Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again,” which is one of the well-known passages in the Bible.
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.John 3:5-7
While we tend to focus on the portion of “born again,” another intriguing verse is this:
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.John 3:6
What does it mean when Jesus said, “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”? His explanation was somewhat metaphorical.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.John 3:8
The wind blows where it wishes. And we hear the sound but we can’t tell where it comes and goes. Once we’re born again of the Spirit, we would be like this wind. What does it mean?
Checking them in Greek, we notice that both wind and spirit are the same word called “πνεῦμα (pneuma).” And this word has various implications. It could be the meaning of soul or spirit. It could be breathing as the source of living force as well. It literally means “that which is breathed or blown.”
We can easily recall the following verses:
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.Genesis 2:7
God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, which is the way that man became a living soul. It shares the same implication, while the original words are in Hebrew: נפח (breathed) and נשׁמה (breath).
When we seek our spirit, which is from the Spirit, there is no way for us to know where it came from and is going to. Even there is no way for us to know what it is.
What is the Spirit? What is a spirit? We never know. God alone knows.
We don’t have our words to grasp it in our cognitive realm. Even for Jesus, what he did was describing it metaphorically in such a way that the wind blows, which is merely a tautology as if it is pneuma because it is pneuma.
These are also the fundamental questions in the birth of self-consciousness like the title of Paul Gauguin’s painting in French without question marks:
D’où venons nous, Que sommes nous, Où allons nous. (Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?)
After all, our self-consciousness is an illusion like what we see as our spirit, which is so elusive like the way that the wind blows. We can never know where it came from and is going to. It is the source of everything. We can never objectify it. Plotinus called the One. Lao Tzu call the Tao or the Way. In the Heart Sutra, it is Emptiness.
We can scarcely see and feel it as the metaphorical, enigmatic way that the wind blows. Can we listen to the sound of this wind?
We have to become the wind itself.
Empty our mind, which means we have to become empty. In reality, however, we are seeking and desiring a lot through our senses. Our mind is always full.
Instead, listen to the silence. What we always miss is such silence. Indeed, we need the silence to listen to the wind blowing, that is pneuma. It is calm subtlety within. Only when and if we are nobody but the wind itself. We could hear the answer in silence as blowing in the wind.
Bob Dylan also sings:
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must a man look upBlowin’ in the Wind
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind
Image by Carabo Spain