On the way to no-thing

One of my Landmark buddies just shared this quotation from T S Eliot. Eliot’s on the right track and I also want to tell him, “Look again, look further.” Another thought: maybe he had looked further and is mindful of the social conventions he cites.

We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then. To pretend that they and we are the same is a useful and convenient social convention which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember that at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.

~ T S Eliot

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10 thoughts on “On the way to no-thing

  1. Hi stranger! Nice to meet you again. It is nice to get a new chance to be better each day and to make our faces new to our old friends. without this social convention I don’t think I could stand myself.
    Nice post

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  2. When I read this post, I had just finished watching “Hannah Arendt” (Margarethe Von Trotta’s film), with its heavy dose of political and philosophical thought. Arendt is still vilified for her stance on Adolf Eichmann, that he was not a monster, but was incapable of thinking.

    Then your tag “dasein” caught my eye. I recognized the German word but had to rediscover its meaning: “being there” or “being in the world,” a notion that represents the very opposite of the Cartesian “thing that thinks,” This brought me back to Martin Heidegger (who supported Hitler and was also Arendt’s lover). I have to admit that I am struggling to assimilate this material.

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    • haha, join the club. I studied Heidegger for three years for my philosophy thesis and didn’t get a thing! :) It wasn’t until I was in the Landmark Forum about five years later and they started quoting Heidegger that I realised every word of my thesis was nonsense. I also realised all the writers of the scholarly articles on Heidegger hadn’t got a thing either.

      Heidegger was Arendt’s teacher and they had an affair. He supported the Nazis when he was Rector of Freiburg University; soon after, he resigned or was stood down (can’t remember which). He’s viewed as a philosophical genius and a moral reprobate because he didn’t overtly recant his views in the 40 years he lived after the war.

      Dasein, from Da (here or there) + Sein (being), was his coinage of the idea of no-thing; that human beings are no-thing; that who we are is the space or clearing in which the world arises. It’s similar to the central insight of Buddhism, and Heidegger was widely read in Japan by the Zen Buddhists.

      Heidegger came to it by a different route than Buddhism; he came to it via the ancient Greek philosophers who lived before Socrates, people like Parmenides. He realised these Greeks who lived around 500-600BC had a very different conception of what it meant to be than we did. He proposed that we lost this earlier, wondrous experience of what it meant to be when the Greek language started to be replaced by the Roman Latin. The Latin language flattened and solidified the world, and thus the earlier wonder receded out of the ken of human being. I think Heidegger also came to it via direct experience.

      The twin insights — human beings are the space or clearing in which the world is arising, and the world arises in language — come together in the Landmark Forum. The man who developed the original Landmark material, Werner Erhard, read Heidegger (and others) and combined it with the work of Fernando Flores, a Minister in the Allende government in Chile, who had studied John Searle (a US philosopher who analysed “speech acts”).

      I love all these layers and connections. From 600BC Greece to now, via Romans, Nazi Germany, Zen and Chile.

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      • Thank you very much for taking the time to pass all this information along. Another connection for me is John Searle, who is a professor at the University of California at Berkeley and supported the Free Speech Movement in 1964-5. Thanks, too, for your assurances that none of this is very easy to understand.

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    • To not get Heidegger is the only proper posture :) It’s those who write about his work as if they understand who are most deluded. They, and me, when a student, strive to understand, to reason, to rationalise. I used to think to myself, if only I try harder I’m sure to understand one day soon. But the access to what H is saying doesn’t lie through understanding or reason which are very feeble faculties. The access only lies through experience.

      The no-thing of the stranger? When we experience no-thing we see the other person doesn’t actually exist as other. It’s all us.

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