Sunday, October 23, 2011
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The Shadow of Heidegger

Germany was in love with death.

For a student of Being and Time - I don't know, if as a philosopher, I have got any further than that - it would be hard to tell you about being towards death, or of the possibility that lives in all my possibilities, or the impossibility present in all. Owning one's own death as the most proper possibility grants to Dasein its authenticity. All of us, in Germany, were for death. But I'll avoid detours and technicalities for your sake. I am talking of death and also the act of taking a life. I shouldn't leave aside the homage to Albert Schlageter. How the Master shone that day. (I pause. Open a parenthesis. Neither should I avoid mentioning this, I don't want to lose it, forget it. Years later, almost the day after the war, or when it hadn't quite finished or the agony went on, what's it matter, a poet, a German, that's to say, from within the language of death, wrote: der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland.)

Albert Leo Schlageter was a hero of the nation. In 1923, in the Ruhr occupied by the French, Leo Schlageter, by himself, blew up a bridge. I don't know which bridge, its importance is unknown to me. But Leo attacked the abusive and unjust victor. Hurt him. He was caught, they submitted him to a predetermined judgment (what else besides killing him could the French do?) and they shot him on the 26th of May, 1923. Ten years later, ten years and a day, Heidegger was giving his Rektorat Speech. But the day before, in front of the people of Freiburg, the students, the SA and the university professors, the imminent Rektor (the next day he would already be it) honored Schlageter with his most exquisite vocabulary, with the most complex meditations from section 50 of Being and Time. Read it, but above all else, listen to this: "The end is impending for Dasein. Death is not something not yet present-at-hand, nor is it that which is ultimately still outstanding but which has been reduced to a minimum. Death is something that stands before us-something impending." Thousands of things may be impending for us, Martin. I give you the Master's examples: "a storm, the remodeling of the house, or the arrival of a friend, [...] a journey, for instance, or a disputation with Others". Death is, on the contrary, the most impending of all our impending things. The storm might destroy me, the remodeling of the house: Martin, by only the misuse of a tool, of a hammer, my cranium might be broken without remedy! The friend that comes may be coming to kill me or transmit a mortal plague he caught in a country he visited and from which he comes to visit me, to give me his plague and not his friendship, a journey: there is no journey that might not be the last (don't believe that the journey, because it implies moving and risk, that it will increase the closeness of death nor that it contains it to a greater degree than rest or being reclusive and cloistered: also in them beats its imminence), and, to end somewhere, the discussion. Which discussion does not beat the imminence of anger, of violence, of extinguishing rivalry by means of the death of one of the rivals, or of both.

This, Martin, I say so that you may understand the importance of the tribute to Schlageter and the opulent ideas, the majestic words with which the Master consecrated him.
The poet at the end of the second paragraph is Paul Celan. The poem was published in 1948.


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