Why Do the Birds Go on Singing?
Sharon Van Etten, Job, Heidegger, and Whitehead
When you find yourself in times of trouble, almost as if your world is falling apart, do you ever gain just a little consolation from the fact that the birds have their worlds, too? And that even if yours is falling apart, their worlds continue? Same here.
Heidegger says that we are all being-in-a-world of one sort or another, and we are all forming worlds for one another. Whitehead adds that each of us, along with the birds, are forming worlds for God. Even God is being-in-a-world. Or in truth, being-in-multiple-worlds: as many as there are creatures. God is the fellow sufferer who understands.
Perhaps there's a lesson here. The birds form worlds for us, and in their sheer indifference to our suffering, they give us peace. Perhaps, just perhaps, they do the same for God. Perhaps the independence of the world from God is part of God's peace. Of course it must make God a little lonely, too. But isn't there a quiet kind of peace even in loneliness? Can't we be peaceful and lonely at the same time? Can't you hear it in Sharon Van Etten's song? Same here.
A Question for God
from a young, evangelical philosophy major
It's always surprising to realize that I am not the center of the universe.
Especially when I've tried so hard to be faithful to You, O Lord.
Why do the stars keep on shining, and the birds keep on singing,
even as I suffer? Don't they know it's the end of the world?
Or at least my world. Heidegger says that we are all being-in-a-world?
There can be no self without a world, he says, and no world without a self.
Are You, too, being-in-a-world, O Lord? Am I a world for you?
Is the songbird a world for you, too? And how about the stars?
How many worlds do You have? How can You
hold all these world's together without falling apart?
Whitehead says that you contain as many worlds as there are creatures,
all held together in empathy: You are a fellow sufferer who understands.
When our worlds fall apart, do you feel like
it's the end of the world for you, too?
And do you ever worry that we don't love you anymore?
Do you feel alone, too? Does your world ever fall apart?
I love you.
Dasein Human and Divine
Being-in is not a ‘property’ which Dasein sometimes has and sometimes does not have, and without which it could just be just as well as it could be with it. It is not the case that man ‘is’ and then has, by way of an extra, a relationship-of-Being towards the ‘world’—a world with which he provides himself occasionally. Dasein is never ‘proximally’ an entity which is, so to speak, free from Being-in, but which sometimes has the inclination to take up a ‘relationship’ towards the world. Taking up relationships towards the world is possible only because Dasein, as Being-in-the-world, is as it is. This state of Being does not arise just because some entity is present-at-hand outside of Dasein and meets up with it. Such an entity can ‘meet up with’ Dasein only in so far as it can, of its own accord, show itself within a world.
In speaking of our existence as being-in-the-world, Heidegger did not mean the physical world. He meant our emotional world, the world of meanings and moods, as they emerge out of our interactions with others. We live in lonely worlds, abundant worlds, happy worlds, sad worlds. These worlds are as real to us -- perhaps much more real at points -- than the physical world of rocks, trees, hills, rivers, birds, and bodies.