Heidegger, animals, kitchens and spending more time in graveyards.

Heidegger in his hut, with kitchen freund
I was quite excited to watch the video (pointed out by the wonderful Brain Pickings) on 'Heidegger in the Kitchen' - but was a bit grossed out by multiple use of animal corpses - what were they thinking! Bleugh. Nice attempt at metaphor to illustrate Heidegger, but not quite getting there. And the music's annoyingly inauthentic! However, the text/voice-over is pretty good at showing the very things that make Heidegger's take on Being so powerful - how our full and frank awareness of death allows us to live authentically, developing empathy from the recognition that our fragility is the fragility of all living things. Here's an extract from it:
Existence, or Being, is finite, fragile, and very temporary — but we rarely appreciate our temporary existences. Much of Heidegger’s philosophy is devoted to trying to wake us up to the fragility of our life and the strangeness of existing on this delicate, exhaustible planet, spinning in an otherwise seemingly silent, alien, and entirely uninhabited universe. 
At certain moments of insight — and Heidegger wants us to have lots of these — we may think, “I am so small, so temporary. I am a nothing in the cosmos of lifeless otherness.” It is at moments like this that we feel what Heidegger called “the mystery of existence” — it can be beautiful, it can be intense; most of all, it can be terrifying. We live wisely and philosophically, and by always acknowledging our precariousness against the Nothing. 
It isn’t just us who are so temporary — it is all living beings, all living things — the animals, the trees, the clouds. They, too, exist briefly against the background of nothingness. Once we are aware that we, and all living beings, share this fragile state, we might learn to identify more with them, to recognize our kinship with all living things and with the Earth itself. They are like us, briefly alive against the backdrop of nothingness. 
The feeling of the unity of all things might come to you when you see, for example, how much connects us with the quail, the shrimp, the snail, the lamb, the pig, the dinosaur. Normally, we separate ourselves from these others, but Heidegger urges us to see the interconnections. 
However, Heidegger is very aware of the way in which we hide from confrontation with Being, escaping into the warm folds of daily life, of society, and of what he termed its endless chatter, Das Gerede. We can imagine Das Gerede as an enormous pancake-like dough layer that smothers our connection with Being. Chatter is everywhere — it comes in via the airwaves, the media, our social circle — and it seeks to reassure us that trivia actually matters, that our jobs count, that what we are doing and thinking has importance. It hides us from the nature of Being in a world of death. So the task of philosophy is to remove us from the doughy comfort of chatter and introduce us, systematically, to the bracing concept of Nothingness. 
Heidegger wants to free us from the pull of chatter, so as to focus on the intensity of existence.
Here's the video - you can make your own mind up about it!


Finally, when in a lecture, in 1961, Heidegger was asked how we might recover authenticity, he replied tersely that we should simply aim to spend more time ‘in graveyards’.

Comments

  1. Great post on a crucial concept - we all need removing from the "doughy comfort of chatter" more so than ever these days. It's a seize the day concept. I agree, the animal parts weren't the best illustration. It would be so much better if we could all see the connection between ourselves and fellow creatures.

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  2. Thanks for drawing attention to those pancakes wrapped around the animal corpses - on reflection, I think that's the most vivid metaphor in the video - 'the doughy comfort of chatter' indeed! I had a sense in the vid that, okay the corpses were a reminder of our being-toward-death, however, it also felt like there was very little empathy toward the animals, which was also the point. They use jelly babies for people, I'm sure something equally as representative might have been used for the animals - we need to hug them all close to us during our brief existence, nein..?

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