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Being a Description of the World

By Eli Siegel


Freedom is the being able for a thing to be as it wants to be, while changing as it wants to change.

     Every self is a miniature world. The world itself can be seen as a miniature; for there is no greater difference between the idea of a finite world and an infinite world than between a self and the world.

     The purpose of the world is its being. This purpose can be seen in any moment of the world. What it does at any moment has purpose: purpose here is cause given direction. When something happens in the world, something made it happen; and what in that something tending to make happen this something I'm writing about, is purpose. Purpose is the other aspect of mechanism, simple cause and effect.

     A self, like the world, wants to be and wants to change. The word want here should be seen as like the word want meaning lack. What we want is what we lack. What we lack is what makes us incomplete. If we had all our wants, we would be complete. But it can be said that one want of the world is to be incomplete; for, as I have stated, the world wants to be everything, and if it weren't incomplete, it wouldn't be everything.

     If to change is a constant desire of the self, then the self also wants to be incomplete: for the self only as incomplete would want to change. To want to do things means to want to change; and to want to change means to want to be incomplete. Incompleteness is a kind of absolute. Completeness is the presence of incompleteness and completeness as one; just as complete rest for the self is rest and motion wholly as one. This notion of completeness as incompleteness is hard to grasp; but it is inescapably practical—for it is never out of our unconscious.

     Whatever stops a self from being as much as it can and changing as much as it can, is against its freedom.

     If to be free means to be able to do what you want, you have to know what you want. To know what you want means to know the things you want. However, you can't know the things you want unless you know the things among which you'll find the things you want; otherwise you'll decide prematurely as to what you want. This means that to know what you want, you have to know the things you don't want—in order to select. Now the world consists of the things you want and the things you don't want. So you have to know the world to know the things you want. And you have to know the things you want or want to do, to be free. So you have to know the world to be free. It follows that if you curtail or hinder the desire to know, you hinder the desire to be free.

© 1945 by Eli Siegel

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