Dwelling and Poetry: Rilke, Hölderlin, Heidegger

With help from Rilke, Hölderlin, and Heidegger we discuss how poetry relates to Being, or “dwelling.” A continuation of last week’s discussion.

I. Rilke’s poem “To Hölderlin” and how it relates to “the map and the territory.”

We begin with a discussion of Rilke’s poem dedicated to Hölderlin. The images of the poet are not meant to freeze or fix Being into a this or that, but to gives glimpses of the ineffable. We’ve talked quite a bit about the calculative mindset. Most recently we’ve discussed the left-brain approach to the map and the territory. This poem might actually help us to get a better understanding of a possible right-brain mistake, that of holism. (Along the lines of what Bortoft has referred to as the counterfeit whole.) For here, the spirit of Hoelderlin, according to Rilke, is not one to hold on to a perspective in the sense of reifying it. Others might stay inside of their poems, cutting themselves off from a dynamic participation in the whole. While not engaging in the literalist worldview and perspective of subject-object dualism, their sense of participation in Being is not dynamic, but fixed, static. Rilke offers us striking images of how the poet illuminates the landscape. Rather than use the image of the sun, in which all is made clear and shown, he presents the image of the moon. This moon shines over the nocturnal landscape. There is at the same time a brightening and a darkening. This is precisely the sense of the dynamic engagement with the whole that I have been trying to get at from the point of view of the poet. The poet’s language is not meant to represent Being in a left-brain, subject-object sense. Nor is it meant to grant us immediate unfettered access to the ineffable. This latter is a counterfeit sense of the whole in a static, right-brain sense. Poetic language is, rather, that which reveals truth, as that which unconceals. Yet at every revealing there is also a concealing.

II. A brief overview of Heidegger’s “Building, Dwelling, Thinking” in connection with these themes.

For our purpose today, I’d like to focus primarily on this notion of dwelling. Heidegger argues for something far different than our ‘normal’ understanding of the relationship between building and dwelling. Rather than take an architectural viewpoint and say that we build a dwelling, he instead makes the argument that building belongs to dwelling. He locates in the German language the notion of building (the verb bauen is to build) as relating in root to our sense of being (ich bin, du bist).  Let’s leave aside whether this etymological connection is valid.  He then goes on to tie this to our notion of Being as care. Our dwelling is always, for Heidegger, something to understand as part of the Fourfold of earth, sky, gods, and mortals. To talk about one is to also implicitly acknowledge the others. For Heidegger, they come together in this act of dwelling. We then discuss ‘dwelling’ in connection with a ‘thing.’ We explore the example of a bridge given by Heidegger. Finally, we bring in Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and his Emissary. McGilchrist’s remarks regarding the challenge of philosophy to get beyond what one can grasp or explicitly state serve for a good closing of this discussion.

III. A program note.

For reasons cited in the program, there will be a change in scheduling going forward.  Future episodes will come out on the first and third Thursdays of the month.


Nietzsche poem cited

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