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To Be Is To Do: A Fundamental Principle of the Hebrew Language
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15. To Be Is To Do

— Existential Definition According To Behavior —

A dynamic language

The Hebrew language works different from ours. That makes it very difficult to translate, and that causes translations to be often poor and lacking. One of the differences is that the Hebrew language is much more dynamic than ours. Hebrew is all about action. Something is reckoned after what it does, not after how it looks. This principle is quite fundamental in Scriptures; it is applied all over. Probably most drastic in the Second Commandment where the Lord prohibits the making of graven images. A graven image after all does not move, and a statue that, for instance, tries to display a calf is not showing typical calf-behavior but static appearance.

The principle even occurs in the New Testament, which is written in Greek but with a Hebrew way of thinking. The second chapter of James, for instance, explains that a believer is not someone who looks like one, or even says she's one, but rather someone who acts like one. To be is to do.

Hold that thought (15)

In Hebrew Scriptures, and all models derived thereof, entities are reckoned solely after their behavior and not after their appearance. An entity is a behavior, not that which executes the behavior.

It is crucial that the reader takes a firm hold of this principle. If a modern Westerner would see a picture of a lion, she would say, "That is a lion."

If an ancient Hebrew would see someone gather and devour food, she would say, "That is a lion."

Horses, Cows and Swallows

swallow
horse cow

Imagine: you're on a farm. In a field ahead you notice a cow, a horse, and overhead flies a swallow. Question: of the horse, the cow and the swallow, which two are most alike? In our modern, Western way of thinking we are prone to define something after the way it looks. Both horse and cow are large mammals and are more alike than a cow and a swallow or a horse and a swallow. Our answer: the cow and the horse are most alike.

But a Hebrew minds looks at activity, not appearance. And it's when these animals begin to move around that their characteristics show. Cows graze or lie down and chew the cud. Horses however can be seen racing along the hills, in tight packs or alone. Horses are swift, may turn abruptly, shear the meadows like... swallows in flight.

swallow
horsecow

The Hebrew verb sus means to be swift or to flash by, and the noun derived from this verb indicates both the horse and the swallow. A swallow would probably be known as something like 'one who is swift and flies with wings'. A horse would probably be deemed 'one who is swift and strong and vigorous.'

For the next paragraph it is important that we understand that in Biblical times a horse was not seen as a giddy cousin of the cow, but rather as a big, strong version of a swallow.

Lemmings, bosons and horses.

Lemmings, bosons and probably after the last paragraph, horses too, are pretty weird. But as weird as it may seem, they do have something in common. Bosons are the smallest quantity in which a force can exist; the 'atoms' of forces. The smallest shove givable is a shove carried by one photon. 'Half a photon' does not exist, just as dry water doesn't exist, or a square circle.

Gerard 't Hooft
Gerard 't Hooft

In his book In Search of the Ultimate Building Blocks, and attempting to connect a recognizable image to the way bosons work, mastermind Gerard 't Hooft - a Dutch physicist and Nobel Prize laureate - compared bosons to lemmings. Just like a band of lemmings will throw themselves off a cliff, bosons pour out to a lower energy level. And that's how things work, literally. If it weren't for those bosons that behave like lemmings, things wouldn't work in the universe.

Still, a single boson may be as meek and fuzzy as a lemming, but an army of bosons keeps planets in orbit! Somehow the image of a lemming doesn't quite answer to the idea of a force particle. To understand the creature we need an image (an action) of something more forceful. A horse, for instance. Or rather a mounted soldier.

Soldiers to a country are what bosons are to an object. When two countries collide they send their armies to meet, in very much the same way as two colliding objects will exchange bosons upon collision. One soldier is the quantum of a nation's power, just like a boson is a quantum of force. And now that we know how the men of old looked at horses, we may expect that if indeed these men of old somehow realized the existence of bosons, they would liken them not to lemmings, but to horsemen.

Probably the most famous horses in Biblical Scriptures are the four horses of the Book of Revelation.

Let's have a look:
Four Horses

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