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MEMORIAL ADDRESS

we all are far too easily thought-less. Thoughtlessness is an uncanny visitor who comes and goes everywhere in today's world. For nowadays we take in everything in the quickest and cheapest way, only to forget it just as quickly, instantly. Thus one gathering follows on the heels of another. Commemorative celebrations grow poorer and poorer in thought. Commemoration and thoughtlessness are found side by side.

But even while we are thoughtless, we do not give up our capacity to think. We rather use this capacity implicitly, though strangely: that is, in thoughtlessness we let it lie fallow. Still only that can lie fallow which in itself is a ground for growth, such as a field. An expressway, where nothing grows, cannot be a fallow field. Just as we can grow deaf only because we hear, just as we can grow old only because we were young; so we can grow thought-poor or even thought-less only because man at the core of his being has the capacity to think; has "spirit and reason" and is destined to think. We can only lose or, as the phrase goes, get loose from that which we knowingly or unknowingly possess.

But does this alone constitute a memorial celebration? A memorial celebration means that we think back, that we think. Yet what are we to think and to say at a memorial which is devoted to a composer? Is it not the distinction of music to "speak" through the sounding of tones and so not to need ordinary language, the language of words? So they say. And yet the question remains: Do playing and singing alone make our celebration a thoughtful celebration, one in which we think? Hardly! And so a "memorial address" has been put on the program. It is to help us to think back both to the composer we honor and to his work. These memories come alive as soon as we relate the story of Conradin Kreutzer's life, and recount and describe his works. Through such a relating we can find much that is joyful and sorrowful, much that is instructive and exemplary. But at bottom we merely allow ourselves to be entertained by such a talk. In listening to such a story, no thinking at all is needed, no reflecting is demanded on what concerns each one of us immediately and continuously in his very being. Thus even a memorial address gives no assurance that we will think at a memorial celebration.

The growing thoughtlessness must, therefore, spring from some process that gnaws at the very marrow of man today: man today is in flight from thinking. This flight-from-thought is the ground of thoughtlessness. But part of this flight is that man will neither see nor admit it. Man today will even flatly deny this flight from thinking. He will assert the opposite. He will say—and quite rightly—that there were at no time such far-reaching plans, so many inquiries in so many areas, research carried on as passionately as today. Of course. And this display of ingenuity and


Discourse On Thinking (GA 16) by Martin Heidegger