What is being? Is it the peeling paint on the walls of the world? Or is it the backbone of everything? What do you think?
A recent philosopher gave the answer that “the occurrence of Being is…an unnoticed and marginal background event.” In this perspective, being is something peripheral, passing by but unnoticed. So if we wish to experience being, we have to be intensely attentive. It flares up, now here, now there, in a flash of vigor and value. If we are not receptive, we miss the glimmer of fresh meaning that it casts before our eyes.
What do you think? There’s something attractive to the perspective, certainly. It is true that the richness and vigor of life often seem pushed to the periphery. They do seem to come only here and there on the breeze. Haven’t you ever suddenly felt something buried in the dark earth of your experience, a pea under the mattress, invisible but filling your world? There’s something attractive to this perspective.
But where does this perspective lead us? What is the shape of being that this proposes? I say that its shape is far too horizontal. There is no solid pillar, only wisps of meaning, dissipating left and right. Its poetry is one of crossing paths and decaying temples: nothing ultimate, only flashes of a distant and dying life. This perspective is too horizontal because it leaves you surrounded by moments of being, but you are unable to tie them down to anything, neither lofty principles nor the simplest of words. You are surrounded with being, but it flies away. It leads you nowhere.
The prophet Daniel has a vertical alternative: “Blessed are you who stare into the depths and sit upon the Cherubim, praiseworthy and glorious forever!” Here are no wisps of meaning, but a vertical blast of divine vision, a pillar of fire from the very heights to the deepest reaches of the world. In this vertical frame, the meaning cuts through everything, top to bottom, since his is a creative vision, a light which makes and sees in one brilliant glance. And we are always within it.
We may still be blind to the light, but no longer because it is too distant. Rather, we are blind because he sits on a throne that is too high for us and sees into a deep too deep for us. Our eyes have not grown wide enough to bear the surprise. And who will show us the height of the vision? Only the one who can cast down the mighty and lifts up the lowly. Who will open our eyes but the one who makes the blind see?
What do you think? We live and move in a world where meaning seems to come in flashes. Is there an eternal breath beyond the breeze? Is there a backbone laid through the broken sky? And what if this backbone groans and bends and dies? What if it is fractured over the chalice of suffering? Will you believe that this backbone still stands straight? Are you ready to hear his rebuke? “You are not thinking the things of God, but the things of man.”
Image by Lefty Kasdaglis