Dear Heidegger (h2so4 3)

Dear Martin Heidegger:

What came first, the chicken or the egg? At a recent weekend retreat, I came to the solid conclusion that a chicken always comes from an egg, but an egg may come from an animal other than a chicken, so, therefore, it must be the egg that comes first. An egg could be laid by, say, an alligator, and hatch a chicken due to some process of genetic mutation, but that which is born an alligator is not just gonna wake up one day a chicken. This theory, of course, assumes that no act of god may intervene to place a full-grown chicken on earth. Still, some of my compatriots beg to differ. What came first? Please solve this age-old conundrum for us.

-- Concerned Citizen
Guerneville, CA

Dear Concerned:

This seemingly obvious question confounds one upon reflection. Keep in mind that we reach those things with which we are originarily familiar only if we do not shun passing through things strange to us, and bear with me. Origin always comes to meet us from the future: It is our background in certain ways of thinking and specific academic disciplines that enables us to enter onto paths of thinking that we happen on later in life. Thus the two, origin and future, call to each other and reflection makes its home within that calling. Without my firm grounding in religion and philosophy, I could never have entered upon the path of Chicken Thinking.

A chicken is a living, "present," being, and in the egg one can sense the presence of the future chicken. Thus our problem is twofold: chickens exist, eggs exist, we know not which came first; and, chickens exist at the same time as eggs, and in each we can sense the presence of the other. None of this can be explained in terms of presence, nor in terms of present beings, nor in terms of the relation of the two, because it is only the twofold itself which unfolds the clarity, that is, the clearing in which present beings as such, and presence, can be discerned by man, who by nature stands in relation to, that is, is being used by, the twofold. We may not discuss any "relation of the twofold," because the twofold is not an object of mental representation, but is the sway of usage, which we never experience directly as long as we think of it as the difference which becomes apparent in a comparison that tries to contrast present beings and their presence.

Chickens may have their own methods of inquiry due to their originary familiarity with Chickenness. But we cannot communicate with them. Our thinking today is charged with the task to think what Chickens have thought in an even more Chickeny manner, by which I mean that if to be present itself is thought of as appearance, then there prevails in being present the emergence into openness in the sense of unconcealedness. This unconcealedness comes about in unconcealment as a clearing; but this clearing itself, as occurrence, remains unthought in every respect. To enter into thinking this unthought occurrence means: to pursue more originally what Chickens have thought, to see it in the source of its reality. To see it so is in its own way Chickeny, and yet in respect of what it sees is no longer, is never again, Of Chickens. It seems to me that no answer to this question is incumbent on us. Nor would an answer help us, because what matters is to see appearance as the reality of presence in its essential origin.

What before all else has been entrusted to our nature becomes known to us only at the last -- in this is veiled all that is worthy of thought as such and as a whole. It has been said that I pay no heed to the the current ideas of my fellows -- this is not true. Nor should you castigate your fellows for their seemingly naive ideas about the origin of Chickenness -- every thinking step only serves the effort to help man in his thinking to find the path of his essential being. Hence the reason for my reflections on poultry, though the prospect of the thinking that labors to answer the nature of Chickens is still veiled.

Sincerely,

M.H.

[scribed by Jill Stauffer, ©1995]