"To think " is above all to relate to what is happening to the thinker. The thinker is the "I" that each one of us feels we are. We think because the thinker is "at stake with" in what happens, i.e. "myself". The relationship of the "I" to what happens depends on the feeling: from what the "I" feels and how it is felt. At this point our lives separate, because the "I"s feel, and they feel differently from one another. The needs and sensibilities are often so different as to make communication and sharing seem extremely problematic. But why do we think in such different ways? Maybe because we feel in different ways? I am not convinced that this is the case, I believe that initially we all feel the same and the fact that we all say "I", and feel "I", and know what "being at stake" means demonstrates this, but the answer to this differs in the various "I"s via the emotional and affective tones. In order to examine this more closely we should start from something that even if everyone takes for granted, should not be taken for granted: the emotional sensation which arises when each of us withdraws into himself and is tasting "I". It's easy, but not automatic; just to taste that feeling by saying "I - truly I" causes and intensifies a sort of burning in our hearts: a taste of ourselves. But does this taste have any significant meaning or is it simply a sensation? An itch is only a sensation, whereas an emotion is a sensation with meaning, for example, love, hate, fear, excitement, tenderness... What does "I" mean? Is what we normally feel in our hearts just a sensation or does it have meaning attached to it?
My theory is that the sensation "I", that what you perceive when you put the finger at your heart, first of all means I, actually I exist and has a uniquely precious taste.
With this I have established a relationship between the taste of "I" and the meaning of I exist. "I" is the voice of being. The fact of being is condensed in the taste of "I". Recent theories which I support and repeatedly test in the philosophical laboratory that I have given life to for years, is that in the I is recognizable a highly enhanced and evident sense of surprise, for example when friends prepare a surprise for our birthday, when the person we secretly love tells us that they too have always loved us, when we are assaulted or threatened with death... all circumstances in which inside the I the taste of the unexpected shows itself. But so far there is nothing new in what we have said. What I would like to draw to the attention of readers is rather the fact that "I" always means surprise.
It is not possible here to carry out an exhaustive survey in the philosophical laboratory with the active and involved participation of each person, but I will propose the various stages in the hope that at least they may give rise to some doubts.
So surprise... but for what? What surprises is the unexpected. And what is unexpected in "I"? If it means "I exist", then what is unexpected is the existence of "I" ? So existing has that taste of the unexpected, the surprising, of the non predictable. But why is existing not predictable?
I cherish a moving memory of a meeting with a genuinely religious man: Padre Umberto Neri, of the dossettiana community of Monteveglio, near Bologna. A man of vast erudition, of profound culture, and saintly gentleness, welcomed me for a meeting during which I learnt a great deal.
I began with the preliminary remark: "Father, I am not a Christian nor am I religious in the traditional sense, so let us address ourselves to something we can both share, a love for the truth, and let us start from that".
"I agree" he replied.
I pointed my finger in his face and said to him: "Father, you do not exist".
"No, my dear, I exist" he retorted firmly.
"So in order to respond to this provocation, you understood the meaning of - you do not exist-, you understood it to the extent that you denied this obviously false statement."
"So it is true that you exist, and false that you do not exist?"
"It is true that you exist rather than not existing; that your existence bestows itself, and not the nothing?"
"Yes" he replied, and as his eyes lit up he added "and I deeply understand you."
Few intellectuals that I've met on this subject have conceded so much.
For Don Umberto Neri existing was not to be taken for granted, and the light in his eyes was the most convincing proof of that.
The fact that Being cannot be taken for granted is expressed via the taste of "I", always to be found in the heart. And the emotion that means "I exist rather than not existing, and this is surprising".
The surprise and marvel at finding that we exist and not being able to take it for granted is the basis for both philosophical and religious sentiment.
I began with - "Thinking" and above all creating a relationship with what is happening to the thinker-, and what is happening to us is that we are existing rather than not existing. Relating to this fact produces surprise, bewilderment and wonder. Sometimes anxiety. But we still exist, we still feel "I", aham vritti the first expression of consciousness, as the Indians say, and thus we are always and we feel surprise and wonder.
The reactions to the fact of being reveal themselves according to the variety of sensibility, but the ever ardent flame in our hearts releases a strange taste which tells us that it cannot by any means be taken for granted to find ourselves here, just like that, and that actually it is surprising, wonderful, prodigious.
If this is true, then we inhabit and are driven by a significance to which humanity should be reconnected to: wonder.
So an education based on a certainty is possible, we may say to our children: you exist, and besides the fact that we gave you the circumstance of your being here and now you got from us, your being is mysterious and marvellous. You are precious and unique.
If we are inhabited by a significance there is hope.
by Beatrice Benfenati