Where Humor Goes to Die: “That’s” “Not” “Funny”
Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth (to make truth laugh), because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from the insane passion for the truth.
The art of living has no history. It does not evolve; the pleasure which vanishes, vanishes for good — there is no substitute for it. Other pleasures come, which replace nothing. No progress in pleasures; nothing but mutations.
I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman, who knows that he cannot say to her ‘I love you madly’, because he knows that she knows — and that she knows he knows — that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still, there is a solution; he can say ‘As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly’. At this point, having avoided false innocence, having said clearly ‘It is no longer possible to talk innocently’, he will nevertheless say what he wanted to say to the woman: that he loves her in an age of lost innocence.
When you inherit a language, it does not mean you are totally in it or or you are passively programmed by it. To inherit means to be able to appropriate this language, to transform it, to select something. Heritage is not something you are given as a whole. It is something that calls for interpretations, selections, reactions, response and responsibility.
To read is to struggle to name, to subject the sentences of a text to semantic transformation. This transformation is erratic; it consists in hesitating among several names. If we are told that Sarrasine had ‘one of those strong wills that know know no obstacle’, what are we to read? Will, energy, obstinacy, stubbornness, etc.?
The order that our mind imagines is like a net, or a ladder: built to attain something. But afterward you must throw the ladder away, because you discover that even if it was useful, it was meaningless.
Everywhere one seeks to produce meaning, to make the world signify, to render it visible. We are not, however, in danger of lacking meaning; quite the contrary — we are gorged with meaning, and it is killing us.
The only attitude, the only politics (judicial, medical, pedagogical, and so forth) I would absolutely condemn is one which, directly or indirectly, cuts off the possibility of an essentially interminable questioning — that is, an effective, and thus transforming, questioning.
To hide a passion totally — or even to hide, more simply, its excess — is inconceivable; not because the human subject is too weak, but because passion is, in essence, made to be seen. The hiding must be seen. I want you to know that I am hiding something from you: that is the active paradox I must resolve. At one and the same time, it must be known and not known: I want you to know that I don’t want to show my feelings.
If culture did not filter, it would be inane — as inane as the formless, boundless internet is on its own. And if we all possessed the boundless knowledge of the web, we would be idiots. Culture is an instrument for making a hierarchical system of intellectual labor.