excerpts ΙΙThe Being of Being
Quantitatively, existence can be conceived of from the point of view of unity or of multiplicity, from the point of view of the whole and from the point of view of the parts. From the first point of view, what we will discover is the nature, in its twofold aspect of world and times. From the second, what we will discover is the individual or the Being, the chance or the fact.
The nature is one, rich, complete, constant, beyond transformations, strong, eternal, always equal to itself; at least at first sight; the Being is multiple, weak, inconstant, changing, ephemeral and threatened by destruction. As the poet says: Only man is changing The earth forever wandering.But we stick to one place.As we were, so we remain.
An inbred sufferance, an organic lack of fulfillment seems related to the idea of division and of separate subsistence. Chance seems sometimes without sequence or sense, other times it has a meaning and it reveals a destiny. The world has thus a complex character, which we might find useful to examine closer. 1. The Being as a whole: the nature as world and as times.
The notions of space and time – the first ones through which the human mind sifts the idea of being – are not familiar to the Romanian people, in its everyday discourse. The Romanian, when he wants to situate a thing in space, talks about "place" and when you ask him about time, he will answer by talking about "the times". What is the connection between this time and this place with what is? The answer is not difficult at first sight. It was already given, and what we will say here is not new.The place and the time appear as two far-reaching receptacles of the particular existences, which encompass everything there is, like two frames or two vessels, which these things fill with their being.The totality of these beings that fill the time and space with their being makes up the nature, in its two aspects: "the world" and "the times", and the nature is the first object on which the Romanian's grasp of existence focuses.We don't know and we don't want to express preconceptions about the question on whether everything that is, is in a place and at a time; that is, if the whole of existence happens in space and time; but globally, for the moment, this is the way we find the world: in time and in space.The first characteristic. For the Romanian, the world is not only a spatial receptacle, neither is it just a temporal receptacle, but it is a temporal and spatial receptacle in which what is makes its Being known.The world, since it happens in space and time, is not only a hierarchical architecture of essence, but it is also becoming, a flow. Depending on whether the thought of its Being is projected spatially or temporally, the nature is a happening in the world or in the times.The place and the time are thus the two large receptacles of the nature. The world is firstly made up of everything there is in a place and of everything that happens anywhere. And maybe… of something else as well. We cannot help insisting on the idea of happening (and it is not without interest that this flow takes the name of a celebration) which is represented by this gradual development, this great procession of the world that fills the time and space. However, the "place" and the "times" are also dimensions
of the world; that is, they are means which enable us to arrange, place, situate the beings that are in it. The Book of Ecclesiastes, so full of meaning for the Romanian soul, says: "A time to sleep and a time to wake." And common speech has it that all things are done "when their time comes", just as all things are placed "where they should be".There is thus a kind of preconception in speech, namely that things have, in the world, a certain place and a certain time of their own. In other words, that nature is a make-up of beings, bearing a certain arrangement up to a point. We say: "this world is ordered", but we say it is so only "to a certain extent", because the order of this world is not flawless. Anyway, it is not currently flawless. For, if it is true that for the Romanian, eventually, "justice will always come to the surface, like oil", it is also true that, until then, "justice walks about wounded".There is – as we shall see – in this world a certain "weak spot", a certain principle of movement, of disorder, a certain freedom, due to which not all things are complete, in their proper place, and neither do they come at the appropriate time, but they impose a search or a waiting period. But this doesn't mean that there is no possibility of order.Thus, in "space", we order the things that stand still and the space would be enough for this, if things stood still. But, since things are moving, that is, they change and they transform themselves, alongside the state of stillness there appears a state of change, and the things that used to be arranged next to, into, under or over each other, are now arranged in time, one after another, in a row.The space has its familiar dimensions: length and width, that is extent; and height and depth, that is, capacity. However, the latter, the depth, the height and maybe the width as well, seem to be special, not just because only they give the world its full meaning of inclusion; but also because they bring in the world of expanse an idea of appreciation and of qualitative hierarchy of the Being. The depth or the height of a thing implies, indeed, a more select nature of the Being than that of an ordinary thing.Time has its dimensions as well. At first sight, time only has one dimension: length. Since things are arranged one after another, that is, they make up a row, the length of time might appear as its only possible dimension. At a closer look however, time has a volume as well, that is thickness. For, since the world exists all at once, as an inclusion of several things all given at the same time, all things have their own specific sequences of successive events. The nature, in its wholeness, unreeled in time, cannot be thus – as it was shown by others as well – a single stream, but a collection of streams, which together make up a global stream of partial streams. In reality, the world has all the dimensions of space, plus the unfolding in time. The time is therefore, for the Romanian, nothing else than the world in a constant change. And consequently, "the times" are for him not only flow but also content.Understood this way, not only as flow but also as a receptacle of existence, the times have one more character. They don't only unreel endlessly, but they also find fulfillment. The fact that the times have depth is also important because it opens up a new problem. If all things pass, and if everything has its own sequence of transformations, that is, if there are parallel developments or developments that interweave, we can seize not only the thread of a single happening, but we can get hold of the ends of several such threads, which are unreeled in the same direction and we can connect them. Thus, the "gromovnic
", which deals with interpreting "the signs of the times", not only of the rain and of the blizzard, or of life, but also of the more significant times: of wars, of ages, even of eons, becomes possible.The thing that dominates this entire conception of the Romanian world is, as we can see, the feeling of an immense universal solidarity. Each fact resonates in the entire world, each and every gesture propagates its music in everything there is, the same way the Cremonese violins resonate inside whenever one plays at one of them. A man's life is connected to the fate of a star. A man's bad deed clouds the sun and the moon. This thing, which the researchers into the Romanian ethos have long ago highlighted, represents the first important Romanian feature of existence in its totality.This would be easily explained if the Romanian's "world" were a perfect hierarchy of substances, governed by their essences. One can only assume that any shift in one of the parts would make the whole quiver.Truth is that things are more complex and the Romanian view on the world leaves enough room, as we have seen, for imperfection and freedom in its internal structure. If there are such resonances, this presupposes the fact that in this conception of the world there is an interdependence prearranged by incidents and a hierarchy pre-established by beings; and that, however, there is something that unsettles it.The second feature of this world, related to the first, is the one which we could find once at the basis of the entire mediaeval thought: the idea that all things have a meaning, that the world is a book of signs, a "trepetnic".The questions: "Is it a good sign?" or "Is it ill-omen?" accompany, with the Romanian, every incident in this world. And his world is not a neutral one, one with incidents without meaning or connection to each other; on the contrary, it is a world suffused with evil or benevolent powers, with callings or silences, with revelations and concealments. In a way, all things of this world are beings and have something to say to the one who can listen. The shadow of the tree that allures you; the earth that sometimes holds out when you want to cut through it with the plough and which lets itself be cut through other times; the well which calls you to quench your thirst; the tree that invites you to take its fruit; the bird that sings to you of good or ill omen; the rabbit that crosses your path; the wicked fairies that catch you in their dance reel if you linger at road junctions at night… everything is enlivened, fresh, ceaselessly alive in this concrete world. Everything refers to you, urges you, invites you, caresses or menaces you!All things are beings with their own intentions and gestures. They do not represent a static make-up of essences ranked according to their degree of Being, but a vast procession in which the symbol reveals the individual and the individual conceals the symbol. The visible world, in which things happen like signs from beyond towards us, doesn't reveal only an invisible world, to which it stands in a relationship of essence-appearance; the visible and the invisible world interweave with fickle efficiency, like in mythology.This dynamic and fickle completeness of the Romanian existence is not to be found only in our countryside world. But, in cities, where things have become more laicized and the world more "positive", things take a different turn. For, what else is this desire to find out, this continuous chase for "novelties" of the Romanian from the city, their thirst for rumors and the way in which it is quenched as soon as their fantasy shows them that what seem to be the facts incline towards a meaning that appeases them or takes a menacing attitude, like the wicked fairies at the road junction, for the belated night pilgrim?You start from the everyday life, and, inadvertently, you find yourself in a legend. Let us consider a little everything that is particular in this atmosphere of vivid action and reaction, of conversation between man and events (…) and we will understand that the Romanian existence unfolds in a sort of fairy tale-like world, in which what we call "positive reality" dissolves into a dynamic and animistic plurality, in which the interpretation looks for its good or evil signs. And this is another trait and another dimension through which the Romanian existence acquires its own profile. To it is connected, naturally, the remark that "the Romanian is born a poet" or that "the Romanian is smart". And to it, is also connected the fear that "the Romanian is not constant", or the ascertainment of the so-called "Romanian skepticism", of the "non-pragmatic character of the Romanian" or of his "lack of tenacity"…The Romanian existence however, does not include only this world, but also the world beyond. The fact that this world is defined through an adverb, with no reference, is full of significances. The world beyond has a strange status compared to the one here. One might expect to find it separated by a spatial border: here, beyond. One actually finds it separated by a change in the nature of the Being. The world beyond is not "outside" this world. What separates us from it is a sort of internal restriction, of borderline, a distinction of an existential nature, an inclusion of the Being, similar to the one that entitled us to talk about the brothers from "beyond", before the First World War. Can anyone imagine a Frenchman calling an Alsatian, before 1918, frère de l'au delà
? One cannot. Au delà
implies, with the French, a threshold of no return, which makes the employment of the term inappropriate to any immanent usage, whereas with us, between "here" and "there", there remains a customs.The world beyond includes this world as well. It is an open receptacle, which encircles this world from all sides, permeates it, fills and fulfills it. The invisible things exist, like the visible ones, even if they are not given in space. But if they are sometimes given in time and therefore they appear in the world as incidents threaded on the string of time, this string is not endless. Hence, it does not include the things which might be outside the string, extraordinary ones, neither does it include those above the string, from after "the consummation of time". The existence, as a whole, "the world in general", exceeds thus, from all angles, the time and space, the place and the times in which things are settled in "this world".Regarding the content, now, the horizon of the Romanian world is not limited to deed, to attempt or to the purpose of the action. It is a concrete horizon, which another one surpasses from all sides though, and which crosses that other one as well, in all directions.There is no existential disruption, abyss, for the Romanian, between this world and the world beyond, between the present times and eternity, there is only a borderline, a gateway.The sharp distinction between the existential presence of the concrete individual, subject to dissolution, who knows he will die and is afraid of this, his fright being the real existential clue, and the impersonal existence of the world, in which everything is done and undone, is replaced, with us, in a way, by a distinction between two worlds: this world and the world beyond. But the distinction between what is here and what is beyond is made applying completely other criteria than the difference between "I am" and "I am something" in Western metaphysics.Firstly, this world is not a world of "presences" in the acceptation of current metaphysics. It includes the things that "were", but "are not anymore". As well as the things that "can be", but "are not yet". These stretch the realm of this world towards borders that seem absurd to the "Western logic"; because for it, what is not anymore, cannot be "anywhere", as "to be" means "to take place". Similarly, the things that "can be" are not because possibility is, with the Western logic, a mixture of being and non-being, that is, the simultaneous assertion of the conjunction and of the disjunction of existence and non-existence, in other words the existence of what is relative either is or is not, and therefore, in an absolute sense, is and is not.For the Romanian existence, to which the things that are, are not connected by presence, that is by the hic et nunc
existence, the questions persist obstinately. What is to be done with the consummated deeds? And what is to be done with those that are to come?They are, however, "in the world". And, if "this world" is too small to enclose them, then there is another world, "beyond", for them. And this is how the world "beyond" appears naturally, as an extension of this one, as a place of the same passing. And this is to be remembered. At a deeper level, it is as if there were no distinct two worlds, no other world.The difference between this world and the world beyond does not offer to this one, to "the presence", any existential privilege. The world beyond activates and is efficient, just as this one. Actually, if one looks deeper, it has a greater efficiency. However paradoxical it might seem, this extension, this passing, appears in the Romanian existence in the shape of an immanent process that is nevertheless accomplished in the complete existence, which is not that of this world, but of the one beyond.The gash that exists between "presence" and "non-presence" does not affect the "essence of the world" for the Romanian. The whole qualitative unfolding of the world is independent of the gash between this world and the world beyond. The "happening" of things unfolds simultaneously on this level and on the eternal level. The height and depth ideas are valid for both heaven and hell, as well as for the visible world, even if heaven should not be "here", but "there".The idea of "nowhere" does not mean something out of the world, but the impossibility of situating something within the world. The world is everything, but it is also "everywhere". The world is complete, but it is complete with a passing. The things in it are not final, in their proper place. They "drift" and sometimes they "come back."Between this world and the world beyond there is a certain inter-connection. "Beyond" does not actually mean "outside", but "another way". The people here sometimes pass "beyond" in their dreams or while awake. The people "beyond" linger around here. Thus, there is no abyss between "here" and "beyond", but a sort of customs, and if you pay the duties, you will pass. "Beyond" does not define a spatial border, but a quality of the Being."The endlessness" of the world is an issue of perspective. In fact, this world has an end. But, where this world ends, the world beyond begins. What is more, the world beyond begins even before this world ends. The world beyond pervades and permeates this world.Even "holiness" appears as immanent. It pervades everything. The sun is holy. The sheep is holy. The house is holy. Everything that is where it should be and when it should be, with a certain purpose, is holy. The holy justice, the holy country, even the holy beating!How rich are the distinctions that mark, in Romanian, this idea of continuous happening that fills time and even goes beyond it! Starting with the metaphysical and the quasi-Spinozan "forever", which is the time when everything is given at once, for which eternity is only the unity of the whole, and not in the least its "endlessness"; adding the continuously flowing "always" or its synonym, which shows the way in which the continuity of the flow melts the moments (the time atoms), "interminably"; or overriding the boundaries of time from this world, in order to contain the one beyond as well, in this continuity of happening, and ending up with the religious "eternally", which means "always forever", that is, time and eternity together, or with its derived indicative "de-a pururi
" – what a richness of nuances!We remember how startled we were 15 years ago when, trying to translate a text by Péguy for the first time, we realized that, for notions which he strived to coin in French, by juxtaposing concepts such as: continuellement toujours
or éternellement toujours
, for which we should have translated "always forever" or "perpetually forever", we find in our language, already existing, these notions of "eternally", "to live eternally", distinctions which our ancestors' language had made centuries before. The reflection on this "forever", for instance, is of great interest, because it opens the way to a fundamental Eleaticism of the Romanian sense of existence, which, nevertheless, coexists paradoxically, in parallel and concomitantly with a Heraclitism, just as fundamental, in the feeling of the never-ending happening of things in the world.We cannot but stop and draw attention here to the difficulty which Eminescu himself experiences, when he tries to drape in the body of Romanian language conceptions that are foreign to those of our people, as for instance in the lines: There was no today, or tomorrow, or yesterday, or forever.For, one was all and all was one
. If "forever" really means "forever", that is "all at once", then, instead for the line to say what it says, it should say: "There was no today, or tomorrow, or yesterday, but forever." The next line would have thus been the actual explanation of this "forever", that is, when: "all was one and one was all"; and not its contradiction. But then, another problem would have emerged. How could the poet, with his sharp sense of language and ideas, have identified the confusion of all things in the initial nothingness from the following lines: When the earth, the sky, the air, all that was ever seenWere from among those that have never been,
with the Romanian term: "forever", which, with its roots and with the same construction as the Greek Îν και παν, means exactly the opposite of these lines, namely, the inexistence of nothingness, even its impossibility, because it represents precisely the indestructible permanence of the Being, not its destruction?The explanation would reside perhaps in the derivation of Eminescu's formulation from a French prototype: Racine's similar lines from Les plaideurs
: Le monde, l'univers, tout, la nature entièreEtait ensevelie au fond de la matière,
in which the "matter" has a Platonic meaning of "non-existence", developing on the Ovidian: Unus erat toto naturae vultus in orbe
… The difficulty of rendering the Vedic nothingness in the Eleatic phrasing would then be understandable.The same reflection could be triggered by the incongruence from the lines which declare that: the earth, the sky, the air and all that was ever seen were
from among those that have never
been, in which one can perceive the incapacity of language to express without contradiction the fact that a thing "was" and the fact that it "never" was. In the languages in which presence has a privileged position in existence, this line could have a consistent meaning, for the "existence" would mean "presence"; whereas in our language, in which the existence has only a very weak such meaning, and where, hence, we cannot define the "here and now existence", projected logically backwards, as non-existence in any way, the meaning of the line reaches a serious deadlock. 2. The lonely Being: chance, the individual, God
Where does this indisputable, protean character of existence come from? Where from this distinction between what is here and what is beyond? What are the roots of this special non-positive, poetic thrust of the Romanian into existence, in which the world conceived and imagined acquires the same significance as the existence as such, becoming undistinguishable from the latter?In order to understand, we must abandon the being of the whole and focus on the being of the part, on what we refer to through the existence of every thing. We used the notion of "individual" as a guiding idea, a relatively stable aspect of concrete existence, opposed to chance, as a permanent and unitary deposit of qualities, incidents and deeds, to which the strange evolution of the Latin ens
came in Romanian.Defining this individual as a singularity of personal existence, we found him nevertheless related to the wholeness of existence, through his place and time.In search of the characteristics of this individual we distinguished the two forms of specific existence: the Being and the thing, ascertaining the prevalence of the former over the latter, as the essence of the Romanian individual.Further on, we found a confirmation of the personal character of existence in the distinction between the male and the female appearance, seeing that this distinction does not concern only a part of the being, but goes to the roots. Then, we discovered the essence of "manhood" in the active nature and of "womanhood" in the enduring nature. The lack of the neuter gender in Romanian confirmed to us the impression that the idea of existence was not formed here according to the pattern of things, but to that of beings; and the existence of the epicene revealed to us, instead of the existence of the first type, a certain weakness of "manhood" in front of the state of crowd.Examining the elements necessary to the characterization of the individual, we cast aside first "the nature", as we found in it too general a delimitation of the variation limits of this individual's qualities, a delimitation which he can sometimes escape due to circumstances and which cannot be opposed to God's work. However, we kept the nature as a logical instrument for classifying the Beings, casting it away as a root of the act of being; a situation which allowed us to explain the lack of an entire set of Western controversies in this mentality.We then discovered the possibility of completely defining the individuality of the Being, on a logical level, by "appearance", "sense" and by "fate", defining successively the first as the key to the individual's qualities, the second as an integral of his possibilities, and the third as an extensive set of the incidents he experienced. On the existential level, the only principle of individuating him seemed to be God's work.Moving on to the roots of the Being, the Romanian metaphysics revealed in God a concrete, paradoxical, lonely Being, but present everywhere, an individual above the nature, but pertaining to the nature, prototype of manhood, individualized in three active appearances, and the rest of existence, compared to him, merely reflects his work.Thus, although the idea of concrete existence did not generate in Romanian a type of existence similar to that of things, but one similar to that of the person, it could not be solved in the vein of an energetic personalism, but in the vein of a theophanic personalism, the individual seeing himself, eventually, like the incident, as a reflex, an illusion, a non-autonomous phenomenon of the universal Being.Where from the Romanian "fatalism", defined not as indifference towards the concrete conditions of the deed, but as an integration of the act of being into the universal rhythm, regarded as a revelation of God's will. Hence the ritualistic character of the Romanian act of being, in the non-realistic sense, derived and symbolic. We cannot enlarge upon these ideas here. We indicate them however, because their perspective completes the overview of the points outlined in this study on the Romanian dimension of existence, with the chapter on particular existence, incompletely tackled in last year's conference. III. The Nature of the Being
Starting from the quantitative idea of existence, we looked at it as a whole, then as a part and gradually, during this study, we sounded out its property.We should now consider more closely this quality and try to elucidate the remarks made about it. 1. The Being as property: the instance and the mode of being
Philosophers have long tried to distinguish two meanings of the verb to be: indeed, "is" can mean two apparently different things: the mode and the instance of being.In the first acceptation, we use the verb to be when we say: the sky is blue; the problem is difficult; man is an animal. Or, when we say, with the poet: All is dust, the world is like this, and so are we
. In these cases, the verb to be merely links a subject with a predicate, that is, it attributes a property to a being. In all these instances, the respective judgment expresses a mode of being, the state or the nature of the grammatical subject and a relation of logical affiliation.There is however, another usage of the verb to be. When, for instance, you exclaim with the poet: To be, both sad and empty madness!
Or when you wonder with him: And then, who knows if it is betterTo be or not to be…
Or when you say: I am; the world is; my thought is; God is.The first meaning has nothing mysterious in it. Or, more precisely, the verb to be mediates and links, as I have said, a property to a Being. The verb to be attributes a property to a Being or ascertains that a property belongs to a Being, that a Being has, possesses a property. The second meaning is more difficult to clarify. For, although it is clear to all of us that we understand it, in reality we will find it very hard to define, that is, to show exactly what we understand by it. The difficulty is linked to the very nature of the definition. And this is why: to define means to explain a thing by others. In the special case of existence in the second meaning, of existence per se, ontologically, this thing is very difficult, if not even impossible. Why is that? Because in this second acceptation, the idea of existence is the most general idea which we can express about a thing. Each and every thing, taken into consideration one way or another, allows this predicate. No other idea can therefore clarify it completely.The fact that the idea of existence is the most general one we have about any thing is not hard to understand. In this general sense, each and every thing we talk about is. It is, for the very fact "if this hadn't been for real, there wouldn't be a story about it" But here, the problems arise. As general as this idea is, it is completely indefinite. And therefore, of no use. If I am and this thing in front of me is as well, and if it is also what I think of it and what I wish for it – then the idea of "is" is equivocal and does not help at anything. And still, this is not completely true, since I answer in a meaningful way to the question whether a thing "is" or "is not". Hence, the need to try a definition of this idea of existence with the purpose of reducing it to an acceptable meaning. Philosophers have tried to reduce this second idea of existence to others, starting with Parmenides, who stated that existence is unity, and passing – through many – to Berkeley and to the idea that existence is perception and ending with Heidegger, for the moment, who states that existence is the individual subject's fear of annihilation. Thus, a list of general ideas, a chart of categories meant to clarify the idea of existence, was gradually made up.One distinguished quantitatively the unique existence of the world from the existence of its particular beings; the existence of the whole from its parts. One distinguished qualitatively the concrete Being from the conceived-of Being, the asserted existence from the denied one, the finite existence from the infinite existence. One distinguished the Being that exists in itself from the Being that exists in relation to others and, in relation, one distinguished: the univocal relation cause-effect from the reversible, functional relation, from the mutual action. One distinguished the immutable basis of things from the fickle incidents and from their relations, the matter from the incident. Then, one distinguished between what makes a thing to be (the cause) and what makes it to be what it is (the essence) or even the one that is (the person). One distinguished the Being that can be from the one that cannot be and from the one that is. Then, one distinguished the Being that is but might not be from the one that cannot but be. Possibility, impossibility, reality, contingency, necessity have enriched thus the arsenal of existential distinctions, the contents of the modes of being.