On the Difference Between Being and Becoming

Posted on:Nov 28, 2012
By:Flint McGlaughlin

[Editor's Note: How can a God who is a complete being exist inside of space-time? Wouldn't the linear progression of space-time imply an incompleteness? What follows is a essay by Flint addressing these fundamental questions about God. In the process, he comes to an interesting observation on the nature of reason itself. - PC]

          What is the difference between being and becoming? Is any form of being not a “becoming”? Can one "be" in a static/incomplete or static/complete sense? We are beings within space-time, thus it follows that our being is a becoming. But is the becoming linear? And how is the linear expressed when becoming is outward across all surrounding surface areas? I cannot become in time alone; I must become in space. Does this differentiate me from the Ultimate? Is the Ultimate absolutely static because becoming is not necessary/possible for that which is absolute being? Or can the Ultimate be absolute being while still becoming? Can being be absolute outside of space-time, and yet remain absolute within space-time? An answer in the negative yields a series of troublesome problems (notwithstanding the Aquinas formulation); while an answer in the affirmative yields an even more troublesome contradiction.

          This then leads to a separate observation. Is there a place where reason reaches its apex, a summit of contradictions that lead to a new placeless place? We attempt to tame our notion of the Ultimate by the constraints of reason. Finding ourselves unable to reconcile our worship of reason and of the Ultimate, we choose to deify one or the other. If we constrain the Ultimate by the limitations of our reasoning, then we crown reason as our Ultimate. This leads to a binary quandary, a self-contradiction, or at the very least, intellectual truces like the via negativa.

          What if the Ultimate transcends reason? Transcends, not extends, for we must beware of positioning the Ultimate as infinitely advanced. To do so suggests a linear connection between the incipient and the Ultimate, but the two do not dwell on a plane. This leads to a question of the Ultimate as constrained by reality. “Is God real?” leads to a different question: “Is real God?” To say that God is real is to predicate some form of synonymy. What if the Ultimate transcends that which is even “real”? Could the Ultimate exist across an infinite possibility of possibilities simultaneously actualizing all contradictions which are “actualizable” in transcendent paradox? “Paradox” is a limiter, as is my language. One must move beyond.

Ten is two; two is ten. It is easier to count without the numbers.

It only matters where you place the zero.

The difference is binary – the language of bots.

Fluent digital – calculating but not thinking. 0, 1, 10…

Off and on, eventually I reach 10 as ten (decimal).

It only matters where you place the zero.

Two numbers; two different numbers, but the same quantity.

It is much easier to count without the numbers.

When I was a child, I saw two before I knew 2. The bot counts 10; I see two.

It is much easier, so much easier to count without the numbers.

          There is an infinite number of places to put the decimal, but two is still two even when you assign it different digits. Wittgenstein helps me understand in words what Leibniz understood in digits. What if there is a place where ten is two, where both quantities are identical, losing their “bothness”, precisely because they have no “otherness”, so that I, as a child in this placeless place, would see two and ten, not both, but at once in an identical moment of apprehension. Does this place preclude the Ultimate because reason is violated in its very expression? In this place, or in this infinite set of infinite possibilities, could the Ultimate be both being and becoming?


gary hallett on Jan 9, 2013

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. Eph 1:17

Jeff on Feb 8, 2015

No matter how hard the dog tries to understand calculus, a good pet and a bone are all he is worried about.  Think of the size in intellect difference, between the dog and the calculus professor.  We can reason in the time / space dimension for the answers of the Ultimate, but for what?  The answers are there, just not in this time/space dimension.  Unlike the dog, our burning desire to know, makes me think that the answer to the last question would be both.  Our physical existence makes it both, sort of.  There is a perfection that exists at the same, “time”, as us, “becoming”,  perfect.  We only get enough of a glimpse to keep searching, and know of our incompleteness and the perfection we strive for.  If our eyes cannot physically see it,  is it possible to still see it?  By co-existence of the dimensions, I think yes.  Like you said, it’s a 2 no matter what value you assign it.

DF on Oct 20, 2015

I tend to see everything through the prism of brand. That all any of us is, in the end, is an experience that resonates, an expectation that informs, and a story that’s told when we aren’t around to influence it.

“You” never “are”. You are only becoming. In the instant of your conception you are nothing but potential. And yet, in that instant you have changed everything around you and will continue to do so until you last close your eyes.

Your mother and father became such in the instant they knew of you. Until that moment they were just two people. But in that moment their lives changed forever.

The tribe you were born into renewed it’s hope for a better tomorrow in the instant of your birth. As every new life does.

As you grow older you always “were”, but never are, anything but someone “becoming”.  As put more eloquently than I by T.S. elliot:

“We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then. To pretend that they and we are the same is a useful and convenient social convention which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember that at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.”

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