One of my son's favorite people is Jacques Lacan. "He's dead," you say? Well, you have a right to your opinion.
I can tell you that Lacan has been riding in the backseat of my Toyota Prius, keeping my teen and me company as we cross town between school and our small house, whose front yard is set in a great school district and whose backyard answers to a not-so-fine one. My son does not always agree with Lacan, but he knows him like a brother. As the wheels turn, we rattle on about current events, the unknowable Big Other, the Register of the Real, the Lack, and other Lacanisms made popular by a man we refer to as Jacques or just "Jack".
My son never had an imaginary friend, but I now live with my son and his Imaginary Philosopher.
And truly, if you ask him, my kid can tell you what Jacques thinks about everything...
The Imaginary, The Symbolic, and the Real: Three types of experience, all bound up in signfication (and signifiers)
Structural Violence (don't ask...yes it's different from just-violence): The individual must own up to her own role in the lack before the government could have any hope of providing a solution
Best Breakfast Cereal: I don't know what Jacques would say, but I assure you, my son does
Sometimes I ask him to read me an excerpt from a favorite book. He'll open up his gray and charcoal padded backpack/lunch cooler and pull out the latest library volume, something slim and red. Or he'll call up a GoogleBook on the laptop he carries everywhere, never long in "sleep" mode. Then he will read me something that reminds me of a dog barking through the phone directory. I am, inevitably, puzzled. "What does that mean?" I ask him. And I hate to admit it, but his description, a paragraph or two in length, incorporating quotes ("bark bark bark bark, Le petit objet 'a'. Yup yip yip. Jouissance.") does seem to make something that resembles sense to someone. I have to just accept he understands this.
And I? At the ripe old age of 43, the relative value of 'writing poetry' and 'living life' starts to shift emphasis...to take the long road; to question the heatedness and desperation that writing took on in youth. What would one give up to write? What wouldn't one give up? And while surely no choice is required between this obscure vocabulary of self and my most precious shared moments of every day, I find myself asking:
If I had to choose between listening to my son explain Lacan or writing a poem, which would I choose?
So I'll tell you here there is no contest. I can name no more alienated, intimate and mysterious an encounter with Otherness than a ten-minute car ride with one's own sixteen year old son decoding Freud, ecofeminism, and a growing directory of French and American post-structuralists. Like good obscure poetry, there's the specialized language. The words take on meanings beyond the actual words. The charged energy of a car, its gum wrappers and old books, the paper bags that once hauled gym clothes, and still smell boyish, abandoned in the back. There aren't that many opportunities to have conversations that feel just as good as poetry--but with a co-traveler.
I'd choose Jack. The years are getting shorter. I can already feel time coming toward us--the big Lack.