Note: in this essay, I have recreated the writing style of Jacques Derrida, the great French post modern philosopher. His main point is that a single description of a person is impossible without recognizing the contrary parts which emerge. For every position you utter, there is a contrary position buried within it.
Nevertheless, Truth Emerges
It is not wise to think history is set in stone, especially when it comes to creating a narrative of yourself. It’s probably better to have several different narratives floating around in your mind.
If you work hard enough, a new and improved one will emerge.
For example, my thoughts about my parents and their relationship to me have evolved considerably. I now believe I was a child who had a natural propensity for talking and arguing. As any parent probably knows, it is easy for parents to love a child, but, at the same time, not necessarily easy to appreciate a child whose disposition is geared to having the last word and testing every rule that is set down.
I’m particularly more appreciative of my stepfather He spanked me only once, after that, he was there for me at every turn. The only rule he placed on me, that stuck, was not talking during meal time. Evidently, I talked a lot at the dinner table. I can’t recall that I did so, but I do remember the rule. I also remember my mother calling me “Last Word Roger”.
When I had children of my own, I wanted a lot of talking during meal time. As they grew up and had families of their own, and would come over for dinner, they were full of opinions. Their spouses listened, their children listened, and they opined. Did I like that? I looked forward to it, but once we were in it, I don’t know how much I liked it. Their opinions were so different from one another, and from mine. In fact my wife’s opinions were different from mine too.
Something inside of me says this is healthy, it is authentic. But, it leads to a departure from the cultural and religious norms we all grew up with. That’s the price that we have paid for being so open. And just think, It all goes back to the dinner table when the rule was that I couldn’t talk, argue, or discuss what was on my mind. What if my parents would have engaged me verbally at the dinner table, would I have developed differently? Would I have raised my children differently?
My opinion? No.
I’m not even sure how old I was when the the rule was imposed, and how long it was enforced. And my suspicion at the time was that there was fun involved in imposing the rule. One time my sister said, ” Roger is going to say something.” I protested. ” She doesn’t know what I’m thinking.” All around the table responded, ” no talking, Roger.” Laughter broke out, even from me.
Isn’t it interesting that I would remember the rule, but not the events leading up to the rule being imposed, and not being upset that there was such a rule? Maybe now I can understand why there may have been the rule, because I now accept the fact that I like aggressive dialog at dinner settings, especially when I’m the aggressor. But, my children have become more aggressive than I am now. My wife too.
So, I find myself relegated to the role of facilitator. Even when we’re out with friends, I have become more of a facilitator. I have found a niche in facilitating. When I was 37 years old,I left the teaching profession to become a management consultant. As an educator, I was always talking and giving my opinion, but as a consultant, I found that I was more successful financially when I listened more and talked less. I even won an award in business for having become a listener in the midst of “talkers”.
Kids who went to junior high and high school with me would be shocked to know I had become recognized for my ability to listen. For example, I was a distraction when I was in seventh grade. That year I had twenty something office referrals for talking and cutting up in class. I imagine that was fairly close to the time my father imposed the no talk rule at the dinner table.
Yes, the evidence points to the fact that I was a talker, who was annoying, but strangely enough, liked by people who at times said, “Whatever you do, don’t lose your big mouth.” I’ve retained that quality to this day. There are times when I can say and ask questions that can get under people’s skin. I know this now, but for many years I wasn’t aware that my style of conversing agitate others. I know this now, and for this reason I can understand why I was banned from speaking at the dinner table by my father. There are times when my children come over with their children when I want to impose a no talk rule on them. But I stop short of this, and have become more of a facilitator than a dictator. Now, I’m trying to involve the children’s spouses and my grandchildren in the conversation.
Now you can see why I say that you have to have several narratives about yourself floating around. Relating a single event in your life doesn’t get at who you are. To say I am a talker, and leave it at that, is incomplete, because I am also a listener and facilitator. But that’s inadequate without mentioning I have created an atmosphere of aggressive discussion around the dinner table with my children. But that’s inadequate without mentioning that I try to facilitate conversation among my children’s spouses and my grandchildren.
As you can see, you can’t give a general description of a person and conclude you understand that person. There’s always another side to that person, most likely, as Derrida says, a contradictory side.
And with that, you have a taste of Jacques Derrida. He was a philosopher who taught us strip away easy explanations and dive deeper in order to understand ourselves better, even if, in the process, It sounds like you’re talking gibberish.