How must we understand our word "life," if we accept it as a faithful translation for the Greek word ζῆν? In ζῆν, ζάω the root ζα-speaks. It is, of course, impossible to conjure up the Greek meaning of "life" from this sound. But we do notice that the Greek language, above all in the speech of Homer and Pindar, uses words like ζάθεος, ζαμενής, ζάπυρος. Linguistics explains that ζα- signifies an intensification. Ζάθεος accordingly means "most divine," "very holy"; ζαμενής, "very forceful"; ζάπυρος, "most fiery." But this "intensification" means neither a mechanical nor a dynamic increase. Pindar calls various locales, mountains, meadows, the banks of a river, ζάθεος, especially when he wants to say that the gods, the shining ones who cast their gaze about, often permitted themselves actually to be seen here. They came to presence by appearing here. These locales are especially holy because they arise purely to allow the appearing of the shining one. So too does ζαμενής mean that which allows the imminent advance of the storm to billow up in its full presencing.

Ζα- signifies the pure letting-rise within appearing, gazing upon, breaking in upon, and advancing, and all their ways. The verb ζῆν means rising into the light. Homers says, ζῆν καὶ ὁρᾶν φάος ἠελίοιο, "to live, and this means to see the light of the sun." The Greek ζῆν, ζωή, ζῷον must not be interpreted in either a zoological or a broader biological sense. What is named in the Greek ζῷον lies so far from any biologically conceived animality that the Greeks could even call their gods ζῷα. How so? Those who cast their gaze about are those who rise into view. The gods do not experience as animals are. But animality does belong to ζῆν in a special sense. The rising of animals into the open remains closed and sealed in itself in a strangely captivating way. Self-revealing and self-concealing in the animal are one in such a way that human speculation practically runs out of alternatives when it rejects mechanistic views of animality—which are always feasible—as firmly as it avoids anthropomorphic interpretations. Because the animal does not speak, self-revealing and self-concealing, together with their unity, possess a wholly different life-essence [Lebe-Wesen] with animals.