Abbot’s Journal Vol 60, August 4, 2007

by Norman Fischer | August 04, 2007 at 3:13 PM

Muir Beach

… at Johanneshof in Germany I tried to work into our Dogen seminar as much as I could of the Heidegger works I’d been reading in “Poetry, Language, Thought.” This was because Eugenie and Laurent, Dominique’s daughter and her boyfriend, both students of Heidegger thought in Paris, were at the retreat, as were Dominique and Paul Kahn. I’m not so sure how well the Heidegger worked out, but I enjoyed it. At one point one of the Germans reacted with some hostility. He had been himself a serious student of Heidegger in German (he said Heidegger had changed his life) and now he was hearing the Master several steps removed – so far removed that the work was unrecognizable: an English translation from the German that I was interpreting and paraphrasing, and Ottmar was then re-translating into German! But, I told the man, I am making no attempt to reproduce H.’s original meaning or intent, Rather only to present “my” Heidegger, as I take him, through and for a reading of Dogen. This seemed to satisfy the man, and according to Eugenie and Laurent, to be very Heideggerian!

We’d long planned this event with Paul and Dominique and the philosophers. The idea was they’d all come to the retreat and stay a day more to visit Heidegger’s hut, which is not far from Johanneshof. After the retreat we did this, the day was beautiful and the rolling hills of the Schwartzwald were green and lush, dotted here and there with prosperous farmhouses. Up above a little village, near the youth hostel. I’d expected a rather long hike, and the hut to be nearly inaccessible, but the walk was quite short, the hut not at all far from the trail (which, in fact, cutting through tall weeds and wild flowers, led directly to it). The neighbor farmer was haying next to the hut and welcomed us to come nearer, holding open the barbed wire fence for us to come through, so we did, and spent a good half hour there, taking photos, drinking from the famous well behind the hut. The family was not using it so it was entirely shuttered, deep green shutters on all the windows, and a deep green door. I was impressed by how small and modest it was. I knew from Adam Schorr’s book that the space was divided into four, so each room was quite tiny, on the scale of rooms we’d always lived in, at Tassajara and Green Gulch. I think this made Heidegger’s thought creative and pure (since he did not have a library on hand to refer to), springing out of his head and intuition, and only the learning that came to mind on the spot, as if bidden. So that there was a density of thought, but not the kind of density that comes with intertextuality. It was wonderful to be there, especially with Eugenie and Laurent, their youthful enthusiasm for Heidegger, their lively process of figuring him out for their own lives. Afterwards we sat up on the hill above the hut, and could see (it took a while) that the distant, faint, clouds on the horizon were not clouds but the snow-capped Alps. The water of H.’s well was very cold and pure. We drank and bathed our faces, refreshing ourselves from the heat. Eugenie said it was the most delicious water she had ever tasted.


Norman Fischer