*Originally written, June 2011
“… and by him all things consist.” ~ Col 1.17
What does it really mean to exist?Of course, existence is something we all have known from childhood as when something “just is.” But what does “is” really mean? Well, it obviously means to exist. Right? In such a way, this circular dance of words evades the question. But to understand what it truly means to exist, we must look more closely to the nature of relation.
I must ask the reader’s pardon in this statement on etymology. Relationalism of existence is a complicated concept that is only further confused by word usage. I have spent long hours attempting to discover the most efficient and accurate words to describe this idea but met with utter failure. I have even considered inventing new terms to describe it. I originally wanted to simplify this idea by separating its parts, existence and relation. But I soon learned that these concepts are inseparable not only by current word usage but also by the process of human thought. Existence is a quality of relation, and relation is a quality of existence. So if the reader will pardon my inability to simplify these concepts further, I will attempt to explain with as little etymological convolution as possible.
In the reality of our world, every coin has two sides. This figure of speech simply means that everything must be relational to its counterpart. Consider a simple object in space, such as a single raindrop suspended in the air. We can say that it is at that point in space and time. That is to say, it exists. It is true that it exists because it has the quality of existing, as opposed to not existing. Thus, truth about this raindrop rests in a relational quality it possesses. In other words, it is true that the raindrop exists because it does not not exist. If we say that it simply is, that too is relational to if it were not. In a similar manner, all things have this relational quality of existence, a quality that composes the truth about them. Thus, if something exists (or even has the potential to exist), it has an intrinsic, inseparable quality of truth about it. This truth can be as simple as that it simply exists. Concerning potential existence, the truth about an object can be that its existence is false. A false existence is possible only if true existence is possible, thus balancing the scales of truth.
Even though the reader may grasp the inseparable nature of truth and existence at this point, it may be unclear which of these has priority over the other, or which is a component of the other. Is it more accurate to say that Truth exists because things exist and have true relations to one another, or to say that things exist because the nature of Truth gives the possibility that they may not exist? This is as difficult a question to ponder as it is to answer. Essentially, Truth is the component of order to the world of existence. As such, I believe that there can be no truth without existence. On the other hand, we have already seen that existence without truth is impossible. This further indicates that there is no real separation between the “two” concepts. In a world where we think of things as having independent variables of length, height, width, shape, consistency, and duration, this dual concept is difficult to grasp. In a perhaps over-simplified conclusion, however, suffice it to say that without one, the other cannot be.
Answering The Question
Hopefully at this point, the reader has grasped the concept that we cannot imagine a subject that exists without having a truth relation about it. We cannot imagine such a relationally isolated existence because, in our world, it is not possible. Using this concept, we can now approach the original question of what it really means to exist. As we all have known from childhood, existence is a state of being. But now we can see that it is more. This state of being contains an inseparable component of truth about how it is related to everything else. It can be compared not only to its own negative but also to the existences of other subjects and objects, comparing its true relations to its false relations. For example, it can be true that this raindrop exists (compared to its own negative) and is larger than the raindrop next to it, while it can be false that this raindrop is larger than the leaf it is about to strike(comparing its object-to-object relation). This forms a coherent and integrated structure of truth about the raindrop, via its relation to itself and everything else. It is not possible to separate this truth from the actual existence of the raindrop. In such a manner, all the raindrops have this structure of truth that all blends together in perfect coherence and agreement, forming a universal matrix of Truth.
From this idea, to exist is to have a fundamental characteristic of Truth ~ Truth that holds everything that exists in relation. Truth is the common thread of all that exists, the consistency of all things. Without the relation of Truth, existence is impossible.
So what does it mean to exist? It means to be a part of everything else by relation of Truth, from the grain of sand to you and me.