Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving reflections: Principled negotiations with no absolutisms

Principled negotiations with no absolutisms

Was Heisst Denken? Thinking.

At Thanksgiving we all are wont to pause and give thanks. Turkey and Packers have, for decades, brought laughter, excitement, and joy along with calories galore to Wisconsin tables. This year, let us tie that thanks to a new thoughtfulness, a thoughtfulness that then extends outward into all that we do and are, both for this present Holiday season and into our everyday lives. What calls for thinking? What is thinking? About what are we to think? And, why might it be more essential to our future than ever in our lifetimes?

Heidegger, in addition to challenging us with this intensely profound question, is justly famous for two oft-quoted statements: “Language is the house of Being” and “Language creates world.” He often uses philology and etymology to search for ways by which to ascertain the meaning behind the meaning, that which is concealed. In honor of our Thanksgiving Day celebrations, let me offer a glimpse at his thinking about “thanks”.

“The Old English, thencan, to think, and thancian, to thank, are closely related; the Old English noun for thought is thanc or thonc – a thought, a grateful thought, and the expression of such a thought; today it survives in the plural thanks.”

Did you pause and take notice of the final words? There is truly a deep-seated connection in our native language, a connection that links thought-thanks-thinking-memory together. “Language creates world.” Can we find the time to hear what the assertion reveals? Does that simple statement mean something to us; or, are we so distracted by our always on, 24/7 whirlwind of activities, and thus prevented from reading deeply? Do we see these words in much the same way we internalize an internal memo via email? Thanksgiving Day. A day of re-remembering; a day when we can gather, and in that gathering recognize that we do have a commonality, an obligation to listen authentically to one another, an obligation to come together and create world, an obligation which must be honored in this present now, if we wish to co-create a sustainable future, inclusive of all, demanding that all might flourish.

Heidegger is asking us to re-remember the power of thought, the power of language. It is not a new, or novel, concept. Take the Gospel of John. The Gospels, in our age of inclusion and cultural diversity, remain one cultural touchstone that many of us still share. Grab your Bible; open to the Gospel according to John. Read the opening verses about creation. Holding in our thoughts the fact that when John wrote, the opening of John is a Gnostic hymn: Language is in the presence of Being [God], and Language is Being: world was made through the power of thought and naming. Heidegger’s assertions about language and its power are based upon John, our cultural “locus classicus” pertaining to the creation of world.

So too each of us can create world, construct that House of Being in which we most want to exist, through Language. We live in a passionate, divisive time. We need passions now, perhaps more than ever. Our nation is in decline; politically and culturally we seem paralyzed by our partisan divide and our several fears.
It is time to set aside our fears. It is time to participate in this new social revolution, embracing the change it portends, shaping the change through our language and openness.
Our governors, city officials, and national politicians have failed in there tasks. Now it is our turn to solve the problems of our present-, and future-, nows. Ken Chenault from AmEx offered this advice: we need principled negotiations with out any absolutism. So as you sit down to dinner this week with family and friends, please take time to give thanks, to think, and to begin the healing process of coming together.

Then, take a new look at Heidegger. Begin your day with a short thought from his work on language and thinking. Holding thought, revealing that which has been concealed and hidden, are two challenges we all face. Together, however, having gathered and listened authentically, we than will be able to move forward together. We still can co-create a world for our children and grandchildren.

“Is thinking a giving of thanks? What do thanks mean here? Or do thanks consist in thinking? What does thinking mean here? Is memory no more than a container for the thoughts of thinking, or does thinking itself reside in memory?”

What are we to do with this? For many of us, it is easy simply to either dismiss, or acknowledge, and then to “walk away” from the thinking. Let us stay in the clearing, out of the darkness of media pundits and talking heads: let us use language to create, to heal, to fabricate a new house of Being for all.