More on the Marrano Adventure

One day we will learn to think our exhausted word “truth” (Wahrheit) from out of the protection (Wahr) and learn that truth is the preservation (Wahrnis) of being, and that being, as presence, belongs to it.  Preservation as the protection of being belongs to the shepherd; a shepherd who has so little to do with bucolic idylls and nature mysticism that he can become the shepherd of being only if he remains the place-holder for the Nothing. Both are the same.  Man can do both only within the dis-closedness (Ent-schlossenheit) of Da-sein.  (Heidegger, “Anaximander’s Saying” 262)

Last week, at the seminar, we left suspended the notion of marrano adventure: that is, the notion of what it is that comes (ad-venire) to a marrano existence.  We may already have sufficiently established that the marrano experience is an experience of double exclusion, that is, an experience that dwells in the impossibility of belonging.  If so, then we could think of the marrano as “the place-holder for the Nothing.”  The marrano is alone, they are in the thrall of a profound solitude.  Alone with their secret, which constantly turns into the anxiety of discovering that there is no secret, that the secret is the Nothing–it cannot be shared.  This means: the marrano feels out of place, out of joint, in any experience of the third way of Parmenides, the way of opinion, the way of the mortals.  They are still there, but out of joint with it.  Out of joint with history, out of joint, hence looking at their own disjointure, dis-appearance, death.  But it also means that they are out of joint regarding the possibility of the first way: the goddess does not talk to them, she remains silent. 

The second way is the Nothing.  The marrano is in truth always already there.  How is the marrano to turn its own experience of the Nothing into something other than pessimism, other than nihilism? 

By moving away from pessimism, and from nihilism, the marrano may perhaps enter the tragic.  Heidegger says, in “Anaximander’s Saying,” that the experience of being that the fragment of Anaximander we discussed last week contains is “neither pessimistic nor nihilistic.  Nor is it optimistic.  It remains tragic” (269).  “Tragic” means that the marrano is caught between their conatus essendi, that is, the “rebellious whiling” (268), the rebelllious persistence in continuity, and a dawning understanding that they cannot persist, that they have no place, that their adikía dictates their passage to inconsistency, to disappearance, and to death.

The marrano is in danger, they feel the danger.  Always on the verge of a panic attack, or indeed in the throes of a panic attack.  Can the danger give the marrano something?  Can the danger produce marrano knowledge?  Heidegger says: “Knowledge is the remembrance of being . . . Knowledge is the thoughtful awareness of the preservation of being” (263).  What can the marrano remember beyond remembering? As historiology is blocked off as a solution, since the marrano can appeal to no apparent history, no reliable tradition, that is, no register of identity, no peaceful accommodation to being, can the marrano appeal to some other history, to some other experience of history? 

[I would call it an experience of infrapolitical history, an infrahistorical experience, but we do not have the time to get into this.  In any case, in Barbara Fuchs’ book, Exotic Nation, we may perhaps catch a glimpse of a particular dimension of infrapolitics in Spanish history, a dimension that has always already refused to submit to the shadow of terror that hegemonic history projects over the land; an experience that neglects to pay heed to the “power within the state superior to the state itself,” inquisitional power, and dwells in everyday affective practices that are heterogeneous to it, and have an other than political intent, an existential intent.]

Last week we discussed Heidegger’s image of the wanderer and the spring.  I repeat my notes on that issue from last week here:

The section that immediately follows Heidegger’s exegesis of the Anaximander fragments (in the 1932 seminar The Beginning of Western Philosophy)  ends in a crystal-clear definition of the ontico-ontological difference, which is also the ruination of onto-theological thought.  That passage reads, in the English translation: “And if we ask, no doubt also unsuitably, for the genuine result held out by these pronouncements, then it is this:  beings are indeed on the basis of Being, but Being itself is not a being.  Being and beings are different–this difference is the most originary one that could ever open up” (XX).  The notion that God might be a being would be inconsistent with the principle of ontotheology, which makes God the principle.  There is something about Being that exceeds God, that is, before the principle.  Which brings ontotheology to its ruin.

The section that follows starts with a meditation on our understanding of history.  Heidegger’s basic contention is that our relation to history, channeled today through what he calls historiology, is a form of self-delusion: we presuppose that we are more advanced, less primitive, always in a better relation to things than our ancestors.  And then Heidegger proposes an extraordinary image, the image of the wanderer and the spring.  Within the image the spring would be an originary experience, an experience that human beings had in a period that must remain immemorial to us, from which we are always already detached, separated.  The wanderer stands for historical Dasein, now marked as a being that wanders from its own beginning:

A wanderer in an arid region must distance himself more and more from the spring at which he first and last drew water.  Viewed soberly, his distance from this spring is thereby increasing.  He leaves the spring behind, and with the increasing distance he loses his orientation; the spring in the end lies inaccessibly far behind.  Assume the wanderer then dies of thirst.  Why did he die?  Presumably because at too great a distance from the spring he no longer had a relation to it.  Yet how is the too great distance from the spring no longer a relation to it?  At a sufficiently great distance, does this relation cease to be a relation, or is the excessively great distance from the spring always still a relation to it, a negative relation but still precisely a relation and even one that is hardly inconsequential?  . . . Does not the spring pursue him more importunately the closer he comes to dying of thirst?” (Beginning XX). 

Is this a romantic position?  Or reactionary?  The image allegorizes a relation to history according to which the distant wanderer dies out of an inability to turn his distance into a form of proximity.  And unworked-out or de-worked relation to the originary–that is, to the historically originary–would be a form of perishing.   Another way of putting it:  we increase our distance to the source (read, the Urerfahrung), we persevere in our wandering, and we perish from it.  Heidegger raises then the question whether it is the beginning itself that remains concealed from us, increasingly so as we wander further and further away, or whether there is a proximity, indeed an essential proximity to the beginning, since it is our beginning, that we betray by intentionally pushing away from it, by obdurately turning our sight from it. 

At the end of subsection 8 Heidegger makes a reference to the first words in his seminar.  Those words were:  “Our mission: the cessation of philosophizing?  That is, the end of metaphysics; by way of an originary questioning of the ‘meaning’ (truth) of Beying” (XX).   A retrieval of the Urerfahrung, the primal experience which is the spring of the philosophical endeavor, would also mean the restitution of a historical experience whose main thrust would not be escaping history, fleeing from history, but returning to it.  Such a return would not be a return into contourlessness–it would be a return to the experience of the difference between being and beings, which does not authorize an understanding of the human mission as merely a persevering in what one is, which would be an ontic task–albeit the task that has organized the long history of metaphysics.  What one is has now become insufficient.  The mission exceeds it.

That concludes the notes from last week.   

We may now perhaps continue the investigation on the marrano adventure by positing that the marrano is fated to think the ontological difference as a particular form of return to history.  The marrano must recover a proximity to the spring, or the marrano will perish (or will languish in perishing). 

Heidegger lectured again on Anaximander in 1946 (cf. “Anaximander’s Saying”) and he said things that are not inconsistent with what he had already said in 1932 but take the issue a bit further in several respects.  The approach to history is one of them.  In 1946 Heidegger omits any mention of his old image concerning the wanderer and the spring.  Instead, he wonders: “Is there, concealed in the chronological remoteness of the saying, a historical proximity to the unspoken, an unspoken that will speak out in that which is coming?” (245). 

This “proximity to the unspoken” is perhaps the lot of the marrano, hence the very possibility of a marrano adventure. 

What is spoken has been ruined for the marrano, who is excluded from it.  From their position, the marrano may have recourse to whatever has remained unspoken in the spoken, in the huge historical chatter the marrano can no longer countenance.  Would this unspoken qualify as a marrano apocalypse? It is an eschatology, its very possibility.  The marrano, in their errancy, moves towards an alternative destiny, subsequent upon a revelation.  But it is a marrano revelation.

The marrano adventure is therefore “epochal,” in that it leaves something behind for the sake of something other: another time of history, another historical temporality.  At this point Heidegger makes a statement that clarifies its very possibility.  Heidegger says: “Little depends on what we represent and present to ourselves from the past; but a great deal depends on the manner in which we are mindful of the destined” (255).  Our “manner” is the way we relate to being, that is, our position regarding the three (but there are four) Parmenidean ways.  In that sense our “manner” is “the correlate of the epochal character of being” (254).  We would have to speak of a marrano manner, a marrano Da-sein: “the correlate of the epochal character of being we can experience most immediately is the ecstatic character of Da-sein.  The epochal essence of being appropriates the ecstatic essence of Da-sein.  Man’s ek-sistence sustains the ecstatic thereby preserving what is epochal in being, to whose essence the Da, and therefore Da-sein, belongs” (254-55). 

In the epigraph there is mention of the word “dis-closedness.”  Marrano Da-sein, marrano ek-sistence, is dis-closed toward the unspoken, since the spoken holds limited use for them.  This dis-closedness is a premise for the marrano adventure.  It presupposes a terrible nakedness, a terrible dispossession.  But it turns the dispossession about.  Heidegger concludes his “Anaximander’s Saying” with the words: “Then thinking must poeticize on the enigma of being.  It brings the dawn of thought into proximity to that which is to be thought” (281). 

Perhaps then the marrano is always already historically destined to think the enigma of being epochally, that is, to think the enigma of being in the transition, which the marrano existentially needs, from radical danger to eschatological peace? 

This would be the reason why the marrano adventure stands in for the task of thinking today. Or for a certain task of thinking.

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