Not gloomy Heidegger


The Heidegger I read and love (and read a lot – just look at my worn book), has never seemed gloomy or pessimistic, or fatefully-apocalyptic, the way some other people seem to see him. Quite to the contrary, “my” Heidegger is very sunny and hopeful, a real delight to read at times of challenge and difficulty. Perhaps the reason is that I do not read him from the beginning (and do not like the early Heidegger at all), I read him from the end. Beginning with the last “philosophical” lecture of his, The Poem (1968), and finishing usually more or less with  “Homecoming/ To Kindred Ones” (1943), which, in the middle of war, is the lecture about sunshine and heights of the sky and the holy appearing as most joyful, and attuning the poet to say joyfully what has to be said.

The Poem is, without doubt, my absolutely favourite text of Heidegger’s, it is short and crisp, and deep, and I could read it over and over, spend hours tasting it and whiling with it, like with a piece of art, which, in it’s own way, it comes very close to. Though never quite crosses the line – Heidegger kept poetry and thinking separate, as sort of parallel ways, without collapsing them, though, no doubt, experimenting, how closely they can near each other, while never crossing – well, that’s my calculus metaphor for you.

What really amazes me in this lecture is that the otherwise distant and elusive promise of the arrival of future Gods, here in this lecture is reversed and made into what is already there, already happened, while at the same time happening, and that sort of shifts the otherwise cautious recommendation to “wait” and “hold” into a quite inspiring “permission to dig in”. 🙂 I am joking, of course, but not really joking, here, look at this quotation from Hölderlin he is thinking through:

But because the present gods are so near
I must be as if they were far away, and dark in the clouds
Must their name be for me, only before the morning
Begins to glow, before life glows in its midday
I name them quietly to myself, so that the poet may have
His own, but whenever the heavenly light goes down
I gladly think about what is past, and say—go on blooming! (P212)

And in German for those who are like me and don’t trust translations:

Aber weil so nahe sie sind die gegenwärtigen Götter
Muß ich seyn, als wären sie fern, und dunkel in Wolken
Muß ihr Nahme mir seyn, nur ehe der Morgen
Aufglänzt, ehe das Leben im Mittag glühet
Nenn’ ich stille sie mir, damit der Dichter das seine
Habe, wenn aber hinab das himmliche Licht geht
Denk’ ich des vergangenen gern, und sage – blühet indeß. (G185)

And then look what Heidegger is saying about it:

How strange—one would like to assume that when the present gods are so near to the poet, then the naming of their names would result by itself and require no particular directions to the poet. But this “so near” does not signify “near enough,” but rather “too near.” …

Too near, too near-going in the direction of the poet are the arriving gods who are present to him. Apparently their arrival lasts a long time, and is, therefore, still more pressing, and thus, still more difficult to say, than is their completed presence. For man is also incapable of openly and directly perceiving their perfect presence, and thus of receiving the good bestowed by them. …

Until the words are found and blossom, it is a matter of bearing one’s burden. This burden necessitates the poetic saying. Such necessity com- pels. It comes from the “sphere of the god.” (P213-4)

And in German:

Seltsam – man möchte meinen, wenn die gegenwärtigen Götter dem Dichter so nahe sind, dann ergäbe sich das Nennen ihrer Namen von selbst und bedürfe keiner besonderen Weisungen an den Dichter. Allein das „so nahe“ bedeutet nicht „genügend nahe“, sondern „zu nahe“. … 

Zu nah, zu nahegehend sind die in der Richtung auf den Dichter zu, gegenwärts zu ihm, ankommenden Götter. Offenbar dauert dieses Ankommen lange Zeit, ist darum noch begrängender und deshalb noch schwerer zu sagen als die vollendete Anwesenheit. Denn auch diese vermag der Mensch nicht geradehin unmittelber zu vernehmen und das durch sie gespendete Gut zu empfangen. …

Bis das Wort gefunden ist und erblüht, gilt es, Schwehres auszutragen. Dieses Schwere bringt das dichterisch eSagen in die Not. Sie nötigt. Sie kommt aud der „Sphäre des Gottes“. (G186-7)

Well, difficult or not, but the way I take it, if the arriving and coming-to-present Gods are too near, that would mean that they are not really “outside”, like objects or other entities, rather, they are within. Within what? Perhaps, within everything – within us, within that fabric of being which, when permeated by the holy, like by the rays of light in the Homecoming poem, makes everything joyful and abundant, safe and sound, and secure in its own way of being? This is really what I have been finding working on this diss of mine: when being somehow is the holy, everything becomes right, and the gloom is gone. What I find so inspiring in Heidegger of 1968 is that he, following Hölderlin, could already see it being so near, too near, already here! How is it, that almost 50 years later, what it has opened out so much more, we keep losing sight of it and keep forgetting its warm touch (“the gentle embrace”, he calls it), which it here, everywhere?

So, note to self: do not forget that touch, meditate, melt into it, try every day, and every day anew…

And here are some more quotations from that last lecture of Heidegger’s, in Ukrainian and English, my old post:



2 thoughts on “Not gloomy Heidegger

  1. First looks at your blog and I’m already a fan. Also a Heidegger reader, but focused on his early years until 1930.Your posts on your Heidegger readings are really interesting and I’m just looking forward for the next ones, on your meditations and on Heidegger. The theme of your thesis is vast. Hope you publish it later.



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