Thursday, June 28, 2012

To Have and to Want

In its reflection upon what is "in each case mine", philosophy helps us to appropriate what we already have. It is always already ours, we might say, but we need to make it our own. This entity that is ours to begin with but yet in need of our appropriation is called existence, i.e., Dasein. Here, then, is one sense we can give to Heidegger's "event of appropriation" (Ereignis), i.e., the experience of making the world one's own. (Which, as I have said before, amounts to doing one's own thing.) Philosophy is interested in how we appropriate our existence.

Poetry has a complementary mission. It cultivates inspiration not existence (duende not Dasein) and its theme is therefore not what I have, i.e., what is mine, but who I am or, more accurately, who I may become. If there is something tautological, unnecessary, or even wholly futile, about appropriating something you already own, i.e., taking ownership of your property, then in poetry a different kind of futility rules. Here, we must renounce (or disown) something we will always lack, i.e., we must refuse something we will never have.

Philosophy always seeks the occasion for the event of appropriation, the moment when we can make things our own, take what is given. Poetry, by contrast, is the recusal of ownership—it acknowledges the duende as the true owner (the dueño). The poet gives himself to what he is taken with. The mind of a philosopher-poet is therefore a strange place ... in a strange time. It finds its composure at the very point where its clarity about what is mine is balanced against the intensity of who I want to become.

It is not altogether wrong to interpret "want" here as "need" or "lack", but the poetic recusal is precisely the act of doing without that which I do not have, so that I may become that which I am destined to be.

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