Can We Talk About the Fireflies?

Guest Post by Gabe Cweigenberg

Can we talk about the fireflies?

How about Chomsky?

What I mainly want to focus on is the relationship Chomsky has to the book. I guess you could say he’s one of the recurring characters. So, in the fifties, Chomsky introduced his concept of Universal Grammar. A Dara quote is sufficient for understanding Chomsky’s thesis:

“That is, in Chomsky’s perfect words, the subtlety of our understanding transcends by far what is presented in experience…or, once again, in my imperfect rewording, from shattered shards we reconstruct the crystal…” (241)

Evan Dara, The Lost Scrapbook

In other words, even if someone speaks to us in severely broken English, we can still understand it. We understand more than we have experienced. That’s how universal grammar works.

And now for something completely different:

Let us talk about the fireflies.

They’re introduced at the beginning of the book and then they’re not talked about again. But they are. My claim is that fireflies are the central metaphor of the book, and that this metaphor runs through the entire 476 pages. Specifically, the light that they produce represents a human voice.

I’m having trouble putting this claim to words.

Dara does a better job through the voice of Chomsky:

“We must recognize that our comprehension of nontrivial phenomena is extremely limited — yes, that was what I heard — and then he went on to say We understand only fragments of reality, and we can be sure that every interesting and significant theory is at best only partially true —”

Evan Dara, The Lost Scrapbook

So when you go to read this book, consider yourself in a swarm of fireflies. All the voices that you read represent the light from an individual firefly. You can see the light of that firefly, but that is all. In other words, you get to hear the voice of specific people, but that’s it. They are not characters, they are voices. They are light. They are fragments of the truth.

Where Chomsky’s universal grammar comes into play is through the understanding of every voice. And through all those voices coming together to express universal disapproval for the shady workings of a large corporation. For capitalism trumping humanism.

Remember: Only truth in fragments. As you read this book, let the voices wash over you, knowing that there is something there. They have something to offer, and it is truth. Like the light from a firefly in the dark.

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