Tuesday, March 25, 2008

We are verbs disguised as nouns

The following grew out of a sharing session we had at our Quaker meeting last Sunday. Marge Abbott, who has written about how various Quaker groups differ (and agree) about faith, got us to talking about beliefs.

Marge asked us to choose one of several sentences posted separately on the walls of the room. Each statement briefly described a different way of relating to life’s purpose. We formed small groups around each statement. Later we would report to the larger group.

I joined five others to discuss:

“A life that makes present and visible the realm of the invisible spirit.”

Our group agreed we were drawn to the statement because, unlike several others, this one didn’t mention “God.” For some of us, the word “God” seemed to limit, well, “God.” We agreed that the word “Spirit” is broadening, even liberating. As one person put it, it is “free of a lot of ‘God’ baggage.” Stuff like fear and retribution.

Nevertheless, I had a couple misgivings about the statement. I believe the invisible needn’t be “made visible,” (leave it well enough alone) except in some metaphorical sense. “Realm” implied a monarchy and seemed vaguely Biblical (The Kingdom of God etc.) and out of keeping with the deeper meaning and liberating tone of the statement.

And then the word “spirit,” though far better than “God,” seemed static, frozen — unspirit-like.

As we shared our thoughts about the statement, I concluded that one of the strongest words in it was “makes,” the verb. Several people commented that they were drawn to lives of being, acting, doing — making.

At that point, I saw that the statement’s nouns needed to be considered as disguised verbs. I experimented with adding “ing” to them. One, “life” to “living,” was easy. But the new words intrigued me: “realm-ing” and “spirit-ing.” I even tried out on the adjectives: “present-ing” and “visibl-ing.”

Suddenly the words, indeed the whole sentence, sprang to life. Then it occurred to me that nouns (and adjectives) everywhere, could spring to life if we recognized them as verbs in disguise. Many of them ARE life.

Mulling this over yesterday, I toyed with what it means to be a “human being,” and I realized that the work of “verbing the noun” already had been done for me. What is a human if not being? Human being to be exact.

Alan Watts often made the same point in his lectures. I continue to listen to Watts’ recorded talks when I work out (Watts would find that strange, even perverse). At one point Watts’ described what would happen when he died. “I’ll stop being Alan Watts and start being something else,” he said. At the time of his talk, and throughout his life, he was, he said, "Alan Watts-ing."

We are all "being" the same with the person we have been given for this short time.

And in so "being" we are constantly changing. We are not fixed. You and I are not the same “beings” as we were 10 years, 10 days, 10 hours, 10 minutes,10 seconds, 10 nano-seconds ago — because we are verbs, not nouns.

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Blogger GinaK said...

Rick, you are awesome. I'm thoroughly enthralled by your postings. When are you going to get around to writing a book?!


8:37 PM  

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