Friday, February 10, 2006

Chapter Five (part 5)

(continuing the "all nighter" conversation between Cassie and her lovers P. and S.)

"But when I say 'dog,' I mean a real dog," S. interrupted. "And Humpty Dumpty says in a scornful tone in Through the Looking Glass 'When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.' What of that?" I told you S. and I connected on many levels. Hearing him bring up the same example I'd thought of made me shiver.

"We have a collective understanding of what words mean, but you don't mean any particular dog. We agree on what certain words signify, but then fall down right away with terms like 'make love' that can mean something besides fucking. In the 19th Century, it meant 'court' or 'flirt.' Nietzsche, and after him Heidegger, tried to break the iron chains linking our words to real objects. Heidegger especially wanted to get back to a cleaner, more basic philosophy by going back to the beginning of philosophy with the pre-Socratics and Heraclitus."

"Heraclitus? He's the dude who tells us we can't step twice into the same river, cor-rect?" S. cracked me up using slang like "dude" with his clipped Teutonic accent.

"Cor-rect!" P. smiled. "Heidegger liked Heraclitus precisely because he's obscure. With such dark and suggestive shit to work with, Heidegger can make him say whatever he wants."

"Sounds like ventriloquism for the over-educated," I whispered loud enough for P. to hear.

"You're correct, too, Cassie. Heraclitus has become a sort of ventriloquist's dummy." He nodded at me, and we exchanged a look that can only be shared by people who've shared the most intimate and profound of loves.

"Yes, well Heidegger had a habit of saying things he'd later regret," S. interjected with sudden bitterness in his voice. "How inconvenient letters signed 'Heil Hitler" survived the war. Nazi collaborators are not too popular among my generation."

S. lying in my lap might sound sexy, yet it was really more like putting an arm around a friend. P. puts his head in my lap when we watch TV— that's something altogether different. Besides, the three of us weren't thinking about things sexual then, at least I wasn't, we were lost in the life of the mind where the body falls away and only the intellect remains, at least for a brief time.

"With Deconstruction," P. continued in stride, "we use tools already within a text to subvert its assertions."

"Subvert?" S. parried, "I like subverting things, especially morality."

"Be careful, Stefan, of the contradictions undermining what we say. Insisting you want to subvert morality is more troubling and ambiguous than you might imagine."

"Sounds ominous to me," I almost shuddered. "Yet so many things we'd been warned about by our parents turned out to be less than fatal: marijuana, sex, dirty books. Just what IS bad for us, and how can we know?"

(to be continued)