When my children were first born, like most fathers, I inspected their eye color, nose shape, skin tone and other immediately noticeable features – seeking to identify those that offered a hint of similarity too my own . This tendency to survey never stops – it only takes on broader subjects. It’s important to me to see in my children the traits, talents and even perspective that echo my own. Sure its vanity, but fatherly pride would have it no other way. On a deeper level there are lasting traits, ambitions, drives that a father wants to have continued on in the world, those things that are at his core more profoundly related to his happiness than simple physical resemblance.
One of those traits is a style of thinking: disruptive imagination. As can be seen in Mackenzie’s “The Self as Fiction”, in which he deconstructs Locke’s notion of identity, or Tara’s “Filling the Hole in the Soul”, which focuses on Sartre’s hole. Their essays pose questions similar to that of the mythic trickster. It’s the trickster’s capacity to surface distinctions previously hidden from sight. In these acts, he is the author of the great distance between heaven and earth, standing as a kind of mover in space and thought, a boundary-crosser. The scaffolding used is his interpretative play with the canonical arguments that dare question “truth-or-false”. In other words, the style of reasoning is “in short, all too self-authentication”. That drive that I search for within my off spring is that of the trickster.
Through not a trickster, Hamlet’s maxim serves well to state this trait that “nothing’s either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. I speak of trickster as “he” because all the regularly discussed figures are male. There is no shortage of tricky woman in this world, of course, or women in myth fabled for acts of deception, but few of these have the elaborated career of deceit that tricksters have. The trickster is the antithetical figure that culture requires to open space, uncover and disrupt the very things that culture is based on. He knows neither good nor evil yet he is responsible for both. He possesses no values, moral or social… yet through his actions all values come into being.
My argument is not, however, that any of my children is trickster. Trickster is abstraction enough, already distanced from particular embodiments like Hermes and Coyote. Actual individuals are always more complicated than the archetype.
My own position, in any event, is not that I fostered a troop of tricksters but that there are moments when our practices demonstrate of art and this myth coincide. I work by juxtaposition, holding the trickster stories up against specific cases of their imagination in action, hoping that each might illuminate the other.