Descartes famously said, "I think, therefore I am". Though revolutionary, and full of quotable pith, in this statement Descartes trapped himself in what is called the solipsistic predicament.
If we start with our own thought as the grounding of our existence and the only thing we can really know, the question of the existence of everything else comes into question. I know my thoughts but I don't know the thoughts of others and moreover, how am I sure that my thoughts about the world correlate to how the world actually is (or if there even is a world around me at all)?
Disregarding centuries of philosophical nuance we can extract Descartes' method of thinking as a common way we go about understanding our world. Most often we as humans reason about the world by thinking about what is immediate, close, present, to us and extrapolate from that understanding to truths about the broader world around us. I get tired when I run for more than 15 minutes so I start to understand how difficult it must be to play soccer and run for 90 minutes.
Ethics and Being
Much of the time, wedding our experiences of how the world exists to how the world actually exists isn't a problem. In fact it's really quite helpful to be able to operate as if when two objects attempt to occupy the same space it doesn't go very well. That simple truth has saved me from wandering onto the interstate many times (not really).
But we, as humans, rarely stop there. We have a tendency to commit the philosophical no-no of reasoning from an "is" to an "ought". If my experiences of the world are frequent enough and have proved useful to me I'm very tempted to say that my experiences are how the world "ought" to be.
And here is where the Cartesian bomb drops - when being (the way things are) and ethics (the way things ought to be) mingle. It's in this categorization of ethical ways of being that opens the floodgates of all kinds of human cruelty. It's the ethical division of being that breeds racism, sexism, and religious intolerance.
When we view the world from the comfort of our personal solipsism - whether that's religious, racial, geographic, familial - we create the Other. And when our personal solipsism becomes prescriptive instead of only descriptive, traveling from "is" to "ought" - the chasm between Us and Other grows infinitely wide as the goal is never understanding of the Other but rather conversion (or avoidance).
But there is another way.
What if our delimiter was Being? Not the different ways that beings be, but Being itself.
Stop, and read that again. What if we didn't distinguish on the ways the beings be - their race, creed, or lifestyle - but rather distinguished on them being a Being.
What if we stopped categorizing, dividing, biasing by things that, in comparison, have little to no impact? What if it wasn't our experiences that divided the world into ethically right and wrong ways of being?
And what if we judged everything by that which is most consequential - Being. The most important factor in considering what something is, is that it is. The most substantive trait of everything in this world, great and small, is first and foremost that it's in this world. In fact, if we remove Being from the equation we have nothing left to divide or categorize.
There's hope in this. If we understand the world in this way everything has dignity. Everything has worth. Everything has a place.
If we truly could escape ourselves and our tendency to delimit being on our own biases and prejudices how much would it impact all of life? Where's racism? Where's religious intolerance? Where is the Other?
Rather than cruel prejudice bred by our upbringing and experiences we'd see precious value in everything that is solely on the basis that it is. That's a world that communicates, shares, loves across every artificially created line or chasm because lines and chasms are obliterated.
We all share Being.
There is a world outside of yourself. This is a world much grander than the microcosm you've created for yourself through your routines and rhythms. If you can escape your self-inflicted Cartesian incarceration and open your eyes to a world that is - full of things that are - you're opening yourself to world that loves and gives freely.
And that's a world I want to live in.