fourfold gathers around the thing in a tenuous convergence. There is nothing everlasting or monumental about such things, they tarry ephemerally (Heidegger’s term is weilen). The thing abides. The same gathering that unites the four in the thing is equally a disaggregation of that thing. What is gathered is not a homogeneity, but a spaced parting of assembled members. The fourfold disaggregates the thing by releasing it from the bounds of an encapsulated self-identity into the streams of relation. Heidegger calls this “thinging” (“The thing things”; GA 79: 17/16). The thing in its thinging is telescoped out beyond itself. The thing is not only gathered but disassembled at once, and through this disassembly it enters the world. The extrapolated thing extrudes beyond itself, billowing through the four members of the fourfold. Each of these grants the thing a place within a particular cluster of relations and supportive connections. The thing is nestled within a context.
The things that appear in Heidegger’s lectures emphasize this contextual, relational character as well. A thing is a jug (“The Thing”), a vessel that holds and retains, gives and pours out (Heidegger speaks of a “gift of the pour [Geschenk des Gusses]”; GA 79: 11/11).10 This thing the jug is determined by its pour, “the pour [Guß] determines the jughood of the jug” (GA 79: 11 n. a/10 n. 1). But this pour is itself never simply contained or retained without further ado, the sharing of it is an ineradicable and constitutive possibility. The pour is then always at the same time a pouring out: “What is authentic of the pour is nevertheless the outpouring [Ausgießen]” (GA 79: 11 n. a/10 n. 1). The jug as thing is determined by a pouring out. This outpouring exceeds any utilitarian directive. It is a sacrifice: “Sufficiently thought and genuinely said, where it is essentially performed pouring is: donating, sacrificing, and therefore giving [schenken]” (GA 79: 12/11). The jug is not a jug because it is useful, the jug is a jug because it is capable of sacrificial expenditure.
A thing is a bridge (“Building Dwelling Thinking”), a crossing over two shores that provides passage along a way. Bridges conduct, accompany, and escort us (geleiten uns) along a path (and Heidegger does not fail to note that we ourselves, as mortals, are always underway and in the crossing; cf. GA 7: 155/PLT 150, tm). The bridge brings about a relation between the shores and the surrounding landscape such that “it brings stream and shore and land into a reciprocal neighborliness [Nachbarschaft]” (GA 7: 154/PLT 150, tm). This sort of bond does not occur among the indifference of objects. Instead, when a thing is in place, it transforms its surroundings. The shores are no longer “already presentat-hand shores” (GA 7: 154/PLT 150, tm), they are transformed by the relations presented by the bridge. The bridge stands in a particular relation to the shores it touches: “In the crossing over of the bridge the shores
10. Not coincidentally, a recurrent example for Heidegger. See the 1936–38 Contributions to Philosophy (from Enowning) (GA 65: 339/268) as well as the 1945 Country Path Conversation, “Angchibasiê” (GA 77: 126–137/82–89).