Overheard

There is so little left that hasn’t been said . . .

Ah, but this is most untrue! What do you mean by said? Nothing, but nothing, can be repeated identically. . . .

[T]here is so little that has been said, such huge empty spaces where understandings and communications have never even been started. . . .

The Coffee Sutras
__________

“Does it matter who says it?”

“No, so long as it is said right. The saying has its own existence: people knew this long before they tried to prove it with marks on clay and papyrus leaf and tortoise shell.”

“Yes, assuming it is uttered in full awareness. A true saying is unique and unrepeatable, however the words might choose to repeat themselves.”

“But given such ideal circumstances, again it shouldn’t matter who says something, because anyone can say anything – you never know. In other words, if the autonomy of the saying derives mainly from its originality, that fact takes precedence over the happenstance of its occurrence.”

“But it does matter, because in fact the saying lives only in the moment, indivisible from the vibration of the vocal chord, the exhalation of breath, the movement of hand and torso. This body, this breath. It’s sheer fantasy to locate its originality elsewhere.”

“Both these positions are in error. The saying lives in its situational and linguistic contexts, as one element in a communally created, autopoietic system of signs and signifiers.”

“But that’s a lot of fashionable-sounding nonsense. The empirical world does not and will never conform to theories, which seek nothing less than to overthrow the horizon, that unattainable or unknowable dimension in light of which all original sayings – and thus language itself – take wing.”

“Then at the heart of language we shouldn’t expect to find some ‘deep structure,’ but incommensurability: pure sound. Holy silence.”

“What about the saying? Are the words I say the same as the words you hear?”

“Perhaps we should think of words as analogous to germs – not just the bad ones, but the ones we need to fight those others off, or to digest food. They use us, we use them. They bind us together in many ways both wonderful and terrible. They cannot exist apart from us, and we would do poorly without their help.”

“What about this saying, this conversation?”

“Who cares! I am only interested in you. Whoever you are.”

“Then we must begin to assume responsibility for the words that come out of our mouths. You must care – one slip, one terrible sentence can destroy a relationship. Every true thing we say to each other is formed in light of that knowledge.”

“Then we have yet to exchange a single honest word.”

“We have been licentious. There was never a true assent, only lack of refusal. No?”

“No. I mean, yes. Well, maybe . . . ”

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