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David Christopher LaneDavid Christopher Lane, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, Mt. San Antonio College Lecturer in Religious Studies, California State University, Long Beach Author of Exposing Cults: When the Skeptical Mind Confronts the Mystical (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1994) and The Radhasoami Tradition: A Critical History of Guru Succession (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1992).


Deconstructionism 101

A Dream of Derrida

David Lane

I like the very idea of deconstructionism. I just don't like its presentation. Of course, Derrida's tan is not a tan.

When I first heard that there was a documentary on Derrida showing at the NuArt in Santa Monica, I was interested enough that I made plans to travel an hour or so to see it. But my teaching schedule was such that I couldn't swing it. I am happy I didn't make it. Why?

Well, I finally got a chance to watch the film via my Netflix addiction and I am stunned that anybody thinks that Derrida is a "deep" thinker. The trite that passes as philosophy makes one ashamed to even be a part of the profession. Steven Weinberg is right about deconstructionist writing. Most of it is either obvious or obscure. Derrida talks about how the Other is the unexpected and the unpredictable. He and his writings are anything but.

When Derrida is asked about the American television show Seinfeld, he quips that to understand deconstructionist thinking one should read more. ... Or, better yet, perhaps Derrida should actually watch the show before ad hoc dismissing it. Deconstructionism is not merely the providence of typographical humanas, but a radical upending of preset purviews in whatever form they may appear, including the visionary and the literary.

Larry David (co-creator of Seinfeld and creator of Curb your Enthusiasm) is, in my estimation, much more interesting and more philosophical (in a good, not obvious way) than Derrida. And Larry is a deconstructionist par excellence. He also has the added genius of being interesting which Derrida simply isn't.

Now that doesn't mean Derrida is void of some redeeming qualities. Derrida does sport a deep, rich tan. He looks good. He looks pensive enough. But oh what a complete bore. Additionally, he is so self-conscious about his image and such that we too become painfully self-conscious—not of some deep thought but of the very banality of his way of thinking.

Derrida reminds me of some overly posed gurus giving satsangs. We think the cats are heavy so we expect that what they will say will also carry some meaningful weight. And we strain, we stretch, to find it. But it isn't there. And what we find is our incredible need to find some meaning, even when it isn't on the plate.

I like the very idea of deconstructionism. I just don't like its presentation. Of course, Derrida's tan is not a tan.

Derrida: “Deconstruction, as I understand it,” said Derrida, “doesn’t produce any sitcom. If sitcom is this, and people who watch this think deconstruction is this, the only advice I have to give them is just stop watching sitcom, do your homework, and read.” (Source:


Yet, and a huge yet, watching the Derrida film led to one of the most extraordinary dreams of my entire life. I found myself in a house with many rooms, filled with students crammed in each corner. I completely awoke within the dream and realized that I was having a complete (and I do mean complete) out of body experience. I was more than aware. I was literally there. It scared me to my very soul.

Then I realized I couldn't get out of this new state of consciousness. It was permanent and more real than the waking state. As the scene switched (so many details are lost when one wakes up) to some sort of Disneyland, I realized that there was a murderer on the loose who was going to kill me. But that wasn't my worry. My worry was my son. I realized that I had to defend him and I also realized that I had no fear of being killed provided that my son lived. I then found myself with a gun and I shot and killed the murderer... and apparently, in the process, I saved a number of innocent lives. But the word leaked out to others (who belonged to his gang) that I killed the leader. I wasn't safe. I was now the target.

I walked away from the main town center in Disneyland and everywhere I turned someone was after me. Yet, the people working at Disneyland (from the popcorn vendors to the bus and horse carriage drivers) were actually angels (or some type of after-death beings) who were there to protect me. One in particular took me under his wing. He looked like some sort of Scottish fat man with a kilt and a lyrical and magical grin.

Then I realized that I didn't kill the murderer. He had killed me. I was dead. And I was now in the after-life and completely disconnected from my earthly life. I was in some sort of After-Life Review station. I was being literally bombarded by memories of my entire life.

And the Scottish magician was laughing at how I played out my life. He said something to the effect that I was full of humor, surprises, and dare--that I lived a life completely on the edge ... wild, unpredictable.

He acted as if I was to move on and go with him or architect a new life. I simply refused. I only thought of my son and I knew I would will myself back to life. Indeed, the Scottish guide almost seemed to be testing my will, my desire, my intention. I willed myself back to my body. I refused the next tunnel. I awoke.

But when I awoke I was less aware than in the OBE. This waking state was a dumbing down of my lucidity. I then looked around the room, but without anxiety. Got up and went to the bathroom.

I then knew that I could venture back into the adventure. I closed my eyes and off I went.

But now I was giving a lecture in front of Derrida and the Churchlands', explaining to Derrida specifically how science was the key to unlocking the secrets of philosophy, in particular evolutionary biology. The building was L shaped, with the Churchlands' behind me and Derrida to the left on the long end of the L. There was a television behind him.

I kept getting stuck in a rut of thoughts, however; but I managed by sheer will to get through the lecture. I went into my usual hypertext mode of lecturing.

Yet, strangely, Derrida was convinced not by me but by paraphrasing Nietzsche where the following was written on the chalkboard,

“The Spirit is Instinct Not Allowed to Project. And when instinct is allowed to fulfill itself there is no need for an interior self. The Interior Self is Man's Contraction, not his Truth. The Truth is the Body and the Secret is to discover what that body is. I have always known the same truth: I don?t know. Be That. We are already anyways.”

I woke up from the dream, or at least from one of the dreams (like a progressive succession similar to what was portrayed in the movie, Inception), and as I reflected on the philosophy of deconstructionism, I realized that all learning is in some measure the tearing apart of what was previously known. Thus any text lives anew when it is read again as the context shifts the content of what we perceive. At this point, I looked around the room to see that lying next to my bed was a beautifully bound copy of Margins of Philosophy autographed by Derrida himself with the following inscription:

“Kurt Friedrich Gödel was right when he scribbled on his desk the unusual axiom, This statement is false. Because even though there is no way to prove or disprove such a claim, it was nevertheless true.”


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