For the past several months I have been enjoying a new soporific to lull me to sleep on nights I have trouble shutting my brain off. In the wee hours, I curl into a little ball in between my flannel sheets and open my laptop. Go to Netflix. Cue up another documentary. Click. Zzzzzzz….
Except some nights I find something too interesting to fall asleep to.
So it was when I watched the documentary on Jacques Derrida one night last week.
Deconstruction contends that in any text, there are inevitably points of equivocation and ‘undecidability’ that betray any stable meaning that an author might seek to impose upon his or her text. The process of writing always reveals that which has been suppressed, covers over that which has been disclosed, and more generally breaches the very oppositions that are thought to sustain it. This is why Derrida’s ‘philosophy’ is so textually based and it is also why his key terms are always changing, because depending upon who or what he is seeking to deconstruct, that point of equivocation will always be located in a different place.
The father of deconstruction. I have a new crush. He speaks in circles and I swoon. It’s like watching Monty Python when the little ceramic animals in the forest explode to the sound of soothing classical music. My brain goes flip and I laugh and laugh.
But more importantly… or perhaps less importantly… what I get from the above quote is an insight into the problem with text.
It’s hard enough to understand what goes on in our own heads much of the time. Harder still to speak to someone else and have them really understand our point of view on something. Nigh on impossible sometimes to write to someone and have them understand.
The internets are the worst for this. Perhaps because of the immediacy of the technology. So many times I have seen mere words punch big red buttons of badness on people and then wheee… off to crazy land they go. Or angry land. Or jump to conclusions land. Or crying land. Or stewing silently land. I would not be surprised to discover that email has started wars somewhere in the world. It would explain the machetes.
Derrida takes this apart. The trouble with words. How using them to communicate automatically begins to restrict ones ability to truly share with another meaning. Words themselves change thought. Shape meaning in our own selves. Limit our perceptions. Limit our experiences.
However, it is also my experience that words can take me deeper into a feeling, a problem, an issue, a memory. I arrive at new insights in the midst of creating words, sentences, paragraphs. The more precise I can bring myself to be with words causes even more amazing insights.
I don’t think Derrida is saying we shouldn’t speak. Or write. Only that we can be aware of how the language we use creates context. Shapes culture.
I am lately considering slowing down and paying more attention. To my words. And to others.