Category Archives: Heidegger

Through the woods

I’ve found the patch in the woods where the muntjacs live; I guess they don’t move around much. I can usually find them if I’m careful, but I try to stem my desire to stalk them so they won’t get spooked and go away. I love to know they’re there, living their secret lives, and I think of them often.
‘Find your own silence’, say the animals’ eyes to ours. There’s no bridge between us, not anymore. Perhaps there never was.
The silence of writing. What is it a sentence can do, even a banal one, when it’s brought back from contemplation and coupled to the world through the act of writing it? The reflexivity of writing isn’t a dead end as I once thought. Nor is it a game. It can be an event that moves you on, or back to where things silently happen with you. It can be a practical act in its own way – an act of faith – if done with ‘right effort’. What’s your task then? To bring the chaotic, detached everyday self into a clearer awareness: not of a spiritual world lifted out the material but of the two interwoven in every moment.

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The trees are letting their seeds fly in the wind. White catkin fluff catches to things like sheep’s wool on brambles. I picked some from my beard this morning. The scatter-approach to pollination: something’s bound to take in the earth and grow lasting and solid, as if it was always there.

*

When I can’t write, when the building noise distracts me, or when I have nothing to say, I don’t recognize myself. I’m not at home. Writing is a house of being under construction. Sometimes you feel you’re living in rubble. But then the right sentence comes, the edifice rises up around you and the edifice is what was there all along. At the same time the sentence you’ve written stands as a witness to what it’s revealed, even made richer than it was, at least for you. When this happens the world lies open. You can get up from your desk and live in your home, kiss S., make plans with her.

I say these things again and again because every day they escape my grasp, or rather I escape theirs.

*

When you think, you’re both thinking and describing your thoughts. Isn’t the act of writing – the blackening of the screen – just a way of shaping thought? And when you think, aren’t you already in writing, committed to building a house of being around you whether you like it or not? You move from thought to act and back again, trying to find your way through the words of others. What happens when you write a thought down? Often the subject eludes you. The words disperse. But doesn’t something happen nevertheless? No matter how unsure you are of what you’re saying, no matter how badly you fail to grasp it, doesn’t something take place in the saying itself?

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When we go through the woods, says Heidegger, we’re always already going through the word ‘woods’. Both the woods and the word were there before us. But it’s the going through them that brings them together. In a sense the saying of the word summons the thing. The word summons but doesn’t create. We don’t give being, but call and respond to it, help unveil it, enter it. And as we do, being at the same time withdraws from us.

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What is it that sometimes happens to you in the moment when word and thing come together? What light comes slanting in on your words? What glints on the other side of being? Celan once wrote that he saw God in a ray of light under his hotel door. Is it something like that – a ray of light under the door of a dark rented room?

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Silence

Heidegger: ‘We speak our language. How else can we be close to language except by speaking? Even so, our relation to language is vague, obscure, even speechless.’ And: ‘As mystery, the word remains remote. As a mystery that is experienced, the remoteness is near.’

What does this mean? Perhaps that language, born of silence, retains an intimacy with silence; that it binds us to the near and remote silence which our words at once conceal and reveal.

*

S. and I move about the cottage each sensing the other’s presence. We speak, or don’t: speech or silence, it’s all the same. When she goes outside I swear I can feel her absence even if I haven’t heard her leave.

She tells me about a study which showed that when couples live together they begin to mirror each other physiologically. Their heart rates, breathing and brainwaves synchronize when they’re in each other’s presence, as when our footsteps fall in with those of the person we’re walking with.

*

Noise weighs on me now the way silence used to, even out here. The right words only come in stillness. When the pigeon isn’t cooing, the cat isn’t scratching something, customers aren’t knocking on the door wanting to buy eggs, delivery vans aren’t rolling by to T.’s farm, S. isn’t clattering in the kitchen… then something takes hold that’s mine yet not mine. Strange circuitous route to what’s already here, in a kind of silent saying.

 

If man is once again to come into the vicinity of Being [die Nahe des Seins], he must first learn to exist in namelessness [Namenlosen]. He must recognize equally the seduction of the public and the powerlessness of the private. Before he speaks, he must allow himself again to be spoken to by Being and risk the danger that in being spoken to he will have little or rarely anything to say.

— Heidegger

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Under every deep, another deep opens.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Do not believe that the person who is trying to offer you solace lives his life effortlessly among the simple and quiet words that might occasionally comfort you. His life is filled with much hardship and sadness, and it remains far behind yours. But if it were otherwise, he could never have found these words. 

— Rilke

(via here)

To think means compromising yourself.

— Heidegger (via Michael Tweed)

As mystery, the word remains remote. As a mystery that is experienced, the remoteness is near.

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His renunciation having pledged itself to the world’s mystery, the poet retains the treasure in remembrance by renunciation. In this way, the treasure becomes that which the poet – he who says – prefers above all else and reveres above all else. The treasure becomes what is truly worthy of the poet’s thought. For what could be more worthy of thought for the saying one than the world’s being veiling itself, than the fading word for the word?

— Heidegger, On the Way to Language (tr. J. Stambaugh)