Every leaf seems to speak

Hermeneutical thinking in general is focused on the human being “hearkening” to other human beings and engaging in “dialogue,” in good faith, in the pursuit of a (finite and fragile) shared understanding. Yet Heidegger is clear in this lecture course (and in many other places) that our legein, our “gathering” (the “knowing” and “wisdom” spoken of in Heraclitus’s sayings), is first and foremost a matter of the silent (and obedient) hearkening to “the voice” of Being as the primordial Logos, “the primordial fore-gathering” (242–6, 383). It would seem, then, that from his perspective the primary focus in Hermeneutics on “dialogue” among human beings (as constitutive and important as this surely is) is misplaced because such conversation cannot have the proper depth and discovery unless we have first listened attentively to the “saying” of the Being-way itself. It is our attunement to Being that matters in the first place, and – let us put this plainly – this does not require social or communal discourse. As he remarks in the lecture course, our “highest possible relation” is with Being, a relation that “grounds all other human relations to human beings and to things” (294). For the later Heidegger in particular, the rich solitude of silent listening to Being-physis-Logos as it unfolds is the primary way. Yet paradoxically, it is also the way that leads to perhaps the richest kind of community – the “community” of all mortals and beings and things as they come forth from out of the Being-way and go forth the same way. Arriving, lingering, departing; everything “breathing in and out.” We might add, and only gently so, that this meditative way appears to be increasingly lost or forgotten in the contemporary world, not only in our intensely “connected” culture, but also in the various recent versions of hermeneutical thinking that focus almost exclusively on the linguistic, the social, and the political.

[…] We may move closer to Heidegger’s way of thinking by considering the ways of those who have been imbued with a deep reverence for Nature, someone like the great American naturalist John Muir:

When one is alone at night in the depths of these woods, the stillness is at once awful and sublime. Every leaf seems to speak.

Every leaf seems to speak. In stillness, we “hear” the leaf and the flower, the wind and the rain, the sun and the moon “speaking.” Muir’s words resonate with us, but more often than not our way to a fuller understanding and appreciation of them is blocked because we are so accustomed in the contemporary world to think that the human being is the source and measure of all “saying.”

— Capobianco, Heidegger’s Way of Being


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