Jacques Derrida believed in ghosts. He believed in conceptual excesses that haunt us when we speak. Some might say this is just an ideological ghost, not a real one, but to him, ideas are real, and reality is just an idea. The kind of ghost he hears in his basement late at night is the kind that emerges from the supplementary structure of language.

Halfway through my college career, I reached a threshold where I believed so strongly in nothing, I believed everything. I had to go through a lot to get there, including an existential crisis of the “If everything is relative, why believe anything?” variation. I put this problem to rest after learning the difference between ontology and epistemology. I gave up on searching for ontological truth because I decided it was more productive to think about what is known than to think about what is.

My therapist told me I was intellectualizing. I told her that the conceptual and the concrete are not as dichotomous as they might appear. She told me this was all very heady. I told her that she shouldn’t buy into the opposition of head and heart and proceeded to give her a lesson in mind-body metaphysics. She told me this was all a waste of time.

I left and started seeing a satanist (romantically, not therapeutically). I sort of believed him. But at this juncture, I treated beliefs as thought experiments, not convictions. I tried them on like clothes; a new outfit each day, and when I got undressed for bed, I’d assess how being a nihilist for a day worked out, or which social situations may warrant my poststructuralist hat.

And as for this guy, I entertained his claim that the cat behind my dorm was an intelligence agent sent by God to spy on His adversaries, but after we broke up, it was all quite ridiculous. Not because I doubt the supernatural, but because I dislike the racially coded, anthropocentric symbolism of black cats. Even experimental beliefs have their limits. For some, belief stops at the supernatural. For me, belief ceases when it holds the potential for violence.


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