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Volume 9, Issue 5: Similitudes

Stream of Consciousness

Douglas Wilson

Gertrude Stein or James Joyce or somebody developed the technique of just sitting down and letting the words come as they may. This is not a literary vehicle sought out by many of us in the reformational and logocentric stream, but since we have at least two kinds of streams here, we may perhaps engage in a little methodological ecumenism.

Don't you hate it when editors tell you you have to move words around to avoid confusion? The spellcheck is little better. Duplicate word: you. Stands in the stream of things and tries to interrupt the flow. This is not to argue with the importance of rules and discipline; we must always embrace the good rules and avoid the bad ones. Thus the balance is achieved. Without balance the world is nothing but a barrel without hoops.
When the decons, and by this I mean literary critics and not servants of the church, [return now to initial nominative] tell us the meaning of a text is actually found in the meanings placed upon it by the multitudinous readers of it, with as many meanings as readers, they are really doing nothing more than extending the franchise. Long before the modern deconstructionist stuff, we had already bought and paid for all the variegated self-portraits of the artists as young men, capes in the breeze behind them, and their little berets set at a jaunty angle. This was not done in Des Moines as often as Paris, but it was done, and it was done a lot. So we all applauded art qua art, and self-expression sidled into the spotlight, cleared her throat, and set herself to sing.
This stream-like mode of writing (and boy, what a lot of self-discipline it takes, too!) was simply, considered in its historical milieu, one little step toward the point where we realized that when the lights dimmed, this was a cue for the audience to start singing, and not the same song either. Why should art be self-expression for just the artist? Why could we all not garner, and never mind where this sentence was going. Wouldn't have worked.
When Burger King does it "your way" they are actually showing themselves to be in the vanguard of this new radical individualism, or else they are slavishly following the old aristocratic order, in which one human being presumes to tell another one what to do. Either way.
Rabid dogmatics surround us. Indicative statements constantly barge their way into our consciousness. Three out of four doctors prefer Bayer. Oh? What is the fourth one thinking? Was he at the top of his class or the bottom? And why is this authoritative voice-over telling me the facts about three out of four doctors? What are the facts, and who says?
I am looking forward to the next State of the Union message. The president will solemnly repeat his pledge to build a bridge to the twenty-first century, as though there were alternative centuries to build a bridge to, and he will add the radical proposal that we all join hands, and set a course for tomorrow. Was yesterday an option? He will certainly present his regrets concerning the absence of the first lady, who is currently on the lam in New Mexico. But do you see? We only think this a problem because we have been imprisoned and hemmed in by our words.
Far from capitulating to the spirit of postmodernism, I have embraced it. No, wait. No letters, please. Far from capitulating to the spirit of postmodernism, I have defied it. This stream is still making some sense, despite the best efforts of the writer. I have entered into the mindset of modernity, have walked a mile in its moccasins, have stood shoulder to shoulder with the giants of the age, and the subject still precedes the verb. Hey. Reality teaches.
The attorney general of Mississippi thinks he's the butterfly's boots because he sued the big tobacco companies and brought them to the table. But know that the end is not yet in sight. We will not have seen real heart-searching until the U.S. government issues an official apology for the zillions of dollars paid out in tobacco subsidies, and pays reparations to the U.S. taxpayer, among whom I consider myself numbered, and makes it legal for us to use the money to fly to Havana and buy those cigars that don't leave your mouth feeling like an ashtray.
The point? See, that's the point! The human brain is structured to come to a point, and some people have the bonus of owning heads to match. Be that as it may, coming to the point is as American as a red-checked tablecloth, a Winchester over the fireplace, and apple pie, a sturdy and nourishing food, not at all like that meringue kind, with the calf-slobber on top. The point? Ah, there it is. "For only Og King of Bashan remained of the remnant of the giants; behold his bedsted was a bedsted of yron" (Dt. 3:11, AV, 1611). Apple pie is the food of kings.
Look. You keep circling the drain of your Aristotelian categories. You, in the grip of your A cannot equal not A (not that anyone wanted it to), insist on asking why you have read this far. You insist on a point, and if you don't get an edifying one, and that right pronto, you will report us all to presbytery. But because the chances are good that I have been making more sense than they do, your hopes are dashed unless I relent and float the point. Because I live in the world God made, I will gladly do so.
Call it quits.

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