We watched the documentary Derrida, about the French philosopher and founder of deconstructionism, last night. I don’t recommend it. It was dull. It reminded me, however, that I used to be smart. I remember getting very excited discussing “différence” in a lit crit theory class, even though in the end I did agree with our professor that Derrida was something of a sophist. I felt like I could be incredibly happy just always doing that kind of thing – discussing abstractions, losing an hour or two or three over a work of theory or historiography.
Last night I had an inkling of that feeling, but only really had the energy to declare certain statements made by Derrida “bullshit.” Very astute of me. My mind, though, right now feels too tired to do much more than simply formulate impressions, which I could possibly take further but can’t seem to summon the energy to do.
The filmmaker included in the film a man saying something along the lines of, “Americans always act as if they’re on camera” as the entourage and Derrida crossed a busy Paris street. Honestly I cannot stand a statement that begins, “Americans always” and I’m not sure there could be any situation more annoying than an American saying it in Paris. Not that it was Derrida’s fault that someone said that to him or that the filmmaker included it. Nor am I a great patriot. I should have a lot more to say about that, though, about sweeping generalisms that people say because they think it sounds insightful and smart, especially in the context of insulting others or Americans (read: Starbuck’s cups), but right now I can only express it as, “Oh gad, say something new or shut up already!” Right now I feel intensely annoyed and pissed off at any statement that assumes the speaker/writer has any sort of grasp on wisdom about the world, or especially, other people’s behavior. Even as I’m doing it myself right now.
I feel like everything is cluttered. I just want to sweep it all away. And banal, empty statements and judgments are the worst of it.
Derrida had the most beautiful office, in a sun room. But it was cluttered, full of papers and books. Some years ago I would have thought that romantic, and fantasized about the day I could have a giant desk in my own office full of stuff.
But now, when I think about my ideal office, and I do that often for some reason, I have an entirely different view. I will take the sun room idea, and especially love it on stormy days. I would furnish it with only a big white table, two or three monitors, keyboard, and a computer. Two shelves, one with Natan’s box, a picture of my nieces and nephew, and the poster of my childhood dogs, Sam and Petunia. On the other shelf I’d put my globes, and make room for just a couple of books – only those that were relevant to what I was doing right at the moment. I’ve ceased to feel like I need to own a lot of books, because I’m sick of moving them around, and I will always have access to most of what I could possibly need or want through a library, and more of them, as well as journals, are online anyway. Add two comfortable chairs, one for me at the computer and the other for cats or visitors, and that’s it. If I can have a sun room, I can probably also have a basement and there’d be filing cabinets in it, for all the papers which would otherwise be on the floor.