never bothers us that we cannot imagine anything by it. But what else is the little word ‘is’ but a variant of the word ‘being’? Presently, however, we are making a fuss about the fact that one cannot imagine anything in relation to the words ‘being’ and ‘beingness.’ And it is good that we are making a fuss about this, and even better if we become outright agitated about it; it is best if we never inhibit this agitation surrounding our continual use of the word of words and the demands we make of it to mean something, while at the same time failing to conceive anything by it when we are suddenly asked: what do you actually mean when you utter the little word ‘is’? It is best if we become horrified that the human, whose essential characteristic consists in ‘having the word’ and being able ‘to say something,’ never thinks about the word of words and, by neglecting to think about it, forgets the very word in which all saying sways and rests.

The impression that discussions about beings and being are carried out through an empty sorcery of mere words [61] may very well remain. What’s more, it does no harm if thinking continually makes the ‘impression’ on the thoughtless (which it must necessarily make) that it is a consciously contrived devilry to make contemporary thinking even more difficult than it already is. Someday perhaps those who are spirited enough will lay hold of the insight that the estranging impression left by thinking does not have its origin in the circuitous thinking of the thinkers, but rather in ourselves: namely, in the simple and thereby also frightening event [Ereignis] that we all, as historical humans, no longer think of being, but only chase after beings. This forgetfulness of being hangs like a cloud over historical humanity, and due precisely to this forgetfulness, this cloud is also the reason that considerations about the ‘substantive’ or ‘verbal’ meanings of the word ὄν seem empty and foreign to us.

If, however, it is the case that the word ‘being’ and its variants—especially the little and familiar word ‘is’—constantly pervades all of our thoughts and behavior, and in such a way that without an understanding of this word we, even while amidst beings, could not relate to it and ourselves be beings; if everything and all, the highest and the lowest, only encounters us in the ‘ether’ of being, how close must being still remain to us, notwithstanding all of this forgetfulness? If we can first ponder this, then perhaps the moment will one day arrive at which the horror at this forgetfulness of being will turn into astonishment in the face of our nearness to that which first only appears as the esoteric sorcery of an errant thinking—i.e., our nearness to that which names the most vapid of all common words (i.e., the most inconspicuous ‘is’): nearness, namely, to ‘being.’ Yet, this is also the sole thing that awards itself to the thinkers as the ‘to-be-thought.’

[62] (Once we have considered all of this, we will perhaps wish to become more attentive to the apparently merely circuitous explanations of the words τὸ δῦνόν and τὸ ὄν. If, since the inception of Occidental thinking, the forgetfulness of being has spread beyond all measure—spreading, indeed, into philosophy as well—then we should not be surprised if the attempt to think toward the inception of

48    The Inception of Occidental Thinking