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Sunday, October 3, 2021

An Interview with Martin


Photo: Wikimedia

I had the pleasure visiting Martin's hut, often referred to as “die Hütte", at Todtnauberg, on the edge of the Black Forest, southern Germany. He considered the seclusion provided by the forest to be the best environment in which to engage in his philosophical thought, and here was where he wrote his most famous book Being and Time. 

It is a small ski hut measuring six meters by seven, the low hanging roof covers three rooms: the kitchen which is also the living room, a bedroom and a study. Scattered at wide intervals throughout the narrow base of the valley and on the equally steep slope opposite, lie farmhouses with their large over-hanging roofs. Higher up the slope the meadows and pasture lands lead to the woods with its dark fir-tress, old and towering…This is his work world. 

That day he hiked the way up mountain, then ski back down, he is an avid hiker and an accomplished skier.  I greeted him at the hut front door this short and stout professor with dark piercing eyes, his sun tan face gleaming. We sat at the coffee table, ready to discuss ‘Being and Time’. 

I said:

“According to Plato truth is determined by how it relates to the world and whether it accurately corresponds with that world, true beliefs and true statements correspond to the facts. What is truth according to you?”


Martin, talking slowly and deliberately:

“For Plato, and those that followed, truth meant correctness, a correspondence between knowledge, judgement, and the object.  This view of truth implies that the experience of truth is structured in terms of the relationship between a subject and an object. There is an essential difference between viewing truth as correctness, and truth as unconcealment , Aletheia. Truth as correctness has ignored the experience of truth as an opening that lets unconcealment occur. In unconcealment, truth lies not only in a judgement, but in the human existence itself. To draw real things from concealedness to unconcealedness, Aletheia, requires a certain 'light'. This light is the existence of Being (Dasein) itself, its being-in-the-world. Because of Dasein’s open-stance, which involves engagement to the world as a whole, it is able to unconceal, opening up its world for itself. “


I said:

“You reportedly saw the painting of Van Gogh “A pair of shoes” on an exhibition in Amsterdam  and you were impressed by it. Tell us about your insight on the painting.”

Photo: Wikimedia

Martin, smiling:

“As long as we only imagine a pair of shoes in general, or simply look at the empty, unused shoes as they merely stand there in the picture, we shall never discover what the equipmental being of the equipment in truth is. From Van Gogh’s painting we cannot even tell where these shoes stand. There is nothing surrounding this pair of peasant shoes in or to which they might belong — only an undefined space. There are not even clods of soil from the field or the field-path sticking to them, which would at least hint at their use. A pair of peasant shoes and nothing more. And yet. 

From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes the toilsome tread of the worker stares forth. In the stiffly rugged heaviness of the shoes there is the accumulated tenacity of her slow trudge through the far-spreading and ever-uniform furrows of the field swept by a raw wind. On the leather lie the dampness and richness of the soil. Under the soles slides the loneliness of the field-path as evening falls. In the shoes vibrate the silent call of the earth, its quiet gift of the ripening grain and its unexplained self-refusal in the fallow desolation of the wintry field."


I said:

“Your insight on this painting of rugged old shoes is very interesting, it unconceals both the being of the shoes and the peasant women’s world to us.  The painting lets us know what the shoes are in truth, and   it is not separable from the entities in the world, including the one who unconceals the entities and also oneself, Dasein. According to your book Being and Time this is authentic Dasein, authentic Being-in-the world, Dasein’s understanding about the truth”.



“Unconcealment can occur authentically, without a set of predispositions. Entities are initially manifest but nevertheless concealed in what they most authentically are. Authenticity by contrast, consists in Dasein learning to “uncover the world in its own way … this uncovering of the ‘world’ is … always accomplished as a clearing away of concealments and obscurities, as a breaking up of the disguises with which Dasein bars its own way.”


I said:

“You further described that authentic Dasein means being something of its own, not someone else, the Dasein that does not bow to assertion of the mass, the public, which you call as ‘das Man’, or the ‘they’. The authentic Dasein does not choose to follow tastes, interests, fashions, pop culture that are made as consumer goods. Authentic Dasein is thereby opposed to inauthentic, public Dasein, which is what Dasein is when submitting to the control of a not-oneself, the public, the ‘they’, das Man. Authentic Dasein chooses its own possibilities and acts on them, shutting out the voice of das Man and with it the public understanding of the world.”


“Yes, Dasein is authentically itself only to the extent that, as concernful Being-alongside and solicitous Being-with, it projects itself upon its ownmost potentiality-for-Being rather than upon the possibility of das Man. Becoming authentic requires a process of self-assertion and self-initiated liberation from the temptations of inauthentic understanding. In its normal, everyday way of living in the world, Dasein is under the dominion of inauthentic understanding. Dasein has a tendency to become absorbed in the concerns and possibilities that the world presents to it as valuable. 

Das Man comforts Dasein by hiding the truth from it, an act that Dasein is complicit with. As a result, the particular Dasein in its everydayness is disburdened by das Man. Not only that; by thus disburdening it of its Being, das Man accommodates Dasein if Dasein has any tendency to take things easily and make them easy. And because das Man constantly accommodates the particular Dasein by disburdening it of its Being, das Man retains and enhances its stubborn dominion. Inauthenticity is a “tranquilizing” way of existing.”


I said:

“What do you mean inauthencity is “tranquilizing” way of existing?”



“In utilizing public means of transport and in making use of information services such as the newspaper, every Other is like the next . . . . We take pleasure and enjoy ourselves as they, de Man, take pleasure; we read, see, and judge about literature and art as they see and judge; likewise we shrink back from the ‘great mass’ as they shrink back; we find ‘shocking’ what they find shocking.”


I said:

“In ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ you viewed technology negatively. Technology, despite its contribution to humankind in this modern era, you described it as a major threat to the authentic Dasein.”



“The coming to presence of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the possibility that all revealing will be consumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the unconcealedness of standing-reserve. Human activity can never directly counter this danger. Human achievement alone can never banish it. But human reflection can ponder the fact that all saving power must be of a higher essence than what is endangered, though at the same time kindred to it.”


I said:

“In what way does technology is dangerous to human existence?”



“Our current modern age is the epoch of technology which manifests a specific way of understanding and interpreting the world, machination, just as das Man manifested the public understanding of the world.

 Machination, as technology’s mode of understanding, is a “swaying of being”. Machination expands its sway as coercive force. By securing power, this coercive force develops as the immediately eruptible and always transformable capability for subjugation . .. . To the extent that in the epoch of machination that is empowered to its unbounded coercive force man also grasps himself as animal living-being, the only thing that remains for man himself . . . is the appearance of self-assertion vis a vis beings. 

But ‘the epoch of technology’ is far more than the control or enslaving of man by technology. The dominant understanding of reality in the epoch of technology is largely encompassed by the term ‘calculability,’ meaning that everything that is real is understood in terms of discrete, calculable, orderable units, of what can be produced or used for production. 

Machination fosters in advance the completely surveyable calculability of the subjugating empowering of beings to an accessible arrangement. Machination fosters in advance a particular understanding of beings such that they are accessible because calculable. Access to beings is defined by calculability; to grasp what a being is, one must be able to understand it in a calculable manner. Reality is organized, ordered, something counted and assembled from parts. 

What it is to exist, according to the epoch of technology, is to be calculable; the world is understood as calculable, goals and purposes are understood in terms of calculability and producibility, i.e., as discrete entities consisting of potential forces that can be harnessed for ends.”


I said:

“That being said, if anything, can one do? “



“Wherever man opens his eyes and ears, unlocks his heart, and gives himself over to meditating and striving, shaping and working, entreating and thanking, he finds himself everywhere already brought into the unconcealed.

 Man’s proper stance is to slow down, take a breath, and observe the world around. Man is always in a world full of meanings that come from beyond him, and the most important step to realizing that, by drawing away from the modern rush and allowing the world itself to show itself as it is, without trying to master it.”


I said:

In ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ you said that the nature of art is poetry and the nature of poetry, in turn, is the founding of truth. A work of art has the ability to set up a world. World is a self-opening openness of the broad paths of simple and essential decisions in the destiny of a historical people. Art creates meaning by allowing letting truth arise, by means of which Being becomes comprehensible. The meaning of a work of art cannot be considered separately from the conversation that the work initiates and which the artist anticipates. Can you explain this please.”



“What poetry, as illuminating projection, unfolds of unconcealedness and projects ahead into the design of the figure, is the open which poetry lets happen, and indeed in such a way that only now, in the midst of beings, the open brings beings to shine and ring out.


I like to cite the poem ‘Autumn’ by Friedrich Hölderlin:


Nature’s gleaming is higher revealing,

Where with many joys the day draws to an end,

It is the year that completes itself in resplendence,

Where fruit come together with beaming radiance.


Earth’s orb is thus adorned, and rarely clamours

Sound through the open field, the sun warms

The day of autumn mildly, the fields lie

As a great wide view, the breezes blow


Through boughs and branches, rustling gladly,

When then already to emptiness the fields give way.

The whole meaning of this bright image lives

As an image, golden splendour hovering all about


This poem of Hölderlin is capable of awakening us the ‘astonishing’ and to the wonder of the ‘extraordinary’ in ‘the ordinary’.  We think of the images of the landscape which are resplendent. Yet the landscape is not yet nature itself, ‘being’ (sein) is not ‘Being’ (Dasein) itself. Nature lets shine forth everything that belongs to the landscape. In the look of landscape, which nature grants, the gleaming of nature is higher revealing, that is to say, of divine essence. “




This is an imaginary interview in memory of Martin Heidegger



Derek R. O’Connell- Heidegger’s Authenticity


MJ Geertsema - Heidegger’s onto-poetology: the poetic projection of Being › download

Rome, at Fontana di Trevi


Wherever we go, grandeur monuments are usually located in a spacious popular plaza to enhance the monument’s grandeur presence and importance. We can easily navigate these monuments as the location must have been popular and we can see the place from a distance. But this monument that we are going to visit is different, it is stuck in a narrow square surrounded by buildings, restaurants, shops in the middle of the city. There are many streets leading to this place, they are narrow streets passing through ancient buildings, restaurants, shops. Surrounded by building, while walking we cannot see what is a head of us in a distance. Thus, coming from via del Lavatore, as we turned the corner, the suddenly monument emerged in front of our eyes with its grandeur, with a distinct sound of gushing water. Statues of ancient Greek mythological figures stand out in the fountain, presenting a drama in the green water. The crowd admire the monument from the side of the fountain, and trying to figure out what the display is telling us.

It is Fontana di Trevi, the grand fountain depicting Oceanus, the Sea God, the divine personification of the ocean, standing in a shell chariot to tame the water.  The shell chariot is drawn by winged horses led by Tritons, one Triton struggles with a wild horse whilst the other Triton hold a tamed one. The theme “Taming of the Waters” is presented in grandiose baroque style at the backdrop of Palazzo Poli. Designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi in 1732 and completed by Giuseppe Panini in 1762 after the death of Nicola Salvi, and was decorated by artists from Bernini School.  Its facade and reef were constructed using Travertine, an elegant natural stone formed by hot springs near Tivoli.

In ancient Rome, water was worshipped as divine substance and the availability of huge water supplies was considered a symbol of opulence and therefore an expression of power. The Fontana di Trevi water is supplied by the Aqua Virgo duct, an aqueduct originally completed in 19 BC by Marcus Agrippa.  Aqueducts serve to transport freshwater from water source in highland about 13 kms away through ducts on top of arcades and underground. Gravity alone was utilized to transport enough water for most of the civilization, yet the aqueducts had very small gradients to do so. The design and construction to create aqueducts transporting high volume of water over long distances and varying terrains demonstrates the wealth of the civilization constructing it.  In this context, the theme “Taming of the Waters” portrays in dramatic way the Greek Sea God Oceanus taming the waters, like the way the ancient Roman aqueduct arranged the water and the civilization’s amazing ability to control and manipulate water.

The 11 aqueducts of ancient Rome ensured enough water supply into the city to provide for more than a million inhabitants, but the Aqua Virgo duct terminating at Fontana di Trevi is the only aqueduct still being used in modern times as it mostly ran underground. Today, most of the water is recycled for environmental reasons, but the source is still from the ancient Aqua Virgo duct.

In the crowd we can see some people throw coin into the fountain over his opposite shoulder. This habit  root back thousands of years BC, whereby valuable items were tossed into water sources to keep the water gods happy. In modern times, we still do that with a wish to return to Rome. Around 3,000 Euro is tossed into the fountain every day, the money is collected each night and given to a charity that supports the needy.

Fontana di Trevi is really a dramatic fountain that scathed an wonderful memory of Rome, so when we leave Rome this time saying “Arrivederci Roma”, Goodbye Rome, we wish to hear “Bentornato a Roma”, Welcome back to Rome, the next time…..




Saturday, August 14, 2021

Narita, at the Airport


I must confess that I like Airports, to experience the atmosphere, to observe the architecture, to see people travelling and the unformed air crew walking like on a catwalk, the decorations, the spacious and clean toilets, and not to mentioned good stuffs in the souvenir shops not found in the city. 

So, I like to leave our hotel early, apart from to get enough time to travel in case there are traffic jams  on the way, or in case I board the wrong bus or train, or get on the wrong terminal, I just like to come to the airport early.  Arriving early also give us enough time to check-in, considering that sometimes the queues are very long, to go the faraway tax refund counter, then going through the lengthy security check, and passport check. Depending the country, the security check could be slow and annoying, and so is passport checking. So, allow time for that. 

The travel from downtown Tokyo to Narita is about 60 km, if we take the non-stop express train it will take about one hour depending on our hotel location, the door-to-door journey takes between 90 and 120 minutes. Many train stations in Tokyo are huge, have confusing layouts, the direction signs are not so clear and most of them do not speak English, so it is hard to find your train if you are not familiar with the train station. So learn first the train station though the website, and even better if you come before your travel to familiarize the layout. 

Like other travel writers, I have to frequently fly solo, I generally arrive at the airport more than two hours before my flight. This way I get time to wander around the airport corridors, looking at the fabulous design of luxury brand shops, hearing the crispy announcements, watching various airplanes  landing and taking-off. At the Narita Terminal 1 and 2 observation decks, we will have a perfect view of the planes landing and taking off, and from the corridor windows we can see the parked and taxiing planes. 

The airport is also great for people watching, I think every one like to do that, to look at the excitement on the face most of the travelers, the cool frequent travelers, the worried face of the late travelers, the honeymooners, but there are also sad faces. In Narita most of them are trendy upper middle class people, the older dressed neatly ironed clothes with hats, the younger more hip hop and bright. I also saw a couple of lovers, the woman looked like in the early 30’s wearing very boutique like clothes, shoes, bag and colored hair while the man much younger in the early 20’s wearing red black checkered shirt loosely and baggy pants. They looked so much in love. 

If you missed a meal before travelling to Narita, the Airport has many restaurants decent to good food, a wide variety of Japanese food, tempura, yakiniku, tonkatsu, sushi, ramen, and soba, but also Western, Chinese and vegetarian food. Unlike any other airports, food here is also not much more expensive than in central Tokyo. If you are in a hurry go for the ramen noodles, you fill full enough and have more time to wander. In one of the ramen noodles shop I saw a teenage girl with a teddy bear backpack, eating her ramen thoughtlessly, she seemed to miss someone left behind in Tokyo. 

If you still have time, try the Japanese specialty snacks, dried foods, crackers, tea, jams, and the like. There are many types of rice crackers flavoured with various taste from garlic, miso to seaweed.  There are also chocolate-covered wafers flavoured like matcha tea, wasabi, plum, sake, melon, peach, grape.

But hurry-up grab your snacks, your plane is waiting!



Saturday, July 31, 2021

A train from Tokyo to Narita Airport


As Tokyo is such a big city and Narita Airport is located about 60 km from downtown Tokyo, we have to travel about one hour from Tokyo train station to the Narita Airport. There are many ways to go from Tokyo to Narita Airport, we can choose train, bus or taxi. I choose to travel by express train, it is not the cheapest, but it is most comfortable and the travel duration is certain. If we take bus or taxi, we never know whether there is traffic jam on the road, and we could be stuck for hours on the road. 

With the ticket price of around 3,000 yen one way and 4,000 yen round trip, the Narita Express train offers comfortable seats with spacious leg room, large toilets. Not to mentioned the very clean and quite atmosphere found in most of the trains in Japan. We can only hear the monotone clacking sound of the train railway which is soothing and tranquilizing. 

The train departs every 30 minutes and always on time, so we can rely on the travel plan based on the train schedule. But as the layout of train station in Tokyo is complicated, we must first familiarize with the train station layout to avoid getting on the wrong train or wasting time searching for the right platform. We can search in the internet or survey it ourselves before the departure. 

The journey from Tokyo to Narita Airport will pass urban towns, it is enjoyable to watch the scenes of Tokyo passing by the window, the concrete buildings of the city gradually disappear as the countryside of Chiba appears. The dreamy journey ends as we hear announcement that the train is approaching the airport. 

We need to get ready to disembark if our flight is located in Terminal 2, and pick-up our luggage. The train will only stop for a while as it will continue to Terminal 1. Therefore it is more convenient not to lock-up your baggage at the storage rack, because if you forget the code to unlock it then you have to ride the train till the end terminal, Terminal 1, to get it unlocked by the officer. Not to mention that you have to convince the officer the luggage is yours. It could really mess-up your well planned journey. 

I saw this Japanese lady went pale and breathless as she forgot the code, nervously asking in Japanese how to get it unlocked. Her young daughter also looked helpless. I hope their flight didn’t say ‘sayonara’ to them on take-off.