Are we asking the right questions?
Are we? As we throw insults and “insight”; data, contradicting data, and party-line rhetoric around, with, toward, and against one another, are we even asking the right questions? I don’t think so. I’ve been booed down, attacked, or whatever else for trying to explain why I advocate that Heidegger – for each and every one of us - is more relevant to our lives today than 99.+% believe possible. Not only are his ideas relevant and timely, but they are pathways along which we can move; they un-conceal a thought-process and present ideas by which we can live, ideas that can help us approach this election, the national one, the issues regarding sustainability, women’s rights, quite simply – how to live.
I confess that I am a believer in his approach to the creative power of “the word” – just imagine: “Language is the house of Being. In this house man dwells.” A number of you can hear the echoes of St. John, in his Gnostic hymn: “The Word was made Flesh.” Heidegger’s renewal of St. John’s statement affirms that “Language creates world.” The phrase is not metaphoric; it is literal; and, as such, it IS. These gnomic statements quickly alert us, bring into focus the everyday Language in which we are immersed, in which we now abide. Yet we walk away from that-which-is-clear. How many of us consciously create the world we desire with the language of the day?
Have we not the same again with the insistent question: “Was Heisst Denken?” what does it mean to think? Let alone what does H mean, what are his 4 levels of looking at the question? Or, is it any easier to wrestle with his straight-forward, allegational assertion: “what is most thought-provoking in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking.” Heidegger was able to see that language has been deadened metaphorically. As speakers we hear but no longer comprehend. Language no longer brings the thing into presence; today, language is code, simplified, nullified of its essence and insight. Instead it is a short-hand, especially in the world of politics and governing/power. We fail ourselves unless the code is deconstructed, unpacked, and revivified. Lewis Carol played with language to the amusement and edification of millions. We need a poet. For us language is being tending ineffectually and moving towards its own demise - at which point anything could mean everything and everything will mean anything; and, it all will mean nothing.
Why am I trying to bring Heidegger or a poet or Lewis Carol into a patch conversation? It isn’t because I think I’m better or that I’m any smarter than anyone here; I don’t have THE answer to any one question. But I do think we are on a collision course with Freedom – with a capital ‘F’; and, that is why I am trying to answer a question recently asked in the writing of this piece. Now the question came from another patch contributor, one whom I believe holds rational and balanced attitudes as evidenced by his thoughtful (usually) posts. He asked me why I find myself so invested in how we look at this election. It’s easy, Jay. I don’t think we see what remains concealed, what is hidden and not brought into the clearing. In other words, something strikes me as just not right, certainly not kosher, cricket, nor allowable if we just pay closer attention.
I admit: There certainly are those among this intended audience who don’t think so or don’t care seemingly because they believe that this doesn’t affect them - they stand above the rest, above you and me. Now me, I’m “kinda” typical in Patch-ville, USA: I’m a lifelong Republican. Grew up in the Bay. Believe in God. Received a good education. Done ok at times, other times not. Been a sinner and a saint. But this election really disturbs me at my core: something is rotten in Denmark! I think the spotlight has been shone on the wrong openings, the wrong clearings. In fact, I think we are looking at the wrong clearings altogether; and, I think we are not asking the right questions. Moreover, I think we’re selling ourselves short.
One thing that worried Heidegger, one of his pet peeves with the whole of western European man, the educated masses in particular, is the placid, unthinking existence of those of us just carried along by the flow: “…we are still not thinking.” Why are we not asking the deeper questions, the ones that do need to be asked and answered; and, if we are, are we unreservedly attending to the answers; are we then listening authentically, openly to what is in front of us; or, are we already on to the next fleeting thought? Moving away from that which needs to be thought, a movement natural to all humans.
Personally, I believe that we are not asking the right question(s). And, in not asking the right one, or set of questions, we are failing ourselves; and we are failing the generations to follow. I think the most “thought-provoking” elements of the current political situation are being shifted from view, sometimes hidden behind a veil that is embroidered using the vocabulary threads of the “words that work” weavers, who today embroider with the same thread sold by those hucksters, or ones identical to, those who brought ridicule to a certain hapless ruler, in the fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” In this case the puppeteer brushing and dyeing the wool is a Republican and Tea Party adviser, the social researcher, Dr. Frank I. Luntz. He’s their “words-smith,” the guy distorting the facts and tricking us with clever phrases.
This election, the one here in Wisconsin as well as the National one, is not about “job creation.” It is about the nature of government. It is about ‘the Good’, about ‘Justice’ about ‘Truth’: the stuff that really matters: society, providing for one another. For me, this election - and, well, it really is the most important election of my life - it proposes to destroy our beloved democratic republic and the ideals upon which our country, our nation, was founded with a verbal misprision of ideas. Concept distortion is all around us and no one is seeing it. One party has become the party of only a few, only some of the people. That is not the American way. If we choose the side pretending to follow this Nation’s founding principles, we will like lemmings following a disembodied the Voice, fall off the cliff and drop into a world ruled by a plutocratic oligarchy, which will have won control of everyone’s life.
For me today, I am trying to detoxify myself from the bitter ads being shot across our bows. But I did hear one statement that I believe should apply more liberally to both sides. Yes, it was made by the President. Mr. Obama was quoted while speaking from the G-8 Summit: “My job is to take into account everyone not just some” – not just the elite few. Why would any one of us follow a path that excludes and only looks out for the few, for some? And why would, or are, we only looking out for the few, for some? By the way: are YOU one of “the some”? Are you comfortable with the underlying belief system that both parties have in fact? (Not what the patcher crowd pretends, by the way). Have you asked all the questions that need to be answered? What questions don’t you want answered for fear of what has been concealed? Sorry if this got a little too ethereal. I hope that it “touches ground” for more than a few careful readers. For me, though, I suppose my conclusion is simple: ask the next question and the one after that and… In other words, whether you like Heidegger’s phrase “Questioning is the piety of thought” or prefer the words of John Fowles’ Magus, “A Question is a form of life; every answer a form of death.” Let’s make sure we are asking the right questions before we sink the ship of state.