You gotta go when you gotta go: Chapter 6 is done

Whether imagined or not... his restraints were all falling away.

Whether imagined or not… his restraints were all falling away.

Section 146 Marx Time

Free to go, and with a mind to do so, Vernon could not barricade his thinking from the noxious mix of elation and misgiving that seem to accompany most people’s unexpected triumphs. He got ready for work feeling as if he was now free to leave just at the point that there was little need to. Did he really want to forsake ‘Old Blighty’ and travel East?

When he got to the School in the Park he found in his pigeon hole a missive from Dr Gumtree. He was as surprised to find his pigeon hole still in place as he was unsurprised to find a message there. It bore the hallmark brusqueness of the Head’s P.A.. …Vernon- be pleased to attend a meeting in Dr Gumtree’s study at 8.45 am, prompt…

Vernon knew he had his head in the clouds.. it was a pleasant feeling.

Vernon knew he had his head in the clouds.. it was a pleasant feeling.

For all his oscillation Vernon felt somehow heady with the hubristic helium of a crisis survived. He knew they’d not found a replacement for him and also knew he had to honour his contract with the Founding Father’s School in Thailand; perhaps he’d saunter in after a coffee, there was hardly much to lose by doing so.

Mrs McGuin was as welcome as a stick of rock at  banquet.

Mrs McGuin was as welcome as a stick of rock at banquet.

Though tardy, Vernon’s thunder was dulled in its dramatic effect by the fact that both Mrs McGuin and Dr Albright were made late by an intractable parent whose son was to be suspended for concealing drugs in a teacher’s desk. Where the school saw this as a crime compounded by malice, the parent saw it as an outrageous attempt to frame their offspring, or perhaps a marked sign of initiative, whichever would waive the charge of a full terms’ fees that extended beyond the offender’s departure. The Head and Deputy arrived therefore in conversation about a bigger nuisance than Vernon to find that Vernon too had been softened by the sincere charm of Dr Gumtree. All this said, Vernon knew to his cost that Mrs McGuin had the emotional consistency of a stick of rock; neither warmth nor pressure made her conveniently malleable, she remained brittle, only more unpredictably so… and she exuded …a palpable stickiness.

In the frosty atmosphere, due to Mrs McGuin, Vernon made his final exit taking his regrets with him.

In the frosty atmosphere, due to Mrs McGuin, Vernon made his final exit taking his regrets with him.

In a tone whose coldness chilled the room she  said. “Well then let’s get underway.”

Dr Gumtree shuffled his papers to claim the attention of those present.

“The landscape has changed since we last surveyed it. We have interviewed three candidates for the post of Head of Religious Studies, and found them most noticeable in turn, for being aloof, bizarre and loveable. We could, I think,  have got that from the Marx Brothers. And so, I have their  C.V.s right here…”

Dr Gumtree raised his hand in mock apology saying “Just a jest, just a jest. Each of the candidates have respectively ruled themselves out by being bland, inept and unfit; at least Vernon cannot be attributed these characteristics.” He smiled around the room amiably, as if attaching his colours to the proverbial mast by doing so. I’ll miss you thought Vernon.

A biting chill blew in from the Northernmost  wastes of the room in the words of Mrs McGuin, his nemesis.

“I don’t entirely agree with your simplistic summary. Vernon’s bizarre behaviour bought the school into disrepute after he revealed his inept handling of an initiative he could have taken care of. In addition to this, we are not back to square one in view of the fact that we are rid of him. Though painful, this is progress.” Her words hung in the air like icicles and Vernon, having been referred to in the third person doubted whether his presence was apparent to anyone but himself.

Always ready to be the peacemaker, when he wasn’t blowing up bridges and storming enemy encampments as in a previous incarnation, Dr Albright cleared his throat profoundly. He was still an intelligence officer of a kind

“Ahem. Let’s not be too hasty we don’t want to go beyond the evidence now do we? There have been some developments in the initiative you speak of Mrs McGuin and it doesn’t take a bright spark to see that Vernon may well be in the clear. I wonder in fact Vernon whether you might like to reconsider your resignation in the bright light of these erm… er, new configurations? As a compromise I might be able to offer a sabbatical for one year what do you say?”

Vernon glanced across at the ice maiden, measuring the impact of these words, sad that he might ameliorate her discomfort in replying. He was not sure who he most felt put out by, haughty Mrs McGuin, or smug Arthur S.

“I’m sorry Dr Albright. Your generous suggestion, though very tempting, is one I can’t take up; I have now, a contract with a school in Thailand for two years, and there are penalties in breaking that contract. In addition to this, though I think things might change soon even more dramatically,” Vernon looked pointedly at McGuin, “I am loth to work alongside a colleague who charges me with being inept, without offering professional support, and bizarre, because I said no to a deal with her son.”

“Ah, quite so, quite so. I guess then we will have to re-employ that Minister we had before- temporarily Dr Gumtree, -temporarily. What was his name, Reverend Sloth?”

Check out the first six chapters of The Nonsense Filter here…


My Five Senses

Sometimes we are lonely, in a deliciously melancholic, rather than depressive way. We live betwixt and between the realisation of love and the sense of our loved one’s absence, acknowledging that both affirm life to us. It is better than being numb….


My Five Senses

I’m watching every penny

with nothing to lavish on you

but rich brocades and drapes of velvet

call to mind the texture of you

……It’s why I’m missing you.

My sad heart’s not despairing,

darling you’re the rare thing,

my five sense affirming,

could be good for me.


My Five Senses © Peter Giles

Bright, beneath that gob ‘nd gall…

Vernon wondered what if anything of his vindication would get into the papers.

Vernon wondered what if anything of his vindication would get into the papers.

Section 145 is bona fide

Émile just had sufficient time for an uncharacteristically friendly wave, perhaps one that was ironic, before disappearing as the digital wall panel went blank and the room returned to the 1950s.

“There we are then.” Constable Constable said. “That’s all in hand oi’d say. Afore y’go however oi’d like your assurance that you’ll say nothin’ until our operation is done. As an accomplice to some suspicious goin’s on you’d best sign the papers oi give you and be done with’t. Say nothing to the press now.”

Constable Constable put a number of printed sheets onto the table in front of Vernon.

What could he do? Read them carefully.

As if signing for a major sponsorship deal Vernon signed on the line… and the reward?

As if signing for a major sponsorship deal Vernon signed on the line… and the reward?

“Firstly, tell me, because it will strengthen my resolve to tell no-one else, have you been somehow in contact with Émile all along?”When he had read the documents with care, and assured himself that there was little threat of delayed incrimination, Vernon pushed back his chair and faced Constable squarely.

“Ooh. Ahhr. Now then, that’s classified don’t you see? I can say ow’as we knew sooner than you that your accomplice was on the right soid a’the law. Bright lad underneath all that gob ’nd gall”.

“Okay, so you or someone recruited him. I guess I’ve been slow to see through his cover. Secondly and finally detective, seeing as I’ve never been very important in all of this you won’t mind if I disappear off to Bangkok to teach Ethics like I intended to will you?” And, gesturing energetically at the screen to express a surge of newfound anger Vernon concluded, “Especially as I’ve lost a good job in the process of your collaboration with boy wonder here.”

“Free to go sir; as you ever was. Oi think you’ll be harder to hear from that distance too don’t you?” It occurred to Vernon that distance had not prevented Émile from being heard loud and clear but he suppressed the observation resigned to the probability that it had probably occurred to Constable Constable too. Vernon signed on the dotted line and left.

Check out the full story so far

More Fake than Faux

Section 144 is a collaborator

"You ’ava seat there..." Constable Constable insisted.

“You ’ava seat there…” Constable Constable insisted.

“Now then Mr Jools. You ’ava seat there and we’ll ’ava little talk alroit.”

Constable directed Vernon to an uninviting metal framed chair whose leather seat was more fake than faux. The fifties functionality of the chairs and table in the room seemed anachronous given the technology mounted on the wall that became more apparent as Vernon stepped inside.

“Ahhr. Oi see you’ve noted our window on th’world. Brand spankin’ that is.

Vernon sat down wondering when nasty city cop would burst in armed with a tazor, or iron bar, to complement his nice ’nd rustic colleague.

Constable Constable drew a remote control from his pocket, locking the door as he did so. As if talking to himself the detective said “Video conference interview commencin’ at 10:56, with Detective Constable Constable, Mr Jools and accomplice.”

Vernon, who was listening intently hoping for clues tried not to display his puzzlement.

With the aid of technology Vernon could see the long arm of the law getting longer

With the aid of technology Vernon could see the long arm of the law getting longer

He failed. “Don’t look so confoosed Mr Jools. We’ve many prosthetics to length’n the arm of the law.”

The screen sprang into life and Vernon nearly tumbled from his chair.

“Émile?” He said, failing also any spymaster’s test of mute non-compliance. At least Émile was looking smug.

“Mr Jools shows ’is recognition of ’is accomplice on seein’ the screen.” Enjoying the moment Constable glanced at Vernon; “Mr Jools, go ahead, speak to our accomplice. E’s somewhere in Spain ’elpin’ us with our enquiries d’you see?”

“Say nothin’ Vernon, I’ll tell you all you need to know. Game plan is this…” Émile had clearly retained his sense of being in control. “Turns out Mr Mudrock’s millions have found their way home to his account, but all the other stolen money hasn’t. I’ve been helping the police find it; and… Mr Mudrock has been alerted to the wolf in sheep’s clothing he was about to do a deal with. He’s dropping charges and helping the police, discreetly of course. As we promised, we’ve cleared up a lot of stuff  ’nd nonsense.”

Vernon had only one question for Émile. At least, only one he was burning to ask. “Robin Hood, Émile? How does Robin Hood fit into all this?”

“Wait and see Vernon. For now it’s rather complicated, wait and see.”

See the rest of the story unfold

Wild Heather, calming Vernon

Section 143 is clutching at an emotional lifeline

The following day Vernon got dressed with a heightened sense of his usual self-consciousness. It was not just a matter of ‘what should he wear?’ but how what he wore, would be perceived. He wanted to be taken seriously without appearing out of touch; he wanted to look relaxed and comfortable without appearing cavalier. He needed something that would help his mood.

He opted for something substantial that gave him an emotional lift.

He opted for something substantial that gave him an emotional lift.

A myriad recurring thoughts assailed him, his appointment that morning, his return to work tomorrow. He now had his visas and the removal of these obstacles had merely enabled clearer sight of the next. Just as Schopenhauer claimed, acquisition of something registered as the ending of one’s need for it rather than any exultant sense of gain. True as this was, each time he donned his Harris Tweed he was transfixed by its colours, each thread drew him in, evocative as it was of the highland landscape that had inspired it. Its colours conjured up the texture of wild heather, icy streams and slate. He put it on for the sake of this emotional lifeline. At least acquiring it had meant something that was not entirely negative.

Each thread when contemplated told a story of remote summits and fertile glens.

Each thread when contemplated told a story of remote summits and fertile glens.

Because he did not have to return to work until tomorrow, a formality to finalise a strategy for replacing him, something to his delight that the school was struggling to achieve, Vernon decided to walk into town. A footpath led directly from his home into the centre and a convenient branch led off to the green where the Police Station was now situated. Its many-windowed façade conveyed sober efficiency; he wondered to what extent its officers did.

A little out of breath, and warm from the exertion thanks to his substantial jacket and Oxford shirt, he mounted the marble steps to the municipal building and pushed open the heavy glass door. The duty sergeant, he presumed, was leaning over the desk engrossed in paperwork. Vernon approached unsure of himself.

“Excuse me. I have an appointment with Detective Constable Constable.”


The duty sergeant did not look up but merely continued with his writing.

“Excuse me. I…”

The policeman raised a hand, flat-palmed, towards him, like a traffic policeman from a ladybird book.

Vernon waited.

“Now then.” He said at last. What’s the problem?

“I have an appointment with…”

“So you said. What’s the problem?” The policeman spoke with a world weariness suggestive of an eternity marshalling imbeciles and delinquents from one problem of their own making to another.

Vernon shrugged, reluctant to give anything away. He felt the same resistance as when a doctor’s receptionist or counter staff at the bank invite you to broadcast your private matters in the public foyer.

Calm though he was on the outside Vernon entertained wild and fearsome possibilities within.

Calm though he was on the outside Vernon entertained wild and fearsome possibilities within.

“That’s what I’m here to find out officer.”

In response to the bell activated in consequence of this exchange nothing happened.

“Wait there. While you’re waiting, fill out this form.”

It was hard to comply with this instruction given that the only pen was attached to a ledge some distance from the chairs for waiting he’d indicated. By the time Vernon had filled out the form DC Constable had at last arrived.

“Ah hahrr. We meet again as I thought we might. Do you follow me sir.”

With a Suffolk accent sufficiently broad as to impede his progress through the corridors of power perhaps, DC Constable strode unchallenged and purposefully enough here until he eventually paused at a solid black internal door. The door of what Vernon assumed would be an interview room and hoped would not be a cell.

Check out the Nonsense Filter

Barking dogs and all that Jazz.

Section 142 has a message for you

When Vernon got home it was late in the day; his mind was in turmoil and the restlessness threatened to swamp him, to douse his wanderlust and replace it with a foetid sense of helplessness. This dismay was compounded by the letter on the doormat, formal in appearance and terse in its tone; an appointment with DC Constable; a summons to the Police Station the following day. Things were getting worse. Late though it was Vernon had something urgent to attend to. He had to get word to Jean Luc and it had to be verbal.

He grabbed a couple of biscuits and an apple from the kitchen, and quickly drank a glass of milk. It was a beer he craved; beer and peace and quiet. As he reversed the car out of the drive it occurred to him to wonder, were they watching him, would his emails or phone calls be monitored, would they be following him? With stern words he forced himself to calm down and drove as quickly as he dared to his friend’s place.

It all added up. Jean Luc had been in the lounge... marking time.

It all added up. Jean Luc had been in the lounge… marking time.

Jean Luc was at home, He explained that he had just sat down to some marking and, unsurprisingly, he displayed a mixture of relief and impatience at being interrupted.  His speech was somehow a little frantic, Vernon thought, as if he was building a barricade against the quiet.

“Vernon… Funny time to call. Is everything alright? Did you get your visa as planned; don’t say they also refused British currency? The name Charles doesn’t have the cache it once did.” Jean Luc forced a wan smile.

“Hi Jean Luc. I can see you’re busy I won’t trouble you for long.”

They were still on the doorstep and Vernon was struggling to concentrate. The neighbour’s barking dogs, Jean Luc’s jazz, pulsating out of the living room, his own tumultuous thoughts; it was hard to be coherent.

“How cryptic. Yes, yes of course… for a while. Ari’s out.” Nothing new there then, thought Vernon, he was still public enemy number one.“I’ve seen our absent partner but I can’t put in writing anything he said so I’ve called to see you face to face. Can I come in briefly?”

They stepped inside the door but Jean Luc did not take him into the lounge.

“This is becoming something of a merger between a spy movie and a farce Vernon. Don’t you think so?”

Vernon found his worried heart was pounding in time to the syncopated beat coming from the lounge.

Vernon found his worried heart was pounding in time to the syncopated beat coming from the lounge.

Jean Luc’s rhetorical comment set up an awkward, expectant pause, the soundtrack of which was still an unrelenting Jazz crossrhythm.

To prevent Jean Luc filling the airwaves with his nervous clamour Vernon hitched up his fraying thoughts and told Jean Luc the little he knew and the little he surmised.

“I met him in Hull. He’d travelled in by plane. Iberia I reckon if you know what I mean. He said he loves you, both. He told me he’s taking care and the role model for his modus operandi is Robin Hood. Did you – did you catch all that?”

Jean Luc looked at Vernon bleakly, like a starving dog glad of any scraps thrown his way all of which were swiftly consumed.

“Did he look well? He’s a cocky boy but he overestimates his abilities sometimes. Do you think he’s safe?”

“For now Jean Luc …He plans to behave in such a manner that Mudrock will want to employ him when this is all done. Beats me how he’ll manage that. He insists he’s covering his tracks. His final comment was ironic I think. He says he’s always wanted to be a super hero or a mathematical genius and now he’s both.”

Jean Luc let out the breath he’d been holding in with a sigh.

“Thank you Vernon. Let’s hope he’s right. And you? Are your contingency plans working out?”

“I got permission to enter Thailand with smiling Thai-Canadian efficiency but I won’t know till tomorrow perhaps whether I have permission to leave the country.”

Jean Luc looked puzzled now rather than weary. “Why?”

“I’ve got an appointment at the Police Station at DC Constable’s convenience. Who knows how that will go.”

Jean Luc made a face indicating fellowship in suffering; “You know what boy wonder would say to that, only, I mean it sincerely, ‘soz’.”

Check out the rest of the Nonsense Filter


A naturalist epiphany.

Section 140 stumbles upon the fringes of time

As he sat in the cabriolet drinking from his ubiquitous flask of coffee, Vernon felt numb and his thoughts turned without his consent to the nonsense filter. Its ‘invention’ had caused nothing but nonsense to spring from every nook and cranny of his life. So much for Anselm’s dictat that something is better if it exists in re as well as in intellectu; the nonsense filter was all in his mind yet its fallout was contaminating reality all around him. More than ever he needed to visit that bridge, he needed to bring to this trek a positive climax.

He started up the car and worried at a bar of chocolate like a spoilt rat. It took him some frustrated moments but eventually he found his way by a circuitous route to where the Humber bridge began; Hessle. The anchorage of the massive structure was situated in a wooded conservation area on the Northern end of the great span; gingerly he skirted a severe landslide, caused by recent rain, which had made some of the paths impassable. Emerging from a narrow footpath Vernon came out unexpectedly onto the banks of the river Humber. A beige swell which somehow evoked the unsettling mirage of pulsating and restless desert sands.

The menacing elegance of the beast was palpable and Vernon was transfixed.

The menacing elegance of the beast was palpable and Vernon was transfixed.

The vast open sky formed a luminescent ceiling. Though the expectant air was heavy with moisture the occasional break in the cloud cover brought unseasonably hot flushes of sunshine. The elements seemed to be in competition now, the sun contending with capriciously high winds, and their primitive contribution called forth the primordial awe of a prehistoric encounter. The bridge, if not a dinosaur, then a god. Vernon felt himself transported trancelike into the brooding presence of some monolithic Industrial demigod. His suggestive and restive mind discerned another gargantuan contest underway; the breadth of the river, so dramatic from ground level, seemed to present an incessant challenge to the audacity of the bridge and its wilful super-human attempt to span nature’s boundary.

Vernon felt as if he was standing on the shoreline of time.

Vernon felt as if he was standing on the shoreline of time.

Suddenly he came to his senses and looked around furtively. Had he voiced any of this naturalist epiphany? Vernon recalled that he had read somewhere that a suspension bridge was preferred because the navigable channel for watercraft kept changing. He’d read that it had evolved out of a design used initially for the Severn Bridge near Bristol, and that the original idea of a tunnel had been rejected as too expensive. Still the emotively primordial vision persisted and he preferred to think instead that this serpentine river needed another behemoth to tame it and the solution had evolved from that necessity. It was as if he had stumbled upon the struggle to the death between a giant lizard and a colossal snake. The legs beneath the belly of the beast, onshore and in shallows, carried an awesome weight. The graceful arch of its back was incongruous with a structure so solid. Like a time traveller he had trespassed onto the territory of Humbersaurus Rex.

“Gotta flight to catch; laters”

Section 139 has a chance encounter

He stepped outside the building pausing to look at his documents and a little shiver of excitement shimmied its silvery way up his spine like a snail on speed. As he turned towards his car something all the more sinister played with his nerves. Someone was watching him from across the carpark. Someone vaguely familiar.

As the youth walked over, Vernon gasped involuntarily, and stroked his beard, as was his habit in a crisis. “You; what are you doing here?”

Émile sauntered towards him a smug smile playing across his face. Behind him Vernon now noticed that there was a taxi waiting, its engine running. “How did you find me? Does your dad know you’re here?” 

"All I ever wanted to be was a super-hero or mathematical genius, now I'm both."

“All I ever wanted to be was a super-hero or mathematical genius, now I’m both.”

“Cómo estás?”

“Ola. Questions, questions. Hey listen. I’m not stayin’ long. I got a flight in, never mind where from; best ya don’t know. I gotta message for dad…” he paused “and mum. Only don’t write it down.”

Vernon didn’t know whether to hug the delinquent or slap him; cocky git. He chose instead to apologise. “Look I’m sorry I got you into this. Are you okay?”

“Never better. I’ve found my true vocation. Looks like your invention filtered out all the nonsense from my life, stuff like school. I only ever wanted to be a super-hero or a mathematical genius, now I’m both.

Before Vernon could deliver the slap he had decided on Emile spoke again, this time with restrained emotion.

“I’m covering my tracks, watching my back. Tell dad’ nd mum I love them. If they want to know what I’m up to think of Robin Hood. In the end Tarkey will trip himself up and I’ll get a job with Mudrock, or better. Take care and hold on tight. Gotta flight to catch. Laters.”

"Gotta flight to catch; laters."

“Gotta flight to catch; laters.”

With that the incorrigible show off had turned on his heel and was getting into the taxi. Vernon shuddered. He just hoped that Emile was spending money that couldn’t be traced and didn’t have the kind of strings attached that would have some kind of Mafia enforcer reeling in the other end. He stood bewildered in the car park for some time.

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“Know thyself”; Immediate self-intuition

At a most basic level, a young child’s tugging against the resistance of another for its favourite toy or morsel of food is ‘self’ disclosing, a thwarting of personal intentionality which reveals one to oneself. For Husserl however, the founding father of phenomenology, the ‘self’ needs no mediating jolt to disclose self-consciousness and he rejected the role of the symbol in the ‘self’s’ orientation to the world. Husserl’s dismissal of the communicative usefulness of signs in solitary mental life led him to declare that ‘One’s conscious acts in silent soliloquy do not indicate anything to oneself with signs’.[1]  Notable philosophers such as Derrida conversely take issue with this, positing ‘différence’ as the ‘movement’ which presages otherness and non-presence in actual presence, promising more. Derrida concluded that Husserl failed to see the internal ‘dialectic’ which opens up living to difference, and constitutes in the immediacy of experience, the divergence present in indicative communication and signification in general and this was because he ‘not only intends to exclude indication from ‘solitary mental life’, his position holds that ‘… expressive language itself would be something supervenient upon the absolute silence of self-relationship’. [2]

Enquire within; but what kind of language is employed?

Enquire within; but what kind of language is employed?

But some scholars protest that one does signify meaning in words spoken to oneself in private soliloquy. Here the ‘I’ that seemingly only reports your past commits you to it. ‘The next time you utter ‘I’ this subsequent ‘I’ corre­sponds to and answers for the prior one.[3] When I rehearse a defence of past actions, whether for a police statement or a domestic dispute, when I review the way that I managed colleagues at work or consider how to phrase acceptance of an award, or articulate a romantic proposal, ‘I’ is ‘hardwired’ to my identity-sense and expressive of that accretion of meaning my life has acquired intersubjectively. It is not a hollow term of convenience even in inner speech.

Husserl cites the presence of signification in the brand imposed upon a slave; it is he argues, a present sign of the absent master and the reality of his power. Signification of this kind functions as an index of some reality because of a relationship established by association. The sign indicates, without divulging the workings of that which signifies; ‘the empirical association is without insight into eidetic necessity’. [4] Nevertheless for Husserl a sign can be expressive and have a meaning too. It points to an ideality rather than a reality. A sign’s expression therefore points to its meaning; a relationship not dependent on natural juxtaposition or conventional association but use. It is not just this branded slave that is indicated, the barbaric ownership of one human by another is also expressed as legitimized.

Similarly, a nod of the head may mean agreement or recognition and not exclusively a gesture towards something. Facial ‘expressions’, bodily poise and posture, may parade on the outside, attitudes, moods and states of mind, but not convey the meanings of objects. Words, issued as expressions, can also function as indices. As expressions, the words I hear someone speak refer to meanings the speaker intended them to mean, and additionally they indicate the speaker’s real acts and emotions.

What is it that the word 'here' signifies?

What is it that the word ‘here’ signifies?

Consider the word ‘here’, which has a univocal and ideal meaning: a speaker’s indeterminate spatial environment. Change the speaker however and the referent environment changes. The word ‘here’ functions in another way too: it points to where the word is pronounced. The word, as a real signatory event pronounced somewhere, indicates the position of the speaker who spoke it.

The personal pronoun ‘I’ functions like this. It is not pure index alone associated with a real individual. It can be associated with anyone; ‘I’ means: whatever speaker is self-designating by using it. Its pronouncement may be loaned out and thus serve to indicate whatever speaker is physically associated with it. Such indication is not exterior to the meaning however, so that ‘I am happy’ does not equate to ‘Whatever speaker is designating himself is happy’.

But are there any pure expressions, any words, whose meaning would be independent of the situated speaker or their contextual provenance? This is unlikely; similarly it seems that ‘self’-consciousness really is attended by consciousness of the world. Immanent intuitions seem intertwined with transcendent intuitions. This suggests that expressions, by which a consciousness refers to objects, are indivisible from indications which intimate the actual acts and states of the speaker.[5]

For the listener, expressions are indicative: sounds or inscriptions mean something because they are also construed as signs indicating the actual or past reality of some real person’s expressive intention. Even metaphors, though they do not indicate literal reality nevertheless express something originally derived from or dependent upon reality. Perhaps the speaker likewise recognises their own intentions, attitudes, and moods because expressions authenticate them. If this is so, those intentions, attitudes, and moods would be exterior, disconnected by the ideal materiality of the signs, similar to the manner in which real things themselves lie beyond any hyletic materiality given in sensibility.[6]


What kind of language is one using when one talks to oneself?

Though language functions expressively and indicatively, whoever speaks can withdraw from interaction with others.  For Husserl, the resultant solitary monologue no longer has the same kind of referent, though expressions retain their original meaning; he negates the indicative function of signs leaving the expressive function intact. Signs articulated inwardly keep consciousness in contact with objects and the world, but do not mediate its relationship with itself.[7]

However, in solitary monologue one is in fact talking to oneself; one is issuing signs in which thoughts, doubts and deliberations are formulated. One’s identity-sense audits these varying possibilities expressed, reading the signs for their implications regarding one’s purpose and significance in the world. These expressive signs, with which one intentionally refers oneself to an object through its meaning, also indicate to oneself that selfsame intentional orientation and the reason that Husserl is wrong in rejecting their indicative capacity is because the entity they indicate is never sufficiently verified. Imagine for example in preparation for  interview  I am asked routine questions such as why I chose teaching as a profession; the reason I spent some time out of the country; why I applied for this particular job and whether after a day’s familiarisation with this school, I still want employment there. As I speedily mould my reasons for my past behaviour to another’s questioning of it, I must update both my sense of ownership for those things I accept responsibility for and my sense of the meaning I wish to be regarded as accruing to my life as a consequence. This for a number of reasons involves inner speech that is new in its signification to me and is updated in interaction with others.

According to Husserl, in a monologue, words are not required to indicate ‘existence of mental acts’, this would be purposeless; the mental act has an ‘immediate immanent intuition of itself’, and  he concludes that ‘One merely conceives of oneself as speaking and communicating’.[8] But this is not persuasive and I reject Husserl’s view that a sign becomes superfluous because what the sign refers to is given. It is never fully given. Husserl is mistaken precisely because speech when directed to an inner referent serves the purpose of returning surety for the significance and purposiveness of the mental act with regards to its relationship to the identity we desire, an identity that can never be completed. As I speak, even internally, I speak myself, that is my identity, into being.

Consider again the occasional expression ‘I’. Husserl contends that in solitary speech the meaning of the ‘I’ is fully encapsulated in the immediacy of one’s own personality and conveyed to others in speech. Immediate intuition of both the speaker’s presence and of ‘one’s own personality’ renders superfluous the endorsement of a sign, inasmuch as the sign motivates belief in the reality of what it indicates and this job is done. However, to what extent is my identity ever ring-fenced and isolated from my inner vocalised reflection. In contradistinction I frequently ‘asks myself’, ‘Am I really like that?’, How would I have responded in such a situation?’ and so on. Whether face to face with the Nazi atrocities of the past, witness to the panicked frenzy of hungry refugees, or rioting looters, or whether the recipient of altruistic human kindnesses, I can meaningfully ask myself internally, ‘Where would I have stood in all of it?’. My identity-sense is not so much an immediate intuition of what is, so much as an audit of what might be.

The 'I' is a container whose contents are hard to label.

The ‘I’ is a container whose contents are hard to label.

Clearly the ‘I’ is not simply an index associated with one’s own personality; it also communicates ‘the speaker who designates himself’. Indicative function is a component of the meaning and therefore not superfluous, even in the context of immediate intuition. To use a designating word, one needs to know both its general meaning and the certain one that is meant on each designating occasion. When I refer to myself internally, I may designate my ideal ‘self’, my three-year old ‘self’ or some ‘self’ posited by another, nevertheless in a subjective sense whether or not I authorize the distinction, it is there.

One understands the meaning of ‘I think, therefore I am’ even when its speaker is out of sight, no longer alive, unknown or fictitious. The term ‘I’ designates the actual state of my personality and also conveys a meaning regardless of that state. It can be argued therefore that occasional expressions, continue to function meaningfully, with meanings specified by an indicative element, when speech is reduced to solitary monologue. The child that turns to its mother and says ‘Do I like broccoli?’ knows what it means by ‘I’, but is encountering the indeterminate I that we all find ourselves to be. So too if this question is internalized and made more momentous, let’s say ‘Would I die for my country?’, the question still designates a sense of actual state of my personality and yet also a meaning regardless of that state. Solitary speech is therefore one of the auditing processes, here at a conscious level, whereby one signifies to oneself the extent of one’s harmony with the world.

It is possible to proceed beyond Derrida, and affirm that ‘the linguistic articulation of thought includes signs functioning as indices of, and for, the linguistically articulating subject itself’.[9] The subject’s relationship to itself is not intuitive, but mediated through signs. Difference can be recognised in oneself furthermore; there are times when I might say without irony ‘I am not myself today’. These are not merely expressive but indices too, whose sign-functioning is determined by cultural usage.

Consider again the proposition that words, whether external or internal, are indices and signifiers both. The word ‘Rabbi’ is both index and sign. It is an index for all Jewish teachers trained in religious commentary on the Torah; it also signifies respect. I would not apply the term to myself, even in silent soliloquy, for I am neither entitled by Jewish descent nor by rigorous training. Nevertheless the term ‘Rabbi’ has both an indicative and expressive potency in my inner speech because it was applied to me insultingly in bitter exchanges at school.

Ask not what a word means but how it is used.

Ask not what a word means but how it is used.

The word ‘Rabbi’, an indicator of function and a signifier of respect, is for me, a sign of the tormenting intentionality of others. Though born in India, I suffered ridicule at school in England because I was considered different. This use of the term disconnected it from any indicative legitimacy; my peers were not accusing me of being Jewish. It made little sense to say, ‘It’s just a term of respect’. The purposiveness of the term ‘Rabbi’ was misapplied; I am not a trained Jewish exegete or pedagogue. The significance of the term furthermore is disharmonious with my life for it was never deployed by my peers at school as an expression of respect. In internal soliloquy the term Rabbi is a constant misalignment between the background and foreground of my world and therefore if the sign must motivate belief in the reality of what it indicates this job is still to be done. As a young student internalization of this term unleashed a battle between the following warring elements; belief that I deserve respect even though I am disrespected; the belief that Rabbis such Abraham ibn Ezra, Lord Sacks, or Jesus for that matter must have detected respect in this address; the belief that were I to use the term appropriately it would be honourable; the belief that its misapplication to me is indicative of the user’s ignorance or cruel intent. These conflicting factors cannot render the internal mental  act ‘They called me Rabbi’ an act bereft of signifying force

In the vocalizing and in the recollection of troubled soliloquy the word ‘Rabbi’ was a sign that emphasized alterity and the cruelty of others. Speech and gesture are signs of co-existence. Wittgenstein has rendered indubitable the observation that we have inner speech but we do not have a private language. The shared range of meanings we attempt to appropriate internally require expression in speech and our identity-sense is indebted to its retention of indicative and expressive force.

[1] Husserl, Logical Investigations, in Moran and Mooney, 2002, 544

[2] Derrida, ‘Signs and the blink of an eye’, chapter 5, Speech and Phenomena, 1967, in Moran and Mooney, 2002, 553

[3] Lingis, Contact, in Janus Head, Vol. 8, No. 2 Winter 2005, 442

[4] Lingis, 1984, 4

[5] Lingis, 1984, 6

[6] Ibid, 7

[7] Lingis, 1984, 7

[8] Husserl, Logical Investigations, 1970. in Lingis, 1984, 8

[9] Lingis, ibid, 13

Far from nondescript and far from home

Section 138 visits the Consulate

‘Not a thing to worry about’. Compared to the intensity of his previous visa application this augured well for his trip. He drove at a more leisurely pace for the remainder of his journey glad to feel the stress subside.

At odds with the opulent and cultured interiors conveyed on the Consulate website, his destination turned out to be an expressionless pre-fabricated structure on an industrial estate outside Hull; it was nestled comfortably amongst car showrooms, packaging, haulage and manufacturing businesses …all contained in nondescript modern units. He had driven up and down the utilitarian street searching for something more exotic but to no avail. Though a somewhat disappointing site it was, he admitted, more than compensated for by the entry into Hull itself. His pulse had quickened as he had crossed over the vast span of the Humber bridge just minutes before, an engineering feat par-excellence. With leaving in mind, and already sensing England’s shores receding from him, now that the countdown had begun, Vernon vowed to return and pay homage to the bridge when his business was done.

As he parked the cabriolet he saw that the building opposite was still under construction. Entering the Consulate he was immediately aware that it was well designed, like a demure Timex, classic in its functional understatement. The door furniture was solid and expensive and each space made the most of available light; where there was carpeting it muffled the noise in the room.

There was nothing nondescript about the Humber bridge, Vernon was sure of that.

There was nothing nondescript about the Humber bridge, Vernon was sure of that.


He stood alone in reception trying to anticipate what kind of Siamese metamorphosis the English language was about to undergo and rang the bell for assistance. Almost immediately and out of nowhere, like the emergence of Punch at a seaside booth, a large red-bearded Canadian appeared and took his application documents, acknowledging him in a deep resonant voice.

“Hey buddy. Make y’self at home. Browse the leaflets, they’re mighty helpful… oh and get y’self a coffee too. Won’t be long with this; we’re not exactly swept off our feet presently”

He only had sufficient time to locate the coffee machine, fill his cup with the promisingly dark brew and commence reading the first of the brochures when the friendly giant returned.

“Alrighty then. That seems to be in order have a good stay.” And that was that. That was that. If the Indian continent had a monopoly on bureaucracy then perhaps the Thai had cornered the market in smiling efficiency; for the sake of his adventure he hoped so.

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