Living as an End in Itself, and the Destiny of Being

Glen T. Martin

We are always on the way to something. We are always busy working, planning, striving to accomplish some task or goal.  Indeed, as I have argued in some of my publications, we are structured as “temporality,”  intrinsically as movement within a dynamic present appropriating its past and projecting into the future (Martin 2021b).

However, the deep mystery of our being in the world that includes our being constituted as temporality should not obviate the truth that living is an end in itself. We can discover this profound truth as we grow in wisdom and insight. We intuitively understand this because most of us find a pleasure or satisfaction or hidden joy in just doing what needs to be done everyday to live: preparing and eating our food, clothing and housing ourselves, listening to the rain outside, resting when tired, arising when rested, interacting with loved ones.

These everyday experiences of living should not be scorned or minimized in their importance. The life that has been given to us, the life that we find welling up within us at every moment, even when sleeping, is intrinsically valuable in itself, it is an end in itself, to be lived in its fullness, to be embraced, loved, cherished, actualized each day and each night. Living is its own purpose and should be an ecstatic joy and ever-renewed fulfillment.

This wisdom does not exhaust all the depths and dimensions of life but nevertheless remains of supreme importance.  Our goals, our plans, our efforts to create the future are extremely significant as well, but if our being in the world is subsumed by these efforts toward the future then we lose the fullness of the present moment of life, the “holy” ontological place “of being born as a human being,” as the Buddhists might say, the gift of this present life with all its details of waking, dressing, doing daily tasks, eating, and sleeping.

The fullness and intrinsic value of the very act of being alive is only available to human beings through our holy self-awareness.  Philosopher H.G. Bugbee expresses this insight when he reflects: “That ours is a holy place has ever seemed to me true when I have been most awake, and I take it as a mark of awakening whenever it dawns on me again as true. But much of the time I cannot remember that it is true, and I cannot understand what such a saying might mean, if it were to occur to me to dwell on it at all” (1961, 164). 

In our daily lives we are often distracted, inattentive, out of sorts. We miss the insight that this is precisely it.  We are meant to be experiencing, living life in its fullness in the here and now. Perhaps this is what is discovered in Zen.  Before discovery, one cooked the rice, washed the bowl, and looked at the moon; after awakening, one cooks the rice, washes the bowl, and looks at the moon. The fullness/emptiness (sunyata) of life is there in each passing moment, in cooking the rice, washing the bowl, and looking at the moon (see Shizuteru 1982).

But the deep destiny of Being-Becoming in us also contains other dimensions—we are multi-dimensional. The Kosmos (in its multi-dimensional fullness) has become conscious of itself in us. The fullness of life in the present moment is simultaneously a perpetual becoming in freedom (see Panikkar 2010, 100 ff.). The trinity of Being is manifest in us. We embody (deep within ourselves) the vast emptiness of the groundless-ground of Being, in dynamic relationship with the vibrant kosmic logos discerning the intelligibility of things, and infused with the active spirit (pneuma) that intuits the holism of the Being-Becoming in its primordial destiny. The gift of life (an end in itself) includes the gift of ontological freedom. The Kosmos has emerged in us as freedom, as a destiny to be worked out and actualized (see Martin 2021a).

Our ontological freedom does not leave us aimless or rudderless, nor does it leave us lost in a technocratic wilderness of electronic gadgets and death-machines (weapons of war). For our freedom contains great imperatives embedded within its “utopian horizon.” How can we enhance and protect freedom itself? (cf. Jonas 2001).  How can we live in terms of the authentic nisus, telos, urge, or imperative at the heart of freedom for a future that transcends the past and further actualizes the destiny of Being?  We are co-creators with Being-Becoming. We participate in the open and emerging destiny of Being. As Panikkar expresses this:

This is our human dignity, and our responsibility…. Our effort at thinking the destiny of Being belongs also to this destiny, configures and shapes it along with all the other forces of Being itself. It belongs to the nexus, the aspiration, the very dynamism of Being…. To replace an infinite Deity living and loving with an infinite universe that is mechanical and dead does not represent real progress, besides the fact that it is a surrender of our dignity and responsibility (2010, 104-05).

       All fundamentalisms of our day (from Christian to Muslim to Hindu to Nazi), clinging to irrational dogmas because of their horror at an “infinite universe that is mechanical and dead,” constitute even more of a curse on our holy place in the kosmos than does the specter of a universe that is mechanical and dead. For the scientific passion for truth can and will enliven the dead universe once again with a living, emergent-evolutionary consciousness (e.g., Kafatos and Nadeau 1990). But fundamentalisms create only hate, fear, and blind ignorance. They vitiate conscious evolutionary growth. In the name of “God” the most horrible crimes have been committed.

       Our destiny and our dignity are greater than this. We oppose modern mechanical civilization not by denying it, but by transcending it to see the universe from a higher level, to actualize the Being-Becoming of existence within the destiny of our cosmically-informed human beingness. Our reflection on our destiny is enhanced and enlivened by the gift of life as an end in itself.  We realize that part of the meaning of the destiny of our divine-cosmic-human project is precisely that fullness.

       The holism of Being-Becoming embraces the holism of our planetary ecosystem and the holism of humanity. It is for this reason that we need to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Eastern Orthodox Christianity traditionally spoke of the process of deification and of the sobornost, the oneness of all believers in the transformative process. Part of this process involves uniting human beings within the unity in diversity of the Earth Constitution. We require oneness as a prerequisite for the process of deification.

       It is only when we are able to solve the most fundamental problems arising from the paradigm of a mechanical universe, such as the problem of war, of  the need for universal human dignity protection, and the problem of destroying our planetary ecosystem, that we will become more fully conscious of our true human destiny and of the fullness of the life that has been gifted to us. Ratification of the Earth Constitution is just a step toward actualizing our divine-human destiny.  But it is a crucial step, an absolutely necessary step if we are to “inherit the kingdom that has been prepared for us since the foundations of the world.”

       “There is an intriguing consensus today that humanity is facing a turning point in its destiny” (Panikkar 2010, 108).  How do we create a world in which each human person has the opportunity to live life in its fullness, dignity, and ecstasy? Our planetary civilization must pass that turning point. Not only does our very survival depend on this, but so does the imperative to make the fullness of life possible for each human being born, and to make the unconscious joy of the non-human animals also possible through restoring their ecosystems.

       Ratification of the Earth Constitution symbolizes that turning point from a mechanistic world of fate, necessity, war, destruction, and death to what Buckminster Fuller called a “livingry world” of unity, synergy, and integrity in which: “It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary and henceforth unrationalizable as mandated by survival. War is obsolete” (1981, xxv). “After all,” Panikkar declares, only the impossible is worth the effort of trying” (2010, 111).

       Living is an end in itself; freedom is an end in itself. The fullness of life in freedom and the encounter with the utopian horizon of every present moment leads to the demand for ratifying the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. The utopian demand is nothing other than the demand that we live the life that has been given to us. We must actualize what is already within us from the very beginning. We may act as if our lives depended on it.

Works Cited

Bugbee, Jr. H.G. (1961). The Inward Morning: A Philosophical Exploration in Journal Form. New York: Collier Books.

Fuller, Buckminster (1981). Critical Path. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Jonas, Hans (2001). The Phenomenon of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Kafatos, and Robert Nadeau (1990). The Conscious Universe: Whole and Part in Modern Physical Theory. Berlin: Springer-Verlag Publisher.

Martin, Glen T. (2021a). Design for a Living Planet: The Earth Constitution Solution. Independence, VA: Peace Pentagon Press.

Martin, Glen T. (2021b). “Utopian Horizon Value-Theory: A Transformative Power at the Heart of Human Futurity,” American International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Vol. 7 No 1; February 2021: 

aijhss.cgrd.org/index.php/54-contact/115-vol-7-no-1-february-2021

Panikkar, Raimon (2010). The Rhythm of Being: The Unbroken Trinity. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. Shizuteru, Ueda (1982). “Emptiness and Fullness: Sunyata in Mahayana Buddhism.” The Eastern Buddhist 15, no. 1: 9