My friend’s experience was in a more impressive setting than the two experiences I remembered from years ago. The first occurred when I was just a kid. One of my chores was watering the lawn. I had just finished running water in the shrubs and bent down to turn off the outdoor faucet. Don’t know why I lingered for a moment, crouching down, looking at the tap but, as I did, a last drop of water slowly formed on the bottom edge.
I looked at that drop of water in a way I had never looked at anything before. Saw it—how to describe it?—in its full presence, its suchness, its integrity as an independent existent in the community of being. When I later read in Buber about seeing Nature as a Thou, this experience came to mind. It was not as if the drop of water had a mind or soul or was looking back at me or anything like that. But I no longer saw it as merely an it, merely an item in the inventory of the universe. I saw the drop of water as, in a sense, a member of what Immanuel Kant calls the Kingdom of Ends—the community of all beings who should be respected as ends-in-themselves, not just means for the use of others. This is, of course, language I now use. I don’t know how I would have described the experience at the time. I was just a kid, after all, and the experience did not seem worth telling.
2 thoughts on ““A drop of water.””
Renata February 27, 2013
What a beautiful story! I am glad you are sharing it with us today. Heidegger elaborated on the difference between ‘das Gestell’ and ‘das Geviert’. The former indicating the way we “normally” experience everything as an object. Every thing is then turned into something we can manipulate to our own advantage. The object seems to have no worth outside our use for it. ‘Geviert’ points to the fact that in each and every thing heaven and earth, the living and de dead come together. A kind of mystical unity, I’d say, althought Heidegger would never have used that phrase!
Jerry L Martin March 4, 2013
Renata, thank you for those reflections. Most of the time we look at things (and persons too) in terms of their possible uses. But it is also possible to see things and people in their own terms. One encounters them much more as they are in themselves, in their own actual being. In his later work, Heidegger adds an emphasis on the unity of things so encountered, which, as you say, veers toward the mystical. My own experience was most strikingly one of particularity, of each item in its own integrity, its suchness.