Just a day after posting my extended ruminations on philosophy as song and on musical thinking, a student paper put me in touch with these remarks from Heidegger: “Poetizing is like a dream, not reality; a play with words, not the seriousness of action.” [The Essence of Poetry.] Of course if human being is leaping out of the trenches in the decisive moment of storming the enemy and hence living toward death (rather than toward life), then poetry won’t seem to have the seriousness of decisive action. But why see human being that way? I suspect Heidegger was already dumping that view.
I was reminded immediately of Thoreau’s valuing what he calls “dreaming-awake,” something I elaborate as an endorsement of “befitting reverie.” To allow yourself the state of “dreaming awake” lets you hear frogs dreaming and see gods in the forests and meadows of Spaulding’s Farm, and to see a hawk that might have just laid eggs in a crack in the clouds. But why does Heidegger need to deny such a dream state? Perhaps it’s just another way to access another modulation of complex reality. It needn’t be a denial of reality. And as I’ve suggested, although ‘dreaming awake’ or ‘befitting reverie’ may not have the seriousness of heroic action, surely it has its own seriousness (amidst its playfulness) !
Heidegger also says that “Poetizing is completely harmless.” If the Inquisition were holding your ‘befitting reveries’ against you, maybe you’d plea “but it’s harmless!” And perhaps Heidegger has a reason — given the inquisition of his work after WWII — to plead “But poetic philosophy is harmless [it didn’t murder anyone].” But all this aside, isn’t great art and music and poetry much more than ‘harmless’? It can’t be harmless if it’s the place where the soul is raveled and unraveled. With Joyce we acknowledge the ‘smithy of my soul’ forging its contours (I’d think) through ‘befitting reverie’ and through those moments of ‘dreaming awake” that Thoreau so values.