then seems to be: What is THE original thought? It would certainly seem that no human ever came up with it. Maybe THE original thought is not a point of departure (as are all human thoughts) but rather a destination toward which we travel. Maybe THE originalthought is a beginning and end outside of an enormous one-way circle along which other thoughts and words propel us or stall us. In its humanly unknowable quality it would seem natural to attribute THE original thought to God. Since it’s a given that our limitations prevent us from a clear knowledge of God we are consequently limited in our ability to generate a purely original thought. We are not at that point where we can cast all words aside because we have captured THE original thought.
In flawed human terms I believe that there is something that might be called THE original thought – that from which all other thought flows. It is a thought impossible for any human to think or know. It may simply be yet another name we invent for God as we try so hard to comprehend Him. More likely, THEoriginal thought is what we seek. THE original thought is a oneness we are unequipped to experience until we rest in it and we cannot rest in it until we go outside that one-way circle of thought. Once there we can lose the words