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.

6 comments:

Jay said...

"How did it come about that beings take precedence everywhere and lay claim to every 'is' while that which is not a being is understood as nothing, though it is being itself, and remains forgotten?"
Heidegger, 'The Way Back into the Ground of Metaphysics'

John That Sees said...

I like the word "isn't." The o is there, but it isn't. We know it is there because of the apostrophe. We know it isn't because it is. Grammatical sex in the emptiness.

qubik said...

Contraction doesn't usually lead to great sex, however.

JBS said...

If by "Are you in a sexual relationship with 'that woman'?" you mean, "Is she under this table right now?", then the answer is "No.".
It all depends on what your definition of 'are' is.
Clintonian Truth.

Romanus Milus said...

Is means "equal to" doesn't it? I mean if you are talking about universal philosophy. The secret to the universe is numbers so I think "is" just means equal. if somthing exists it has a tangent value in math if something does not exist it has 0 tangable value and is therefore equal to the value of nothing.

Romanus Milus said...

Is just means "equal to" doesn't it? I mean if you are talking about universal philosophy, and math is the secret to the universe then is means equal to. If something exists it has a tangable value that can be found through math. If something does not exist then it is zero. Saying somthing is zero means it is equal to an idea which can never be found. Because mathematically zero can never be found because it does not exist in the known universe. But it exists as an idea to show a point of origin relative to another point, but not truly zero.