EARLY GREEK THINKING
over, thus to deliver, to let something belong to someone. But such delivery is of a kind which keeps this transfer in hand, and with it what is transferred.
Therefore the participial χρεών originally signifies nothing of constraint and of what "must be." Just as little does the word initially or ever mean to ratify and ordain.
If we firmly keep in mind that we must think the word within the Anaximander fragment, then it can only mean what is essential in the presencing of what is present, and hence that relation to which the genitive so mysteriously alludes. Τὸ χρεών is thus the handing over of presence which presencing delivers to what is present, and which thus keeps in hand, i.e. preserves in presencing, what is present as such.
The relation to what is present that rules in the essence of presencing itself is a unique one, altogether incomparable to any other relation. It belongs to the uniqueness of Being itself. Therefore, in order to name the essential nature of Being, language would have to find a single word, the unique word. From this we can gather how daring every thoughtful word addressed to Being is. Nevertheless such daring is not impossible, since Being speaks always and everywhere throughout language. The difficulty lies not so much in finding in thought the word for Being as in retaining purely in genuine thinking the word found.
Anaximander says, τὸ χρεών. We will dare a translation which sounds strange and which can be easily misinterpreted: τὸ χρεών, usage [der Brauch].
With this translation we ascribe to the Creek word a sense that is foreign neither to the word itself nor to the matter designated by the word in the saying. Nonetheless the translation makes excessive demands. It loses none of this character even when we consider that all translation in the field of thinking inevitably makes such demands.
To what extent is τὸ χρεών "usage"? The strangeness of the translation is reduced when we think more clearly about the word in our language. Usually we understand "to use" to mean utilizing and benefiting from what we have a right to use. What our utilizing benefits from becomes the usual. Whatever is used is in usage. "Usage," as the word that translates τὸ χρεών, should not be understood in these