Monday, January 19, 2015

Being Human

It's wonderful, isn't it, what an accumulation of fascinating facts we garner in a lifetime.
Do you know what I learned the other day?

Apparently there are more nouns in the English language than in any other known language throughout history.
It's a staggering concept.

Just think about it for a moment . . . what does it imply?

I can't believe it merely indicates our western world's propensity to produce and name more and more identifiable objects.

No, it would seem to be far more subtle than that.
Surely it's telling us that we've created a society where objects are all-important?
That English-speaking people are by nature acquisitive . . .  and you can't own a verb.

We value not what's growing, evolving and ephemeral, but things that are fixed and seemingly imperishable.  By choosing to fixate on nouns we show that what we prize is the gold itself . . . not transitory golden ideas.

Yet what's intriguing is the fact that we ourselves don't fall into this esteemed category.
Contrary to what the dictionary may say, members of our species are not nouns . . .  we're verbs.

We're humans being . .  . not nouns that can be pinned down and labelled, but evolving verbs that are totally unpredictable.

You think I'm being pedantic?
Please indulge me for a moment.
Just reflect on the reluctance felt in many parts of the world to name a divine source.
A reluctance not shared by those who use English and speak easily of 'God'.
Why do others feel differently?  Because names impose boundaries, names produce limits.  Names also imply knowledge . . . which may be a false assumption.

Let's choose a simple example.
Take a daisy.  We look at it and agree, yes, that's a daisy . . . we know what it is.
But, wait a moment, do we really know that daisy?
Before we knew its name we marvelled at it.  But once we'd given it a name somehow we ceased to marvel.

Let's look at it now . . . do we know its life-cycle . . . its structure . . . its daily evolution?
If the word 'daisy' were a verb, if that small scrap of creation was 'daisying' from its unfolding until its final disintegration, we'd never dismiss it so unthinkingly.

Whereas nouns restrict, the fluidity of the verb allows room for growth, for an increase in perception, for aspiration and hope.

So, let's agree that we're not human beings, we're humans being.
What's more, it's critical to choose the right verb.  I'm sure you've noticed our tendency to mistake ourselves for humans doing, or, in more competitive circles, humans achieving.

Life isn't demanding . . .  it doesn't ask us to do, or to achieve, just to be.

And what does that involve?
We'll leave the answer to Oscar Wilde:
"Be yourself," he wrote, "Everyone else is taken."