Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties…

rilkepix          I will try at some juncture to say my own bit here, but for now let me say that this is one of the most inspiring quotes about relationship that I have ever come across and I highly recommend this work. There are chapters and chapters of these brilliant and soulful observations in the book, which is ridiculously worth reading (as are most Rilke writings…)

         “…They hurry to a conclusion; to come, as they believe, to a final decision, they try once and for all to establish their relationship, whose surprising changes have frightened them, in order to remain the same now and *forever* (as they say). That is only the last error in a chain of errings linked fast to one another. What is dead cannot even be clung to (for it crumbles and changes its character); how much less can what is living and alive be treated definitively, once and for all. 49456Self-transformation is precisely what life is, and human relationships, which are an extract of life, are the most changeable of all, rising and falling from minute to minute, and lovers are those in whose relationship and contact no one moment resembles another. People between whom nothing is accustomed, nothing that has already been present before ever takes place, but many new, unexpected, unprecedented things. There are such relationships which must be a very great, almost unbearable happiness, but they can only occur between very rich natures and between those who, each for himself, are richly ordered and composed; they can united only two wide, deep, individual worlds. –Young people–it is obvious– cannot achieve such a relationship, but they can, if they understand their life properly, grow up to such happiness and prepare themselves for it. They must not forget, when they love, that they are beginners, bunglers of life, apprentices in love, –must *learn* love, and that (like *all* learning) wants peace, patience, and composure! 
RilkebookTo take love seriously and to bear and learn it like a task, this it is that young people need. — Like so much else, people have so misunderstood the place of love in life, they have made it into play and pleasure because they thought that play and pleasure were more blissful than work; but there is nothing happier than work, and love, just because it is the extreme happiness, can be nothing else but work. So whoever loves must try to act as if he had a great work: he must be much alone and go into himself and collect himself and hold fast to himself; he must work; he must become something! For believe me, the more one is, the richer is all that one experiences. And whoever wants to have a deep love in his life must collect and save for it and gather honey.’ “

Find more on Rilke and links here and here.


Memo # 8 ~ Deep River (Shusako Endo)

“…And death itself began working backwards…”

A tree grows up into the light, oxygen-laden air from out of the dark, decaying remains of its parent. Forest fires are part of the cycle of a healthy forest. Ever noticed that serving someone makes your heart more glad than being served. In my own experience, dying to myself brings new vigour and life to my soul. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’ve also heard that people who have a near-death experience are filled with inexplicable thirst for life and growth and change ever-afterward.The death of a relationship can signal, for both people, the beginning of more genuine life than either has ever experienced before. The death of innocence can be the resuscitation of a truly child-like heart. Oddly, embracing the death in yourself and making mud to smear on its eyes can signal the birth of vision and the beginning of authenticity. It would seem that the dark, wormy soil in which we think to bury our dead is the self-same ground which produces sunflowers bigger than my head and pumpkins larger than I can hold, trees we can’t see the tops of and countless colorful foods full of nutrients to nourish growing bodies.

There’s no denying the tightly interwoven nature of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in reality. Not even just interwoven, but overlapping and constantly transformed. Teleologically, the yin and yang are not linear, but Whole, like the holy will of God. In the end, Life comes from out of Death, connection from out of solitude, and love from our recognition of sin, because Death, solitude, and sin cause us to recognize our lack of control and reach out for our Source in the unknown: to grasp Beginner’s Mind.

“They laid the stretcher near the riverbank… First a swarm of flies, smelling death, gathered round, followed soon by a flock of crows which began pacing nearby. But the mourners remained crouched by the river, and made no move to drive the scavangers away.” (144)

I am bird-boned; body twisted with suffering, hanging from a perch from which I cannot descend. I suffer.

And yet I live.

Somehow I cannot help but allow death to do its work in me.

And so I live.

I have wondered, often, about the river of life. Are its waters the unfettered flow of blood and tears within its banks?

c. all text Mary Kathryn Gough, 2005

Thoughts on Paul Farmer and A Vine of Neighbors…

Love your neighbor as yourself, the Scriptures say. John talked about it in lecture the other day. The good Samaritan, like Paul Farmer in Mountains Beyond Mountains, was a man of action. He was busy, but he failed to erase the bond he felt with the man so he could move on. He was twisted with pain inside for the man, and instead of erasing the man from his world, he moved actively to improve this singular, personal instance of pain he had been made witness to. The good Samaritan made himself a neighbor to the injured man. Jesus’ command in this instance is not to be looking out for people who might merit your attentions in some way, but to be continually becoming a neighbor to those in one’s path.


There’s no telling how much of the good that occurrs in the world happens in just this way — Farmer’s care for the poor happened as he made himself the neighbor of those in his path. He didn’t start out with a master plan to save the world, or even to save all the TB patients in the world. His thought was never even bent for long on the theoretical task of healing all

of Haiti. He focused on individuals. The people who came to the clinic. Particular tasks he found to do which led the way to others. He refused to be sloppy with anything he did. And he refused to lose individuals in a big picture. That’s O for the P for you. They just added up to be almost more than he could handle. Once, I remember, he is irritated at how dificult things are for him and for PIH, and he says that’s it’s just because other people aren’t doing their jobs– which is entirely true. If you spend a little bit of time on that statement, it will stick with you. Other people aren’t doing their jobs.

Ologies fascinate me. They always have. They also drive me to work at defining myself apart from them. When I was young, I often found my parents’ ologies to be mind-bogglingly confining, narrow, and dark. I wanted to open them up to the sky, needed a breath of fresh air, couldn’t understand why the honey of the holy scripture was not sweet and freeing to them as it was to me. I closed my eyes with glory on my tongue at night for years, remembering Ezekiel eating the scroll God gave him of mourning, lament, and woe, and how the words tasted sweet as honey in his mouth. God was gifting Himself to us in His words, I felt, and if we could submit to Him, and Him only, the Holy Spirit would lead us through the necessary hermeneutics and keep us on the narrow path and we would be free to live with as much force of being on that path as we desired, spurred on by His Love. There was something I didn’t see in my parents’ ologies and in my church’s ology, something that would have allowed for a more whole-hearted grasping of God’s word. Something that would have allowed for a more whole-hearted acceptance of the people God claimed– and loved– while they were yet sinners. I saw blockages in love, everywhere. Blockages in the giving– or perhaps simply the transmission?– of Life.

Tracy Kidder notes that Paul Farmer “distrusted all ideologies, including his own, at least a little: “It’s an ology, after all,” he had written to me once about liberation theology. “And all ologies fail us at some point”” (195). What is it that makes our ologies so inescapably inhuman(e)? Like cold, confining skyscrapers gathering dirt and dust instead of like green, growing things full of abundant new life? Jesus said “I am the Vine.”

I identify with his distrust strongly. I’ve always been driven to redefine what I believe and to differentiate it from the mass opinion of the day somehow in the end. I find I enjoy where I agree with people very much and tend to focus on those areas with them, unless they invite a conversation deeper into my search for better articulation of my own relationship with God. Which is not a common occurrence. Even then I am slightly wary, however, and I sometimes find myself wishing I could ask them to take off their shoes.

We’re all cowards in one way and another, trying to justify ourselves in the face of a life filled with remarkable accomplishments. We, like the lawyer in the parable, stand up to test a living soul, seeking to find a way out for our restive consciences, a salve that will soothe our guilt. An opium answer, that we may sink back into comfort and complacency– and pay in misery. In so doing, we step into the shoes of the Death-dealer.

And, as Kidder says, “Among a coward’s weapons, cynicism is the nastiest of all” (209).

.But we are all part of the living vine, and we all have unique tasks. But what we all have in common with Farmer and PIH is that our jobs are, in essence, removing every blockage we can to the transmission of Life. How to love? Perhaps that is the question. Is it as simple as Farmer’s recipe of caring for and healing the poor and sick and disadvantaged? Is it allowing ourselves to be moved? Like Jesus was moved by each one he came across?

I keep coming back again and again to the fact that Faith acts.

And faith that does not is dead.

c. Mary Kathryn Gough (huffman, maiden), 9/30/05

Night *

Elie Wiesel and Theodicy

A reflection paper turned in to Professor Thompson

By Kate Huffman (Mary Kathryn Gough) / REL 131 4/12/04

This paper will respond to Elie Wiesel’s Night, The Trial of God, and his memoirs, All Rivers Run to the Sea, probing into why evil is allowed to exist in the world and whether we have the right to blame God for it—or at least whether we have to right to blame Him for not intervening. It will examine various methods of justifying God’s ways in this matter, as set forth by several of the characters in Wiesel’s works (most notably Berish, Mendel, Sam, and the Priest.) Finally, the paper will point out where Wiesel seems to settle, which appears to be where I settle as well, and challenges us to remember the Thou in our dialogue, not forgetting that we are in relationship with God and that our stance toward Him (whatever it is) ought to hold in heart the knowledge that it is intimate in character: a family member’s tie.

Night is the stunning account of a fifteen year old boy who tows us back in time to witness the hell of the Holocaust through his own eyes. Elie Wiesel’s powerful writing strikes terror, sorrow, remorse, and compassion by turn in readers as they encounter the unimaginably cruel and inhumane things he was forced to endure during World War II. I was as blown away by this story as I always was before; I’ve read it three or four times now, and every time it leaves me breathlessly racing with heart-felt thought. Babies thrown carelessly—even laughingly—into scorching flames, bodies of all sizes piled sky-high, crematories scattering the ashes of former friends and family like rain, cruel beatings and passionless killings without number . . . what are we to make of evil made so solidly manifest we can barely keep our food down or remember to desire Life? This terrible sickness drains me, sucks me dry somehow, and I truly feel the need to find real sackcloth and ashes to cry out to God in mourning. Obviously to mourn these horrors is not enough. But my first instinct is to shed tears of revolt and helplessness against the evil and plead with God that it be different. Brought to witness horrors like these, I find myself ever more desperately wanting to know why they are allowed to exist in a universe ruled by a supremely good and all-powerful Being!!! What is the explanation for suffering such as this? How can a supremely good ruler look it in the face and remain whole and Holy?

Theodicy is coined from a Greek word meaning ‘justice’, as well as from the word for God, and was thus originally used to designate attempts to justify God’s ways, or goodness. Now it is more common to see it used when directly speaking of evil and ways of trying to explain our undeniable experiences of it. Theodicies abound as they always have; all religions have one form or another, whether pantheistic, monotheistic, or what-have-you. This is because most everyone accedes that perceived evils must find an ordered place on the shelves of the belief system. Everyone seems to feel that they experience evil, so it must either be explained away or fit into the desired structure. Mostly it is safe to say no one fully succeeds. Christianity has a very complete picture in the end, if not entirely so, and we’ll see why even Elie Wiesel appears to allude to the key it contains for all this thought later.

In his works, Wiesel considers various common theodicies from several points of view and ends up rejecting them for one reason and another in favor of a theodicy pieced together from his past, in view of his present, and looking toward the entirely unknowable future, in which he makes room for the mysterious Being of God within his own memory-full existence while still allowing himself to wade through everything that his experience hands him. In Night, the protagonist initially wonders if all of the suffering is because of committed sins, and then alternately sees the whole experience as something which must be submitted to or as a test although he’s sort of in limbo about the whole thing by then. Near the end of his imprisonment the boy rebels inside, and what broke in him that first day when God died, comes back together with the rest of his being in deliberate defiance and protest. Many in the camps see the suffering as a test, but most of those lose heart and strength—like the one with the deep, heart-breaking voice who (essentially) volunteered for death. In The Trial of God, Berish is most definitely the central character of protest, and probably the one to whom Wiesel feels the most definitively drawn. Mendel the beggar seems to advocate a theodicy of suffering as a test/soul-making—and yet he is strongly drawn to many aspects of the theodicy of submission to the mystery of God’s sovereignty as well (which Sam will endorse, minus the awe and feeling that properly go along with such a response). This is how Mendel is brought to idolatry; his internal drive for knowledge overcomes the heart that has been growing in him, the heart Sam so easily deceives him into thinking that he possesses as well. Mendel falls into the comparative ease of rationalism, finally declaring, “Your love of God: I wish I had one measure of it. Your piety: I wish it were mine. Your faith: mine is less profound, less intact than yours. Who are you?” (p. 158, 168). In this way Mendel loses himself to the stranger, who still refuses to tell him who he is. We find in the end that the stranger is ‘intact’ because all he does is talk, and he feels no qualms about lying with truths. The Priest, on the other hand, has a very traditional (and lamentably very fallen) take on suffering as punishment for sin. Unfortunately this in no way causes him to wish to sin any less. He drinks too much, and he wants to sleep with Maria. He talks about hell, he says, because he always does, and because it’s easy to talk about (TToG, p.93). It is often to his advantage to do so as well. He seems to be internally rifling though a hand of cards every time we see him, desperately searching for the one that will help him win. A very uncourageous soul (but aren’t we all just a bit like that… isn’t it a fair representation of the Church, in a way?).

It is frightening, but easily understandable that in Night, the protagonist’s young faith, innocence and love are aborted in the midst of the shockingly personal suffering and death in the concentration camps. The scars that remain in the man to this day are obvious in his memoirs. And yet, somehow this tested faith—a faith that has wrestled with God and continually comes through still firmly opposing God’s enemies and affirming His all-powerful existence (as Wiesel attests in his memoirs, All Rivers Run To The Sea)—is fuller, deeper, and wider than most. He is faithful in as many senses of the word as one can think of, acknowledging and keeping a hold of all the things he’s experienced, not ignoring anything, and struggling to remain whole in the center of it all. It is his acceptance of two propositions especially that make this a possible quest for him: That it is alright to be angry at God, and that God is to be looked upon with compassion and pity.

The first proposition is that it is alright to be angry at God—it is, in fact, our duty to confidently protest who we think He is within the context of our relationship to Him. As Wiesel says,

But if Nietsche could cry out to the old man in the forest that God is dead, the Jew in me cannot. I have never renounced my faith in God. I have risen against His justice, protested His silence and sometimes His absence, but my anger rises up within faith and not outside it. . . Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah and Rebbe Levi-Yitzhak of Berdichev teach us that it is permissible for man to accuse God, provided it is done in the name of faith in God” (ARRttS, p.84).

We must always remember to address the real God in our defiance, however. No matter how hot the burning fire within us is, first we have to know exactly why we are angry and realize that we are defending something— standing up to God for His own creation, which he has given into our care. Then we have to purposefully extinguish our puny, limited caricatures of Who He is, to the best of our ability, and acknowledge the Unknown reaches of the mind of God. (Who has known the mind of the Lord?…) C. S. Lewis wrote a poem expressing the underlying, foundational posture we ought to adopt, acknowledging that “Where God is concerned, all is mystery” (ARRttS, p. 104).

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men idolators, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, oh Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in Thy great,
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

We’re all in the same boat, really: without the mercy of God our voices would never be directed properly… but it’s true that we must be faithful witnesses to what we’ve been given. We have to work with the whole of our lives, because that’s what he’s given us. Sometimes that calls for keening and wailing, sometimes it calls for gritted teeth and strength, and sometimes (yes) it calls for the fiery anger and defiance of Wiesel’s innkeeper Berish from The Trial of God.

In that same play, Sam (the unknown character whom everyone seems to have seen before in places of tragedy and who turns out to be Satan in the end) asks the judges of the Purimschpiel court who are putting God on trial if they will judge without preconceived ideas. They respond in the positive. Will they judge without prejudice? Yes, they reply again. And without passion? Thoughtful Mendel immediately says “No. With passion” (TToG, p.136). I think this is extremely significant in separating one of the things that sets Sam apart from the rest of the cast. As Maria says when she first denounces him as evil, “He has no heart, no soul, no feeling! He’s Satan, I’m telling you!” (TToG, p. 116). Passion, evidently, is important to a human response to God. This is another part of what legitimates our being angry towards God.

The second proposition Wiesel accepts that allows him to strive at keeping the faith is that God is to be looked upon with compassion and pity, as the father of countless children who war with each other and sin against one another constantly. God sheds tears at the suffering of his children; He shares in their pain and grief. This seems to be something extremely significant that Christianity and Judaism have in common. Wiesel is right when he references the Zohar—“No space is devoid of God. God is everywhere, even in suffering and in the very heart of punishment” (ARRttS, p.103). Right and true, but how exactly is God present in every space? As Himself. As Life-giver, Love-source, Powerful Redeemer, and so many many other things. “Israel’s sadness,” Wiesel states, “is bound to that of the divine presence, the She’hina: together they await deliverance. The waiting of the one constitutes the other’s secret dimension. Just as the distress of the She’hina seems unbearable to the children of Israel, so Israel’s torments rend the heart of the She’hina” (ARRttS, p.103). This sounds strikingly similar to Christian thought on the matter where we are, together with God, suffering and awaiting deliverance:

“God’s work to release himself from his sufferings is his work to deliver the world from its agony; our struggle for joy and justice is out struggle to relieve God’s sorrow. . . Until justice and peace embrace, God’s dance of joy is delayed. The bells for the feast of divine joy are the bells for the shalom of the world” (LfaS, p. 91).

Christ blesses mourners in the Sermon on the Mount, saying that they will be comforted. We must realize that our anger at and protest against a seemingly disengaged, impotent, or merciless, unjust God are actually mourning which lacks a foundation to rest on, which looks Mystery in the face, sees nothing recognizable, and loses its faith that dialogue is happening. Assuming that a Mystery characterized by love would not communicate with us is just that: an assumption. From what we are given to know, God does dialogue with us, and we must rest in that with confidence—when we mourn and when we are angry (or when we communicate with Him in any other way).

Who are the mourners, really? Nicholas Wolterstorff addresses this in his moving book, Lament for a Son.

“The mourners are those who have caught a glimpse of God’s new day, who ache with all their being for that day’s coming, and who break out into tears when confronted with its absence. . . mourners are aching visionaries. . . The stoics of antiquity said: Be calm. Disengage yourself. Neither laugh nor weep. Jesus says: Be open to the wounds of the world. Mourn humanity’s mourning, weep over humanity’s weeping, be wounded by humanity’s wounds, be in agony over humanity’s agony” (LfaS, p.85-86).

And why does Jesus say this? Because He Himself was open in just this way: because through Christ’s suffering on Earth, our God mourns with us! Again Wolterstorff expresses this admirably, saying “To those who mourn the absence of that day is disclosed already the heart of God. Upon entering the company of the suffering, they discern the anguish of God. . . they hear the sobs and see the tears of God. By these they are consoled” (LfaS, p.88, emphasis added).

Wiesel seems to point to Christianity in a forgiving and positive manner in several places in his writing. For example, when the Priest is dumping on the Jewish faith, Mendel says an amazing thing. He says, “I speak not of Christ, but of those who betray Him. They invoke His teaching to justify their murderous deeds. His true disciples would behave differently; there are no more around. There are no more Christians in this Christian land” (TToG, p.99). The Priest responds, “Is it His fault? Why blame Him? If what you say is true, then feel sorry for Him. If Christ is alone and abandoned—then it’s up to you, His brethren, to comfort Him” (TToG, p.99). Mendel assures Him that one day they would.

In the foreword to Night, Wiesel speaks of another young man with hopeless eyes full of death and torment who comes to visit him, wanting to share asking for an answer to it all. Wiesel says,

“And I, who believe that God is love,… what did I say to him? Did I speak of that other Jew, his brother, who may have resembled him—the Crucified, whose Cross has conquered the world? Did I affirm that the stumbling block to his faith was the cornerstone of mine, and that the conformity between the cross and the suffering of men was in my eyes the key to that impenetrable mystery whereon the faith of his childhood had perished? … We do not know the worth of one single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Eternal is the Eternal, the last word for each one of us belongs to Him. This is what I should have told this Jewish child. But I could only embrace him, weeping” (Night, p.x-xi).

God has actually done both these things for us. Sadly, we miss them all too often.

Let your heart bleed for God. Recall in faith that we suffer with Him.

c. Mary Kathryn Gough, 2004

‘Transcendence & Temporality’

The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic

*Section 12: Transcendence and Temporality*
(nihil originarium)

by Martin Heidegger

Final Continental Philosophy Paper turned in to Professor Matt Halteman by Mary Kathryn Gough (Katie Huffman) PHIL 140 // Spring 2004

Time is a central theme for Martin Heidegger, recurring often in his philosophical writings. One of his goals is to properly link our conception of it with our conception of the nature of our own Being, and he therefore spends quite a bit of time attempting to discern and describe its nature. His various works show the development of his thought on this subject (the title of Being and Time seems to be more deeply significant when seen in this light). One good example of this development is found in his Metaphysical Foundations of Logic: leading up to and centering around the twelfth section is a condensed and careful exploration of the idea, within which it is easier to get a bird’s-eye view of the interconnectedness– and meshing– of the multiple naming concepts involved. “Time,” Heidegger says, “claims a central systematic function in metaphysics as such” because it has “some relation, however obscure [that relation] may still be, to the understanding-of-being as such” (p.197). The metaphysical notion of time must therefore be interpreted with that in mind.

The unity of the various aspects of Dasein’s character are very important to Heidegger, who holds that we are only (freely) existing when these aspects are fully integrated and thus applied (world-entry). The structure of the integration should be quite clear once the eleventh section is briefly reviewed and the text of the twelfth expounded upon. Following that, the question of responsibility is examined in light of Dasein’s free, transcendent being-bound-to-time and it is asked what this clarified understanding of time might demand of us in order that we may be Being authentically. A speculation on a theological approach to understanding the ecstatic character of time as related to Being will conclude the paper.

Martin Heidegger spends the eleventh section of his Metaphysical Foundations of Logic laying out the importance of freedom and world in their connection to the transcendence of Dasein. In fact, he shows that Dasein itself is the bridge, or conduit of the act of transcendence, or crossing over: that “to be a subject means to transcend” at the most basic, organic, or primordial level one can imagine (p.165, emphasis added). In the same way that Dasein does not ‘achieve’ a crossing over every once in a while, transcendence does not consist in crossing a barrier, per se between itself and an object.1 Dasein is already factically IN the world, ‘thrown’ amidst nature: beings to which it belongs (p.166), and the only way it is able to perceive the objects within nature at all as bodily existent is if it is already and has already/always transcended, or surpassed objects because it is in the very nature of its being to do so. Heidegger de-specifies the ‘object,’ stating that anything which can be encountered is surpassed (p.166) and “that towards which the subject transcends is what we call world” (from ‘Being-in-the-world’) (p.166).

Freedom is bounded; always it is bounded by Others, and thus it is rooted in responsibility. If we look at nature all around us we see this; every shape is held together as a shape by being collected within lines, every body of water is water, free to flow only because of its surface tension and the extent to which its constituent molecules obey chemical laws, evaporating slowly rather than all at once. We are sadly mistaken, according to Heidegger, if we think we understand “freedom most purely in its essence” if we “isolate it as a free-floating arbitrariness” (p.196). We ought to understand it in a way that is “precisely the reverse, to conceive freedom in its finitude and to see that, by proving boundedness, one has neither impaired freedom nor curtailed its essence” (p. 196, emphasis added).

Heidegger moves forward to address transcendence and temporality in section twelve. The common conception of time has these qualities: a) it passes, b) it is dependent upon its relation to the internal subjective world of an observer, making our idea of the soul (or our exact conception of the nature of Being) very important, c) it is not singular or central to Being because it is tied to space, and therefore our senses become involved in its perception, and d) it is contrasted with theological eternity, thereby causing the temporal to be defined by a conception of the heavenly (p.197). Yet according to Heidegger, “none of th[ese kinds of conceptions] touches exactly on the metaphysical essence of time” (p.198). He therefore introduces several new conceptions, naming five but then proceeding to examine only the first two:

    1. Time’s essence has what Heidegger calls ‘an ecstatic character/structure’, its three ecstasies being expectancy (then), retention (formerly), and making-present (now)

    2. It also has a horizontal character 2

First: the ecstatic character of time is threefold and unified. “Temporality in its temporalizing,” according to Heidegger, “is the primordially self-unifying unity of expectancy, retention, and making-present” (p.204). The names “then,” “formerly,” and “now” are used to designate things expected, things retained or remembered, and things held in attendance.

The “then” emerges from the ecstatic structure in the form of expectancy. Dasein is always living in expectancy of possibility– possibility generated by its own essence– and in light of its having-been, which brings us to the second ecstasy. The ecstatic character or structure of time stresses the historicity of Dasein, its “formerly” aspect, in which the things of its past are retained or remembered. And so we are always moving forward, from out of the past toward the possibility of the “then,” expectant. It is this movement in which the aspect of the “now” resides. Right in the center of time’s ecstasis is a temporalizing point in motion– an identifying motion in which time is truly defined. The “now” is not necessarily now-at-this-very-moment but is like taking the moment spoken of into one’s being in the now. It is a “holding something in attendance” or causing its presence by naming it in the now. In addition to being the primordially self-unifying unity of the three aspects of temporality, Heidegger continues, “the unity of the ecstasies is itself ecstatic. It needs no support and pillars, as does the arch of a bridge… we must say that [the] being [of the ecstases] lies directly in the free ecstatic momentum” (p.207, emphasis added).

Second: time has a horizontal character as well as this ecstatic character. We tend to think of horizon as the stretch of what our eyes are able to see,3 but actually it means ‘the enclosure’ as Heidegger is quick to point out here. It is just in the momentum, or the oscillation of the ecstases, that they are enclosed and horizon exists; thus, time has a horizontal character. Time as ‘the enclosure’ does not exist, exactly, but rather it temporalizes itself (p.208). The enclosure is nothing exactly definite, as Heidegger notes: “of itself the ecstasis does not produce a definite possible, but it does produce the horizon of possibility in general, within which a definite possible can be expected” (p. 208).

We also see that it is in horizon’s temporalization of itself that world-entry occurs, because the “ecstematic unity of the horizon of temporality is nothing other than the temporal condition for the possibility of world and of world’s essential belonging to transcendence” (p.208). If Dasein carries time with it, and Dasein’s essence is transcendence, then world-entry happens when transcendence happens (i.e. always already), in the oscillation of the ecstases of time. Time only exists as temporality is temporalized and world-entry occurs.4

Care is here a key element of transcending Dasein. Because of its expectance, Dasein is continually encountering itself in its interactions. Heidegger explains that expectance

implies a being-ahead-of-oneself. It is the basic form of the toward-oneself, or more exactly, it enables the like as such. Expectance means to understand oneself out of one’s own capacity-for-being; one’s own capacity for being is in turn understood in the essential metaphysical breadth to which belong being-with and being-by. Expecting one’s own capability-for-being as mine, I have also come toward myself already and precisely through expecting. This approaching oneself in advance, from one’s own possibility, is the primary ecstatic concept of the future,5

and yet the past is not left behind, for “the having-been-ness, rather, of what-has-been becomes the having-been, first of all and constantly, in the respective future” (p.206).

Thus, any Dasein that is taking its having-been forward into its expectance temporalizes phenomena by means of the concern integral to its being.

Since we are always encountering ourselves in the world, and care, or concern, is the metaphysical essence of the way we approach the world as a result; only through our concern for our own Being are we able to approach the world in such a way at all. That we are thus bounded and defined by this care is precisely what enables us to exist as an Other– separate and yet connected to other Daseins. Heidegger compares Dasein to Leibniz’s monad, saying that the monad “is a substance enclosed in its sphere” and the whole world exists within it, causing it to not need windows (p.210). Heidegger says that it is not because it contains everything already that it needs no windows, but because the enclosure is of a different nature than Leibniz envisioned. There is no inside or outside, he says, though it is still defined (p.210). This is because of the nature of Dasein’s transcending interaction with its world (“the ecstatic happening of world-entry” (p.210))means that time is not a “mundus concentratus” but a “self-opening and expanding into the world” (p.210).

Also, because of the fact that in encountering its world Dasein always encounters itself, one cannot truly say that time ‘flows away’ or ‘passes’. The stream of time is not a collection of nows but a continuum6— not passing, but temporalizing itself (motion) through the aspect of Being called care. Care temporalizes objects into experience, bringing them fully into Being within Dasein by completing the oscillation of time’s ecstatic continuum or raptus: unifying them.

So what does this new understanding of time and the relation of our own Being towards it require of us? It is not so obscure now as it was, and we can see clearly why the unity of these various aspects of Dasein’s character are so important to Heidegger: Dasein as transcending, Dasein as Free, Dasein in world-entry, Dasein as finite, Dasein as participating in time’s ecstatic and defining horizontal characters, Dasein as expectance, retention, and making-present, as temporalizing, as caring, as self-opening, as bounded. What do these things indicate is needful? The structure of the integration should be quite clear now, yet there is another aspect which cannot be overlooked, or all falls to pieces. If we are to be Being authentically, we must recognize the stuff of responsibility in our very essence.

Simply by being what it is, “every Dasein reveals time itself” (p.199). Time is so essentially a part of Dasein’s being and freedom– its transcendence– that it is imperative for us to realize our responsibility to grasp it firmly in each of its three ecstasies and make good use of it. We have to understand that time does not pass us by; we take it with us. We are so fundamentally interconnected with time– it is in us– that as a result we metaphysically are responsibility; we are made of the stuff of responsibility because we carry time with(in) us. We are free with a freedom maintained over and against freedom itself. Heidegger states that it is “only seldom [that] we take possession of time, which possesses our very selves in a metaphysical sense; only seldom do we become master of this power which we ourselves are; only seldom do we exist freely” (p. 199).

If one thinks of stewardship, one cannot help but think that we are accountable to something. But we are accountable only to be whole and holy: unified. We are accountable only as Christ was accountable: for the maintenance of his hidden, inward life and the outward-spilling of the fruits that carefully tended garden grew. He knew his father’s voice and was able to know and responsibly react to right and wrong because he was internally at one in his being: unified in all ways.

If transcendence is “defined essentially by the formulation and notion of that to which [it] transcends,” then our acting essence is as well, since it belongs to Dasein’s being to be always already transcending (p.162). Epistemologically that to which transcendence transcends is object, theologically it is inaccessible because it is infinite. The theological understanding poses the transcendent as the Absolute, that which is beyond us and sometimes (more specifically) the divine—“the infinite difference of the created from the creator, were we to substitute God, as understood by Christians, for the transcendent” (p.162). This understanding leads to an acceptance of the idea that this sort of transcendence is unnecessary, as its object ‘exceeds us’ it seems obvious that we were not meant to engage in it, in the end.

However from a Christian perspective it would seem that perhaps our inward relationship with Christ might call us to recognize that Mystery which is beyond us in the present moment and transcend, as we can with what we are given in each moment, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to commune with God and be at one with Him even as Christ and He were one while he walked this earth. Perhaps the triune God, to whom we are to be as little children, ‘opening up with child-like questioning,’ is in Heideggerian terms, our vital connection to Bying, and our escape from the devivification of ‘stopping with what is present’.

Stopping with what is present amounts to a retreat from the responsibility of being. It takes the life out of things– the life that Christ came to protect! Let us accept our finitude without losing sight of the Mystery we now have the means to connect to.

1See box example on p. 160 (MFoL)

2p. 198 MFoL

3p. 208 MFoL

4p.210 MFoL

5p.206, MFoL, emphasis added

6see p. 202 MFoL


Kierkegaard’s Sickness Unto Death

Pivotal definitions in the progression of Kierkegaard’s Sickness Unto Death.


“The self is the conscious synthesis of infinitude and finitude that relates itself to itself, whose task is to become itself, which can be done only through the relationship to God… the progress of becoming must be an infinite moving away from itself in the infinitizing of the self, and an infinite coming back to itself in the finitizing process. But if the self does not become itself, it is in despair, whether it knows that or not” (30).

“Despair is the misrelation in the relation of a synthesis that relates itself to itself” (15).

“…anyone who really knows [hu]mankind might say that there is not one single living human being who does not despair a little, who does not secretly harbor an unrest, an inner strife, a disharmony, an anxiety about an unknown something… some possibility in existence or… himself…” (22).

Types of Despair

Defined by Consciousness:
“The ever increasing intensity of despair depends upon the degree of consciousness or is proportionate to its increase: the greater the degree of consciousness, the more intensive the despair” (42)

This is “the despair that is ignorant of being despair, or the despairing ignorance of having a self and an eternal self” (42)

“If a man is presumably happy, imagines himself to be happy, although considered in the light of truth he is unhappy, he is usually far from wanting to be wrenched out of his error…On the contrary… he regards [such an attempt as an assault bordering on murder in the sense that, as it is said, it murders his happiness… he is too sensate to have to courage to venture out and to endure being spirit” (43).

“He turns away completely from the inward way along which he should have advanced in order to truly become a self. He appropriates…[the] capacities, talents, etc he may have; all these he appropriates but in an outward-bound direction, toward life, as they say, toward the real, the active life” (55-56).

He may “become more clearly conscious of his despair, that he despairs of the eternal that he despairs over himself, over being so weak that he attributes such great significance to the earthly, which now becomes for him the despairing sign that he has lost the eternal and himself” (61).

“And this is the self that a person in despair wills to be, severing the self from any relation to a power that has established it, or severing it from the idea that there is such a power…instead, the self in despair is satisfied with paying attention to itself, which is supposed to bestow infinite interest and significance upon his enterprises…” (68-69).

“Rather than to seek help, he prefers, if necessary, to be himself with all the agonies of hell” (71).

“In so far as the self in its despairing striving to be itself works itself into the very opposite, it really becomes no self…” (69).

The Remedy?

Despair as a state of perpetuated continuity:
“If a person is truly not to be in despair, he must at every moment destroy the possibility” (15), for “[our despair] does not continue as a matter of course; if the misrelation continues, it is not attributable to the misrelation but to the relation that relates itself to itself” (16). vs “the essential continuity of the eternal through being before God in faith” (105)

“The formula that describes the state of the self when despair is completely rooted out is this: in relating itself to itself and in willing to be itself, the self rests transparently in the power that established it.” (14)

Inwardness: resting transparently in the power that established you.
“If there is, then, something eternal in a man, it must be able to exist and to be grasped within every change…” (36-37).

The Unspeakable in Nature:
“And the sea, like a wise man, is sufficient unto itself. Whether it lies like a child and amuses itself with its soft ripples as a child that plays with its mouth, or at noon lies like a drowsy thinker in carefree enjoyment and allows its gaze to wander over all, or in the night ponders deeply over its own being; whether in order to see what is going on, it cunningly conceals itself as though it no longer existed, or whether it rages in its own passion: the sea has a deep ground, it knows well enough what it knows. That which has a deep ground always knows this; but there is no sharing of this knowledge.” (48-49)

The Unspeakable in Man:
“For when [the passions] dwell in a man — when was it without the deceptive excuse of ignorance? And when a man remained ignorant of them, was it not precisely because he at the same time remained ignorant of the fact that there is an all-knowing One.” (51-52)

Literature’s Unifying Force

Mary Kathryn Gough
11/11/05 Project #2

The Unifying Force of Kafka’s Literature:

Drawing a Dual-Hearted World Together in Unity of Spirit

“Could not then art and literature in a very real way

offer succor to the modern world?”


Of all malicious lies, the most sprawling and successful is the one which whispers softly, compellingly, under everything that happens to us: “You are helpless, powerless in the face of it all. You can change nothing, and nothing you do will ever change.” This lie is detrimental to our created beings. It blows fate full of hot air, making it huge and menacing, and weaving other people and circumstances into a gigantic web meant to isolate us, undermine and invalidate us, and finally bring us down, hobbled by our own belief. It blinds us to the Truth: that our tools are organically part of us, and that our effect, or force in the world — each of us — is immense.

One witness to this truth, according to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, is world literature, which has the effect of unifying us in sympathy of spirit across borders of nationality, distance, and disinterest. Franz Kafka’s work makes a good study in the significance of literature in Solzhenitsyn’s sense. At the same time, his life allows a look at the question of whether the value of a writer’s work is affected by the way they live out their personal lives. In Prague, Kafka’s writing has been seen as defining the city, the country, and the times – despite the fact that he wasn’t an overtly political writer, writing exclusively of familial ties and psychological trauma. The identity crises he depicts serve as an arena in which anyone can identify with the experience of Kafka’s country as it was abused by the father-figure of an oppressive regime. And yet in failing to write his way out from under the immense burden of his life, Franz Kafka appears to have delivered himself into the hands of a craftily looming lie – but how, if at all, might that fact affect the force of his contribution to world literature?

A world with two hearts…

The Largest Lie’s best tactic in convincing us of our impotence is to confuse knowledge with causal power. If we do not know what the overarching logical structure looks like, its ominous whisperings say, and if we are really so small as we (truly) are, then we cannot logically engage in the structure and therefore possess no leverage. Thus, our effect in the world is all for naught; our existential force is negated. This lie takes hold of every situation, driving home to us the simple fact that we are not in control. And if we cannot create our own greater logical structure within which to posit our own significance, then our every action must be lost to us and to everyone else. Meaningless. The complex and tragic truth, however, is that neither the deceived nor the more clear-sighted can escape making their immutable mark on the world. We do make difference. And yet the greatest potence of our being lies in sympathetic unity.

Upon his 1970 receipt of the Nobel prize, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spoke of the many visions of the world being so painfully diverse that, in order “to prevent discomfort, we dismiss all alien [ones] out of hand… confidently judg[ing] the whole world according to our own homegrown scale” (ASCEaDM, 563). He explains that it is because of this tendency to build our life’s vision solely from the basis of our own experience that our world, though “physically compressed,” is “restrained from merging spiritually [as] molecules of knowledge and sympathy are prevented from leaping from one half to the other” (ASCEaDM, 570,emph. add).

Solzhenitsyn saw a “torpid inability to understand someone else’s grief” afflicting the entire world, and stated that when “given six, four or even two scales of values there cannot be a unified world, a united humanity. We shall be torn apart by this difference in rhythm, the divergence in frequency of oscillation. We could not manage to survive on one Earth, just as a man with two hearts is not long for this world” (ASCEaDM, 565).

A man with two hearts. Is this our problem? Not a multiplicity of logics and systems but a multiplicity of hearts, of deceived and isolated world-ego realms? The question and the solution then become ones Solzhenitsyn himself expresses clearly for us, asking who it is with the capability of

…impress[ing] upon a sluggish and obstinate human being someone else’s far-off sorrows or joys, who could give him an insight into magnitudes of events and into delusions which he has never himself experienced? Propaganda, coercion, and scientific proof are all equally powerless here. But fortunately there does exist a means to this end in the world! It is art. It is literature (ASCEaDM, 565, emph add).

If this is true, then when we look at the writer of literature (in this case Franz Kafka) we ought to be able to trace the unifying force of his work.

Kafka’s Inner Impetus

Beyond literature’s societal impact, what can we make of the personal reasons that drive an artist to express and re-member the meaning in past events? Vaclav Havel defines art as “a distinctive way of seeking truth — … that is, chiefly the truth of the artist’s inner experience,” and based on that definition there is “only one art, whose sole criterion is the power, the authenticity, the revelatory insight, the courage and suggestiveness with which it seeks its truth, or perhaps the urgency and profundity of this truth” (LIT, 131). It would seem that authors anywhere in the world who allow those qualities to permeate their works, are either nourished and transformed by their task, or are crushed by the burden it becomes. Take Franz Kafka, native of Havel’s Prague.

Kafka’s life (1883-1924) was largely defined by the Largest Lie– that he was helpless and without impact in the world. He spent his entire life writing about vanquished sonship in a vain and unrecognized fight with his father. All his works “depict the impossibility of becoming an adult,” which was by far the most overarching feature of his life, never changing to the very end (TS, xiii). According to Mark Anderson, Kafka’s literary identity rested on his identity as a son, an identity he never surpassed. When he finally tore himself away from home to live with the woman he wanted to marry, he was forbidden to do so, and within one year had died of tuberculosis (TS, xx). Even in death Kafka is buried as a son: beneath the family tombstone, his name carved directly above his father’s (TS, xx). A single glance at his life raises innumerable questions: is it fair to see Kafka as a vanquished son? Was he too self-absorbed in his writing? Did his trapped, fatalistic lack of vision keep his writing from achieving for Czechoslovakia what, say Dostoevsky’s writing achieved for oppressed Russia? Does the fact that he never broke out of his caged child’s life make a difference to the value of his contribution to world literature?

Kafka’s writing was, perhaps, his one source of self-esteem — in his letters to his first fiance, Felice, he describe his stories as his children, his progeny (TS, xv). He also admits to her that he never would have asked for her hand in marriage if he had not had The Sons published, as if he “needed the social legitimation that only a published work could confer” (TS, xv). It is easy to see that his position as ‘father’ of these ‘lads’ (his stories) gives him a basis for a powerful identity he doesn’t have elsewhere in life. In the opinion of Mark Anderson, it is “in writing down their stories of suicide, grotesque metamorphosis, and banishment to America, [that] Kafka rises above their fate, can control it with the sovereign hand of the author, can dispose of their lives like an almighty father” (TS, xiv). Solzhenitsyn describes this type of authorship as that of an artist who “imagines himself the creator of an autonomous spiritual world,” taking “total responsibility for it. But [who] collapses under the load, for no mortal genius can bear up under it, just as…, the man who declares himself the center of existence is unable to create a balanced spiritual system” (ASCEaDM, 558). Kafka’s method of (bitterly small) triumph led to his being remade in the image of the Patriarch he so despised, and thus his writing couldn’t serve its intended function of giving him free identity.

After “The Judgement,” writing became for Kafka “increasingly… a means of doing battle with his father, and patriarchal authority in general” (TS, xvi). One commentator notes something Kafka wrote “in reference to ‘The Judgement,’ [which] reads: ‘Thoughts about Freud, naturally'” (TS, viii). In fact, he combatively dedicated one work to Hermann Kafka — though his father never cracked the book open to see why, only ordering that it be placed on his bedside table. The luminous clash in the bedroom scene of “The Judgement” is not something one simply imagines, no matter how great a writer one is. It is a symbolic set up, staged precisely in order to express Kafka’s inner experience of his father’s involvement in — and destruction of — his life. The similarly codependent nature of Franz’s tie to his family and Georg’s to his are striking. Franz’s father wanted him to become a man, but would also turn on his every success and opportunity and cut him down to size. In just the same way, Georg’s aging father leaned on him and could barely make it to the bed, so tired and unable to care for himself did he seem. And then, suddenly, turning on his son in a luminous and clear-headed outburst, the father rises from the bed, belittling Georg, castigating him for remaining a child, and betraying his son by revealing that he’s been surreptitiously ruining the boy’s reputation. Rather than bestowing the traditional paternal blessing to go out into the world and wield the influence given him as wisely as he knows how, Georg’s father cuts his son’s legs out from under him, leaving him cowering in a corner of the bedroom in shell-shocked awe: a child again. Finally, Georg’s father ends his tirade by saying, “So now you know there is more in the world than just you. Till now you’ve known only about yourself! An innocent child, yes, that you were, truly, but still more you have been a devilish human being! — And therefore take note: I sentence you now to death by drowning!” (TS, 15). Georg immediately flees from his father, his ears ringing, and jumps off a bridge, proclaiming his undying love for his family.

Just when the almost-man could have crossed over into adulthood, recognizing the world beyond himself — his father plays at cruel, Judgemental God-hood instead of granting a blessing to his autonomy. Oddly, this seems to be Kafka’s own tactic with his ‘sons’– to play celestial ‘house’ in his works with an Almighty overbearing Judgement that leaves the boys mute, optionless, and submissive unto death… Is Kafka cornered into this tactic only because he knows nothing else? And were his eyes never opened to the presence of another option? The potential, perhaps, for empowering his readers with the blessing of forward-facing vision?

Kafka: Joining Two Hearts

Franz Kafka may have defined his times by giving expression to the life-long repression and imprisonment imposed upon him by both his illness and his family, but even more than the writing itself, his own relationship with his writing seems to ring with the tyrannical tones of those times, reflecting society and unable to look beyond it. Was he able to seek truth in the way Havel describes, despite the unfortunate circumstances which limit his search to an inner experience of lonely self-exile? Is there courage in Kafka’s writing? Power? Is he transformed and nourished? Did he overcome, or succumb to the whisperings of the Largest of all Lies?

Maybe we cannot know whether he was nourished or transformed by the act of writing. But I think it’s safe to say that there is courage shown in the truths and insights painted by Kafka’s candid explorations of his own psychological experience of life. And there is no denying the urgency – or the profound, universal relevance – of his art, political or no. Kafka’s ability to portray psychic crises in a way that exactly parallels political ones without being an overtly political writer is notable (TAoL, 163). His writing was felt by many as a cry against the oppressive systems that ruled both public and private life so strictly in his country. The ‘sons’ he portrays — stripped of their options and their freedom to live as they choose, blocked and manipulated at every turn, suffering in submission and suffering also in their small liberties — are inexplicably symbolic of an oppressed people unable to mature and step into adulthood, freedom, and self knowledge. Kafka’s work is seen by later writers as being definitive of the capital city itself, and it has been said that “if ever a writer almost unintentionally imprinted a fiction onto a geography and a history, it was Kafka in Prague” (TAoL, 164). In 1924 however, when he was dying, Kafka asked a friend to destroy his writing, perhaps because in the interim between the world wars, his country seemed to have achieved an independent democratic identity, and he was impressed with the truth that all is not as hopeless as it seems and battles can be won (TAoL, 164).

The Lie. It whispers to us softly, compellingly, weaving its tall-tale through every one of life’s occurrences: “You are helpless, powerless in the face of it all. You can change nothing, and nothing you do will ever change.” Even if Kafka did submit to this untruth, can we honestly say that this devalues the force, or effect, of his work? Solzhenitsyn, I think, has an answer for this as well. He says that we “confidently deem ourselves [art’s] masters” and often “adapt it toward transient political or limited social needs”— and yet, he says, art always “remains undefiled by our endeavors…: each time and in every usage it bestows upon us a portion of its mysterious inner light” (ASCEaDM, 558). Our inability to fully see the overarching structure doesn’t in any way indicate our entrance into it going unnoticed.

The fact that Kafka himself tried to destroy his work is very interesting. Perhaps when his own country proved an exception to his intense fatalism he realized his mistake. Perhaps then he saw his lack of vision uncovered: rather than breathing spirit into people, like a Czech Dostoevsky might have done, Kafka’s stories wrapped anguished life in a shroud of death. Like obituaries, his stories document the internal landscape of abused people with no hope. But then, perhaps the act of documentation itself was his brave testament to the truth he saw: it is deeply honest to his inner experience, and it is also undeniably one of only a few doors we have by which to enter the hearts of Kafka’s people.

Kafka may have succumbed and been vanquished by the lie; a brief study of his life is rather discouraging in this respect. However the consequent value of his contribution to world literature does not change in the slightest; art remains undefiled, and its mysterious inner light works upon us, no less potent for Kafka’s personal failings. His portraits of the anguished oppressed can still make us cry, binding us to a people we otherwise would not know how to feel for, opening up blocked information pathways and setting them racing with sympathy, unifying our hearts as the human race: together.


Havel, Vaclav.“Letter to Dr. Gustav Husak.” Jan Vladislav, ed. Living in Truth. England. Clays Ltd, St Ives plc. 1990. (LtDGH)

Havel, Vaclav.“Six Asides About Culture.” Jan Vladislav, ed. Living in Truth. England. Clays Ltd, St Ives plc. 1990. (LIT)

Havel, Vaclav., Paul Wilson, trans. Summer Meditations. New York. Alfred A. Knopf. 1992. (SM)

Bradbury, Malcom, ed. The Atlas of Literature. New York. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. 1998. (TAoL)

Kafka, Franz. The Sons. New York. Schocken Books Inc. 1989. (TS)

Dunlop, John B., et. al. ed. Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn: Critical Essays and Documentary Materials. New York. Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. 1975. (ASCEaDM)