To kill or not to kill, that might be a question, if not the question. Is it nobler to imagine a world where killing would be unnecessary? How many slings and arrows of fortune should I have to endure? Is it be better to end them by ending their source, or continue to sleepwalk my way through life as if I were not living that sleep of death each step of the way. To kill or not to kill, that is the question, I have decided; but not only who, is the question, but where and when and how. I would have to know who I was going to be, who I would have to be to kill whom I have decided to kill, turning on an inner logic of how based on this becoming, as must any killer who is concerned for not getting caught.
How many times do I ask myself who I am? I live a life and only occasionally wonder about what should be the surest thing in that life, my being. What do I know better than my to be or not? What could I know as well? Why being at all seems never a question I raise, yet should be the first question I ask. I am, therefore I think. A new first philosophy? Being is what is, is all there is if anything is at all. My being is in itself, apart from necessity, without cause.
Hamlet’s dilemma is a decisive moment in the history of consciousness. His to be or not to be is the question, and not just in its relationship to suicide, which, if it happens or not, if it is fulfilled either way, is less important than the question is in its most overarching and far-reaching implications. Shakespeare was far too intelligent to restrict such a question as Hamlet’s to suicide and suicide alone. Everything I do has being wrapped up in it; the move toward being or non-being is essential in everyone’s life.
The question of whether to be or not to be is also asked by the contrastive pair of whether to be or to become for becoming is also not being. This does not mean that being and becoming are mutually exclusive–they are not, mutually exclusive. But they are nevertheless separate, self-contained. To become is to be, for certain, but coming is never arriving. To arrive is to have reached a destination. Being is either a destination or a persistent immutable state, I can ask. Now if life is a journey, no one could be said to be in anything other than that journey; as you travel to your destination, you are not at the destination, on your plane to Paris you are only on your plane to Paris, you are going as you are coming, but you have yet to arrive. Being can not be a destination.
One is as one becomes; they are mutual as they are coexistent, co-spatial, co-temporal. They are contained in the I am and the I am not, both of which coexist simultaneously for everyone. God, the Absolute, the One and Transcendent, is in no part becoming. He, She or It is pure being, pure actuality, in no part potential. The further we swing from the God-like in the formation of our humanity, the more we are bound by animal potential.
The crux in the to be or not to be, though, is that no one can assess his being fully until he is dead, just at the time when he ceases both to become and to be. It is only at Death that one brings a halt to the stage of becoming that always interrupts one’s being.What then do we? How then? A contemporary American Hamlet would ask himself, to do or not to do? For Americans, utility is the thing.
How has doing supplanted being and becoming in our world, and America is a world as dense as the earth herself, and Earth is she, not it; but then I also insist that God is He, She and It, all three, mutually and simultaneously. If He can be Father, Son and Holy Ghost all of them all at once entirely each together as one, then God can also be He, She and It the same way. But then we would have to understand pronominal references differently; we would have to think of our being differently than we do, than we have for more than a hundred years.
American dilemmas aside and not displacing of the weightier human dilemmas facing everyone; the paradox of being and becoming reveals itself perpetually, day-to-day . . . the petty pace, you know, how it comes by tomorrow after tomorrow . . . and everyone’s petty paces are as significant as Macbeth’s. Macbeth and Hamlet, my brothers, as are you, my hypocrite readers, all my sisters as well. However . . .
I can spell cannot be the call out of our literacy. No it cannot. A, B, C, D and so on, yes, Alpha, Beta . . . what next? I do not mis-spell my name and so I say, I am proud of my literacy? Reciting the alphabet is not in itself spelling, and there is something magical about arranging letters to make words, to represent soeech, which is ephemeral the moment spoken. Yes, that’s magical, but it is not literacy. Something akin to counting is not going to make it as literacy, no, never in my estimation. I know repeat myself; but let us allow this to become motif.
Being literate is not merely being alphabetic, the later what the French call being able to spell and fill out bureaucratic forms and read the tabloid press never meant to elevate only inform in the most rudimentary way. This alphabetisme, as the French say in French is sometimes referred to by me as having dexterity with the alphabet. I can count correctly; I can add, subtract, multiply and divide; this does not make me a mathematician. There is a syntax to equations; their is an equational form to sentences; what then do I call literacy if what can be caled alphabetics is not literacy. What do we mean when we say literacy; I wonder that for the department where I work called Literacy.
To spell or not to spell is every wizards call; no mater how much spelling has been associated with magic or magic with forms of writing, we are not performing the rituals of literacy by merely spelling. I remember learning that the Phoenicians, who were great merchants, used their writing system, alphabetic as it was, for the purposes of keeping catalogues of their wares. Their use of the alphabet was what some of us in America call literacy, but since it was mostly and virtually only used for the purposes of their mercantilism, keeping accounts, writing and keeping receipts in their trade, literacy is not what I would call that use. The business of business has always been business; listing one’s wares stored in a warehouse does not a literature make.
Although, the study of literature is sometimes called the study of Letters, spelling one’s name correctly is not what I mean by being literate–I know I have said this already; the chorus speaks in a chanted speech which employs carefully plotted repetition. Keeping accurate and sometimes detailed accounts of storage, though, is never going to be my idea of what the literary is or what literature can be.
My shopping list is also not what I would call literature, although the aesthetics of this shopping list or shopping lists could be employed in the service of the literary. No? Of course it could. Poetic forms themselves are more in number than can be counted or named offhand by most who are themselves what I would call literate, educated in the study of literature–no? A poem written in the style and manner of a shopping list is an interesting idea, and I just might try my hand at it after I finish this . . . it is necessary to make the steps toward higher election in matters of the literary sturdy enough for us to climb. We ave not; we do not, certainly not in our schools that have succumbed to a pedagogy of systematized under achievement and under education.
Most of us recoil from what we need to do because it is easier to defer to the mandates of a State administered bureaucracy that will always sponsor less than enough as good enough to insure that the people are always less than free, always less than able to mange their affairs democratically, always manipulated by the media, parroting one or another of the received ideas constructed by power and money through the agency of the media.
Sometimes I need the help of a dictionary or spell check to spell a word. This has never made me question my level of literacy, no more than anyone’s near perfect ability to spell any word has never lead me to conclude that who I am talking to is a highly literate man or woman because of this spectacle of spelling. Who we are is a lot more determined by how literate we are than we would like to admit; and I am talking not of the simple separate person who does not need literacy to be good, but the overall overarching us who are the society. What kind of society we are or will be is determined by how literate we are–that is self-evident for me. Civilization is determined by and projected by ad formed by and managed by literacy. It really can be no other way. We have devalued literacy in lieu of mistaken ideas about orality. This has left us opened to forms of social decadence and degeneration that have left us prey to vices we once thought we had managed for the better. Let this last statement stand as X, where X is a variable in the social equation that stands for any one or another of the many vices in our society.
If what is humane is the question, then one of the first responses would have to be directed at the notion of love. Herein stated as a priori true, love is the principal attribute in acting humanely, in elevating our humanity to where we can live beyond surviving, which if we recognize the French in our English, to survive is always beyond or other than living, sur/vivir in French means just that, beyond to live. Love effectively changes surviving into living; living without love is in effect merely surviving. Love is the soul of humanity.
I connect to humanity by choice, thus by an act of freewill, which I accept as self-evident. Humans have free-will. This choosing to have is exactly what distinguishes humanity from other things we are able to have without choosing. We do not choose to have blue eyes, we do not choose to breathe, we do not choose to be the homo-sapiens we are, presented with the heredity we have—we do not choose our biology as it is given to us at birth.
No one chooses if he has to piss; the will to piss and the bodily function of pissing are exclusive. If holding one’s piss and shit has its limits. We do choose to be the kind of human we are, though. Thus we choose our humanity; but, of course, we do not choose it as we do other things; if we do, so much the worse for our humanity.
For certain, humanity is not a thing in the sense of an object, whether that be a rock, a chair, a tree or a piece of paper, or a part of the body separate in consideration from the entirety of one’s body in symbiosis with mind. It is also not a thing in the sense of idea or of energy, such as freedom or love. But it is a thing in the notion of thing present in the idea of entity. Yes, humanity is an entity we choose; it is an entity that possesses us, becomes one with us, transforms us, and transfigures us even in the eyes of others who can see, seeing here a part of our knowing our understanding our ability to learn, something even the blind can perform, this kind of seeing.
An entity has being; it exists as one. Humanity is therefore a thing as a state of being is a thing, and herein henceforth, human being is the thing we must most highly prize because to be human in this sense is to have what we have herein so far come to understand as humanity, which is to be human in the way we mean when you cannot be human unless humane. Humanity is thus an a transfiguring entity, it exists for this purpose; it is to be had, it is to be allowed, it is to be held, and what is to be held is to be done so with care, with caress, with tenderness. It cannot be extinguished, exterminated, and not even by the most monstrous inhumanity. It is the most fragile and yet the strongest thing in the universe.
Having humanity then is to be human in a way that can only be thoughtful, selfless in the sense that egocentrism (as we mean in the most pessimistic connotation we have given this term) is not the primary way in which we choose to interact with others. Love is the axis of the humane; love is the essential ingredient in kindness, tenderness, forgiveness, and compassion. Without these virtues, there can be no humane treatment of another human being. They are, though, the first qualities to disappear in any society suffering from a protracted dehumanization, the kinds we have seen throughout the history of totalitarianism, whether Bolshevik, fascist, Nazis, Stalinist or Maoist; or the kind performed in one dictatorship after another, whether Franco’s, Pinochet’s, or Hussein’s; whether Romanian, Serbian, Cuban, or Haitian.
Dehumanization seems to have become one of the leading pastimes around the world; the forms of which have been at the disposal of, for instance, one African war-lord or another; one ethnic group against others, in Iraq, the former republics of the Soviet Union, during the disintegration of the former Yogoslavia, or in Israel/Palestine; in Rwanda.
Tribal politics are always in the service of oppression or genocide. All the fore mentioned isms have aided in the transformation of the nation-state into tribe.Tribal life is the beginning of the humane, not the further cultivation of being humane. The tribe forms as a step in civilization. Herein I mean civilization as we have tried to mean it, a civilizing force, thus an advancement of the humane, thus an agent working against inhumanity.
Inhumanity has been all too human throughout history, where we mean any human-being, or member of the species Hiomo-sapiens, or the genus Homo, by the lexical reference, ‘human.’. How often we repeat this or the ways we do only ensure we will forget the message. In our media culture, where the medium is the message, the content gets lost in the conduit. The way we are taught to read now only further makes certain we will dis-understand the information conveyed.
America is not immune to inhumanity; the fact we are human leaves us susceptible, the fact we are undereducated only insures we will mismanage our legacy and responsibility to ourselves and our posterity. I know I am a beast. I know I am capable of killing as I know I am incapable of suicide. I just know. Knowledge is not faith. Yes, I can kill–but I am not certain of murder, but then, I do not know all the circumstances within which I could kill someone as murder.
I do not yet understand everything I think I know about me; what it is that I do not understand that I know I do not understand, and how this could help me to know me better even though I remain in the dark a lot. It is often very dark in places in the Self. I am not going to ask that very trite question many authors ask, have asked, probably will continue to ask, “Who am I?” I do not have to know who I am to know that I can kill or that I am capable of murder. If I have forgotten who I am, have come to suffer some amnesia, remaining completely severed from everything and everyone I have ever been, except in those ways unconscious or preconscious me(s) wandered about inside me, among me, the many who were me inside as my father’s favorite poet had said about the Self, a many selves Self, yes a Self of many selves inside—where’s the ax, everything is cold now in the deepest part of me, ice, you could say . . . yes, if I have forgotten who I am, was, had been, I could still know me–the me I am at the moment, with whatever it is in me that I discover, uncover, come to know, stand under, perhaps, in a way I would not have been able to, knowing me as I was previously, previously knowing me as I was. What then do I say about me, who I am, a question I will not ask even in pose, a posture I take, who is this photographic me—why do we assume that a photographic likeness of me is a truer me than any one I tell you about? That makes no sense to me and probably does not to anyone else.