What does it mean to “be”?
When you think about everything that you know — everything that you see in front of you or have seen in the past — how do you know that “thing” actually exists? What about stuff you’ve never seen be have only read in books or seen on television?
Oddly enough, this is one of the weird things that I think about laying in bed at night. Some people count sheep. Others make salsa (I’ll explain it to you if you ask). Sometimes I think about existentialism.
Turns out, people have been thinking about this question for thousands of years. What is the meaning of “being”?
The Eleatic Xenophenes, a wandering rhapsodist (which we all know to be the best kind of rhapsodists), believed that something exists when it is impossible for it to not exist. Likewise, it is impossible for something to exist that is non-being. A tree in front of you that you can see, smell and touch is “being” while an imaginary object can not “be” because it doesn’t exist. Pretty simple, right?
Well, let’s say that imaginary object was a unicorn. Now you have the image of a unicorn in your mind. Isn’t that image of a unicorn now something that “exists”? Obviously someone made the idea of a unicorn to exist thousands of years ago, because everyone knows what a unicorn is.
So does the mere thought of something cause it to be true? Of course not. Thoughts are not tangible objects that you can touch.
Aristotle believed that in order to “be”, that which is being (verb) must be a being (noun) that is actually being (verb). This is an intentionally broad definition for an equally-broad concept; however, it is adequate in hitting all the different arenas (or as Aristotle preferred, “genus”) that being falls into. Furthermore, he believed that everything in life can fit into one of 9 buckets he called species. If something fit into one of those buckets, then it exists. If not, then it cannot “be”.
What this all boils down to is the idea of substance. If a thought, object, person, place, idea or anything else has a level of substance, then it is safe to say that it exists and therefore is a “being”.
So how does this translate to our lives?
Humans have the desire to be known, whether they admit it or not. No matter how private, shy, muted or quiet you may be as a person, you cannot survive (and therefore thrive) as a living being without attention. When you were born, you required the assistance and attention from others to live. When you die, the same holds true (yes, you actually need other things to happen in order for you to die). Throughout the time you are an embryo to the day you become dust, you require attention from another being.
Because of this fundamental belief, we are all connected in some way. None of us would be here without the massive amount of beings around us. Air, water, oxygen, dirt, sweat, happiness, sadness, safety, danger, love, hate… all of it is necessary.
If you ever have the notion that you are alone or that nobody will remember you when you are gone, dispel that thought immediately.
If it wasn’t for you, none of this — the greater this and all of existence — would not be possible. We all play a role whether we know it or not.