Friday, December 06, 2013

About words and games

Words are some sort of money and that’s why Derrida wrote about counterfeit money. When you talk to me do you have enough credit in the bank of language to be taken seriously? We never know but we don’t ask people who talk to us for their driver license in order to protect ourselves from a fraudulent word. 

She wrote to me and I did not understand or preferred not to understand what she was saying. This is what she said:

“When I am talking to you and you are listening to me I sometimes have the impression that we are both the unreal characters of a story told longtime ago by someone else. Are we fake? Do we really exist? Did you invent me because you needed me? Am I inventing you because I need you?”

Having read Wittgenstein a bit, I know that the meaning of words comes from the way people use them. No need to make things more difficult than they are. But what was she trying to say exactly or, in other words, what did she want me, when she wrote what she wrote, to understand about her, about myself, about life, about everything? I asked her.

She sent me a detailed, clinical, bright and funny explanation about the meaning of each one of the words she had used: when, I, talk, you, listen, etc. And she did not say anything else, she left it to me to take all decisions regarding the interpretation of all the words as they had been put together by her.

Well, she complained too: Why are you forcing me to explain? You should know that to explain makes us indulge in vulgarity.

I felt bad as a student who failed in an exam and wrote back to her immediately in order to avoid further suffering. I said thank you and apologized for the inconvenience and for having been vulgar.

Later on though I could not escape getting back to her text and I tried to understand better her refusal of satisfying my curiosity. I recognize that she was right in some way: any explanation of words is a way of limiting their sense and it’s a personal decision. It therefore makes us accountable. Do we want to assume that responsibility? Well, the fact is that, right and wrongly, we are assuming that responsibility all the time in our everyday life. Why, then, did she refuse to give me a personal interpretation of her probable intentions when she wrote what she wrote? Mystery? Maybe not.

For a while I felt that I was furious. I didn’t know that we would play that language game of hers. Innocently, naively, spontaneously, I have started to play another language game, my own language game. Innocently, naively? Hmmm. It’s open to discussion.

Good, but she has the right to refuse to play my language game and she is free to live her life and use language as she needs and wants. It’s her decision.

Because I liked her, I stopped being furious. I should be furious with myself and unhappy with my behavior, not with her. Why did I believe that she would accept to abide by my rules? Why the hell did I believe that words and phrases are so superficially and easily traded and understood? She is much clever, much smarter than I had imagined, she is a genius. Indeed. It was a good conclusion. Shame on me. I failed to see it.

These thoughts kept me uncomfortably busy for some hours. I forgot to eat and I could not sleep. I know why. She is living in a big house with many spacious rooms, she looks at me from the window but she refuses to give me the key that would allow me to join her. When I asked she said: there is no door and in consequence there is no key; if you really want to join me you have to find another way of getting here; use your brain.

I was tired and my brain didn’t show interest in cooperating with me.

Two weeks ago I had no particular problem to solve, I was in some way happy. All the difficulties in my life had been identified longtime ago and there was no need of immediate action of any kind. That was before I met her.

I sighed in perplexity. I had no solution for the problem. Should I panic? I heard me say: no, don’t be stupid; just stop thinking, words are just words and games are just games. Relax, everything will be OK soon.

I went to bed. I wanted to sleep.

J. E. Soice

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