The venue is different this time. I’m in a conference room with a large table, around which there are twelve institutional but comfortable chairs. There is a door, which is ajar, but no windows. I’m played today by Martha Stewart.
I’m sitting on one of the long sides of the table, closest to a large dry-erase board mounted on the wall. At the head (or foot?) of the table, farthest away from the door, sits Leo (still lacking a new name). He is played by Macy, but is now totally clean-shaven, including his entire head, and is not wearing glasses.
To Leo’s immediate right sits the only other figure in the room. Not a person, but a drone. I know this not because I’ve been told ahead of time, but because of the navy blue t-shirt that the drone is wearing, with the word ‘DRONE’ emblazoned on the front in large letters. It does not look exactly like Bob Dylan. That’s the best description that I can think of for it. It is, to be more specific, strikingly dissimilar to a relatively young Bob Dylan.
Leo is looking at the drone with an expression that hovers somewhere between amusement and contempt. ”Let me guess. This is somehow about self and expectations. About ‘authenticity’ versus ‘selling out.’ Am I right?”
The drone’s expression is enigmatic. ”Notice that your first verbalization betrays the desire for unambiguous topical demarcation. There must be a ‘this,’ and ‘it’ must be ‘about’ a determinate and thematically specifiable matter.”
Leo’s expression slips completely into contempt. ”What the hell?”
“What you refer to as ‘authenticity versus selling out’ is but one manifestation of the concern of which I am a dilation. But what we talk about is up to you. Please proceed.”
“Proceed.” Leo’s mouth emits an equine-ish fricative. He adopts a sarcastic, announcer-like manner. ”In our last episode, our hero encountered what may be seen as a thinly disguised, naturalistic, socio-psychological account of his soteriological convictions. Will he face The Death of God like an overman?”
The drone’s expression betrays its own amusement. ”Is that really what you are thinking, Leo? That this is just about the validity of your religious convictions?”
Leo becomes serious and shakes his head. ”No. That’s what I wish it were about, because that would be much simpler.”
The drone nods. ”It would be simpler, yes. Though you know full well that it also would not work. If the truth of some naturalistic account of ‘religious experience’ is implied, it does not logically follow that convictions arising from such experience are false. You’ve known this as the ‘genetic fallacy’ for years.”
Leo glances at his Bible, on the table in front of him. ”So this is not about my beliefs, but about me.” Pensive pause. ”But we’ve done nothing yet to clarify what it is to hold a belief, to say nothing of how we should understand the self as some ‘thing,’ distinct from the beliefs that it holds.”
“That is clearly on the long term agenda.” The drone is almost sounding officious; perhaps you’ve caught that this is something that bugs us. ”But it is not directly relevant to my dilation. My concern is that we begin to pick up on the theme of ‘owning.’ This is a more primordial concern than that of ‘holding’ beliefs, though of course they will by no means be unrelated.”
Leo shifts a bit in his seat. ”Now you’re getting into the multiple levels of negation that always come up when things get philosophical. ’Not unrelated.’ ’Not directly relevant,’ which suggests ‘not irrelevant.’” He gestures in my direction, though neither of them have looked at me. ”That’s her kind of talk nowadays, and it drives me nuts.”
“We’re all having to think about Hegel again soon. Negation will be an inescapable theme. But let’s stick to ‘owning’ for now.”
The drone crosses its arms, lowers its head, and closes its eyes. Leo waits. After about 30 seconds, the drone looks up again, with an “OK-I’m-ready-to-get-down-to-business” expression on its face. ”All I’m supposed to do today is emphasize a chain of association. You need not arrive at some particular insight or conclusion in this session.”
“That’s a relief.” Sarcasm, naturally.
The drone’s brow furrows in concentration. ”Owning. Property. Proper. Appropriation. One’s own. Auto. Auto-norming; autonomy; autonomous. Ownmost. Held; holding; possessing; owning.” Its eyes fall briefly on Leo’s Bible, and then meet Leo’s gaze again. ”Investing. Auto. Author. Authority.”
Leo claps his hands lugubriously. ”Author! Author!”
“Authorize. Otherize. L’autre. L’autrui.” The drone closes its eyes. (Leo sighs, having grown tired of the closing and opening of eyes.) ”Other. Alter. Altar. Alt.”
Leo is serious again. ”Control-Alt-Delete.”
“Yes!” The drone’s eyes remain closed. ”Control. Autonomy. Authorship. Authorization.” They open again. ”Alt. ’Old; elder.’ Elder. Authority.” They close again. ”Owning. Ereignis; ‘enowning’ (for Heidegger); EVENT.”
The drone clears its throat. ”I think we will be retracing some of the same circles if we continue. That’s probably sufficient for now.”
Leo’s eyebrows go up. ”And I’m not supposed to get any conclusion or insight here?”
“You need not. Not now, anyway.” The drone pauses (one of the pregnant ones). ”Eventually you will appropriate it somehow. You will own it.” It places its hands on the arms of its chair, and its face goes blank.
Leo looks at his Bible again, and sighs again. Neither he nor the drone have ever looked over at me or acknowledged my presence, other than Leo’s reference to ‘her.’
But it is appropriate that I am here at this event. It is proper.