. . . withdrawing is not nothing. Withdrawal is an event. In fact, what withdraws may even concern and claim man more essentially than anything present that strikes and touches him.
Martin Heidegger, Was Hei§t Denken?1
What is it that we miss when we find ourselves under a spell? What is it that we fail to attend to when are held in the thrall of a spell? Any understanding of “spell,” no matter how provisional, would include in it the condition of being subject to an aggregate of words or phrases that work, “magically,” to “charm” or unduly “influence.” Of course, the effect of such “magic” is that of duration. That is, “spell” doubles as both the description of force—how the words or phrases act on us—and a recognition that in order for the spell to work its magic, as we are wont to say, it must last. In this way we know that the spell is always bound up with time; it is bound up within, and is inextricable from, time.
We are not, then, preoccupied with the negation of the spell, although undoing the effect of the spell is not without its allure. Rather, we are thinking dis-spell, within the provocative terms that Heidegger assigns “withdrawal.” We are thinking dis-spell for what it reveals. Thinking for what the spell conceals. Or, as Heidegger would surely prefer, we seek to unconceal what is obscured by the spell; we seek to unconceal what is lodged within that which is dis-spelled. To unconceal is not only to bring to light or to bring into view that which was kept out of our sight. It is, and here we explicate Heidegger’s preference, to bring ourselves closer to the essence of that which the spell conceals, what with its ability to work magic, to keep us within its ambit only; to restrict us to its province. In this way, what is at stake here is more than thinking the relationship for the distinction and/or difference between spell and dis-spell. Indeed, what should command our thinking is the possibility of that which holds us spellbound. That which holds us spellbound, for all its allure and seductive force (so that we must acknowledge the eros that is endemic to the spell, to any spell, including those we might name “love” or “enchantment,” to say nothing of the more prosaic “fascination”), or, because of its allure and seductive force, operates only on the most fundamental level. On that level it works as a screen that filters and, in so doing, limits our cognition. The spell, in contrast, is an invitation. And not only that. The spell is like a certain kind of gift. It is the invitation that keeps on inviting us to be constantly on guard against the eros of the spell. Whether it knows it or not, the spell functions, philosophically, like its own kind of warning label, with the coda that it warns against itself. With good reason, Heidegger would say.
The spell is the gateway to that which is essential to our being in the world and, as such, it does not stand in opposition to that which it dis-spells. The discourse that surrounds or emanates from “gateway” is, within the context that is our conjuncture, itself provocative. After all, it is a discourse whose very constitution is more commonly grounded in chemical addiction. Such-and-such, we are warned from time to time, is a “gateway drug.” On the face of it, harmless; at worst, there is the possibility of recreational usage. The “gateway drug”: it is that drug which constitutes the potential drug user’s first casual encounter. It is nothing more than an experiment with a chemical substance that is apparently lacking in the danger that will lead to serious addiction; this is certainly not that drug that will lead to death. The nomenclature “gateway drug” is sheathed in a presentation, a language, if you will, that we consider alluring. The danger of addiction is thus dis-spelled by the spell of “innocence” that has attached itself to the “gateway drug.” It is only by attending to that which is dis-spelled, that which is unnamed, those dangers that are kept out of sight, that we are able, in the logic that warns of the cost of incremental addiction, to unconceal the essence of the “gateway drug.” The essence of the drug that is also the source of its energy. This is an energy that has within itself the potential to increase itself, either in small increments or in spectacular bursts. It is like any one of those innumerable small circles in Wassily Kandinsky’s 1923 Circle in a Circle. Any one of those small circles might contain within itself the propensity to explode into a profusion of larger, more defined circles or it could just dissipate into the indistinctness that is Circle’s beige-fading-into brooding gray background.2
That which is dis-spelled, then, is that which is held within that which withdraws. (In his understanding of how “spirit” forms a touchstone in his work, Kandinsky speaks of the “inner strivings.” That which is dis-spelled “strives,” we might say, for that which is innermost in the spell.) And it is precisely this to which we must allow ourselves to be drawn. To be drawn into. To be drawn into so that we might map the path that leads from spell to dis-spell. A path which will surely unfold along a trajectory that will unconceal the intimacy that links spell to dis-spell, a trajectory that speaks of nothing so much as an uneven proximity; a proximity that, in one moment, binds closely while slackening in others.
Hospitality and Death
As we think that which dis-spells, another form of exclusion reverberates. As does another form inclusion. Audible in dis-spell is expel. At the very moment that we lend our ear to expulsion, we must once more confront that which works to put out, to remove from; and if we countenance the prospect of expulsion, we invite into our thinking hospitality. To make room for, to offer to the other a place; the other can now contemplate the possibility of being domiciled within. Into this knot of exclusion/inclusion intrudes Derrida, whose work on hospitality, which always begin from inside the self, as it were, and extends the hand of welcome (of friendship) so as to bring the other in from the outside. Whom we welcome, whom we are determined to deny access, is of course the very Levinasian question of our moment. It is the question of the migrant, a difficulty in which the national origin, racial identity, and ethnicity of the other figures—is the other Syrian, Afghani or Ukrainian? Can the Russian dissident be made welcome or is this issue already overdetermined?3 Are we to assume that there is no place for the Russian, dissident or no? If this is to be the case, then all complication must be dispensed with, nuance must be expelled from our contemplations.
However, as we are well aware, that which is expelled is precisely that which cannot be dis-spelled, cannot be exorcised. Instead, it leaves itself, as Derrida reminds us, everywhere in the traces (and ashes of the Shoah) that remain in the wake of its expulsion. Inclusion, return, the ineradicability of the other is ingrained—written into the self, flowing in the blut und scarring the grund that self takes as its home. The blood remembers, the land will not forget. The Trail of Tears will not cease its weeping. Inscribed in the Latin root of hospitality, hostes, is not only the Christian ethic that instructs the self to welcome the stranger (l’étranger), but springing from that self-same root is hostility, hospital, hospice. In one form or another, hospitality bears on death. To welcome the stranger is to risk death. Excluding the stranger or expelling the dissident can in no way stay this, death l’avenir, the death that comes from the stranger, the death that issues from the self. To consider expulsion, to fail to offer hospitality to the other is to put the self under the spell of death. That may, in fact, be only the secondary effect. The primary consequence is to empower the spell of death; it is to lend it urgency and immanence. That which will not be dis-spelled is that which holds within itself a fearsome threat.
Gateway Drug, Mainlining
Recognizing that Heidegger’s conceptualizing of withdrawal derives directly from the thinking about thinking that is his primary inquiry in Was Hei§t Denken? we could declare, in a spirit of philosophical mischievousness, Was Hei§t Denken? as both the “gateway drug” to thinking par excellence and that drug which leads to mainlining thinking. Was Hei§t Denken? is how one falls under the spell of thinking and then, before you know it, it has become that drug that has gotten you hooked on thinking. In pursuing a critique of spell through withdrawal, we know ourselves then to be in proximity to thinking. Our proximity, however, is replete with uncertainty. Our uncertainty derives from Heidegger himself. After all, he pronounces that “we do not know what thinking is but we do know when we are not thinking.”4 We could have been mainlining a bad philosophical batch all along. Our only defense, it would seem, is to incline ourselves in the direction of what which dis-spells. We would be well advised not to be held spellbound by the conviction that we know what thinking is. The spell, we remember, warns us against itself. And yet, in order to think, must we not, our reservations notwithstanding, give ourselves over to the spell in order that we might “know thinking?” Or are we at the same time to submit to the lure of the spell and fortify ourselves against that lure? Or would we be wise to follow the dictum that insists we point ourselves in the direction of that which withdraws? Should we begin all our thinking about thinking in the geist—“spirit,” a term from which Heidegger determinedly turns –of withdrawal?5
The “essential nature” of withdrawal, according to Heidegger, is such that it “draws toward.” That which “draws toward” then, is that which brings us closer to that which is essential. It brings us closer because, if we are to take this proposition at its dialectical word, it takes us away from that which is not essential; or less essential. It would seem, then, that to withdraw is to take our leave, however hesitantly or even reluctantly, from that which is lacking in essence. On this matter, Heidegger is poetic, but he also reminds us of our limitations as with respect to the force of withdrawal: “What withdraws from us, draws us along by its very withdrawal, whether or not we become aware of it immediately, or not at all. Once we are drawn into the withdrawal, we are drawing toward what draws, attracts us by its withdrawal”.6 That which withdraws from us does not abandon us—at least not to our own devices. Instead, because the “essential nature” of that which “withdraws from us” is that we are subject to it, our being is under its spell, regardless of whether we are attuned to the ways in which it acts upon us. It guides us, as if taking us by the hand, toward our “essential nature.”
Furthermore, being taken by the hand or being taken in hand is of import to Heidegger, for whom the “hand extends itself, and receives its own welcome in the hand of others. The hand holds. The hand carries . . . the hand’s gestures run everywhere through language.”7 The hand, we can say, is the human instrument through which the spell is cast; and, because of this, it is the hand that speaks the spell, speaks the language of the spell, and it is thus only the hand that can break the spell. It requires the hand to dis-spell. The hand releases, releases us into thinking. Do we think with, or through, our hands? Out of this “gesture”—or, the “sign,” Heidegger might say—the hand must produce—or secure—a “language” that can “carry” thinking toward the “essential nature” that is held within the spell; that is, we must also acknowledge that we could find ourselves, potentially, withheld by and because of the spell. The hand is called upon here to wave away all superfluity in order to bring us closer to man’s “essential nature.” The hand disposes of, dispenses with, by “extending itself” in that direction where the spell can be broken. The work of the hand is to release into our keeping, safekeeping, that which is withheld by the spell. We can only keep man’s “essential nature” safe by holding it in our hands. It is the hand that guides us toward thinking, “All the work of the hand is rooted in thinking,” and keeps us safe within itself.8 We hold thinking in the palm of our hands. Thinking is entrusted to us for safekeeping, even when it appears to withdraw from us, “whether we become aware of it immediately, or not at all.” “The hand carries” us toward thinking as long as we think for what it is the “hand holds,” on the condition that we think about caring for that which the “hand holds.”
To continue to be under a spell is, in Heidegger’s terms, to seek refuge from thinking. To be under a spell is, and here Heidegger’s tone is that of an indictment, to be a “fugitive from thinking.”9 That which dis-spells is that which brings us into the clearing – the bright openness – where thinking can take place; drawn into this place as we have been by the beckoning of the spell. Drawn by that which withdraws. We can let thinking “stand there in the presence of [its] radiant appearance.”10 Thinking illuminates the clearing and in so doing disperses the shadows cast by the spell, all the while remaining watchful of what lays, fecund, provocative, inviting, in the furtive shadows. The “radiance” of thinking is that which, and here we use the term only partly in the pejorative, compels the spell to withdraw. The temptation, of course, is to present the spell as entirely pejorative, as an absolute negation, but we avoid it because we know that that which withdraws is redolent with its own promise; the promise of thinking, no less. We live, then, sometimes alternately and in other times simultaneously, in sun and shadow. This duality, this interplay of sun and shadow, of spell and dis-spell, is a condition available to us as long as we do not remove from our line of sight, from our inclining, the “radiance” that only thinking can cast. That is the drawing toward to which we must always open ourselves. We must remain open to the ways in which the spell and the dis-spell interact, constitute each other, draw their thinking—of thinking, of each other—from each other. It is, then, openness, an openness known to the hand in its separated openness, fingers and thumb held apart while remaining joined, the hand in its being “welcome in the hands of others,” to which we must remain drawn toward.11 That way lies thinking. After all, as Heidegger reminds us, “All the work of the hand is rooted in thinking. Therefore, thinking itself is man’s simplest, and for that reason hardest, handiwork, if it would be accomplished at its proper time.”12 The hand is the instrument of thinking.13 Thinking begins in and with the hand. Thinking is always that which is to hand. To think is as simple as reaching for the hand. However, in order to think we must not only know how to learn to think but we must also teach ourselves to know the “proper time” at which to reach for thinking.
The hand is the instrument of thinking. This is the case for George Pocock, east London-born boatbuilder who lovingly crafted the shell in which the 1936 University of Washington crew rowed to a historic victory in the Berlin Olympics. The Hitler Olympics, captured with horrific brilliance by Leni Riefenstahl in 1935 in Triumph of the Will, offer a moment in which we might, if we are careful, discern, philosophically, Heidegger’s hand, even if Heidegger would insist that he had long since taken to withdrawing his hand. Also, a moment in which Heidegger’s deep regard for the hand comes to life with poetic beauty. In Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Daniel James Brown essays forth on the centrality of the relationship between Pocock’s hand and his craft, a craft which Pocock learned and mastered while building boats for the English public-school boys at elite Eton College. Brown’s meditation, offered here at length, is replete with Heideggerian inflection:
Growing up and learning his trade from his father at Eton, he [Pocock] had used simple hand tools—saws, hammers, chisels, wood planes, and sanding blocks. For the most part, he continued to use those same tools even as more modern, laborsaving power tools came to the market in the 1930s. Partly, this was because he believed that hand tools gave him more precise control over the fine details of his work. Partly, it was because he could not abide the noise that power tools made. Craftmanship required thought, and thought required a quiet environment. Mostly, though, it was because he wanted more intimacy with the wood—he wanted to feel the life in the wood with his hands, and in turn to impart some of himself, his own life, his pride and his caring, into the shell.14
More than a symbiotic relationship between craftsman and the most elemental tools of his trade, more than a poetic recounting of the craftsman’s desire for “intimacy with the wood,” more than a commitment to his craft (to always have “precise control over the fine details of his work”). Above all, Pocock bears testimony to Heidegger’s dictum: the hand is the instrument of thought. Thought begins, resides, in the hand. It is through the hand, mediated only by the most basic tools—element to element, hand to wood, that the Being of the boat builder and the Being of the boat can come into being. All this begins with the optimal conditions for thinking—a “quiet environment.” Bauen est Denken. Denken est Sein. As historical irony would have it, it is precisely because Heidegger and Pocock adhered to strictly to the same philosophical principles, to think for Being, that Pocock’s boat, Husky Clipper, triumphed, if only by the barest of margins, over the German and Italian crews. In, and through, the hands that reach toward and care for Being, and only through those hands, is it possible to achieve an Olympian truth.
In Pocock’s hands the truth of Being made itself victoriously manifest. In silent disgust, the Führer, seeing the German crew beaten, rapidly withdrew from his perch above the boathouse on the Langer See, his hand withdrawn, held tightly at his side. Hitler’s hands showed themselves, in that moment, to be incapable of “intimacy,” devoid of the care for Being that issues from thought. We can only speculate that Hitler’s mind was, in that moment of defeat, anything but a “quiet environment.” We are, however, free to speculate as to what uncaring thoughts roiled and churned in his head. Unlike Pocock, Hitler’s hands could not bear within them the tender “quiet” that enables thought to incline toward Being. Thinking for Being cannot begin in a right hand that raises itself, and expects the other to do likewise, in order to sign the death of the other. Like thought, all thinking for life begins with the hand, the hand that cares for life in all its forms and does so with love. To seek intimacy with the wood is at once to seek its truth, and the truth of the self, and to surrender to that truth. Such a giving of the self can be known only as love.
It matters, then, that we, Pocock-like, tend to the hand, that we learn to take our cue from the hand. We must learn from the hand so that we can know when to “extend” the hand, when to “welcome” the other, and we are called upon to tend, always carefully, to all the “handiwork” that the hand undertakes. In finding ourselves doing that which is “simplest,” we must know that this is also the “hardest” work we will be required to do. As we are drawn to, and through, one, so risk being withdrawn into a relation of infinitely greater complexity. To be under the spell of the one (“man’s simplest”), is to make the self-open to the other (“hardest handiwork”). And yet, for Pocock, the “hardest handiwork” seems not in the least taxing. It is, rather, the most intimate exchange between a man and his tools, between a man and the life he seeks in the raw materials on which he lays his hands. The touch is tender. Its source is love. The raw materials out of which he strives to extract a truth greater, more profound, than that which craftsperson, elemental tools, and raw material possess on their own. Greater than that which they possess within themselves alone. The Husky Clipper on the Langer See is what truth looks like in athletic motion. Like Heidegger, Pocock is intent on drawing out, on drawing into its truth, that whose native proclivity is to withdraw.
On this matter, Heidegger is once again poetic: “Once we are so related and drawn to what withdraws, we are drawing into what withdraws, into the enigmatic and therefore mutable nearness of its appeal. Whenever man is properly drawing that way, he is thinking—even though he may still be far away from what withdraws, even though the withdrawal may remain as veiled as ever.”15 The indeterminate shade, the indeterminable point, at which light darkens irrevocably into shadow, constitutes, once more, for Heidegger an invitation. An invitation born out of a relationality, that which binds sun to shadow, light to dusk, that refuses easy explication. That which withdraws, that into which we find ourselves withdrawn, must, of necessity, be—remain— “enigmatic.” That which withdraws is that which, as Heidegger says, is not necessarily that which is furthest from us, but that which is “mutably near.” It has the appearance of remove, of being distant from us, only because it is “veiled,” because its essence remains inscrutable to us. It remains thus because, as Heidegger insists, we are “still not thinking.” Our failure, our inability, to think, is, of course, among Heidegger’s most severe admonitions. The “enigmatic” is not only, as we well know, that which is inexplicable, but also that which is contradictory and that articulation—an inquiry, a representation— which retains within and to itself a hidden meaning (the inscrutable, as we have just noted; the very meaning that Pocock wants to draw close to).
DuBois and the Veil
In certain instances, however, that which is “veiled” is not at all that from which we are utterly shut out. That which seeks to keep itself, impermeably, to itself. It has long been agreed that the “veil,” as W.E.B. DuBois gave us to think more than a century ago, is that obstruction created in Reconstruction America that prevented Whites from having access to—from “seeing,” if you wish—the “real” structure, the architecture of intimacies, the intricacies, and myriad modes of being that constitute Black life.16 The veil, constructed out of historical necessity (self-preservation in the age of Jim Crow) by Black Americans, was intended to restrict White access to the Black world. Politically powerful, backed by a violent and repressive state apparatus, the veil restricted Whites to a mono-vision: a racially blinkered view and understanding of the world beyond their purview.
However, if we attribute any incisiveness (that is, a penetrating sharpness, an indestructible relatedness) to withdrawal, if we credit being drawn-to with any deconstructive (or, dekonstructive, as Heidegger might prefer) capacity, then surely we cannot assign to the “veil” the power of absolute distinction. If self and other accede, each in their own way, to their “inner strivings”—that which we can properly designate “desire” or “love;” or that which is more akin to xenotropia—then it is surely impossible for there to be a near-complete rupture between the Black world and the White one that girds DuBois’ conception of the “veil.” After all, White Reconstruction America, on terms not markedly different from that of antebellum America (and the lines of distinction here proved to be perforated, to say the least), continued to draw on Black labor. Black labor that it exploited. Black labor made economically precarious by and physically vulnerable in the aftermath of the Civil War. Black labor that could be disciplined, and frequently threatened with death, by a White power structure that differed little from its antebellum predecessor. Surely the imperative to surveil Black life would have made of the “veil” a structure of life and a mode of Black being—a mode of being Black in a Reconstruction world where the very premise of Reconstruction was undermined, to say nothing of being underfunded and badly administered. The “veil,” then, as less a political (and personal) impenetrability (and the inherent violence of the verb cannot be gainsaid) than a desire for an impossible separation between the newly freed bondsmen and -women and the erstwhile slave owners. No “veil,” one ventures, could have undone the history of intimacy, most often of the violent kind which made Black women subject to the predations of White men (slave owners and others), between Black and White. Surely, we might say, Lydia Brent persisted into Reconstruction.
While there may have been fewer external strictures that could make themselves manifest on the Black side of the veil, the very nature—again, economic interdependence, social ties, no matter how weighted toward White authority, no matter the threats (lynching, undoing the democratic promises, premises, of Emancipation, and so on)—life, especially on the plantation, would have drawn lives to each other. In every Black withdrawal the desire for an impossible retreat beyond the reach of White power, in every such withdrawal the drawing-toward of the failed promise of Emancipation. In every such drawing toward, the re-inscription of the relatedness of DuBois’s two worlds. In fact, understood through the concept of withdrawal, DuBois’ Souls of Black Folks comes to stand, possibly above all else, as the writing that is the unveiling of Reconstruction America. Much as DuBois makes us into ethnographers of a Black world subject to, abandoned by, and the object of White violence, so he cannot but simultaneously draw us toward the world from which those threats emanate. Souls of Black Folk holds us, at once, in the Black hand soiled and callused by unstinting, unrewarding, labor, and this self-same hand (pair of hands) makes of the Black hand a “sign”: “as he draws toward what withdraws, man is a sign.”17 The world on this side of the “veil” is, no matter how unevenly, drawn to and under the spell of the world on that side of the “veil.” It is only in their being drawn together into their (mutual) withdrawal, one unsuccessfully from the other, that they can hope to dis-spell the myth of its distinction. “Mythos,” writes Heidegger, “is what has its essence in its telling—what is apparent in the unconcealedness of its appeal.”18 In the repeated “telling” of the hegemonic account of the “veil,” its “essence” is reaffirmed as absolute separation. In thinking for and toward “unconcealing this appeal,” the “essential nature” that is the drawing-toward of one mode of being to another is present to us, in all its “unconcealedness.”
A Final Thought: The Trinity of Human Consciousness
To be drawn-toward is to think the spell only in order to more incisively move through the temporality and the terrain of the spell toward that which would dis-spell the spell. It would be, one imagines, something on the order of being held, spellbound, not once, but twice: in the event that is our rendering of the Souls of Black Folk, first by DuBois, and then by Heidegger’s philosophical renting of the “veil.” Is this not how it should be? The Black DuBoisian subject is that being who is possessed not only of double consciousness, itself a philosophical trajectory that leads from Hegel (“self-consciousness”) through Marx (“false consciousness”) to DuBois (“double consciousness”), but of so powerful a sight as to hold within its vision—within its field of vision—both that line (of sight) held in the thrall of the spell and the other one which moves with and through the first in order to make a claim upon its “essential nature.” That mode of being in the world that thinks, always, for Being. The Black hand, in Reconstruction, made hard by its tilling of the land, undertakes the work of eking out a living (no small task), makes of this “simple” labor the most philosophically rewarding “handiwork.” It is the Black hand, thought in its “proper time,” that points us toward that which withdraws. It is the Black hand that brings to hand, in the resonant sign that is both the open Black hand (that which makes welcome; extending the hand toward the other, in a gesture of friendship, grasping the hand in love) and the closed Back fist (balled in anger, militancy inscribed in its tautness, most memorably perhaps as taken in hand by the Black Panthers and Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics), that takes in hand, simultaneously, Hegel, Marx and DuBois. And Heidegger too. DuBois’ “veil,” then, as, in this rendering, that which provokes us to think—to think for—the thought present in the Black hand that will not sign off on withdrawal.
With the fin-de-siecle publication of DuBois’ Souls in 1903, we can say that the entire trajectory of Western philosophy from the late-18th century to the mid-20th—again, Hegel, Marx, DuBois, Heidegger—finds itself drawn to and held in, of all hands, the hand of the Black subject who is still struggling to free itself from the bonds of slavery. This is the hand, so artfully inscribed with the logic of double consciousness, so overwritten by Hegel’s subjectivation and so indelibly marked by Marx’s critique of humanity’s failure to truly understand itself—its place—in the world of philosophy. It is through this hand, and this hand alone, dare we say, that we can begin to undertake the work of dis-spelling. Marx, for one, and Hegel too, in his inimitable way, would surely be glad for that into which this hand draws us. And so, we must acknowledge the handiness of the hand. And so, it is into the overdetermined Black hand of double consciousness, which we must now pronounce the self-false-double consciousness trinity, one-in-all, all-in-one, that we commend philosophy. It is only possible to access the historical trinity of consciousness, which is also the history of subjectivity in modernity, through thinking that which withdraws. In so doing, it becomes possible to liberate ourselves from any spell that fails to think the history that is the trinity of human consciousness. Once we undertake to dis-spell, the “inner strivings” of philosophy draw us, ineluctably, magnetically, into that force field where Hegel and Marx, already well known to each other, keep company.19 Entirely unexpected, however, is to see how warily DuBois and Heidegger first circle and then cautiously approach each other. We are left to speculate about what Heidegger and DuBois might have to say to each other. Will one be hospitable to the other? What hostility will manifest itself? What dis-spelling will emanate from that strangely populated quarter of the force field that is the history of human consciousness? Will there be a hand extended? In friendship? What kind of thinking might such a handshake dis-spell?
In this regard, there is only one matter on which we can be resolved. No hand that lifts itself upward, that is martial in its bearing, can hold within itself the truth of Being. Such a hand must be banished, out of hand. Such a hand is, from the very moment of its reaching stiffly upward, devoid of thinking, opposed to Being. From such a hand, life withdraws. From such a hand, truth flees. In such a hand, there is no possibility for Being. That is the hand of death. A hand dealt a blow, but not a fatal one, from a high perch on the Langer See. A blow, nonetheless, that should have compelled a thinking of the hand could not bear athletic defeat. On home waters already incipiently hostile, a hand turned against hospitality. A hand that dis-spelled the truth of the hand. It is in the hand held tautly, at the side, a hand very different from the one which DuBois gives us to think, that the truth of Being meets its death. In his insistence that we train our thinking firmly on the hand, Heidegger showed himself unthinking in relation to the multitude of martially trained hands-on display everywhere around him. Hands already being stiffly raised when he became Rector at Freiburg University in 1933, impassioned hands everywhere on display in Berlin in 1936. A nation’s hands saluting, “Heil,” one hand. A disproportionate show of hands. Cause for pause. Cause for thinking. A thinking directly to hand for Heidegger. Left unthought. And, if not unthought, then certainly unsaid right up to the moment of his death. How is it that the memory, Mnemosyne, was not thought? The hand of hands. The hand to which Heidegger extended his hand. The hand that Heidegger, no matter his later gainsaying, showed himself hospitable to? The hand inhospitable to all other hands deemed unworthy of coming into contact with that hand. The hand that remained, of all the hands in history, above—or is it outside? —Heidegger’s thinking. Or is it the hidden hand that gave birth to all Heidegger’s thinking on the hand? Was that the hand that made imperative the thinking of the hand?
It remains only to say, in the hand, there is truth. The hand of death sought no disguise. It put itself clearly on display, inviting a nation to take it in (its) hands. A nation, for the most part, accepted that invitation. That hand, because it was not opened to the other, because it bore its hostility without apology, that hand was there for all to see on the Langer See.
It would take two Black hands, Smith and Carlos, and one White hand, that of Australian Peter Thompson, made militant by US history, to remind us of how inhospitality endured in the world after 1936. Endured into 1968. Endures still. If nothing else, three hands, clenched into fists, made evident, if evidence was needed, the truth that only the hand can bear.
Grant Farred is the author of, most recently, The Zelensky Method (Westphalia Press, 2022), Only A Black Athlete Can Save Us Now, and An Essay For Ezra: Racial Terror in America (both University of Minnesota Press, 2022 and 2021, respectively). His forthcoming books include The Comic Self, co-written with Tim Campbell (University of Minnesota Press) and The Perversity of Gratitude: An Apartheid Education (Temple University Press).