Martin Heidegger is one of the world’s most famous and important philosophers. Born in Germany in 1889, he grew to worldwide fame with the publication of his great work Being and Time in 1927. Central to Heidegger’s thought is his desire to wake us up to the idea that we are surrounded by death. He didn’t use that word though, he preferred the grander term: The Nothing. In German – Das Nichts. This is inexistence: the opposite of life. We live surrounded by it but deny its scary presence through elaborate means, by hiding from the truth that we are so close to death all the time. Heidegger called life, Being – “Das Sein” Existence or Being is finite, fragile and very temporary… But we rarely appreciate how temporary existence is. Much of Heidegger’s philosophy is devoted to trying to wake us up to the fragility of our lives and the strangeness of existing on this delicate, exhaustible planet spinning in an otherwise seemingly silent, alien and entirely uninhabited universe. At certain moments of insight, and Heidegger wants us to have lots of these, we may think: I am so small, so temporary, I am a nothing in a cosmos of lifeless otherness. It’s at moments like this that we feel what Heidegger called The Mystery of Existence. It can be beautiful. It can be intense. Most of all, it can be terrifying. We live wisely and philosophically by always acknowledging our precariousness against The Nothing. It isn’t just us who are so temporary. It is all living beings, all living things – the animals, the trees, the clouds… They too exist briefly against the background of Nothingness. Once we are aware that we and all other living things share this fragile state, we might learn to identify more with them: to recognise our kinship with all living things and with the earth itself. They are like us, briefly alive against the backdrop of nothingness. The feeling of the unity of all things might come to you when, for example, you see how much connects us with: the quail the shrimp the snail the lamb the pig the dinosaur Normally we separate ourselves from these others but Heidegger urges us to see the interconnections. However, Heidegger is very aware of the way in which we hide from a confrontation with Being escaping into the warm folds of daily life, of society and of what he termed its endless ‘chatter’, “Das Gerede”. We can imagine Das Gerede as an enormous pancake like dough layer that smothers connection with Being. Chatter is everywhere, it comes in via the airwaves, the media, our social circle and it seeks to reassure us that trivia actually matters, that our jobs count, that what we are doing and thinking has importance. It hides us from the nature of Being in a world of death. So the task of philosophy is to remove us from the doughy comfort of Chatter and introduce us systematically to the bracing concept of Nothingness. Heidegger wants to free us from the pull of chatter – so as to focus on the intensity of existence. Someone who lives with an awareness of death, Heidegger calls ‘authentic.’ This, for example, is an authentic shrimp. “Eigentlichkeit”. This is an inauthentic one – “Uneigentlichkeit” This is an authentic jelly baby. This is an inauthentic jelly baby. We know in our hearts that the only way we can truly appreciate ‘das Sein’ is to become more conscious of ‘das Nichts’ day-to-day, and that we owe it to ourselves to escape the clutches of ‘das Gerede’ for the sake of ‘Eigentlichkeit’. When asked in a lecture in 1961 how we might recover our authenticity, Heidegger replied tersely that we should simply aim to spend more time ‘in graveyards’.