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Definitions, and Comment:
Being a Description of the World

By Eli Siegel


Change is the having by a thing of something which it didn't have, or the not having something which it did have.

     In the definition of motion, I embodied a definition of change as the being other of a thing. The definition I have just given is not against the one I gave earlier. The earlier one can be seen as another aspect of this one.

     In this definition, the thing aspect of change—in the word something—is affirmed or emphasized. For it is things which happen to things. The word thing has a noun idea, but also a verb idea. (And the word thing has an adjective idea and an adverb idea and a preposition idea and an idea going with the other parts of speech.)

     If a rock moves, its motion can be seen as added to it. Its rest can be seen as taken from it. All instances of change can be seen as something added to a thing, something taken from a thing, or both. In other words, change takes place when things happen to things: and happenings are of more and less, added to and taken from.

     We say that a man has changed. He has grown tired. The thing tiredness is seen as having been added to the thing man.

     Birth is change. Just what is changed, that is, what has been added to, is hard to say. We say: "He was born"; but if "he" existed to be born, there was not much reason, really, for "he" to be born. Still, when we think of ourselves as being born, we do think of something added to what we—whatever that may mean here—were. The "I" can be indefinitely retroactive.

     All happening is change. Happenings leave things not what they were: and when things are not what they were, they are less what they were or more, while being still what they are.

     We say a good thing happened. This means that something was joined or added to something in such a way that the second something has a right to be pleased. For things do good things to things.

     If an event occurs to an object—let us say a storm takes place in Hertfordshire: the event is a tremendous assemblage of things changing and being changed. Raindrop alters raindrop; raindrop does thing to wind; wind does thing to cloud; cloud does thing to raindrop; raindrop does thing to grass; grass does thing to wind—there is a mighty intricate leaving and coming, adding and taking away. And all of it can be seen, in one way, as being quantitative. For change, in every instance, is the lessening or increasing of what a thing is by another thing.

© 1945 by Eli Siegel

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