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The Cairnholy neolithic monument with full moon.

Pointing

A finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. The finger is needed to know where to look for the moon, but if you mistake the finger for the moon itself, you will never know the real moon.

Thích Nhất Hạnh (1991)

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Wittgenstein, in his ruminations on meaning in the Investigations, considered ‘point’ over a hundred times. The Oxford dictionary devotes vast swaths of text to the word. Of its hidden depths, here it is the verb of indication that is relevant: the way we communicate to others what we are seeing; what we are understanding. The ‘finger’ in the picture has been pointing to heavenly movements for 5,000 years. At about half that time ago Buddhist texts noted the way we have to learn to ignore the pointer, a trick that infants do not master before they are nine months old, and which other creatures find baffling. Pointing stands as part of a bridge towards language, although it does not need language, it helps build a foundation for communication, and shows us how meaning and truth may blur any line drawn between language and its lack.

The quotation is attributed to Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha published by Parallax Press.

The Neolithic monument, Cairnholy II, is in southern Scotland a few miles west of Gatehouse of Fleet.



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Saturday 31st October 2020

Murphy on duty ...guide to this site

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