Andrew Mitchell on how gravity holds things together.
Heidegger’s unfolding of Rilke’s poetic thought begins with Rilke’s conception of existence as something that has been wagered or hazarded (das Wagnis) by Nature (“it risks us,” es wagt uns, cited at GA 5: 277/OBT 207).1 To exist as risked is to exist in a peculiar way. What is risked is not protected by or in the possession of another; it is exposed instead to a danger. But what is risked is likewise not simply relinquished to this danger without further ado. The gambler who makes a bet has not yet lost that money, though it is yet to be won back. What exists finds itself in precisely such a middle ground, at stake and risked.
Being in the middle like this is an ontological condition, it names a particular relationship to being. Heidegger marshals a constellation of etymologically related terms to help tease out the nature of this relationship. What is risked (das Gewagte) lies in the balance (die Wage, which in medieval German meant something like “danger”). What hangs in the balance weighs (wiegt) upon the scales. What weighs in this manner is of a certain weight (das Gewicht), not solely physically, but likewise in the sense of a weighty issue or heavy topic, a matter of grave concern, importance (Wichtigkeit), or difficulty (Schwierigkeit). What is neither secured, nor relinquished, but held in the balance as risked, does not stand there isolated and alone. It is subject to the force of gravity (die Schwerkraft). Heidegger follows Rilke in thinking this gravity as a relation of connection between things, “It is the ground as the ‘with,’ which mediately holds the one to the other and gathers everything in the play of risking” (GA 5: 282/OBT 211; tm). What exists is held by the attractive force of gravity, a force that provides a medium between things, allowing for their co-presence and mutual connection (hence its description as the “with”). Gravity’s pull (der Zug) brings everything into a relation (der Bezug) “with” others and Heidegger takes pains to insure that “relation” not be understood as “the human ‘I’ relating an object to itself” (GA 5: 283/OBT 212). There are neither self-enclosed Is nor objects, when thought from the perspective of gravity, risk, and relation.