Greetings, speakers of English—a Germanic tongue, well-traveled it would seem;
I am, er, was Friedrich Hegel—yes, yes, I know, that whole business with Karl, very poor marks (beat)—not unlike now, he suffered like that Chinese thinker who was unsure if he was a man or a butterfly and all because of a dream;
Never met Marx, although he must’ve thought I haunted him, but this it is untrue:
he completely misunderstood my dialectic, like denying the very sky it’s hue.
If only he’d have gotten to know himself, much less to know my work…
let’s just say it might’ve kept you from all that duck and cover nonsense, not to mention wasting quite a lot of gelt—for such a jerk.
But I digress; what of you, all of you, and your fellow man: have you taken the time to truly know yourselves–
pursuing this knowledge as if from a favored tome upon your shelves?
I’ll give it to you straight, as you say with your idiom; I’ll even use terms I never did, here goes—let’s call it Dialectical I.D.:
He flips through a series of index cards, discarding many.
Blah, blah, blah, yada, yada……….ach, this Will help peer into things, shake them up, as you say, this ‘thing’ we blithely call our ‘self’–whatever it may be.
You, ladies and gentlemen of the post-modern audience, are invited to a single—indeed, singularly—special day in the history of Junes for the possibility to ‘A Wake, Ken’–
So you know, that last pun is taken from another’s pen.
Yes, this incessant punning: ‘wake’, the peculiar death celebration, borrowed from the Hebrews, no less,
Joyce, the Celt, does this openly confess;
and ‘ken’, knowledge; this ‘a-wake-ken-ing’, as it were, stars James Joyce him…er…self,
His Leprechaun’s nature much as Celtic as that storied elf.
For companions, Franz Kafka, insurance lawyer, habitue of sanitorial sightings,
and one Aron Schmitz, a.k.a., Italo Svevo, a misbegotten sort, based on his confessional writings.
The place: Caffee degli Specchi, Trieste, straddling the demise of Austro-Hungary,
as seen through the recollecting cyclical meandering mind of Mr. Joyce as he lay dying at Zurich in surgical agony.
There and then they delved in questions of identity: ‘Who am I?’
Its ancient pedigree no impediment–after all, now men can fly!
Within their scope came nature’s identical twins
plus eastern notions of Atman, or ‘no-self’–therefore, no sins?
the man-made means of cloning other ‘selves’
like Carroll’s Alice through her looking glass, into this it also delves;
in other words, what do you, we mean when do we habitually refer to ‘I’, or ‘me’?!
Like cats gone bats we chase our tails as tales of what we be.
So, then, here’s the dialectic
I trust it proves less hectic:
‘Thesis’: Know thyself—advice that’s ancient, leaving ‘thou’ to find a way;
‘Antithesis’: There may be many ‘selves’—that’s modern, so to say;
‘Synthesis’: It happens that this ‘self’ may be dialogic, those many selves, talk to one another:
it says so in your new scripture, this DSM-V, a post-modern syndrome it calls ‘D.I.D.’—dissociative identity disorder–and, so, you may be them, including some strange brother!
So, then, what are ‘we’ to make of this, er, surplus
this abundance of ‘we’ or ‘us’—this whole matter of our doubling,
Sometimes more than troubling,
it’s become a second nature, so to say, in your English idioms:
matter’s anti-matter, mirror’s image, tongue’s pun, gambler’s doubling-down, DNA’s double helix—Nature’s seeming ghosts—like me, another one it comes!
Blame the wiley wordsmith from that place, they rightly call it Dublin….(beat)
He grins a mighty grin.
And his sidekick look alike, Italo, who elicits a doubly troubled tale from Kafka, with complicating factors,
Of insurance claims including double indemnity of the sort in that Austrian Wilder’s film–blame, too, those Lumiere brothers, creating immortal doubles for mere mortals known as actors…
Rolls his eyes.
And they call us philosophers double-talkers!
Thus, I do leave you to this commedia del arte, its Dublin-inspired regenesis
In which you’re not just gawkers, but depression’s nemesis.
With a refrain I’ve heard in this postmodern realm of yours,
captured from your Leonard Cohen on his many tours;
It conjures cosmic coupling of us all
with the one–and only–peerless One depicted as the dove:
He ‘sings’ a capella, in spoken word style.
“…we’re, both of us, beneath our love, we’re both of us above,
Touch me with your naked hand
Here, he takes off one glove, then both hands run over his body, gently, comically.
Touch me with your glove,
Dance WE…to the end of Love.”
Poof, he’s gone.