Perhaps my enjoyment of Derrida (a whole three books!) relates back to an event in my life when I left the Church of God I was brought up in, throughout my adolescence. I was a willing emale of Christ, a good Christian, baptised into the Church at thirteen years of age. I partook of the weekly communion, the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine that symbolises the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. I read C.S. Lewis and I intensively studied the Bible.
But at the age of sixteen, I came down with the chickenpox. Anyone who’s ever had the chickenpox will know it comes and grows, reaching a peak of itchy sores all over the body. My case was nearly as bad as my father’s (it’s worse for adults then for children so if you’re going to get it, the younger the better). The chickenpox peaked on Christmas day. I was left home alone, contagious and itchy, while the rest of the family went to Christmas dinner. That day was the beginning of my decline in my faith in God as I knew Him.
I go to all the trouble of telling the story to illustrate my present, limited capacity for understanding the Church or the “System,” and the task of deconstruction in Derrida’s writings. I cultivated a passion for reading and writing, for understanding in my Bible studies. For all that, I did not make a conscious, rationale decision to leave the Church. My story is not a proud one; a stupid adolescent who gives up his faith because he had the chickenpox, is hardly going to win much sympathy from either side of the faith.
Undoubtedly, tied to the chickenpox being seen as a sign of God’s ‘abandoning’ me, was a whole passional complex of adolescent and hormonal urges, wanting to break free from the ascetic doctrine forbidding pre-marital sex and masturbation. Regardless of the stupidity of thought governing my decision (and everyone has a fundamental right to stupidity), by age seventeen I was dissatisfied with the interpretation of the Word indoctrinated by the Church – if God gave us minds to think, why wouldn’t we be free to interpret His Word?
That to me, is what deconstruction means, what Derrida means by the (hidden) move in privileging speech over writing, reason over passion, in the metaphysics of philosophy, and its inherent onto-theological tradition that goes all the way back to Socrates and Plato (Heraclitus and the pre-Socratics are another story). Not that you can stand wholly outside this tradition anymore than one can become the unholy Anti-Christ. No-one can be said to know a subject if one cannot speak about it.
Even Abraham had to say something to his son when Isaac asked, “Dad, where’s the sacrifice?” Of course, Kierkegaard gave himself up to language, anon, as Johannes de Silentio (“John of Silence” – John is the unnamed disciple of whom Jesus said, he will not die). And throughout Fear and Trembling it becomes obvious why Kierkegaard chooses this particular pseudonym as he protests against the “speakers” who preach about Abraham, father of faith, and the “lecturers” of the System. You cannot easily escape dialectics – man is the animal with opposable thumbs (and some people would therefore argue chimpanzees should be given human rights… but I leave that up to Peter Singer to work out).
I thunk therefore I am eckoing language is a virus (as Burroughs put it), or literature is a question without answer (as Muli Koppel posted it): the incommensurability of man’s interiority (what could otherwise be referred to (in a vulgar fashion) as the ‘soul’) to the Wor(l)d.
As-lan, save me!
As Derridian as I am emale, speech seen in the history of a long errar of hyper-Christianity– Jesus is gonna be here soon! – Language is not just one problem among many.