Being and Time: Two Poems and a Note by Dustin Pickering
March 16, 2019
Dustin Pickering brings us two poems inspired by his readings of Martin Heidegger's classic work "Being and Time." The poet has also provided a note to contextualize the two poems motivated by his philosophical engagement with Heidegger's text. The result is a unique literary instance where philosophical inquiry and poetic engagement converge in verse.

no perceiver

the mathematics of the universe
render questions
subjects no longer exist
only objects of discovery 

Being hides as it enters the world
as time limits our perception, begging

progress is nearly a dream
verbal efficacy
                                imposes silence

 instructions abide by night creation
hiding at the threshold of aching

                                Madonna weary of time
                                imposing destiny against icons

 imagination bears witness
against the fruits of time

                                construct empty accusations
                                within the follicles of mirth

the driving radiation of sound



blind is the answer

to embolden the mind
                                          subject and object
                               must become One,
                               a unity
no isolated fragments

                                                     this consciousness
                                     – cannot be perceived.

 it is given
like a rainy day

                                the bleeding hearts
                                offer moments of silence

peace is a conciliatory thing
granted in the politics of nonentity

                                emptiness is all the rage

 envy is a tribal appropriation
of one’s peace to another,
                                                reconciled to dust

 isolation, isolation

                                            decrees imagine light


A Note by the Poet

These two poems are reflections on Martin Heidegger’s phenomenal masterpiece Being and Time. Heidegger is rooted in metaphysics, or what lies beyond the physical world in terms of general structure of life. His analysis begins with the question “What is Being?” In Plato’s philosophy, Being is the realm of unchanging ideas in which all things in our material world are based. The perfect table is its ideal form which exists as an abstract concept. This corresponds to mathematics and geometry. In Heidegger’s view, Being “falls” into the world as Dasein through “care”. Dasein is a word to signify conditioned states of consciousness. These states are both individual and universal; universal in the sense that all thinking beings encompass it. Heidegger comments that we are least like ourselves because we are rooted in the They-Self, or the outside world of beings. He discusses that things in the physical world are present-at-hand, that is they are situated such to be used by the human thinking being. Heidegger goes on to situate Being as a complete entity that includes Death. He views Death as the call of Being into itself and is able to unify his vision of Being as complete by showing that Death is a closing up of Being; that is, Being allots a space for each individual, living being, and through “care” that being relates to itself and the world. Care designates our preoccupations, our needs, our alignment in life.

Heidegger approached life as if it were a poem. Each thing, or frame of Being, stands in relation to other things in the same manner as metaphors uniting dissimilar objects. Concrete situations bring together a variety of objects and Beings within Dasein. In many ways, Heidegger’s language and philosophy mirrors Christian theology. Guilt and anxiety are derived from the “fallen” nature of Being into Dasein—anxiety is the pull of Being back to itself, what it is most like; that is, it is placed in relationship to its authentic self. In existential thought, living authentically is the highest aim. Heidegger speaks of authenticity as a relation of Self to itself—it is a kind of primordial solitude in which one recognizes who one really is in defiance of the world “out there.” Existentialism became fashionable in the early 20th century during post-war era misery as a way to reconcile the fragmented world with one’s inner state. The post-war world was in doubt of itself and its ultimate aims and cherished ideals, and sought a way to reconcile its “anxiety” with ultimate truth-value. The goal became to pursue a new way to value life in general.

My two poems seek to express this same despairing tendency. With symbolism such as a state of blindness used to represent seeing things “authentically”, my poems capture the realm of despondency the existentialists confronted. In philosophy, the terms subject and object denote two separate spheres: subject is the realm of the personal, the perceiver; object is the realm of the perceived, or the being that is under contemplation. My poems express that truth obliterates both spheres to unite them—that is, authenticity means recognizing the deeper patterns of Self and World by observing the state of how things actually are. This is a state all philosophers strive to reach yet the inhibitions of language fail to permit it, and our limitations in understanding also serve as roadblocks. Heidegger was influenced by the phenomenology of Husserl who sought to perfect this. The goal is to not make assumptions, to not judge based on assumed narratives that lack evidence, and to learn to flow with life and become one with its intuitive fluxes. An old saying goes that once you begin to think you have rebelled. You refuse to take arbitrary notions for granted and instead challenge paradigms and sacred cows that don’t meet your inquisition. Some Idealists claim that Absolutes (or perfect truths) don’t exist in the “fallen” world we live in, but reside with God who is separate from us altogether. Heidegger expresses that the understanding itself is a circle and we know we have arrived at truth when we complete it. Some postmodernists claim that truth is in a fragmented state. Each ideology or philosophy contains partial truths, so to each his or her own interpretation. This is a condition called “absurdity.” Piecing together the truth is impossible: again, because the world is not perfect, and our understanding is flawed. The Truth is God’s province alone, or in the case of atheistic existentialists it simply doesn’t matter.

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About the Contributor

<a href="" target="_self">Dustin Pickering</a>

Dustin Pickering

Dustin Pickering is a poet and freelancer residing in Houston, Texas, USA. He is founder of Transcendent Zero Press and founding editor at Harbinger Asylum. He is published in Huffington Post, Cafe Dissensus Everyday, The Punch magazine, and Journal of Liberty and International Affairs. His reviews can be found in Colorado Review and World Literature Today, among other online spaces. He has several poetry collections, a novella, and short story collection, and one fairy tale available on Amazon.