Diotima Home About Submissions Archives Events Links Search

Volume 2, No. 1:

Interview with Stanley Rosen
The Resurrection of Hell

Madonna, Harlot & Modern Woman
Lessons of Kosovo

The Big C
Role of Philosophy in 21C Education
On Holiness and Responsibility
Zen & the Art of Teaching
Language as the Translation of Being
Core Curriculum & Diversity
A Letter from Morocco


On Language as the Translation Of Being, or
Translation as the Language of Being

Nancy Mardas

The hermeneutical experience is the corrective by means of which the thinking reason escapes the prison of language, and is itself constituted linguistically.

Throughout the history of philosophy and linguistics, the essence of translation has been misunderstood. The importance of translation has been underappreciated: as an art form; as a way to express meaning; further, as a method of interpreting being. Translation has not been properly translated in our understanding. Fully understood, the process of translation holds a key to the interpretation of our place in Being.

In his essay on the Anaximander Fragment, Heidegger provides important lessons for translators, poets, and philosophers on the nature of language, time, and being. For Heidegger, the first (and really the only) task of hermeneutics is to think a text through, to dwell on the matter presented in the text, and then to respond out of our reflection on the matter as it dwells within us.

Early on in his essay on the Anaximander Fragment, Heidegger equates thinking with the act of poetry. For Heidegger, non-poetic thinking simply portrays facts - but discloses nothing about the nature of being. To use language in a non-poetic way is to live in only one dimension of time: chronological time. Heidegger sees such a life as empty, meaningless, out of joint. If we live and speak non-poetically, we exist - but we have no relation to the fullness of what is. Being itself does not cease, but we are and remain unaware of it. But, Heidegger says, we have the opportunity to live in relation to another dimension of time: kairos time, those powerful and utterly unpredictable moments in which concealed meaning is suddenly revealed. It is our relationship to what is disclosed that makes thought possible and unites us with what is disclosed, with the fullness of what is, rather than with merely material existence.

Time and again throughout Heidegger’s writings the theme recurs that language provides a clearing, a Lichtung, a space within which what is concealed discloses itself: the essence of the world, what Heidegger often calls the truth of Being. "The poetic essence of thought," he says, "upholds the sway of the truth of Being." Poetic language keeps the truth of Being in movement, in play, so that from moment to kairological moment, human beings can make contact with the truth of Being.

Before I go any farther, one brief clarification: Heidegger’s term "Being" is shorthand for something much larger, something that was first said in Greek, so that articulating it already puts us in the midst of the problem of translation. The whole of the Anaximander essay is in fact Heidegger’s meditation on this same question: how to translate the Greek terms on and einai into 20th century German. This central term proves excruciatingly hard to translate. Similarly, it is a limitation of everyday usage that we don’t, in English, use the infinitive "to be" or the term "being-ness;" either of those constructions are closer to the German word Sein. Being, as Heidegger’s term is translated, is not a thing which one can point to, lying in the corner, waiting to be called into the conversation, not an animal which moves or a point in space with discrete qualities. Rather, it is itself a meaning, a condition, what we might describe as "that-which-perdures-as-true-but-is-not-always-apparent-without-deliberate-effort." Since Being is not a scientific fact but rather a means of expressing a quality, facts are not sufficient or appropriate to explain or describe it. That is the task of myth, and for myth you need a poet.

Heidegger maintains that if the translator dwells on the matter and then responds to it out of reflection on the matter as it dwells within him, we can be assured that he will translate faithfully. Fidelity, in this enterprise, means a journey into the core of the text. It then means giving voice to that matter, bringing that moment into human being by the response which it elicits from us. We do this in spite of the obstacles or barriers of language. In the work of translation, Heidegger maintains, "we are bound to the language of the saying." We are bound in two ways: to our mother tongue and to the mother tongue of the text we are translating. Heidegger continues, "In both cases we are essentially bound to language and to the experience of its essence." We must accept this binding in order to avoid arbitrariness. Even while so bound—yoked—we are on a mission of liberation. The translator, he claims, must free [the text] from oversimplification, preserving all its intrinsic richness. The essence of translation is to translate essences. Speaking of the Greek word tisis, for example, Heidegger says, "it can be and usually is translated by the word penalty, but it must not, because the original and essential significance of the word is not thereby named. We should avoid this at all costs." The responsibility of the translator is to draw out the essential significance of the word, to bring that moment of Being into language.

Taking the Anaximander Fragment as a proof-text, Heidegger issues a challenge to the would-be translator: "If only once we could hear the fragment it would no longer sound like an assertion historically long past." If we allow ourselves to listen, we become a part of language, a part of Being. Through listening, we can access what is concealed.

How should we hear this fragment: as translators, as poets, as beings, or somehow from within the hidden destiny of Being itself? And with what ears should we listen to text: those of the past, the present, the future? of Western metaphysics? of the text itself? "What," Heidegger asks, "does antiquity have to say to the end of metaphysics?" It is Heidegger’s contention that because we hear the Anaximander Fragment from a point in time after the end of metaphysics, we may actually be closer to the Anaximander Fragment than anyone who "heard" the fragment from within the context of the history of Western metaphysics. Anyone who heard the fragment within that span was blocked from really hearing it by their enclosure within the span. Only after Hegel has carried out the task of bringing metaphysics to completion, and Nietzsche has confirmed this by announcing the death of God, can we truly hear the fragment, for we are no longer sealed within that hermetic hermeneutic. Our perspective is freed from metaphysical overlay, so we are once again able to hear the fragment from within itself. The seer looks through chronological time and is able to uncover moments where Being (as that-which-perdures-as-true) is visible. The poet then translates into poetic language what the seer has seen. The task of the translator is to transcend time, to look out from the text itself into the new surroundings in which it finds itself, and then to put what is written into meanings that are not bounded by chronological values of time, space, or culture.

Yet - perhaps he is not a poet but a philosopher - Heidegger himself is unable to fully complete the turn to listening. His fault is, I think, a failure of desire. Rather than letting the thought speak for itself, speak to us in its otherness through the translation, Heidegger sees translation as necessarily doing violence to the text by inserting a desire between the thought and the translation, a desire which blocks the utter receptivity of listening.

Whether or not translation is an act of violence depends on how one positions oneself in relation to the text. Is the text a subject to whom I listen, or an object for my manipulation? What is the nature of the ontological distance between me and the text? Far from closing the gap between them, translation highlights the facticity of difference, and so reveals the essential meanings of both reader and text. Perhaps the most striking lesson of translation lies in recognizing the value of the alien, the value otherness can have as an enrichment to our own self-definition.

Somehow, through language, the process of translation liberates the essential from the confines of chronological time, bringing subjects into non-linear, reciprocal relationships of understanding and application. Translation brings to the fore what is hidden in language, by opening a space (Heidegger’s Lichtung).

Translation stands as the contact barrier between the text and myself. Understanding is im-mediate, unmediated. A contact barrier exists solely to facilitate contact; remove the barrier and contact would be impossible. Why? Because there would be no distinction between you and me. Not only would the essence of the thing not be defined, I too would have no edges. No subject would be preserved.

The most important quality of this barrier is that it appears to be both invisible and permeable. It permits contact, and does not pre-vent it. Nothing comes before the contact; which occurs without preamble and without sequence, a motus perpetuus. Again and again in the history of translation, we run up against the fact that this process appears to unfold outside of time. The barrier of translation is curiously outside of the dimensions of space; in its invisibility, the good translator disappears from view, even while preserving the text. What is revealed is neither the essence of the translator as a being nor the text as a being; rather, in the contact of the translator with the text, something of the essence of Being is revealed which was hidden in the language. This movement, as Heidegger unfolds it, is not Becoming, but Being: the act of preservation through which presencing takes place.

Thus the translator is permeated by, subject to, the text. It is impossible to perform this task unless we are immersed in the text. Heidegger claims that "a mere commentary on the word does not bring us to the matter in the fragment’s use of the word if we have not already...thought from within the matter which comes to language in the fragment." The text works on the translator, bringing him out of his fixation with self into relationship with the text. As the translator begins to enter the text, to think "from within the matter," a certain self-transcendence takes place.

We need, Heidegger says, to "think more clearly about the word in our own language." In order to expand our understanding of the text, we must open ourselves up to it. This means far more than simply musing about the cognate words in our own native language. In addition to going into the heart of the matter, we must take the text into our own heart, that place where we are most engaged in Being. The process of translation encourages, facilitates this opening. In the process of opening, we will also reduce the risk of getting in the way of the text. There is always the danger that we will substitute thought about the text for thinking from within the text.

We must always think the word from within the text. Heidegger says: "The right translation ascribes to the translated word "a sense that is foreign neither to the word itself nor to the matter designated by the word in the saying." It is in fact the quality of foreignness itself that opens us to translation. Foreign-ness, the sense of something other, brings us into the activity of translation. Without foreign-ness, we might not come to understanding at all. We ourselves, as beings in a world of beings, are buried in the forgetfulness of the fullness of what is. In the encounter with the word, we run our fingers along our own edges, so to speak, and then along the edges of the word, and then of the text, and finally of the matter.

Foreign-ness disrupts our illusion of being at one with language. It is the discomfiture with alterity that propels us into the activity. If we obliterate the otherness, we sink back into forgetfulness again. Therefore the act of translation is crucial to keeping the sense of otherness alive. This act is also an act of faith: faith in the ability of language to respond adequately to the fullness of what is, faith in the ability of simple things to give birth to meaning, faith in the meaningfulness of Being itself. Translation demands a leap of faith.

To think from within the text, we have to enter the text, leap into it, and let the text enter us, speak through us. We have, in a very real sense, to rescue the meaning and luminosity that lies hidden in the text from concealment by bringing it into language. Through the enterprise of translation, immediacy becomes possible; it becomes possible for beings to meet in Being.

Translation entails neither imitation nor a new creation, but rather the preservation of what lay hidden to be revealed in language. In fact, the translated text does not exist at all. The essential meaning of a translated text was there all along. It is not something added to or adduced from the text. Rather, it comes about in the encounter between the translator and the text. In Heidegger’s way of thinking, translation brings sameness and difference together, and he avers that "understanding is not conceived of as the province of the same and application as that of the different, for translation embodies a synthesis in which understanding of the same consists in application to the different—a process essentially interminable." Interminable—like Being itself.

We achieve the rescue of meaning through the silence and invisibility of translation. The rescue is achieved through touch alone, the contact barrier of immediacy through understanding. Without the agency of the translator, the text lies fallow, bound, imprisoned, concealed. This movement, this rescue, this project mirrors the life and journey of Orpheus, as retold through the Sonnets of R.M. Rilke.

The Translation of Orpheus

In the essay "Language," Heidegger provides a point of departure for this discussion:

If we must, therefore, seek the speaking of language in what is spoken, we shall do well to find something that is spoken purely rather than to pick just any spoken material at random. What is spoken purely is that in which the completion of the speaking that is proper to what is spoken is, in its turn, an original. What is spoken purely is the poem.

In "What are Poets For?" Heidegger points even more directly towards Orpheus:

Rilke’s valid poetry concentrates and solidifies itself, patiently assembled, in the two slim volumes Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus. The long way leading to the poetry is itself one that inquires poetically. Along the way Rilke comes to realize the destitution of the time more clearly. The time remains destitute not only because God is dead, but because mortals are hardly aware and capable even of their own mortality. Mortals have not yet come into ownership of their own nature. Death withdraws into the enigmatic. The mystery of pain remains veiled. Love has not been learned. But the mortals are. They are in that there is language. Song still lingers over their destitute land. The singer’s word still keeps to the trace of the holy.

Orpheus is the moment of absent presence within the free play of Being. The figure of Orpheus illuminates the intersubjective problematic of the poetic endeavor: the instability of identity in the process of translation, in the fullness of what is.

In 1999 I translated the Sonnets to Orpheus into English in sonnet form. In the process, I had the opportunity to reflect on and examine the nature of the intersubjective gap between myself and the poems. Like the poems, I am a being within Being; we stand in relation to one another as created beings. Like the poems, I am caught in language, and I have to listen to language in order to move into the gap towards the other. Without translation, the poems remain preserved but not present, not vibrantly communicating themselves. They, like me, are bounded by a cultural framework, but not contained by it. So we share a certain relation both to time and to timelessness.

The Sonnets and I also share a complex relation to will and desire. We interrupt the movement of Being, its ebb and flow, with our desire. Where does desire fit into the movement of "letting be"? The answer lies in the figure and the failure of Orpheus, who lives a life where desire overrides the poetic. The birth of tragedy occurs when the power of will confronts the power of fate.

To see this moment as the advent of tragedy is central to understanding what Heidegger means about language as a key to being, and also, I believe, to understanding much of what Rilke has to say: about things, about praise, about what Rilke calls "the Open." Heidegger argues for the displacement of the ego as the ruler of language or of Being, for the subjectivity of the non-human; of language, for example, as a living being on a parity with our own being. In his essay on Rilke, Heidegger reminds us of the motive force outside ourselves. Far from the human ego, the ground is

the "medium" that holds one being to another in mediation and gathers everything in the play of the venture... The pure gravity, the unheard-of center of all daring, the eternal playmate in the game of Being, is the venture. As the venture flings free what is ventured, it holds it at the same time in balance. The venture sets free what is ventured, in such a way indeed that it sets free what is flung free into nothing other than a drawing toward the center. Drawing this way, the venture ever and always brings the ventured toward itself... To bring something from somewhere, to secure it, to make it come - is the original meaning of the word Bezug, currently understood as meaning reference or relation.

According to this understanding, we are neither masters of our own destiny nor subject to a random fate. Our movement within the whole is at once more planful and more playful than that. Rather, what is (Being) holds us in its sway and ventures us ever closer to itself, into relation with itself. Within that large game, our will has a far smaller role to play than we would like to think. And that is the origin of tragedy.

The life of Orpheus begins as a hymn of praise for this venturing. The glory of human being, to which things have no access, is the ability to praise. Heidegger’s hope, and Rilke’s, is that through poetry we learn to stand in relation to Being as things do, partaking in the ebb and flow of Being, as Heidegger translates the Anaximander Fragment "...along the lines of usage; [letting] order and thereby also reck belong to one another (in the surmounting) of disorder." Then, with the poet, we can celebrate this motion in praise.

This shift, Heidegger demonstrates, is what Rilke means by responding to "the Open." Rilke, Heidegger says,

likes to use the term "the Open" to designate the whole draft to which all beings, as ventured beings, are given over... In Rilke’s language, "open" means something that does not block off. It does not block off because it is in itself without all bounds. The open is the great whole of all that is unbounded... Where something is encountered, a barrier comes into being. Where there is confinement, whatever is so barred is forced back upon itself and thus bent in upon itself. The barring twists and blocks off the relation to the Open, and makes of the relation itself a twisted one.

For Heidegger, the shift to unbounded play within the Open is necessary if we are to become a living part of the world. It seems that consciousness bars our way, but that is because we have not yet learned to use the barrier as a contact barrier. As yet, the human "stands over against the world. He does not live immediately in the drift and wind of the whole draft." For a human being to become a part of the world, he must learn to listen to that within which he lives, and translate what he hears into praise.

This is the destiny of the poet. Helen Sword, in "Orpheus, Eurydice, and the Poetics of the Turn," unfolds the three aspects of the figure of Orpheus:

as the mystical priest, founder and patron of the Orphic cult; the consummate poet, whose song can charm trees, stones, and even the dark denizens of the underworld; and the great romantic hero whose love transcends and, briefly, conquers death...as the overambitious quester whose failure to rescue Eurydice has come to symbolize the futility of trying to outwit death. As the dismembered victim of jealous maenads, Orpheus represents, more ambivalently still, both the imperfect mortal whose song has failed to charm and the deathless poet whose music issues even from the lips of his decapitated head.

Like Orpheus, like the human being learning to live within and listen to being, the translator of poetry seeks to live in the divisions between language (discerning between forms of otherness), and so transcend separateness. It is only through displacement of the translator’s identity that the translator lives. Listening brings about the death of tragedy, undoes the violence of discourse.

To a poetic generation frantically scrambling to shore fragments of meaning against its spiritual ruins, Orpheus guarantees, in Walter Strauss’ analysis, "the possibility of reassembling the shattered fragments" of the fractured self. Orpheus embodies both the powers of art and the limitations of art.

1. The first moment of the myth of Orpheus: Creating the world through language.

Here is the poem which opens the Sonnets to Orpheus:

I, 1

A tree arising (oh, what pure excess,

The song of Orpheus!), soaring in the ear!

Then: silence. And, within that emptiness,

beckonings to change, to birth appeared.

The animals of silence stole forth then

perfectly still, not hunted, not in prey

but in a rapt, attentive hearkening they

emerged from unlocked wood, from nest and den

to listen. Noises hot with threat or fear

now died within their hearts. And even where

there’d stood a shelter of dark animal dreams,

a refuge built of longing, with tottering beams,

dark mouth of some forgotten mine, - just there

you built your temple, deep within the ear.

In Rilke’s Sonnets, language brings together the world of things and human being into the broader context of the fullness of what is. At the same time, language both transcends what is and brings it into possibility. Looking at Heidegger’s reflections on Rilke, David Halliburton notes how both writers push towards the outermost capacity or possibility of language. Through poetic language, Being surpasses itself. Halliburton explains:

In transcending, Being does not pass over into something else: unique to itself, it passes itself along in its own way and so comes into its own, satisfied to be its own ‘more’. In no other modern thinker, perhaps, do we find quite this sense of plenitude...ontic fullness…is something one aims toward... One pursues the goal, of course, as a consciousness, through a nothingness whose transcendence is toward Being, where for Heidegger Being is transcendence understood as a surpassing of itself by itself.

I want to return to the process of poetry translation as a useful focusing metaphor, and to the figure of Orpheus as not only archetypal poet, but archetypal translator. Maurice Blanchot sees the Orphic movement of language in poetry translation:

For the art of poetry translation mirrors this movement. The identity of the translator is similarly both full and empty, both invisible and indispensable. Like Orpheus, like the poet, the translator "lives at the intersection of infinite relations.

I, 3

A god can do it. Who but a god can follow

through the lute’s labyrinth, and not be lost?

Man’s mind’s in discord. Where two heart-paths cross,

be sure - there stands no temple to Apollo.

For you, the song does not point towards desire,

nor promise a vague, awaited, far-off bliss.

The song is being itself. A god can sing this.

But when shall we? When shall our being acquire

and bind unto itself the earth and stars?

This is not love, fond, callow youth,

what now bursts forth full-throated from your heart.

Forget that shriek. Its echo soon will die.

It takes a different breath to sing the truth.

Inspired by nothing. Blown through God. A sigh.

Why is there no temple to Apollo at the intersection of two hearts? Because in the desire which moves them, there is no room for thought, nor for poetry. Desire dissolves alterity.

2.The second moment of the Orpheus myth: the threshold of the underworld.

The reader making his or her way through the Sonnets remains constantly aware of the poet/translator behind the words. The strictures of sonnet form make it impossible to disappear completely into the work. And yet, like Orpheus, the translator is not there. If you, like Orpheus, turn to catch a glimpse of him, he disappears. The song remains, but some essential part of the song is lost forever: the singer. Erich Heller puts the "problem" of the loss of the poet’s (or the translator’s) identity more succinctly. He sees Rilke as a poet who had

outgrown the Romantic belief that poetry is the proper vehicle for communicating personal emotions, be they sad or joyful. Such poets, Rilke writes, are like invalids employing language in order to say where it hurts, instead of using words for building an edifice of poetry after the manner of medieval stonemasons who sank their selves into the equanimity of stone. For it is the poet’s destiny itself that enters into his verse, never to return, or rather it is his true destiny to free himself through his art.

The second moment of the Orpheus myth represents the conflict between human desire and letting be within Being. Rilke’s poetry proves that the distance between desire and living within being can be overcome through language, if the poet follows her destiny of self-transcendence. But to do so, the poet/translator must enter the game, dare the venture, cross the threshold of reason, and enter into praise: a journey whose destination is as yet unknown. The poet or translator cannot predetermine the outcome by will, or by desire.

"As it reveals itself in beings, Being withdraws." In addition to the liminal movement of language, Heidegger stresses a second essential characteristic of its nature: errancy.

In this way, by illuminating them, Being sets beings adrift in errancy... Error is the space in which history unfolds... In error what happens in history bypasses what is like Being. Without errancy there would be no connection from destiny to destiny: there would be no history.

Errancy, the capacity for the play of absence and presence, guarantees nothing but freedom. This is the "eternal playmate" of Being, and the playing-field is poetry: "The setting-adrift is accomplished through poetic language. Errancy is a crucial component."

At the threshold of Hades, Orpheus fails to be true to his destiny as a poet. He does not allow for errancy. Instead of listening, heeding, and praising, Orpheus looks back. In looking back to Eurydice, Orpheus speaks the silent but undoing word of will, of willful desire. This is the moment of her physical death, and his psychic death, the failure to let be; in the language of the Anaximander Fragment, the failure to let Being come into unconcealment in the ebb and flow of fate. Instead of allowing history to come into presence through destiny, Orpheus tries to fix the moment with his gaze. He tries to prolong the moment, to linger, to stay beyond the time allotted by fate. This activity is an instance of what Heidegger calls the "essential process" of disjunction on which human being always stumbles. The disjunction of lingering turns out to be a fundamental trait of what is present in human being, which is never Being, but rather always Becoming, and is so with will, willfully.

Yet even in his failure, the negative silhouette of the figure of Orpheus points us towards the shift. First, the turn is what we resist. Second, we need to focus less on looking than on listening. The gaze failed Orpheus, for it was simply another look into the mirror of human being, and as such re-presented only a blocked and twisted view of relation to being, blocking true relation to otherness. Had Orpheus remained true to his faith in language, in song, in praise, and completed the turn to listening, he would have won Eurydice back from the land of death, entered more fully into the Open, maintained his place (and hers) within the ebb and flow of kairological time.

3. But "song still lingers over their destitute land." The singing head.

The longer one sits with the metaphor, the more potent it becomes: poetry translation incarnated in Orpheus, the figure of decentered identity who brings about presencing in preservation. Certainly this was a compelling metaphor for Blanchot. In "Rilke and Death’s Demand," Blanchot pulls out of Rilke’s poetic language a dramatic ontological responsibility:

In a poem, one of his last, Rilke says that interior space "translates things." It makes them pass from one language to another, from the foreign, exterior language into a language which is altogether interior and which is even the interior of language, where language names in silence and by silence, and makes of the name a silent reality. "Space (which) exceeds us and translates things" is thus the transfigurer, the translator par excellence. But this statement suggests more: is there not another translator, another space where things cease to be visible in order to dwell in their invisible intimacy? Certainly, and we can boldly give it its name. This essential translator is the poet, and this space is the poem’s space, where no longer is anything present, where in the midst of absence everything speaks, everything returns into the spiritual accord which is open and not immobile but the center of the eternal movement.

As both singer and song, Orpheus points the way to this goal, through what lies between language and silence in the mystery of translation. Blanchot again:

Orpheus is the act of metamorphosis: not the Orpheus who has conquered death, but he who always dies, who is the demand that we disappear and who disappears in the anguish of this disappearance, an anguish which becomes song, a word which is the pure movement of dying... If the poem could become a poet, Orpheus would be the poem: he is the ideal and the emblem of poetic plenitude. Yet he is at the same time not the completed poem, but something more mysterious and more demanding: the origin of the poem, the sacrificial point which is no longer the reconciliation of the two domains, but the abyss of the lost god, the infinite trace of absence.

The third "Orphic moment" is "the event of metaphysics," the echoing silence of the oblivion of Being. Heidegger tells us that "oblivion of Being belongs to the self-veiling essence of Being." Blanchot continues this thought:

[T]he history of Being begins with the oblivion of Being, since Being - together with its essence, its distinction from being - keeps to itself. The distinction collapses. It remains forgotten. Although the two parties to the distinction, what is present and presencing, reveal themselves, they do not do so as distinguished [one from another]. Rather, even the early trace of the distinction is obliterated when presencing appears as something present and finds itself in the position of being the highest being present. However, the distinction between Being and beings, as something forgotten, can invade our experience only if it already unveiled itself with the presencing of what is present; only if it has left a trace which remains preserved in the language to which Being comes.

So the head of Orpheus continues to sing as it floats down the river. Death does not interrupt the presencing. Even as [d]eath withdraws into the enigmatic...the trace of the holy remains present.

4. The Destiny of Orpheus: being listening to Being.

I want to suggest a fourth moment for the myth of Orpheus: the turn to listening. Blanchot sees Orpheus as

the mysterious sign pointed toward the origin, where not only secure existence and the hope of truth and the gods are lacking, but also the poem; where the power to speak and the power to hear, undergoing their own lack, endure their impossibility.

Orpheus’ downfall was a failure of openness, a failure to respond to the Open through which language brings Being into presencing. The failure of Orpheus represents the moment at which communication between God and creature (between Being and beings) becomes at once both possible and imperative. The moment of crisis, the moment of decentering individuation, when a being is at one with Being itself. This moment only comes about through the most concentrated effort of attention. Listening. And here again we meet Heidegger. "The proper bearing of thinking is not questioning but rather listening to the promise of that which is to come into question."

Both the Orpheus myth and Heidegger’s reading of the Anaximander Fragment prescribe a shift in perception, from objectification of the other to intersubjectivity. In order to accomplish this shift, it is necessary to change our notion of the essence of the between. The main stream of Western thought from Genesis to Lacan has seen the abyss of otherness as a point of mourning, a fall from grace into consciousness. But Winnicott and Merleau-Ponty (among others) suggest that the gap can become a point of joyful recognition, the necessary consciousness of separateness that accompanies the apperception of individuality. If that is so, action could take a different stance, filled not with the intention of subjugation of the other, but rather of reflective interaction. In the Anaximander Fragment, Heidegger says that:

The oblivion of the distinction, with which the destiny of Being begins and which it will carry through to completion, is all the same not a lack, but rather the richest and most prodigious event: in it the history of the Western world comes to be borne out. It is the event of metaphysics. What now is stands in the shadow of the already foregone destiny of Being’s oblivion.

Heidegger calls this action frui, the fructification of a thing, its being brought into full presencing. Frui, Heidegger says, "means: to hand something over to its own essence and to keep it in hand, preserving it as something present."

Translation too is an act of frui, a way into the process of letting be in Being, and for our part in this letting be, our "crossing over to the always unspoken word that eon, eonta, einai says...presencing into unconcealment—presencing brings unconcealment along with itself." Through the transmission of translation, we participate in the preservation of Being, as the essential is brought over into a new language. Thus, translation brings a work to new fruition, as a way of listening which brings about poetic thinking and understanding, and so takes us forward in our search for a way to dwell poetically within the fullness of what is, by listening to it.


II, 1

Breath, invisible song! A ceaseless

flow renews your life,

a pure exchange of inner, outer space.

A pendulum, within whose rhythm I

arise. A single wave,

who builds into my sea;

Culling from every possible sea some space, you create


A vastness - of whose stars how many already shone within me.

Sometimes, like a child, a son,

a breeze moves through me.

Do you, breath of my home, still feel me stir

inside you? You who once

formed the full leaf, curve, and smooth flesh of my words?


Copyright 2001 © Diotima | Email pcicovac@holycross.edu

Diotima Department of Philosophy, Holy Cross