Quora answer: What is the most misused word in conversational English?

Jul 16 2011



BEING is the most misused word in the English Language.

This is because it is the one word, often used, but never understood.

What are we saying when we use the word BEING in any of its very fragmented forms ARE, IS, AM, WAS, WERE, BE, BEEN, BECOMING

No one knows. Everyone has their own idea. It is at once the highest concept, higher than God (the supreme being) yet as Heidegger says the most empty.

Some people (E’) try their best not to use the word:




This word is the most contradictory, paradoxical and absurd in the language.

It is contradictory, because it contradicts  our experience which is full of Change, but Parmenides said there was  only one suitable path, which is the Path of Being and that we must resist the paths of appearance (DOXA), and Non-Being (existence). Zeno followed him by pointing out the paradoxes of change. But we must say that the paradox of thinking things are changeless when they are changing is pretty strange. It is a paradox because it is a doubled contradiction. Flowing of experience in change is an ILLUSION and also that the reality is that things are unchanging. This is contradictory to our experience. It produces transcendentals that are invisible conditions that cannot be shown to exist. Thus there is an existential proof of the falsehood of BEING as some sort of unchanging state. Heraclitus countered by pointing out that things are always changing. But we basically took the way of Being as suggested by Parmenides and thus we erected an edifice of illusion which is central to our worldview, and keeps us deeply entangled in illusion.

Being not only makes us think that things are always identical to themselves over time in their essence, but causes us to ignore difference and its significance. Prime example is Metaphor. But, for instance we live in a muti-racial society but racism is still a black/white divide. Dark skinned emigrants are not stigmatized like American Blacks are, even Black Africans are not stigmatized in the same way. So we cling to a special kind of racism which is “white” verses “black”, and “black” verses “white”, only. For instance we have to distinguish between Hispanic Whites and White Whites on forms for employment, however Arabs are considered white no matter how swarthy they are. This is signified in our culture by the odd sign that there is only white salt and black pepper placed on the table. This is a sign of the either/or kind of dualism at the core of our society that cannot recognize other people from other countries as “colored”. In other words we have our own untouchables, and the touchables of other cultures who come here do not fit our biases and so they are not considered as part of the picture of Black/White racism. This is part of the fantasy of Being which sets up what are suppose to be permanent distinctions which are in fact only socially constructed, individually projected, and socially enforced and merely distort what exists so that we can only see it as black and white like we say about newspaper print. The black minority used to exist on a white background, like on this page, but now the background is multicolored and the sharp artificial nihilistic distinction no longer holds in the same way it did up to the 60s, but our ingrained racist attitudes have not changed See (Ralph Ellison The Invisible Man http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Man).

So we can think of Racism as the perfect example of what was projected as a permanent distinction at the core of American society which in the face of change, like the civil rights movement, has not changed except superficially because it is a fundamental part of our identity as Americans both black and white. Even taking a stand against Racism, or ignoring it, still makes it into a monument to our cruelty to each other that is unforgettable, and underlies everything we do, making even the changes that we have made in our society, is still part of the lingering of racism through reverse discrimination, etc. This is what shocked Malcolm X when he went on Hajj. He saw all the colors of humanity with no racism, and he realized that racism in America was an illusion particular to our nation and its history which we cling to even as we swear we are getting rid of it.

Interestingly, Black dialects of English use the Being differently than standard English (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_American_Vernacular_English). It might be interesting to look at the way that Being has been shaped in the creole english dialects as a way of understanding the deflection away from Standard English as a statement about the nature of Being as apprehended by the minority against which racism has been directed so long based on its roots in slavery.

It is interesting in this regard that Being has always been caught up in the caste structures of Indo-European societies. The fragmentation of the Gods in Indo-European societies reflects the distinctions between castes, with different gods for each caste. And interestingly the kinds of Being can be seen in the Vedas as the differences between these Gods. Thus the kinds of Being is something that has been part of the Indo-European worldview for a long time. In fact it is an unchanging aspect of the worldview. And another one is the fragmentation of the roots of Being (and having) in Indo-European languages. Being is literally a manufactured and artificial concept made up over many Indo-European roots. So this fragmentation is very specific signature which is isomorphic with the castes and the roots of Being itself as a word. By looking at these various roots then we get a deeper picture of the meaning of Being, and it turns out that Heidegger’s distinction between Sein and Seyn (Being and Beyng) is rather superficial among the distinctions between the roots of Being. (See Primal Ontology and Archaic Existentiality by by the author at http://archonic.net.)

Being is contradictory, because it is counter to our own experience of the world. All movement is contradictory as Zeno shows, and Hegel embraces this contradiction at the heart of movement as the very thing that the dialectic sublimates.

Being is paradoxical, i.e It is both empty and full at the same time. It contains everything, but has no meaning itself.

It is a mixture of fragments of Caste and IE roots into a single encompassing structure that signifies continuity only so that difference can be emphasized. For instance we claim to be one people under God, but we support racism by excluding some from citizenship until we were forced to live up to the ideals of freedom and equality that we said we stood for from the first.

Being is absurd, i.e. It is an artificial concept that we made, but we project it as a priori transcendental which should be unified and total, but Being in terms of word roots and castes is inherently fragmented. It is absurd that the Unity and Totality that is suppose to hold the world together within our worldview, is itself completely uncertain, ambiguous, and to be avoided in good writing.

Thus when we say Being or Becoming, we have no idea what we are talking about mainly because the fragmented roots have lost their meaning. We have truly squandered the roots of Being itself, because we have lost them in a set of discontinuities that we no longer notice nor give any credence to.

Even Heideggers distinction between Sein and Seyn is the most superficial of the distinctions between the roots of Being. What is interesting is that Old English roots make more sense than the High German roots. And even more interesting is that there are myths that align with these distinctions between the roots that we can interpret in ontomythology, i.e. when we read the myths as an ontological manuals for the kinds of Being within our worldview.

So although Being is the highest and most empty word. It is the most contradictory, the most paradoxical, and the most absurd of any of the words. Some think it is better not to use it. But they are getting no traction because we unconsciously use the word Being.

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