Chapter 13: Existence Is One
Then Saint Augustine explained, “I am in difficulty ever since I first heard that I am a learned person, because now I am trying to find out where this knowledge is within me but I am having no success in finding it. In error, in ignorance, I believed in it in the beginning. But now it is difficult for me to believe so. And yet, let me know your question. You have come a great distance, so ask your question. Even if I am unable to answer it, you will at least be relieved that the question has been asked. In case I am able to answer your question though, do you think questions are correctly answered by someone giving answers? But ask your question.”
The man asked, “What is time?”
Saint Augustine said, “You have asked the question I was afraid you might ask. There are certain questions to which we assume we know the answers, but when they are asked, we are lost for an answer. I definitely know what time is, but when you ask the question I am in difficulty.”
Until somebody asks you this question, you know what time is very well. You catch the train in time, you catch the bus in time, you go to the office in time and return home in time. So you know very well what time is. But no sooner does someone ask you the question than you are in the predicament of the centipede. You know dates, you have watches, calendars are hanging on the wall, and yet no one so far has been able to give a correct answer to that question. And the answers that have been given are like groping in the dark - nothing is established.
If someone asks you, “What is the soul?” you cannot answer, because as yet you do not know, even though it has been with you from the day you were born. Not only that, those who know say it was there before you were born. There is no difficulty about it as long as no one asks about it.
If someone asks, “What is love?” then the same difficulty arises. Everybody makes love, and even if they do not make love, they act as if they do. What a great number of love-stories there are! All stories are love-stories, and they are about love because man has not yet been able to make real love so he deceives his mind by writing stories about it. All poems are love-poems, and the person who has no love in his life begins to write love-poems. To write a poem is very easy, to make love is very arduous. Poems can be composed by rhyming lines, but love can only be made by tearing out all the lines. Poems have their own meters and rules, love is totally without meters or rules. Poems can be learned and can be composed. There is no way, no trick, to either learn or to make love. We constantly talk about love, and yet if someone asks us, “What is love?” then we are perplexed.
G.E. Moore is a great thinker, perhaps the greatest of this century. By his logical thinking he has made the greatest impression on man’s mind during the past fifty years. He has written a book called Principia Ethica - principles of ethics. He has taken great pains in writing this book, working diligently on just one question: What is good? And he has labored so hard to prepare this monumental work that I don’t think anyone else in the history of mankind has ever worked so hard on one book. It was prepared after the hard labor of years in which every word was weighed and written after a great deal of thinking. This logician of Oxford university, this greatest thinker, in his final conclusion has said that good is indefinable. In the end, he says that to define good is like defining the color yellow.