Ontological Sensitivity As a Defining Characteristic of Human Being


I came here to count the bells
that live upon the surface of the sea
that sound over the sea,
within the sea.
So, here I live.

Neruda, “The Sea and the Bells”, 1988

What are the bells “living upon the surface of the sea”? – The soul of nature? – The sublime need of a human being for nature’s companionship? – Love between human and the world’s souls? – Accords and echoes of mutuality between the human heart and the world’s existence? But recently for more and more people everywhere these bells of emotional resonance between human and pre-human (between embryo and the womb) – seems to be nothing in comparison with profit, money and gaining power.

– To ‘count the bells of the sea’ instead of “barrels of dollars” means inability to survive, failure to win the future. Don’t represent bell-delirium as spiritual sophistication.

– But poets have always existed. They are still here, although semi-abandoned, semi-lost like ghosts among bellies and muscles, like a bashful tear among fun over beer or calculation over coffee.

– Poetry is pre-scientific like the sea in comparison with petroleum beneath the seabed, like cloud in comparison with a military drone, like meek silence in comparison with a manly ultimatum, or like request in comparison with interrogation. Poetry is weak and vague while technology is power and tower.

– But what if what seems weakness and debility for the crude philistine (fallenstone) is ontological health, while sweaty consumerist greed and indiscreetly grabbing posture towards nature (transforming it into mud and dirt under our feet) are signs of psychological depravity that will kill us like mad beasts swallowing their own flesh? What if the way of survival is exactly to live instead of trying to survive by any price? To try to survive without wisdom can be more destructive than destruction.

Neruda’s protagonist “came here” (to life) to count the bells (to join the vitality of being – to listen to the pulse of the world). Does it mean that he will die of starvation or exhaustion? – Of course, not. He will fish and work the land, but it will not become the main goal of his life, that will be a spiritual unity with the universe. The life of the Neruda’s subject of annunciated is to nurture this unity, to be on the side of life, being life amidst life. But you can imagine how today’s post-Bush Wall Street operatives of profiteering, if they could read Neruda’s poem, would be laughing at him and the bells living upon the surface of the sea – “I don’t live to count bells of the sea because I am not crazy! I came here to get rich and I’m proud of it!”

The wealthiest 1% and their political servants push human race into poisoning itself through dead air, rivers, seas and toxic entertaining images; they transform the softness of life into hardness of death. These petroleum- and coal-eaters are not evil; they are deprived of bells (of being) because in their childhood somebody ripped the bells off from their sensitivity, from their hearts; and they don’t know the being, so they fill their bellies with money and transform themselves into money’s bellies.

Are humans without being human beings? We still identify humans by appearance or by skeleton or composition of blood. Hasn’t the time come to start to use ontological criterion too – when the presence of poetic soul will become proof of belonging to human race? Ontological rapport (with being of the universe), with what unites heaven and earth, deserves to be the fundamental indicator of human being. What unites human and non-human, human beings and other human beings (dissimilar, keeping their otherness), human beings with ontological sensitivity (“nerudas”?) and human beings without it (oil-, coal-, and coin-nivorous) is what is able to unite beings inside Being. It is necessary to advance the pedagogy of ontological sensitivity, to teach from childhood how to love the world and life more than money, power and hierarchical success. But there are much less nerudas than the poor who worship wealth of the wealthy and give their blood and ballots to GOP.