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By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

THE “WE” OF CO-EXISTENCE

 

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 “ I exist because we exist.” This dictum asserts the reality and the truth of the Imenti. [1] Philosophy of existence and co-existence. My existence is not a solitary existence like that of the owl. [2] My being in space and time presupposes the existence of others, my parents, grandparents, ancestors “ad infinitum.”

Man is historical, rational, ethical and social animal that exists in relationship with others. The “we” has the connotation of dwelling together. In lived experience; accompanied with all its activities, the “we” takes the dominance. The “we” meet, talk about issues of life, work together for survival, share meals together, exercise power in government, administer justice, recreate and worship as a family.

The ethical core of the unitary family is love. Love is an inner conscientious drive that obliges a man to treat his fellowman with human dignity. The humane demeanor, “Umuntu” places a categorical emphasis on reciprocating the good to others at all times. The philosophy of “umuntu” is synonymous with the Golden rule that states, “Do unto others what you would like them to do unto you”.

Luijpen [3] states, “Love creates a ”we” a being together that is experienced as wholly different from every other kind of “we” experienced in other encounters. The “we” of love can be expressed –if it can at all be expressed – in such terms as “Fullness”, “fulfillment” and “happiness”

Freedom creates mores values and norms that give meaning to existence. The peaceful and harmonious co-existence is enshrined in the fundamental rights of man. The fundamental rights of the Imenti people were in existence prior to the coming of the Europeans and missionaries. The traditional fundamental rights give reverence to the following:

Sanctity of marriage, right to life, governance by a council of elders, ownership of prosperity, administration of justice, equality, worship and freedom of association.

Stealing a neighbour’s property and terminating his biological life are grave infringements of the fundamental rights. The most notorious criminals in these infringements are the indolent thief and the bloodthirst witch. The mandatory penalty imposed on them is death.

Luijpen reasserts the Imenti philosophy of co-existence with the words, “Existence is essentially co-existence” [4]. He continues to emphasize, “The term co-existence is used to indicate that at no level of his existence the man is absolutely alone” [5]. In the “we” of being together, Luijpen gives four modes of relating to one another. These modes are: encounter, presence, accompanying and dialogue. These fourfold modes present specific possibilities of treating one another as subjects – the rational and ethical beings. These possibilities are : love, hatred, indifference and injustice. Suffice it to say however, that this article deals only with the possibility of love.

In his treatise on the phemenology of love Luijpen [6] writes, “The loving encounter always implies the other’s appeal to my subjectivity. A call goes out of him, embodied in a word, a gesture, a look or a request. His word, gesture, look or request signify an invitation addressed to me the true meaning of which is very difficult to express in words. No matter, however, in what form the other’s appeal embodies itself, it always contains an invitation to me to step, as it were, out of myself, to break with my preoccupations, with myself and my fascination with my concerns”

The appeal is an earnest request, plea or sympathy that is addressed to me by the other with whom “we” share humanity. This other is a being like me with body, mind and spirit or consciousness just like me. “We” share and are entitled to the same fundamental rights. In my response to the appeal, I am faced with two possibilities of saying either “Yes” or “No” which is a refusal. Silence and empty promises are also damned as indirect refusal.

My saying “yes” is possible only when I break from my own cocoon of self-centeredness. Understanding the meaning of the other’s appeal is different and virtually impossible as long as I confine myself in my own nest of solitariness.

Luijpen puts emphasis on these words. “The other’s appeal is an invitation to me to step out of myself”. My pre-occupation with my own concerns, pursuits, interests and pride creates a barrier in understanding the meaning of the other’s appeal.  

The other remains beyond reach. I always remain insensitive to any appeal. A visitor knocks at my door at odd hours and unexpectedly. Do I welcome him, give him accommodation and food?

Gabriel Marcel [7] expressed appeal in the words “Be with me” It is the other’s appeal that invites me to leave my self-centeredness, to share in his subjectivity, to accept and increase it. In order to understand the appeal, “Be with me,” I need to overcome to some extent my fascination with myself.

My encounter with, my presence to and my dialogue with the visitor is an appeal for accompanying him. The visitor offers me a new dimension in realizing the possibility of being together, liberating myself and affirming my freedom. However, confining myself to my nest makes me to remain alone and solitary like the owl in the woods. The visitor too remains far away at the other end of the woods.

The role that I play in life, my colour, ethnicity and the qualities of the visitor at the door must be pushed to the background. My reciprocity places my security and freedom at stake. The transcending quality of being humane drives me in asserting, “I exist, yes, but not as an egoist.”

In this assertion therefore, the following are my ethical inferences. My accompanying the visitor is destined to give hospitality. The quality of being humane gives me the charism to conquer my egoism so that the other at my door can experience self fullness, fulfillment and happiness. My affirmative “Yes” to the visitor is love.

Historically, man has always found himself in difficult existential human situations. Natural catastrophes, heavy floods, earthquakes, ravages of war and abject poverty have deprived man the happiness of life.

The existential human situation in whatever manner it presents itself is an appeal and invitation to man and woman of good will. The Crimean war 1853-1856 and the misery of abject poverty in India present themselves as a classic example of genuine appeal. Florence Nightgale and Mother Teresa were inspired charismatic women. They were able to “see” the pathetic human situation concerning the ravages of war and the misery of living in abject poverty. The two women with a heart of gold responded to the predicament of human suffering with an affirmative “yes”. The cry of suffering and misery gave the two humanitarians an inner drive of empathy, sympathy, care, concern and love to those in distress.

 

Florence Nightgale

 

 

 

Florence Nightgale devoted herself in nursing the wounded and the sick British soldiers in  the Crimean Peninsula. She was dubbed the” Lady with the lamp” after her habit of making rounds in the wards at night.

 

Mother Teressa

  

 

 

Mother Teresa, a catholic nun devoted herself in caring for the needs of the destitute and the starving, “the poorest of the poor” in Calcutta, India.

 

 Mother Teresa, a catholic nun devoted herself in caring for the needs of the destitute and the starving, “the poorest of the poor” in Calcutta, India.

In the “we” of co-existence, each one of us has a duty and moral obligation to bring love and happiness to others Luijpen[8] states, “Without love, the world is hell for man. Without love, the man for whom the time of death has come can only curse the world and history, but he who dies in love dies in peace.”

 

FOOTNOTES

  1. The Imenti people live on the Eastern slopes of Mount Kenya.
  2. Januarius Marie Riungu. Owls involvement in human death, info barrel dated November 4,2010
  3. William A. Luijpen. Existential phenomenology, Duguene university, 1960-1969, p. 325
  4. William A. Luijpen op.cit,page 262
  5. William A. Luijpen op.cit,page 261
  6. William A. Luijpen op.cit,page 311
  7. William A. Luijpen op.cit,page 313-314
  8. William A. Luijpen op.cit,page 325-326

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