OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
in the form of the continual never-having-been-here-before, to spring merely from a blind impulse to exaggerate and excel. One thinks not at all if one takes oneself to have explained this appearance of the gigantic with the slogan "Americanism" (Appendix 12).
The gigantic is, rather, that through which the quantitative acquires its own kind of quality, becoming thereby, a remarkable form of the great. A historical age is not only great in a different way from others; it also has, in every case, its own concept of greatness. As soon, however, as the gigantic, in planning, calculating, establishing, and securing, changes from the quantitative and becomes its own special quality, then the gigantic and the seemingly completely calculable become, through this shift, incalculable. This incalculability becomes the invisible shadow cast over all things when man has become the subiectum and world has become picture (Appendix 13).
Through this shadow the modern world withdraws into a space beyond representation and so lends to the incalculable its own determinateness and historical uniqueness. This shadow, however, points to something else, knowledge of which, to us moderns, is refused (Appendix 14)· Yet man will never be able to experience and think this refusal as long as he goes around merely negating the age. The flight into tradition, out of a combination of humility and presumption, achieves, in itself, nothing, is merely a closing the eyes and blindness towards the historical moment [Augenblick].
Man will know the incalculable — that is, safeguard it in its truth — only in creative questioning and fanning from out of the power of genuine reflection. Reflection transports the man of the future into that "in-between" in which he belongs to being and yet, amidst beings, remains a stranger (Appendix 15). Hölderlin knew about this. His poem, above which is written "To the Germans," closes:4
True, narrowly bounded is our lifetime,
We see and count the number of our years
But the years of the peoples,
Have they been seen by mortal eye?
Even if your soul soars in longing
beyond its own time, mourning
You linger on the cold shore
Among your own, and know them not.
Wohl ist enge begriinzt unsere Lebenszeit,
Unserer Jahre Zahl sehen und ziihlen wir,
Doch die jahre der Volker
sah ein sterbliches Auge sic?