Friday, August 13, 2010

Two-letter words

President Bill Clinton was mocked some years ago for declaring, "It depends on what the meaning of IS is." To me it is perfectly understandable why one might question the meaning of that two-letter word. Awhile back I adopted the motto, "That which is, is. That which is not, also is." Lest you think that is an impossibility, I want to quickly prove to you that it isn't.

I say there is a unicorn. You say there are no unicorns. I don't know whether that's been definitively proven, but leaving aside for a moment the question of whether you're right about that, notice that in order to say that the unicorn IS NOT, you had to use the word IS. Now we can invoke the Clintonian principle: what does IS mean here, in the negative. It's as if in order to say something is not, we have to first say it is. We bring it into existence, then negate that existence. So there's creation and destruction going on in the same sentence. Shiva the Destroyer is brought into play almost at the moment of creation. That however does not invalidate the fact that you said IS. The unicorn existed before he didn't exist. Which also lets John Kerry off the hook too, I guess (being for something before you are against it!)

Now even in its negated state, the thing you said WASN'T, still IS. How can that be? Because in order to maintain its non-existence, you have to keep reasserting that it isn't there by recreating and redestroying it. Because otherwise it will keep popping up. Look at the unicorn. How many times have we been told they are a complete myth, yet they keep coming back, in dreams, stories, movies...the imagination just won't let them die. Maybe that's because they are real, and keep affecting us through the collective unconscious because they don't want to be ignored. Or maybe they do want to be ignored, for excellent reasons, and so they make themselves very scarce. I don't know. What I do know is that when politicians use two-letter words, or even when they use four-letter words (yes, I'm talking about you, Mr. Cheney), they may very well be not saying as much or more than they are saying.

So remember the next time someone trots out the noble intransitive in the context of assertion of nonbeing, deny the denial! Doubt the doubt! Because there is a sense in which everything is immortal, and saying something ISN'T doesn't make it so, at least not for more than about ten seconds.