Naming the Unnamable

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Photo courtesy of Paul Hueber

The great spiritual teacher Krishnamurti once said, “When you teach a child that a bird is named ‘bird,’ the child will never see the bird again.” What they’ll see is the word “bird.” That’s what they’ll see and feel, and when they look up in the sky and see that strange, winged being take flight, they’ll forget that what is actually there is a great mystery. They’ll forget that they really don’t know what it is. They’ll forget that the thing flying through the sky is the beyond all words, that it’s an expression of the immensity of life. It’s actually an extraordinary and wondrous thing that flies through the sky. But as soon as we name it, we think we know what it is. We see “bird,” and we almost discount it. A “bird,” “cat,” “dog,” “human,” “cup,” “chair,” “house,” “forest”–all of these things have been given names, and all of these things lose some of their natural aliveness once we name them.


Photo courtesy of Paul Hueber (Thanks Paul!)
Paul Hueber


2 thoughts on “Naming the Unnamable

    • I’d never given any thought to it before stumbling upon this quote. I was overwhelmed by the truth of it, followed immediately by a certain sadness and a powerful resolution to really see. What a wonderful insight …verbs first.

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