Names giving limits

Jessie wrote…

Today in Religion class, we went over Daoism. This is from one of their sacred texts, the Dao Te Tsing (or spelled Tao Te Ching):

“She who knows, does not speak. She who speaks, does not know. I do not know.”

As we interpreted it, if you know something, you can’t say it. As soon as you name something, you give it limits. We will never know everything.

I am not androgynous. I am not a female, nor a male. I can’t be limited by terms and social connotations.

My resolve: the word that describes me is… “me.”

It’s hard and it hurts to explain myself, but that’s all I have. I guess that’s all I need.

What’s your experience?

And what are you thinking about gender right now?

Posted by on April 25th, 2011 at 08:00 am

Category: your voice 7 comments »

7 Responses to “Names giving limits”

  1. Jessica

    Lao Tzu was some kind of interesting person. Some of the things he said were:

    Existence is beyond the power of words to define:
    Terms may be used, but none of them are absolute.

    In the beginning of heaven and earth there were no words,
    Words came out of the womb of matter;
    And whether a person dispassionately sees to the core of life
    Or passionately sees its surface,
    The core and the surface are essentially the same,
    Words making them seem different only to express appearance.

    If name be needed, then wonder names them both;
    From wonder into wonder existence opens.
    People through finding one thing beautiful
    Think something else ugly,
    Through finding one person fit, find another person unfit.

    Life and death, though stemming from each other
    Seem to conflict as stages of change,
    Difficult and easy as phases of achievement,
    Long and short as measures of contrast,
    High and low as degrees of relation.

    But since the varying of tones gives music to the voice
    And what is is the was of what shall be,
    The sanest person sets up no deed, lays down no law,
    Takes everything that happens as it comes,
    As something to animate, not appropriate,
    To earn, not to own,
    To accept naturally without self-importance:
    If you never assume self-importance, you never lose it.

    Words can be wonderful things


  2. ryan

    agree. agree. agree.

    who needs words to describe themselves, when all that you have is already inside of you.


  3. TomboySissie

    I tend to think in a similar way:

    I use words to describe, not to define.

    Too often people use words as definitions, and pigeonhole everyone and everything they see. I try to remember at all times that words have no intristic meaning, they are simply a means to share ideas and thoughts.

    It might help to think about colours. ‘Red’ doesn’t define a colour, it describes a large number of colours, all similar, but no two exactly the same. And the colours at the extreme ends of the spectrum blend seamlessly into the next ones over. There’s a point at which it becomes a matter of personal opinion as to whether the colour is red or purple.

    Descriptions are important, without them, no-one would be able to communicate thoughts or ideas. Definitions, on the other hand, are limiting. Those who use words to define themselves become trapped by the dictionary meaning of the word, and find they cannot escape it. Rather then using a word to explain who they are, they begin to force themselves to become the physical embodiment of it’s definition in the OED.

    And that never ends well.


    Lane replied:

    I like this. One of my pet peeves is when people try to define what exactly word “X” means and what exactly makes it different from word “Y” and act as though if you can’t come up with an exact definition of a word that word is somehow meaningless. Or alternately, they act as though you have to pick the definition of a word that lets it be defined precisely and absolutely, and more fluid definitions are invalid simply because of their fluidity. That’s not how language works. Language and words have to be fluid, because otherwise they can’t reflect the fluidity of reality.


    Jessica replied:


  4. Clare

    Good enough!


  5. Adair

    Thanks for this discussion. It was healing, cathartic, quieting the oft-run search through my mind for something I can pin down as a label to describe me–but of course no label describes me without misleading. That’s just how language works. I think I can exist more comfortably and powerfully, knowing that.


Leave a Reply

Can I show your picture? If you have a Gravatar associated with this email address, it will be displayed as your photo. If not, I'll just put a picture of a fork next to your comment. Everybody likes forks.

Be nice. Judgmental comments will be quietly deleted and blacklisted. There's plenty of room for those elsewhere on the web.

For legal reasons, you must be age 13 or older to post a comment on Genderfork.

You can use some HTML tags for formatting, e.g. <em>...</em> for emphasis (italics) or <strong>...</strong> for strong emphasis (bold) or <a href="http://(url)">...</a> for links.

Back to top