The Nature of Human Existence

Tomiwa Ogunmodede
3 min readDec 31, 2019


All definition is comparison.

Basically, to understand what something is, you need a frame of reference with which you’re already familiar to compare it with.

Thus, if I asked you to define ‘dance’ — the concept. You’d probably say something along the lines of “moving your body rhythmically to sound or music”.

This implies that you’d be assuming I understood what moving, my body, rhythm and sound and/or music meant. And that’s just for starters.

Where am I going with this? The Bible and humanity’s claim to existence.

Now, if you’re familiar with the Bible, you probably have heard of the story where Moses encounters a burning yet-not-really-burning bush; and is given the grand task of freeing Israelites from Egyptian slavery and tyranny.

Anyone who’s read my thoughts about God and life may have some idea of where I’m headed. Think of this as a mini-treatise on an aspect of those thoughts.

So, back to God and Moses. In Exodus 3:14, Moses asks God what he is to say to the Israelites when they ask what/who sent him to them, and God replies, “I am that I am” — which translates to, “ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh” in Hebrew.

This Hebrew phrase actually can be translated in more than just one way*.

“I am who I am” — an evasion of Moses’s question?

“I am who am” or “I am he who is” — a statement of the nature of Israel’s God [‘Elohiym]

“‘I Am’ is who I am”, or “I am because I am”

Now here’s where the really fun stuff starts…

Remember how I said all definition is comparison and a subject seeking a definition needs a comparable frame of reference with which to use to understand the definition of said concept?

Well, let’s try to define the word “I” as it relates to our existence. Google defines it as “the subject or object of self-consciousness…

Basically, every time you use the word “I”, you are asserting that you exist. That you are real. And everything you interact with also exists by extension.

Succinctly put by egbon René Descartes, “I think, therefore I am”.

Now, let’s head back to the Bible.

I posit that God chose to define him/her/itself as “I am that I am” or “I am he who is” — ’ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh; because there was no frame of reference for Moses to understand that could then be used as a basis for comparison.

The phrase “ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh” and it’s translations are all peculiar because they all have one thing in common. It’s God basically saying “I exist as myself” or “I exist alone”.

Point being, God asserts his/her/it’s existence yet chooses NOT to acknowledge that of Moses (& other humans) by not using our supposed existence as a frame of reference for comparison in defining himself** to Moses.

So, God shows up, asks Moses to do this massive thing, yet doesn’t deem it fit to say something like “oh, I exist, just like you do man. Totally same thing. I’m just like, super, extra powerful and all that. Peace out.”

Why not?

Because Moses couldn’t possibly get it. Moses didn’t exist the way God did. So God couldn’t find a reference to use to explain/define what he was.

So, “I am he who IS”

He is. God IS.

Moses is not. You are not.

To simplify what I’m trying to communicate, I sorta believe that we exist, in a certain sense. I guess.

We think, we record past memories and ideate future concepts. We build things that outlast our lives.

We just exist LESS than a being like God.

Same way Superman or Paloma/Diego or Suara/Toyin Tomato exist less to us. We are characters in a greater beings story. That’s all we are.

**Sorry got tired of the him/her/it thing. 1–0 to the patriarchy