We are not verbs, but nouns, on ongoing nounization.
Life is not a noun, goes a saying, it is a verb. Another goes so far as to proclaim that God, too, is not a noun, but a verb. While these statements are meant to be motivational, in the spirit of Invictus, which means unconquerable or uncontrollable in Latin, that is, the attitude that we are the masters of our fate, that we determine our own destiny through our actions, the sayings could not be further from the truth; they are simply untrue motivations. The untruth begins with the presumption that we need motivation, that we make our life in the fitful actions we perform in motivation; we need not motivation, but discipline; discipline more than motivation makes life.
Before delving into the argument, it is prudent first to take a step back, be mindful that our means of communication, language, is not only a means of communication, but a way of looking at the world, that it also colours and constricts our communication. The word, verb, for instance, lumps together two disparate meanings: state of being and action. In sentences, ‘I am a student’ and ‘I am studying’, the words ‘am’ and ‘am studying’ are verbs, the former denoting state of being and the latter action. However, ‘action’ is what the sayings mean with the word ‘verb’. That is, life and God, are actions, not nouns, things or beings.
There is no such thing as ‘action’ in the universe. The universe is, first and foremost, a collection of beings, inanimate, animate, and human beings. All beings, inanimate and animate alike, do not act and are incapable of acting. Whatever these beings, such as a piece of stone, a plant, or an animal, do are deeds, not actions. The wind blows. The earth revolves around the sun. Plants grow. These are not actions because the wind, the earth, and plants do not perform them, per se; a force imperceptible to them and beyond their control does. What they do is inextricable part of what they are. The wind is the wind because it blows. Plants are plants because they grow. And so on.
While we are beings of higher level of development, that we are human, in addition to being a stone (in our skin, hair and nails) and plants (in our biological system such as growth) and we may believe that whatever we do in our capacity as human beings, such as ‘run’ or ‘think’, are actions, because they are intentional, in truth whatever we do is no different from what the inanimate and animate beings in nature do. We too do not perform whatever we do.
The belief that we are capable of acting and what we do every day are actions is an illusion. A force as imperceptible and as beyond our control in our psyche performs all these deeds. We do not sense this force in us governing us just as we do not feel the movement of the earth. And just as in the case of the movement of the earth, we can see only evidence of its presence in its effect. The evidence of this truth abounds. It is because of it that we are called creatures of habit; that we are predictable. That is why a criminal gives away his crime in his inadvertent ‘actions’ over time. That is also the truth behind the saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.
Thus what we do is what we are. What we are dictates what we do. We can only do what we are; we cannot do what we are not. What you are doing right now, reading, is not an action. You are not acting. You have not come unto the presence of this text and you are not reading it on your accord. Just as in the case of inanimate objects, what we do is part and parcel of what we are than actions we do on our own accord. We would be acting if we were to fly, for instance; flying becomes action, because it is what we are not.
Hence, first we become, and then we do what we become. We must become great before we can ever do great things; become sincere before we can ever do sincere things etc. We do not become through our concerted actions, as our self-help books and motivation speakers would have us believe. Becoming is a process. It is no different from all processes in nature, such as the process of birth from conception, the change between day and night, seasonal changes, the breaking down of rocks into soil over centuries etc.
The process of becoming is evolution. Like everything else in nature, we can only evolve. However, our evolution, our becoming, is more complex, intricate than we would like to believe. The process can be explained through the following analogy (as all complex ideas are better explained through analogy).
The force in our psyche is responsible for the continuous evolution of our being. We are born with this power. It ages not a heartbeat older than the moment we emerge onto the world, take the first breathe from the open air. This faculty remains a heartbeat old baby as we continue to grow older and older. Like a new-born baby, it understands only one language: silent observation. It observes our everyday experiences (everything we do and do not do, say and do not say, think and do not think, feel and do not feel, and everything that happens to us) and absorbs those experiences that happens with greater regularity as true. The faculty is this tiny weaver, a tiny, heartbeat old baby weaver. It weaves those regularly occurring experiences into our being. This is not a process that takes place only during infancy, but that continues till our death.
We are of course not passive participants in the process of our evolution like the inanimate and the rest of the animate beings, not after we pass infancy. As conscious beings, we have conscious say in our evolution. However, our say is not in our concerted actions. Our difference from the rest of beings and the means we make difference by lies in our attention, in where we put our sustained attention. We channel the evolution of our being in the direction of our sustained attention.
There has never been an action in the whole universe from the beginning of time, not even its creation, capital C Creation. The Creation of the whole universe is an outcome of evolution. There is only evolution. Evolution is the law of the universe. No being has ever acted, not even the Supreme Being, the Creator of all beings, God. God is the only One who is capable of acting, yet He ordains Himself to the same law that He establishes His creation by. God does not even act on His anger and destroy the universe when He learns of its defect, when His creatures disobey Him, when He could easily undo the creation, thump the whole creation out of existence (The banishment of Adam and Eve from Eden and their curse is not God acting impulsively, but the natural outcome of the evolution). Instead, He lets evolution take its course and events happen in their due time, let creation come to its own undoing by the course of evolution it has taken.
God does not act even when in the desperation of our moments of need we call upon Him to act, to deliver us from our affliction. Much time elapses before we receive His answer, not because He drives sadistic pleasure from watching us suffer, but because He lets deliverance come in its time. The delay in response is when He lets us be what we are asking. When we become what we ask, when we are truly repentant, the universe sets in motion to materialize our request. It rests upon us to understand and wait with patience until we receive our answer.
A non canonical book called ‘The Book of Clement’ found in the Biblical Canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church relates the story of the aftermath of the Fall, how Adam repented fervently for forty days and how God on the fortieth day hears his prayer and promises to be born from a daughter of his daughter after five and a half days and save him. It took forty days for the prayer to be heard and 5,500 years (“with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” 2 Peter 3:8) for the promise to be fulfilled in the form of salvation through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
This is also why Jesus, for all his spiritual power, does not begin his ministry before he is thirty-year old — that too not before he ‘was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil’ (Luke 4: 1–2). If he did, he would have failed in his mission and we would not have Christianity today. That is how long and what it takes for Jesus to evolve into the being that was capable of carrying out the will of that Who sent him. Thus he says to his mother when she asks him to make wine at the wedding at Cana in Galilee, “My hour has not yet come” (John 7:6). In all those time before he begins his ministry, the power in his psyche observes all the experiences he goes through and weaves him into the being we know as Jesus. Whatever Jesus does since, the sermons, miracles, his resurrection, are thus not actions; he acted not once in his lifetime. The Gospels are not so much accounts of his actions as they are accounts of his being, his being expressing itself. More fascinating than his three years of ministry would be his life until then, the silent story of his becoming, which we regrettably know very little of.
If we were all capable of acting, at will, and if in reaction to our action our reality, life changes, as everything that ever happens has reaction, there would be disorder, chaos in the universe. Instead, the law and order that govern the universe is such that if we wish to do something, we must first evolve into the person who does this deed. The power in our psyche communes and works with the rest of the entire universe in shaping us into that being in the shortest, quickest and most harmonious way.
Hence, the universe, life, everything in it, is noun and nounization, never verbs. To say that life is a verb and to endeavour to change ourselves, our reality through our action, is, in the arrogance of our ignorance, to try to defy the infinite nature, God, and the law set for us to exist in harmony. We have neither the capability to defy nature and its law nor the lifespan to evolve into one who can.