Thus, begining with total linguistic relativism, Chuang Tzu ends with a sort of metalinguistics. Spillover words do not ward and sector, they PLAY. They contain more than they contain — therefore, like the famous cleaver which never needs sharpening because the Taoist butcher can pass it between all tendons and joints, the Spillover word “finds its proper channel.” The sage does not become trapped in semantics, does not mistake map for territory, but rather “opens things up to the light of Heaven” by flowing with the words, by playing with the words. Once attuned to this flow, the sage need make no special effort to “illumine” , for language DOES IT by itself, spontaneously. Language spills over.
Now, recall that Saussure was studying the Latin anagrams, and that he found the key words of the poems spilling over into other words. Syllables of characters’ names for example are echoed in words describing those characters. At first the founder of modern linguistics considered these anagrams as conscious literary devices. Little by little however it became apparent that such a “reading” would not hold. Saussure began to find anagramatic spillovers everywhere he looked — not only in ALL Latin poetry, but even in prose. He reached the point where he couldn’t tell if he was experiencing a linguistic hallucination or a divine revelation. Anagrams everywhere! Language itself a net of jewels in which every gem reflects all others! He wrote a letter to a respected academic Latinist who had composed Latin odes — poems in which Saussure had detected anagrams. Tell me, he begged, are you the heir to a secret tradition handed down from Classical antiquity — or are you doing it unconsciously? Needless to say, Saussure received no answer. He stopped his research abruptly with a sensation of vertigo, trembling on the abyss of pure nihilism, or pure magic, terrified by the implications of a language beyond language, beyond sign/content, langue/parole. He stopped, in short, precisely where Chuang Tzu begins.
CHUANG TZU’ CHAOS LINGUISTICS
BY HAKIM BEY