I Built a Table but I do not Dwell Where I Live

When I say built a table I mean a flat pack furniture that I assembled following very vague instructions.

Throughout his work Heidegger talks of craftsmanship and closeness to beings. More specifically the fact that techne means knowledge that comes from being in the midst of beings. For Heidegger, it is through standing in the midst of beings that the craftsman is then able to allow other beings to come to presence. The beings the we would say the craftsman imagines and then builds, creating it through forming matter is co-occasioned by the craftsman.

If it is the craftsman that builds and dwells then I am neither.

Having put together a table that had already come into appearance – designed and packaged in parts for ease of delivery and convenience – I am perhaps the furthest thing from the craftsman.

I am not close to the table. I barely think about it. Even while putting it together it was abstract bit goes with abstract bit. I am hardly knowledgeable enough to see the shape of what I am to craft in a piece of wood. I see part A connecting to part B using screw V. All very well labelled so that no craftsman is necessary.

A few years ago, perhaps even 10 years ago now, I spent some time with my parents making a table from railway sleepers. Every time I see it I feel rooted by it. There is something more to it than simply being a table I can ignore. Usually it feels like that is the case because it is unique in an aesthetic sense but surely it has to be because we built it.

However, I’m still not sure it lives up to the craftsmans knowledge in Heidegger’s work. The sleepers we already squared off; much longer than we wanted and rough but we still didn’t need to see any shape in a larger block of wood. Perhaps though the very fact we saw something more in the sleepers is important. There is an element in which we had would be before it was there.

But wouldn’t we say we designed it, we just came up with it. From nothing? We certainly believed so and that is the point.

The point is simple. Just because I’ve built things in two places it does not mean that I am rooted in either nor that I dwell in the midst of beings.

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