OLDER MAN: This bearing the rivers call forth out of the earth and they protect what bears [das Tragsame] when they make the land “arable.” The rivers bear what bears and thereby what is borne, namely the abyss, to the humans, whereby they are able to dwell there where their essence is rooted.

YOUNGER MAN: You mean that the humans dwell at the rivers not only when and not only because herbs grow there and animals go there. Rather, the rivers still properly invoke what bears of the earth [das Tragsame der Erde] as that which bears the essence of the human, something we have still scarcely considered.

OLDER MAN: That is what I mean. (GA 75: 75–76)

Rivers make evident the non-foundational support beneath us, all around us even, as we are “to be borne by this [the river] as our element,” says the older speaker, to which the younger interlocutor responds, “in the element of the river spirit a singular love wafts to our heart that blows away all willing through a releasement to the grace that liberates [be-freyt] everything” (GA 75: 64). The openness of the river meets our openness and this is likewise an openness to whatever grace may come, an openness that allows the things of the world their openness, and receives its grace in so doing. The consequences are drawn:

YOUNGER MAN: You then think that grace would be the abyss?

OLDER MAN: And the abyss grace. (GA 75: 76)

The earth bears what is beyond proceeds and profit by bearing that which is exposed to the coming of grace. Human dwelling and the thriving of life is always exposed to such grace.

What Heidegger’s consideration of waters presents, then, is a thinking of connectedness and of the persistence of the origin in the midst of change and encounter. Rivers partition the earth creating borders that are at once zones of division and invitation. They remain connected with their source while embracing the foreign. In each case, they show that what is one’s own is only such through its exposure to another, to what lies beyond it. The waters present this as what it means to dwell.

Heidegger’s consideration of inanimate or material nature is ultimately a destabilization of the very “materiality” of it. The stone is not brute matter, the stone speaks. The stone is the materialization of pain, of crossing, it is the hardness of what holds open the world. Water for its part interrupts the landscape with division, stretching the origin forth into encounters, offering what is most its own as welcome to what comes. In both cases we are confronted with a thinking of transition and relationality,

Andrew J. Mitchell - The Fourfold

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