For class this week I read an essay by Martin Heidegger called “Building Dwelling Thinking” and he offers some interesting thoughts on the nature of Dwelling. Dwelling for Heidegger is the essential activity of humanity. But it is about more than making a building (although that is part of it) and more than sleeping. It is about uniting “the fourfold” – earth, sky, humans and the divine. As he explains it “to preserve the fourfold, to save the earth, to receive the sky, to await divinities, to escort mortals – this fourfold preserving is the simple nature, the presencing, of dwelling.” (156)
This sort of existential peace of being-ness seems a heavy weight for a word like dwelling. And it makes me wonder how much time we spend in places without dwelling there. Without caring about the earth, without even noticing the sky. How often are we in a place when we don’t even notice the other people there, not to mention await divinities. This reminds me of a Lauren Winner article about cell phones that Matt posted about recently. Which brings me to this question: does our technology keep us from dwelling? Are we too busy with far-off people, and listening to ipods and watching international hit tv on tivo that we don’t dwell where we are? It seems to me that the climate-controlled, individualized, homogenized, shallow parts of our culture lead us to a danger of forgetting the things that (according to Heidegger at least) make us human. In between instant coffee and the Today Show, do we have time to await divinities? Are we even aware enough of our specific place that we are capable of dwelling there?
Another thing I like about Heidegger’s discussion of dwelling is that it makes me think, again, about the significance of John’s Gospel saying that the Word dwelt among us. And of the psalmist who says he will dwell in the house of the Lord. Perhaps the house of the Lord is the best place for it.