Self-reference

N. Lygeros

Translated from the Greek by Evi Charitidou




A being sat on a bench in a park reading a book. Two men at the corner of the scene.

C: Did you see that?
S: The sitting passer-by?
C: Yes! He’s sitting on our bench! Do you realize it?
S: Can I do otherwise?
C: We have to do something...
S: We must not move...
C: It’s a wise idea... I’m wondering what he’s reading.
S: I think it’s a book.
C: I was talking about the title!
S: Generally this is on the cover. In the position where it is, it will be difficult to read it. Time. Except if it’s on the top of the page.
C: We have to approach and see...
S: You’re right. He doesn’t look bad.
C: Besides even if it’s our bench, it’s a public one.
S: Absolutely.

They approach at a slow pace. Then they start passing by.

C: I don’t dare!
S: There’s nothing to be afraid of, though.
C: I don’t know. I’m afraid of disturbing him.
S: Truth is that we may disturb his reading.
C: And I’d like to have my life.
S: Yet, by approaching, we show him our interest.
C: Then, could somebody be disturbed by interest?
S: Only if he’s indifferent.
C: Then, it’s our issue, isn't it?
S: Yes!
C: So. Let’s take our courage at our both hands.

They embrace one another and start.

S: Don’t make noise!
C: I’ m doing my best!

They are sitting at the edge of the bench as far as possible.

S: By looking at the reader. We don’t seem to disturb him...
C: We could say that he’s not conscious of our existence.
S: This is what worries me...
C: But why?
S: I’ m wondering about the text. Time. Nowhere have we found characteristics about us...
C: And by that you deduct their absence?
S: This is a possibility that we cannot easily exclude.
C: You are right; in this case, though, the others are not necessarily conscious of our existence.
S: This is exactly what bothers me. Yet, there is a means to overcome this aporia.
C: To decide that this is of no importance.
S: No, no! We will try to make contact...
C:  Observing the sitting passer-by from tip to toe. With the being?
S: Gently. Exactly.
C: Ok, then, the game is on you!
S: Your courage is impressive.
C: It’s normal I’m better conscious of the danger.
S: In this case...  He slowly stretches his hand to the reader, then he finishes by touching his shoulder. Silence. But the latter one does not react.
C: You’re right. The situation is much more serious than I thought.
S: He may be absorbed by his reading. He tries again. Same move.
C: It’s in vain.
S:  Before giving up, we have to think.
C: This cannot harm us. Time. Eventually I think...
S: We have to use all the means at our disposal to solve this enigma.
C: We should have started by the title of the play... He stoops, he takes position on all fours, he gets started and reads. Silence.
S: So?
C: It’s unbelievable! He remains still.
S: Is this the title?
C: No, the title is: Self-reference.
S: By all means this is the only title that cannot teach us anything. At least... Time for reflection. Not directly...
C: At least, we are set!
S: It's a Gödel’s enigma.
C: Now, everything will be more difficult...
S: We still have one chance: the text!
C: Standing up abruptly. But of course the text! He goes around the bench and stands above the reader's shoulder.
S: So? Where is he?
C: At the beginning...
S: Fine! And later on... The text...
C: The text reads: I am leaning above the shoulder of the reader and I read the text.
S: I’m not asking you to tell me what you are doing, but what you are reading.
C: It’s exactly what I do!
S: It’s exactly of what I am accusing you!
C: I mean it’s exactly what I’m reading...
S: You mean that you told me what you read to me.
C: I couldn’t have read it better.
S: It’s unbelievable!
C: Looking at the book. It’s what you say.
S: I know it very well!
C: It’s that the text says about you...
S: How come?
C: I was sure that you would have said that!
S: But why?
C: Showing the book. Because I read the text!
S: So, does the text say about us?
C: What else could I add?
S: Finally say a word!
C: What?
S: Another one!
C: Why?
S: But, no! Say something!
C: Something!
S: This time, it’s too much. He stands up.
Without looking at him, he is reading the book. He is starting slowly while thinking. He makes a pause. Then he starts again. Hesitant, he sits at the edge of the scene and grasps his head in his hands. Remaining still. Silence. Then totally suddenly...
S: All this is in the text?
C: Yes, even your question!
S: Even my question!
C: Your exclamation remark as well...
S: You realize that this is an experiment. Time. I wanted to see whether the text would still say about us even if I hid myself.
C: You see, this is the case...
S: Then, the presence of this sitting passer-by was already a sign.
C: Usually no one sits on our bench.
S: Except us!
C: What is the reason of his presence?
S: It’s for us to discover it... But... By what method? Silence.
C: I think I’ve an idea... The text says exactly about us, it’s proven...
S: Fine! You’re absolutely right!
C: The text says about everything perhaps...
S: And especially about the reader. Quickly! Quickly! Read the text! Returning to the bench.
C: While I’m reading above his shoulder, the reader continues reading the text. He seems absorbed by its content.
S: It’s terrible! The text says about him but gives no information.
C: No more than what we already know...
S: But what did we come for in the text?
C: To exist!
S: Yes, but the text is the proof of our existence...
C: In the conscience of the writer.
S: You think he is thinking of us?
C: I think he loves us...
S: Why are you saying that?
C: Because I’m reading the text: “They both were together, trying to solve the enigma of their existence. Together, they started step-by-step, in this analysis helped by the text. Together, without animosity, they were wondering about their situation by helping one another”.
S: Truth is we are always together. At this point, they are sat at the two sides of the reader. And the truth is that he loves us. Silence. Have you got the Reunion?
C: Fred's book?
S: In a sad style. Yes, have you read it?
C: But, of course! Why are you asking me this?
S: It’s only an idea... I’m convinced that the writer has thought of that book.
C: While writing his text?
S: Gödel’s incompleteness theorem in 1931.
C: Exactly.
S: And the first words of Fred's book are: “He came into my life in February 1932 and never left it again”.
C: So, all this is, is not a simple game.
S: No, no! This would have been too easy! Silence. It’s a subtle combination between luck and need.
C: In this case we are in need...
S: Who advised you to read this book?
C: I don’t know!
S: Neither do I! Time. That’s strange. Particularly because we both have good memory.
C: I see where you are getting at... Perhaps is a move by the writer. But, in this case, the idea crossed his mind many months ago... And the conception of the text is dated back then.
S: Yes! Yes! That’s it! Silence. In the book, the two friends liked collecting coins.
C: This had marked me.
S: Well, I’m sure that you have a coin in your pocket.
C: My pockets are always empty.
S: Just check it, to be on the safe side.
C: Standing up putting his hand in the pocket. It’s true I do have a coin!
S:Let me see! Let me see! He gives him the coin. It’s a Greek one. Like in the book.
C: A Greek coin? He sits back again.
S: It bears Homer's figure.
C: But, in the book it was Alexander's.
S: He prefers makes us think by analogy.
C: Why to make it simple, since he can make it complicated?
S: Don’t get disappointed! Don't forget we have to use everything! Look at the date of its minting. He gives him the coin back.
C: It’s extraordinary! It’s of the current’s year!
S: Now, we know what our present means.
C: It’s a real gift!
S: You see! Life is a gift!
C: We continue! We continue!
S: We have to go back to the book.
They both lean onto the book.
C and S: We read the text slowly like sipping the words.
S: Every read word is an access to knowledge.
C: And the beginning of a conception.
C and S: “Science without conscience is but the ruin of the soul”.

Suddenly the sitting passer-by closes the book. Then stands up end exits the scene, under their stunned stare.

C: Worried. But what is he doing?
S: I think he’s leaving...
C: I saw it! I mean why is he leaving, now...? Pretending leaving.
S: Because it’s the proper moment.
C: I’m not following you... We were at the point to discover the mystery of our origin.
S: No, no! That was not the issue.
C: After the being, there is the nothing! Silence. He left without saying anything...
S: Would you like him to say what?
C: Not “what”. Another word.
S: Which?
C: Neither this one!
S: Fine, so what do you think about this one: Nothing!
C: The being without the nothing has no conscience of being.
S: The lack of a message is not necessarily void of a meaning.
C: So, he said something without talking....
S: This is better than talking without saying anything...
C: Looking at the bench. Ah! Did you see?
S: What’s that?
C: He left the book on the bench! Silence. Now, we will know at last...
S: This is not evident!
C: Well, finally, you are not serious! The book…THE book is here. He shows the book. At our disposal.
S: Wait!
C: What now?
S: By leaving us alone, he liberated us… Silence. Now we are free to choose between knowing or not…
C: After reflection. I vote for.
S: Me too! Ok, take the book and open it.
C: He takes the book. Done! But at which page shall I open it?
S: It does not matter. Open it and read…
C: I understand. He opens the book and starts reading. I open the book and start reading. My eyes are desperately looking for information about us. But in vain. I’m reading nothing more than what I’m reading.
S: I doubted that… Silence.
C: It’s exasperating, though. We know that we are able to know. But we cannot know but that we are able to know.
S: It is ouroboros knowledge. The whole problem comes from the fact that a self-applied action misses its point.
C: Making the gesture. Like trying to stand up by pulling your hand by the arm.
S: Let alone that in our case our action is codified in the text…
C: What exactly are you trying to say?
S: We will make an experiment of thought. On this bench we are 2. However, at this phrase there is number 2 twice. And in my replica there is 4 times the number 4. However, how many times number 4 is there?
C: Eh, well twice!
S: Exactly! But I myself could not say it in one number without making an error in my replica.
C: What if we tried both of us to read the book but not at the same page.
S: Yes, let’s see what we can get.

They both hold the book and take a page by chance.

C and S: I am reading the back of your page! Despite their surprise, they remain at the experiment, after a long meaningful silence.

C and S: We shouldn’t have read the same phrase!

They are looking at each other.

S: You are right! Each one will read a different phrase. Or rather you will read the same and me another one.
C: We shouldn’t have read the same phrase.
S: I am reading a different phrase.
C and S: This is working!

They are looking at each other without saying a word.

C: We thought of the same thing!
S: So, not only do we have to read a different phrase, but also to think of another thing.
C: I’m wondering whether we could get out.
S: From where?
C: From the self-reference.

They are looking at each other. They close the book as if they are about to think of another idea, they shut their eyes. In the meanwhile the passer-by comes back, takes the book which was left on the bench and leaves immediately. When he is out of sight, they open their eyes again.

S: I was trying to create void inside my head.
C: The book disappeared!

They are looking everywhere, but in vain.

S: But it is not possible!
C: We have to find the evident.
S: Well, it’s possible!
C: Who could steal our book?
S: The being, nothing… or then ?
C: Or then?
S: Or then the writer…
C: Hesitating. I cannot believe it. Why would he do that? Time. Besides he loves us, doesn’t he?
S: Maybe for our own good!
C: How could a theft produce something good?
S: Yet, this has already happened in the past…
C: Then maybe this disappearing is a gift…
S: Or an additional element to solve the enigma!
C: Why has he to talk to us only by indications?
S: This is a process leading to discovering. We should not like revealing.
C: Do you think that this indication will help us?
S: It’s possible... But illumination has not yet come to me.
C: Perhaps he wants to indicate us that the absence of information is a form of information.
S: It could be that as well. The book gave us only the information we already had.
C: And nothing more than that.
S: And said nothing but what we were saying.
C: The knowledge of the being is us! Silence. Though, we are in ignorance…
S: Ignorance or not, we know ALL that we know.
C: All this is coherent!
S: But yes! This is the problem exactly! Everything is coherent!
C: This is what I’m saying, too!
S: No, this is not what I want to say.
C: Then what do you want to say?
S: I want to say that under the pretext of being coherent, this information brings us nothing more than what we did not already know.
C: How could I contradict you?
S: Exactly, the key is in the contradiction. This is what liberates us from coherence and brings us information.
C: But this is paradoxical!
S: Yes and no! The paradox creates a contradiction which by itself creates incoherence which brings information about the system.
C: Is that all?
S: Yes, for now.
C: Yet, this is not a paradox.
S: No, but we will make it to get out from this.
C: The more powerful a system the more the disadvantages in it…
S: We have to make a reflection of our selves.
C: Are we doing something different than that all this time?
S: We are thinking; it’s true. But now, we have to think on our thought.
C: A kind of meta-reflection.
S: Exactly what we need!
C: So, I think I have an idea: this work is not a self-reference!

Darkness.

Thanks to the shock provoked by this undecidable phrase, C and S are transformed to George and Alexis. It is the start of Alter Ego.







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