Part 1: Lost in Concepts

12. Posts in the Sand

I view word-tools as posts in the sand.  I don’t mean to imply concepts are totally unstable.  I think of the sand as firm enough to hold the post, but only as a temporary placeholder.  So, I aim to use words/concepts with awareness that they are temporary and moveable; they can be placed then replaced, or placed then discarded.

I feel a “pain in my back” and I remind myself that it’s a sensation of this moment.  When I hear my mind saying The pain is getting worse, I remember I’m freeze-framing something that moves.  

I compare a past moment when I didn’t feel the pain to this present one when I do.  I draw a line that points up on the pain scale.  Then I project a worst picture future, all from two points.  I’ve forgotten that my word-tools are only snapshots of a moving flow of living that keeps changing.  But if I freeze-frame that tiny slice of a sensation, I misrepresent the moving flow.  Labeling my sensations only sensationalizes them.  I have become like the evening news.

It’s as if I placed a post in the ground and surrounded it in cement.  I took a moment, put it with another moment, created a “pain-worse” post, then viewed it as “the truth” by putting cement in the post hole.

Using word-tools as posts in cement doesn’t fit the ever-changing nature of my sensations.  More than that, it doesn’t fit the total flow of changeability I see everywhere around me.  Viewing word-tools as posts in the sand fits the reality of my experience much better.  

But when I’m lost in concepts, the post-in-cement analogy fits perfectly.  When I’ve put them in cement, my posts hold up walls that keep out anything not fitting my firmly fixed, locked-in conceptions.

How about you?  What fits your experience?  When you are stuck in comparison, evaluation, judgment, doubt, worry, etc., does it feel like posts in cement?


Years ago, I was blind to the flow of sensations and the changeability of me and my surroundings.  I saw it all as unchanging/permanent, partly because that was how I thought it should be.  My structure of posts-in-cement, including what I thought should be, formed a fortress I called “the truth”, all made of synthetic essentials which I now regard as highly limited representations of the reality of life.

Here’s another analogy.  Imagine word-tools as public parking places.  Most public parking places are host to many different cars.  One car comes, then leaves.  Then another car comes.  Public parking spaces are not meant to be permanent for one car.  The purpose of a car is to move, and the purpose of a parking space is to temporarily hold that car.  The same applies to word-tools.

Words/concepts freeze one moment of the complex, interconnected movement that is life and then put that moment into a neat little frame that can seem permanent.  But, immediately after that, another moment is being lived.  Updating my snapshot means that another word-tool now fits better.  Since life changes, doesn’t it make sense that a symbol representing it would also change?  

So I often remind myself that words are temporary.  They describe the sensation happening now, not a permanent aspect of reality.  Life simply isn’t permanent, but words carry a strong pull that makes it seem so.

I found how impermanent my thoughts were when I became aware of the crazy thoughts (see the next section) about my roommate not cleaning up her messes.  Same with a man I saw at the gym and dance studio who I judged as gruff and unfriendly.  Maybe he appeared that way a few times, but I did both of us a disservice when I froze those moments and formed a “mean guy” post which I put in cement.  From then on, “mean guy” became the whole of him until I broke through that artificial wall by finally saying hello.

My labeling closed out the bigger picture of everything else about these people.  Word-tools create a constricted perspective that is inapplicable to the complex whole of a person, sensation, or situation.

“He/she promised to marry me, love me forever, stay with me” etc.  He/she probably meant it when they said it.  It is real for us when we say it.  But viewpoints, feelings, preferences, and situations change.

Who wants to be held to an artificial form of consistency just because we’ve formed a habit of using word-tools where they don’t belong?

For most of my years I believed in being principled and making myself follow through whether I wanted to or not.  Following through is part of doing the “right” thing, isn’t it?  

Being “true to my word” was more important than being genuine.  Later I realized I was being genuine only to a moment in the past, not to the present moment and not to life as a whole.  Being real about my life means taking into account the whole of it, including life’s changeability.

I’ve been conditioned to think that if being genuine in this moment is different from some moment in the past, then I am being false to a previous one.  But that narrow perspective is just one of the many ways I misuse word-tools as an excuse to blame.  When I let my word take precedence over being true to what life has changed into now, I let a tiny sliver from the past take precedence over the reality of the continuous movement of the whole of life.

If someone promises to “marry me, love me forever, stay with me”, why would I want to hold them to those words, sincere in the moment they were spoken but no longer a reality now that months or years have passed?  

Using words as forces against the changeability of life is putting the frozen symbols of word-tools above and against reality.  Who wants to be irrevocably tied to something that ceases to contribute to all the lives involved?  

Why should words, well meant and hoped for at the time they were spoken, be used to shackle the lives of those who exchanged them?  Expecting ourselves to be “true to our word” in this way ignores the wider context that our words are only symbols of an ever-changing reality.  Just because a word makes it appear that we can freeze time doesn’t mean the reality it represents stops.

Science too has shown that our word-truths aren’t absolutes.  What we once believed to be scientific truth is often later proven to be false.  It was “real” only at one point in time and conditioned by one perspective.  Scientists continue to find that what they think of as facts later lead to new observations and ever-changing explanations that undo what they initially believed would never change.  

Blood types A, B, and O were believed to encompass all blood types until type AB was discovered.  After that, Rh factor was discovered.  Each discovery was tested against what actually worked to keep people alive, and each led to different decisions and better medical care.  Each discovery moved posts from one place to another, in combination with adding new posts and totally removing others.

When I use words as if they describe unchanging absolutes, they become weapons of mass destruction, at least in terms of the negative energy I create inside and around me.  Using words as posts-in-cement absolutes, without regard for their limitations, leads to a narrowing that closes my mind off from the wider view of what’s real.

Once I became aware of the minuscule “knowing” that words/concepts carry, I was able to realize the damage I was inflicting by using words as if they were posts in cement.  I am right, other people are wrong.  I wonder how many of us are caught in this illusion.  

I am still realizing new layers of my own posts in cement.  But each realization makes me feel just a little freer and a little more grateful to The Whole that is life.  Viewing words as posts in the sand has been useful in pointing me away from creating weapons of mass destruction and the negative energy that accompanies them.

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