Sunday, December 11, 2016
In the NYRB Christopher Benfey considers distance.
In Cavell’s seminar, we had been reading Heidegger’s seductive essay “Building Dwelling Thinking.” At first, Heidegger gives a utilitarian description of what an old stone bridge does for the local economy. “The highway bridge is tied into the network of long-distance traffic, paced and calculated for maximum yield,” he writes. But what really interests him is how it places things into relation as though for the first time. “It does not just connect banks that are already there….It brings stream and bank and land into each other’s neighborhood. The bridge gathers the earth as landscape around the stream.” This mysterious gathering of the landscape, which Cavell related to Wallace Stevens’s “Anecdote of the Jar,” involves a new concept of distance, not merely mathematical or utilitarian but somehow spiritual. “Yet every distance is not near” (Bob Dylan).
bobdylan.com has the necessary elision.
They say ev’rything can be replaced
Yet ev’ry distance is not near
So I remember ev’ry face
Of ev’ry man who put me here
I find Wallace Stevens's elision-less poem to be further from distance, than it is nearer to being about location.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.
It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
Note how the jar (Das Ding) links the earth and sky. Dominium is of the lord-gods, and the only mortals go clothed and so can be bare.
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