Beyond Words

In Words Fail: Theology, Poetry, and the Challenge of Representation, Colby Dickinson argues that language allows us to speak about a thing, but language never leads us to “the ‘thing itself’—the as such-ness of a thing beyond its linguistically codified and intelligible form” (43). We are left with imperfect representations of things that fail us.

Earlier in his book Dickinson asks this profound question: “How indeed, we might add, would one begin to live as if they knew an intimacy forever beyond our ability to represent it (as in cases involving death) and yet find themselves living in a flesh, with its age and its sorrow, that is, at times, simply all too present?” (25).

Would I live my life differently if I knew for certain that a Great Beyond exists beyond words, beyond my life? Could I ever visit, ahead of time, an afterlife awaiting me before I die?

The ultimate illusion, a depth-defying feat: to take a leave of presence, disappear to a traceless place beyond representation, then re-present myself as myself right before my varied eyes.

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