The Point of Reference


All distances in time and space are shrinking. Places that a person previously reached after weeks and months on the road are now reached by airplane overnight. What a person previously received news of only after years, if at all, is now experienced hourly over the radio in no time. The germination and flourishing of plants that remained concealed through the seasons, film now exhibits publicly in a single minute. Film shows the distant cities of the most ancient cultures as if they stood at this very moment amidst today’s street traffic. Beyond this, film further attests to what it shows by simultaneously displaying the recording apparatus itself at work along with the humans who serve it. The pinnacle of all such removals of distance is achieved by television, which will soon race through and dominate the entire scaffolding and commotion of commerce.

The human puts the longest stretches behind himself in the shortest time. He puts the greatest distances behind him and thus puts everything at the shortest distance before him.

Yet the hasty setting aside of all distances brings no nearness; for nearness does not consist in a small amount of distance. What confronts us at the shortest distance in terms of length, through the imagery of film or the sound of the radio, can remain remote to us. What is vastly far away in terms of length, can be near to us. Short distance is not already nearness. Great distance is not yet remoteness.

What is nearness if it remains outstanding despite the shrinking of the greatest lengths to the shortest distances? What is nearness if it is even warded off by the restless removal of distances? What is nearness when, along with its own exclusion, remoteness too remains away?

What is happening when, through the removal of great distances, everything stands equally near and far? What is this uniformity wherein everything is neither far nor near and, as it were, without distance?

Everything washes together into the uniformly distanceless. How? Is not this moving together into the distanceless even more uncanny than everything being out of place? The human is transfixed by what could come about with the explosion of the atomic bomb. The human does not see what for a long time now has already arrived and even is occurring, and for which the atomic bomb and its explosion are merely the latest emission, not to speak of the hydrogen bomb, whose detonation, thought in its broadest possibility, could be enough to wipe out all life on earth. What is this clueless anxiety waiting for, if the horrible has already occurred?ist?

The horrifying is what transposes all that is out of its previous essence. What is so horrifying? It reveals and conceals itself in the way that everything presences, namely that despite all overcoming of distance, the nearness of that which is remains outstanding.