And then, Lightning: A Poetic Response to Heidegger's Gods

Hoskin, Jonathan
Jackson, Mark
Cameron, Yael
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

Martin Heidegger’s later thinking is replete with the intimate relationship between human being and the gods. Humans and the gods are those illuminated by the lightning flash of being. They hold one another tightly in this clearing (die Lichtung), “emblazoned” and “adorned” (Zier) by that primordial fire wherein humans emerge, linger, wane, and pass away, and to which the gods with bright glimmers beckon and point.

According to Heidegger, human beings have become estranged from their relationship with the gods. The shimmering light of the gods has grown dark in their world and the gods’ bright message once hearkened-to is viewed as no more than a curiosity. Human being no longer cares (Sorge) to correspond with the gods. In fact, so dim has the light of the gods become, humans have forgotten (Seinsvergessenheit) the radiant light of being itself (Sein selbst).

And then, Lightning unfolds within a mood (Stimmung) of longing for the shining light of the gods, a light whose ray is said to illumine the world with a sense of the sacred and the holy (das Heilige). If I have encountered this light at all, it has been fleeting. My overwhelming experience of the gods is one of profound absence. Yet this absence speaks. I long for the suddenness of the flame and mourn its loss. Such is the intensity of this longing it has torn (Riß) an opening in my desacralized world through which the light of the gods may shine. But if I were to encounter the gods in my world, how do I correspond with a flash of light?

If a relationship with the gods is to be kindled, a way must be opened to receive and be received by such a light. This way is an opening in which correspondence with the gods’ bright message is again possible (what Heraclitus called homologein and Heidegger Entsprechung). Such an opening is not a method, technique, process, or system, but a way—a spontaneous readiness to greet the gods— sensitive to sudden shifts of light and mindful of “the sense of being itself” (die Offenbarkeit des Seins).

Heidegger’s lectures on Heraclitus and his descriptions of his own dwelling place in the Black Forest of southern Germany reveal that a response to the gods requires proximity to the ordinary, common events of life, and sensitivity to the shifting transparencies and opacities of the gods’ bright message. Such a response necessarily favours encounter and particularity over abstraction and generalisation. To bring the work within the proximity of the gods’ light, And then, Lightning draws close to the gods in the places and among the people with whom I have my being. It is a poetic response that moves within the drift of what is my own-most and is brought-forth as a collection of poetic encounters with my worlding.

Accompanied by Heidegger’s texts, And then, Lightning unfolds by way of an interdisciplinary response to Heidegger’s philosophical-poetic thinking of the gods, hearkening with Heidegger to the hints and winks the gods extend through the opening of my world; sometimes surging into light, sometimes dappled in shadow, other times draped in utter darkness. The reader should not look within the work for a dialectical structure; the work does not postulate an argument per se, but from the outset attempts an altogether different kind of attunement (Stimmung) to the light of the gods, whereby the gods are waited upon, watched for, and perhaps, even greeted.

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