Heidegger’s analysis in the 1950 text takes up the line “Pain has turned the threshold to stone” from Trakl’s poem “Ein Winterabend,” and the liminal position of the threshold is determinative for his new understanding.15 The threshold in question is the limit between one thing and another, the space of differentiation (Unter-Schied) between them that is likewise the span of their connection. Heidegger speaks of it in language drawn from the analyses of the earth we have presented above: “The threshold is the ground-beam that bears [trägt] the doorway as a whole. It sustains the middle in which the two, the outside and the inside, penetrate each other. The threshold bears the between. What goes out and goes in, in the between, is joined in the between’s reliability [Verläßlichkeit]. The reliability of the middle must never yield either way” (GA 12: 24/PLT 201, tm). For the threshold to function as threshold, for there to be the between, it must be endured and held open by something resilient enough to suffer its carrying out, i.e., by something turned to stone: “The carrying out [Austrag] of the between needs something that can endure, and in this sense is hard. The threshold, as the carrying out of the between, is hard because pain has turned it to stone.” (GA 12: 24/PLT 201, tm). Stone is the hardness that is able to endure the opening of the between, a tearing opening (a rift, Riß) that Heidegger finds to be the essence of pain.16 This is not an insensitive hardening and numbed deadening at the threshold, as Heidegger makes clear: “the pain that became appropriated to stone did not harden into the threshold in order to congeal there. Pain presences enduringly in the threshold as pain” (GA 12: 24/PLT 201, tm). Stone cannot harden or stiffen completely if it is to be a bearer. It must still endure and sense the pain of separation that the threshold instantiates. The ideal of complete hardness that would function again as a kind of grounding must be given up. There must remain a softness or sensitivity in the very hardness of stone. Or rather, hardness is never so hard as to preclude the touch of what lies beyond it (pain). It is never so self-enclosed as to eradicate the world.

But it is not simply that a stone suffers pain; the stone is rather the embodiment of pain, or at the very least pain’s shelter: “Pain conceals itself in the stone, the pain that, by turning to stone, preserves itself in the closedness of the stone” (GA 12: 59/OWL 182, tm). The hardness of the stone—which is not an abstract “hardness as such,” but an earthly hardness—is itself a marker of pain, is hard on account of the prevailing pain. Stone becomes a testament to this pain. The seeming “closedness” of pain is itself a response to the painful exposure of world, to its place in the between. In fact, Heidegger will go so far as to claim, in regards to an old stone in Trakl’s poetry, that “the old stone is pain itself, insofar as

15 Trakl, “Ein Winterabend,” Dichtungen, 102/Poems, 118, tm; cited at GA 12: 15/PLT 192.

16 For further elaboration of Heidegger’s view of pain, please see my “Entering the World of Pain: Heidegger.”

Andrew J. Mitchell - The Fourfold

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