Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Jacques Derrida Meets St. Benedict, Embraces Vow of Stability

St. Benedict (source), right.

Jacques Derrida, the seminal postmodern philosopher of the 20th century, has reportedly met with St. Benedict of Nursia in the great beyond.

In a remarkable effort to make certain that no thought of his will ever go unrecorded again--even in death--a manuscript was found in the philosophy section of the library of St. Antony's Monastery in southern France. The text is titled On Death, For Real This Time: If I Can Be Stable, Anyone Can, and signed "J. Derrida."

The short book is generally impossible to understand, in keeping with his earthly literature. There are intriguing sections, however, especially when Derrida engages St. Benedict in conversation (which he reveals as "a deliberate ironic conceit to critique the neo-Socratic method as practiced in spiritual direction in Algerian anchorholds"):

JD: So, Benedict, how does one deconstruct the beatific vision? Wouldn't you say each individual has his or her own beatific vision?
Benedict: Why would you want to to deconstruct what is essentially true?
JD: True for you, you mean. We were created to be actors in a world of many options for truth.
Benedict: My son... let me teach you about the beauty of the vow of stability. Listen carefully, my son, to the master's instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart....

By the end of the text, Derrida is waxing poetic (in his own way) about the traditional Benedictine vow of stability:

JD: My whole life on earth, I looked at the world and my relationships as the shattered vase of John Keats' "Ode to a Grecian Urn," shards of beauty that were moving in their multiple possibilities for difference and arrangement. I was intoxicated by making meaning of piecemeality and brokenness. You, Benedict, have taught me to sit still and embrace the beauty of living and seeing in one place. "Be still and know that I am God." The possibilities for making meaning are there, but I can do no better than to receive what is perfectly given! And to receive, I must be still and not go out trying to "buy" my truth. In stability, truth comes to us all....

The Derrida Society, although disturbed by the content of the text, rejoices in the opportunity to hold another academic conference on this new angle in Derrida studies.

--I.C. (Happy Feast of St. Benedict)

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