The Ontological Elephant

bill-clinton

‘It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is’.
Lewinsky Hearings: 1998


Just as Epistemology studies ‘Knowing’ while already in a state of Knowing, Ontology studies ‘Being’ while firmly resident in a state of Being.

It is the Elephant in the Room, the one we all agree to ignore.

Existence, from the Latin ‘ex-sistere‘: ‘to stand forward, manifest’.

We are making an implicit ontological assignment, granting the status of ‘Being’ [Existence, ‘Is-ness’] anytime and every time we use the little word ‘Is’.

‘Is’ is arguably the most used grammatical link in the English Language.

Try it. Try and speak on your cell-phone for 10 minutes without using the word ‘Is’. Try and write a page in English without using any of its variants [was, will be, etc].

The clutter and gossip of the world would die down nicely if a rule was passed that no man or woman on the planet may use the word ‘Is’ for a period of 24 hours.

Its hard; but here is the strangest thing. This ubiquitous word, this word we use a hundred times a day in all its variations, has no formal definition, is in fact undefinable.

Very wise men have been trying to define it for a few thousand years and no one has scored anything more than a Wise-Gentleman’s ‘C’.

But that has not stopped our enterprising Universities from building a Subject out of it. A Subject called Ontology.

In the same way that not having an honest definition for ‘Know’ did not discourage them from starting a Subject called Epistemology.


‘Being’, like ‘Thought’ and ‘Voice’ [Language] is very, very close to our skin. A claim to ‘Being’ in any of its variants is ultimately a claim to a ‘Self’.

But precisely because of its nearness to our skin it is that much more difficult to give workable examples [like say ‘Consciousness’].

The best that can be done is to give a list of excerpts from famous fellow-travelers that may convince you of what I am talking about. And get you back on the Meditation Mat.

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