Sunday, July 28, 2013

On Doing and Being.

Unbeknownst to many, Ole Blue Eyes was monumental in resolving the oldest philosophical crisis in the book.

People like to do things.  Some people would say that the ability to "do" things is the very thing that makes us human: to be human is to be able to willfully choose, decide, and do.  Nietzsche, arguably the philosopher who's views have had the most influenced the driving forces behind our culture, dreamed of a super-man, an "ubermensch" who asserted his ability to do things as the absolute good.  According to Nietzsche, only when we conquer and reject our restraints (social norms, personal values, divinely mandated morality, etc) through our ability to do would we ever become super-men.  In society, our capacity to do things is perhaps our most fundamental treasure, the principle upon which virtually ever controversy of our time is based.  We are humans of today, and it seems pretty clear that humans of today like to do things.

Don't get me wrong.  Our actions are incredibly important.  The things we do and don't do play crucial roles in our lives, and there is something inhuman about a human that does nothing.  However, I have a big issue with people who, like Nietzsche, Sartre, and their modern philosophical progeny, believe that we are what we do is the sole factor in who we are.  Simply put, human beings don't do things purposelessly.  We don't go about our lives thriving and acting in meaninglessness, but we strive to make our actions purposeful, and thus give our doings some meaning.

We don't do for doing's sake, our actions serve a greater purpose.  Too often, we seem to forget that we're human beings, not human doings.  More paramount to our humanity is who we are, not just what we do.  I'd suggest that a great number of our culture's struggles are tied in with our widespread inability to understand just who we are.  So many people go through life frantically searching for things to do; boredom is a disease afflicting the soul of our entire society.  So many people are frantically looking for things to do, but rare is the person who is trying to discover who to be, the person who is living life to uncover who they are.

Perhaps it takes a leap of faith to believe this, but our lives are meaningful.  More often than not, we judge the meaning of life by the things we do, so its not surprising that we are constantly doing things to make our lives seem more meaningful.  Yet it is who we are that defines us, not just what we do.  Each and every human person is a unique creation, made purposefully, and for meaningful ends.

If there was a "square one" of the spiritual life, this would be it:  the realization that your life is meaningful, that you matter.  More than your ability to do, you matter because of who you are, because of your being.  You exist as you do in this very moment because God is loving you into existence, because you are meaningful to him, because you, as you are, have been, and will be, matters to him.  God does not evaluate based on accomplishments and failures, but upon how our accomplishments and failures make us, how they change us, how they help or harm in becoming who he made us to be.  It is only when we seek to discover ourselves, to really become who God made us to be rather than search for something to do, that we truly find fulfillment.

There will be a part two to this post, so stay tuned

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