The choral ode in Antigone, which Heidegger discusses in detail in this course talks about human beings and what they seek in life, about death, about what they achieve and fail to achieve. In the first lines of the ode, human being is places within the manifold manifestations of the uncanny, and called the most uncanny of all. Then the chorus sings of human pursuits to conquer the sea and the earth, the animals, but also language, governance and the everyday life. It concludes: “Everywhere venturing forth underway, experienceless without any way out/ he comes to nothing.”(HIE82) A similar tension of continuous effort which in the end does not satisfy the seeking, is also described in the realm of a πόλις, a particular historic site, into which human being is placed, and within which it lives, dealing with entities. The ode concludes with not allowing those who carry out such things anywhere near the hearth.
Heidegger says, that the decisive word of the beginning of the choral ode, as well as of Greek tragedy in general, is τὸ δεινόν, which Heidegger translates as das Unheimliche, the uncanny. According to Sophocles, the uncanny is manifold, yet human being is the most uncanny of all. (HID74, HIE61) The notion of uncanniness is familiar to us from Being and Time, where Unheimlichkeit is a mood that accompanies angst as the basic “state-of-mind”. It is an uncomfortable feeling of “not being at home”, and human beings flee from uncanniness by turning away from it and towards the entities within the world, which provide the familiarity, security and possibility to lose oneself in one’s daily concerns and involvements. (SZ188-190) The opposite to the uncanniness in Being and Time is “being-at-home”, “Zuhause-sein”, which is the “tranquillized self-assurance” of the “they”. This “being-at-home” is only seen in a sense of Dasein’s inauthentic turning away from its own being and finding comfort in the involvement with other entities. However, this “at home” (“zuhause”) of Being and Time is not always the same as “at home” (“daheim”) and “homely” (“heimisch”) of the Ister lecture course.
In the Ister lecture course, Heidegger chooses to translate Sophocles’ τὸ δεινόν as das Unheimliche, the uncanny, because the word “uncanny” (“unheimlich”) is related to the word “unhomely” (“unheimisch”), and both these words have within them the root “-home-”(“-heim-“). It is this original meaning of the word “unheimlich”, which is related to home, that Heidegger is interested in.
“We mean the uncanny in the sense of that which is not at home – not homely in that which is homely. It is only for this reason that the un-homely [das Un-heimiche] can, as a consequence, also be “uncanny” [“unheimlich”] in the sense of something that has an alienating or “frightening” effect that gives rise to anxiety.”  (HIE 71)
Heidegger continues, by making another step beyond explaining the connection between the uncanny and the unhomely, by suggesting an interpretation of Sophocles, that talks of a human being, as someone whose care or concern is to become homely:
“In that case, Sophocles’ word, which speaks of the human being as the most uncanny being, says that human beings are, in a singular sense, not homely, and that their care is to become homely.”  (HIE 71)
It seems, the difference between the uncanniness of Being and Time, and the uncanny, which is the unhomely, of the Ister lecture course, as well as the other texts of this and later period that are in some way influenced by Hölderlin, lies in that connection, or, rather, the passage that seems to start opening up through the uncanny, the unhomely back to the homely. Moreover it is the connection with, or rather the directedness towards the homely, that defines, whether the uncanny (unhomely) taken up by the human being is genuine or not.
Whereas in Being and Time the notion of the uncanny could be understood as that which is associated with authenticity, in the Ister lecture course both the feeling of “not at home” and the feeling of “at home” can be understood either superficially, as the ways humans turn away from their being, or in the light of a genuine seeking for that being. For instance, Heidegger juxtaposes the search of the one who is properly unhomely with that of an adventurer, who finds satisfaction in a constant change of location, wondering through the foreign, and who is merely rootless:
“Yet this is no mere homeless wondering around that merely seeks a location in order then to abandon it and take its pleasure and satisfaction in a mere traveling around. The human being here is not the adventurer who remains homeless on account of his lack of rootedness.”  (HIE73)
Heidegger summarizes a few pages later:
“For the heart that seeks adventure, this distinction between the homely and the unhomely is altogether lost. The wilderness becomes the absolute itself and counts as the “fullness of being.””  (HIE75)
The distinction between the homely and the unhomely, which is lost for an adventurer, is directly related to forgetting or remembering of being. The adventurer Heidegger is talking about seems to be the ultimate child of “metaphysics”, the one who replaces being by the totality of beings. So, it would seem, the destitution of our postmodern times shows itself in the spirit of mere adventure, which is not looking for the homely, which does not believe that there is something more than an accumulation of trophies through the continual mastering of entities, and which denies any possibility of ground and being.
Similarly, the superficial notion of the homely manifests itself in the choral ode in Antigone, as human beings run around everywhere, going into the sea and plowing the earth, catching the animals and domesticating them, mastering language, politics and tricks of warfare. In these pursuits human beings become familiar with entities they engage with, they become “at home”, and here Heidegger uses the same word “zuhause” that he used in Being and Time:
“Human beings are “at home” on every passage way through beings. Human beings reach everywhere, and it seems that in this way they also “come to something” and, as we say, earn a living.”  (HIE76)
This is, however, only an apparent achievement. In the end, it does not bring what human beings are seeking. It is so because, while engaging with entities and focusing only on them, human beings overlook, turn away from and forget being. A few lines down Heidegger explains:
“In human beings reaching everywhere, however, and in each case coming to “something,” they still come to nothing, because they remain stuck with particular beings in each case and fail to grasp their being or essence in such beings. The “nothing” to which they come is that which, turning counter to being, directly excludes human beings altogether from being.”  (HIE76)
This feeling of being “at home” within the familiarity of things only seems to give comfort and security, it only seems to satisfy human urge to be homely. In truth, however, while trying to feel homely among beings, human beings remain unhomely:
“In those beings they come to, and in which they think themselves at home, they come to nothing. Thinking they are homely, human beings are those who are unhomely.”  (HIE76) (note, that here Heidegger switches from “zuhause” to “heimisch”)
The superficial feeling “at home” as an attempt to master entities, comes to nothing, and leaves human being unhomely. The one who is properly unhomely (der eigentlich Unheimische (HID91)) is the one who genuinely seeks the homely, and relates to it, albeit by not being able to attain it.
We have looked at the superficial or not authentic ways human beings substitute the genuine unhomeliness and the seeking for the homely – either by taking on an attitude of a “permanent wanderer”, a homeless adventurer, who does not relate to the homely at all, and only goes for a constant change of location and scenery, or by trying to satisfy the longing for homeliness by filling it out with entities, and forgetting being. When it comes to the genuine and the true, the homeliness and the unhomeliness belong together – the genuine unhomeliness is directed toward the homely, it is the homely that defines the unhomeliness and makes it genuine, even if the homely is not experiences as present itself, and rather as a lack or deprivation.
“The unhomely one is deprived of the homely; deprivations is the way in which the unhomely one possesses the homely, or to put it more precisely, the way in which whatever is homely possesses the unhomely one.”  (HIE75)
The reversal, which Heidegger stresses here, is one of the “technical moves” he often makes in his later writings. This reversal often illustrates the difference between his new way of thinking and the “metaphysical” attitude. We will talk about it much more at the end Chapter 1, what is important to point out at this point is that in this move, in the relationship that is talked about, in this case between the human being who is unhomely and the homeliness which has to do with being itself, Heidegger reverses the two sides of relationship, making the one that was assumed to be somehow less important into the one that in truth is more important.
It is important to understand, that Heidegger does not merely flip the top to bottom arbitrarily in whichever way, making the whole system relative and the “order” or “hierarchy” completely irrelevant. Instead, by making the reversal, Heidegger is restoring the proper grounding, the proper balance of weight that has been obscured and misplaced in the metaphysical attitude. Here the weight, the importance and the defining power is shifted from the anthropocentric focus on the unhomely human being, back towards the homely, which in the first place defines the homeliness and the unhomeliness, and thus also the state and condition of the human being. And so, he corrects himself, that it is not the human being that possesses or owns the homely, instead, it is the homely that possesses, or owns, or defines the human being.
Another point that is crucial in this reversal for understanding later Heidegger and for working out real bodily ways of dealing with the notions of his later though, which is one of the main challenges of this dissertation, is that the step beyond metaphysics does not consist in abandoning metaphysics, leaving it completely behind, and creating a whole new language never used before. Rather it is a matter of a simple shift of weight and importance, a shift from human being to being itself, from “I” to “it”, from ordering to listening, from grabbing to thanking. As simple as it sounds, it is not simple to think through and to carry out, for often this shift changes everything, opens out completely new and unexpected horizons and subtleties of what we can see, do and feel, and it leaves behind the “old” ways. Yet it is simple and seemingly small, or, as Heidegger would say following Hölderlin, “fine”, for it does not require us to jump off the cliff into the abyss, just to shift our weight slightly, and to let the abyss come out on its own. We will see how this shift works out in Harriss’s Beaver Swamp, in the meantime, let us come back to Heidegger’s take on the choral ode in Antigone.
 “Überall hinausfahrend unterwegs erfahrungslos ohne Ausweg/ kommt er zum Nichts.”(HID82)
 “Das Unheimliche meinen wir im Sinne dessen, was nicht daheim – nicht im Heimischen heimisch ist. Nur deshalb kann das Un-heimische in der Folge dann auch “unheimlich” sein in der Bedeutung des befremdlich und beängstigend und “furchtbar” Wirkenden.” (HID 87)
 “Das Wort des Sophokles, daß der Mensch das unheimlichste Wesen sei, besagt dann, daß der Mensch in einem einzigen Sinne nicht heimisch und daß das Heimischwerden seine Sorge ist.”(HID 87)
 “Aber das ist doch kein bloßes heimatloses Umherirren, das einen Ort nur aufsucht, um ihn alsbald zu verlassen und im bloßen Umherfahren die Lust und das Genügen zu haben. Der Mensch ist hier nicht der Abenteurer, der aus seiner Bodenlosigkeit heimatlos bleibt.”(HID89)
 “Für das abenteuerliche Herz geht diese Unterscheidung des Heimischen und Unheimischen überhaupt verloren. Die Wildnis wird zum Absoluten selbst und gilt als die “Fülle des Seins”.”
 “Auf allen Gassen des Seienden ist der Mensch “zuhause“. Überall kommt der Mensch hin, und es scheint, daß er so auch “zu etwas komme” und, wie wir sagen, ein Vermögen erwerbe.”(HID93)
 “Allein, indem der Mensch überallhinkommend je zu “etwas” kommt, kommt er doch zum Nichts, weil er ja am jeweiligen Seienden haften bleibt und in diesem das Sein und Wesen nicht faßt. Das “Nichts”, zu dem er kommt, ist das, was, gegenwendig zum Sein, den Menschen unmittelbar vom Sein schlechthin ausschließt.”(HID63)
 “Im Seienden, zu dem er kommt und worin er sich heimisch meint, kommt er zum Nichts. Er ist als der vermeintlich Heimische der Unheimische.” (HID94)
 “Der Unheimiche entbehrt das Heimische, das Entbehren ist die Art, wie der Unheimische das Heimische besitzt, genauer gesagt, die Weise, wie dieses, das Heimische, jenen, den Unheimischen besitzt.”(HID92)