and gain access to its essence merely by persisting with etymological dissection of the word χρεών for long enough. Only when we experience historically what has not been thought - oblivion of being - as that which is to be thought, and only when we have pondered at length what has been long experienced, may the early word perhaps speak in later recollection.

χρεών is generally translated as "necessity." By that one understands the compelling, the inescapable "it must be." But it is a mistake to focus exclusively on this secondary meaning. χρεών is derived from χράω, χράομαι. This suggests ἡ χείρ, the hand. χράω means: I handle something, reach for it, extend my hand to it. Thus, at the same time, χράω means: to place in someone's hands, to hand over and deliver, to let something belong to someone. Such a delivery is, however, of a kind which keeps the transfer in hand, and with it what is transferred.

Originally, therefore, the participial contains nothing of compulsion or "must." Just a little, however, does the word χρεών - originally or ever - denote ratification or ordering.

If we attend fully to the fact that the word must be thought from within Anaximander's saying, then it can only name what is essential in the presencing of what is present, together with the relation which is announced - darkly enough - in the genitive. Τὸ χρεών is thus the handing over of presencing, a handing over which hands out presencing to what is present, and therefore keeps in hand, in other words, preserves in presencing, what is present as such.

The relation to what is present that prevails in the essence of presencing is unique. It is comparable with no other relation. It belongs to the uniqueness of being itself. In order to name the essence of being, therefore, language would have to find something unique, the unique word. From this one can gather how daring is every thoughtful word that is addressed to being. Such daring is, nonetheless, not impossible since, in the most diverse ways, being speaks everywhere and always, in every language. The difficulty lies less in the discovery, in thought, of being's word than in preserving the purity of the discovered word in authentic thinking.

Anaximander says: τὸ χρεών. We venture a translation which sounds strange and can easily be misunderstood: τὸ χρεών usage [Brauch].

In this translation we attribute to the Greek word a meaning that is neither foreign to the word itself nor contrary to the matter discussed in the saying. Nonetheless, the translation makes strenuous demands. Even if we bear in mind that all translation in the field of thought makes such demands, it does not hide this character.


Anaximander's saying (GA 5) by Martin Heidegger