Deleuzian extract

November 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

What do we mean when we talk of becoming?

To think in terms of becoming is not to think in terms of beginnings or ends but springs forth from the middle. We are always in mid flow- in a present-becoming that is as much about geography as history. Deleuze will turn to the image of grass which grows between non-cultivated spaces and grows out of itself from the middle and is in direct contrast to trees that have a top and roots.

In the long history of philosophy there exists a whole apparatus of thought planted readymade in our minds with the design to make us go in straight lines and produce the famous correct ideas- the true, the just, the right (Cartesian, Kantian, Hegelian). We call these arborescence schemas and they have a crushing, suffocating effect on thought because we are never able to escape what has gone before. For Deleuze these schemas are found in all the binary machines; question/answer, masculine/feminine, man/animal and prevent new conversations being able to take place. Therefore in the opportunity afforded through philosophy he says in collaboration with Guattari, `I have tried to work at an experimentation of concepts which permit us to resist the present, and to appeal to a future in the mirror of which our present and our past `are strangely deformed”.

Let’s get back to grass- Place yourself in the middle, grow from the middle, move from the middle and this has nothing to do with an average, centrism or moderation. The middle concerns speeds and most particularly the `differential’ of the movement that of course can only be posed in the element of practice- the work you are engaged in and not consciousness. Speed in one sense could be understood as that sensation in which feelings begin to really be `felt’ by the body and if we are to celebrate and affirm the `felt’ it could only be in a writing that is no longer about the body but is the body. Where things take on speed the body will necessarily become a place of depth and secret springs and then capable of unfolding whole landscapes in which the unthinkable in thought takes place in the very experience of thought. In this respect we might understand Wordsworth’s best poetry, defying genre as it does, as words encapsulated in their own event which fill him with wonder and which remains for him as for us so mysterious for the simple reason of being incapable of being absorbed into any system.

The privileged marker that determines the trajectory of Deleuze’s thought comes in the image of the nomad, `They come like destiny, without cause, without reason, without consideration, without pretext’ (Nietzsche). In the cracked spaces where things have become undone, where the codes are no longer binding, it becomes a question of getting something through that will escape being recoded and in which the body can invent itself as a flow, as that which passes… the body of the Earth, the body of writing… Here where the body has the strength to obey, to yield to its own necessity and feel passionate but which can only be called forth through the approaching of its own limits. How are we to find one’s own limits? The nomad who is always in relation with the outside, has no need to pass through an interior, whether the interior of the soul or consciousness and which has always constituted the major principle of philosophy. In our world necessity has for too long and too often been considered a form of imprisonment rather than release. Coming as it does to represent a barrier to the pursuit of happiness this sense of necessity that we so often experience through feelings of frustration instead holds the key to our passions, igniting what is most absorbing about our individual lives. Found beneath the codes in the emptiness of broken representations it is not a lack that is created, nor does this emptiness prescribe a lacuna to be filled, rather we find the very space where we might think again precisely because we have exhausted the language in which to express what has to be said. Just as desire is what remains always un-thought at the heart of thought so with the passion and intensity found in human sentiments, they only arrive by first anticipating this inanimate infinity.

Thus nomadic thought is always in an immediate relation with its own limit and consequently feels with the intensity that is equal to its own movement. The nomad has made its escape from the rationalist theory of society. It is as if the line that it frames has always been framed from elsewhere, as in the case of the painter who paints the painting with the wall and who never begins within the prescribed limits of the frame. For it is precisely at the point where all external limits are questioned that new experiences can now be lived to carry us further out, beyond the known experience into flows upon which the distributions of irony and humour are just so many partitions of intensities registering increases in the feeling of life. For Deleuze you cannot but laugh when all the codes have been mixed up for where thought is in relation to the outside Dionysian moments of laughter erupt and this he calls thinking in thin air. It is humour that permits us to treat the avatars of our belief in the truth as contingent processes, open again to a reinvention with `other givens’. Nomadism is never an imaginary or original state but an adventure that erupts in sedentary groups – it takes an oblique angle to the law, the institution, the contract – all of which are the sovereign’s problem, traversing the ages of sedentary history from despotic formations to our present democracies.

In this respect the nomad’s movement is one of betrayal, it conducts a double turning away: man turns his face away from god and god turns in turn his face away from man. A new politics begins, necessitating that every conclusion remain in suspense for it protects equally the `nothing’ that has lost all sense of what being political might mean and the `everything’ that still constrains us to be political whatever that might mean. For Deleuze the traitor is always to be opposed to the trickster, who claims, possesses and conquers. Like the Lacanian `pervert’, who enjoys knowledge and is often found in positions that guard the law, as in the judge or teacher and who focuses on the lack of the other and therefore is extraordinarily attentive to the others enjoyment. Whenever change takes place the perverse subject takes charge- to quickly recode the broken codes. But for the traitor and is there any other reason for writing than to be a traitor, a traitor to one’s own reign, one’s own sex, one’s own class, one’s own majority and even to be a traitor to one’s own writing, there is no return, just an openness to the future and the ever greater possibility of innovation. Has Judas, the traitor not revealed to us something at the core of Christianity in which it is God himself who by way of `becoming man’ and dying on the cross will have to pay the ultimate penalty. And did Marx not say as reported by Engels in his letter to Bernstein of 1882, `If anything is certain, it is that I am not a Marxist’ and thereby let it be known that Marxism is not an organizational doctrine or an academic philosophy or that socialism is in any way inevitable.

Yet it is by no means easy to be a traitor, because it necessitates creation which will always entail its own worries and will require that we lose our identity, our face of appearance to slowly disappear, become unknown. How do we find the means to scatter our love in order to become finally capable of loving? If we return to Aeschylus’s `Oresteia’ it is to find the template for this anti-humanist world-view in which it is no longer the individual that matters most but the house, or oikos and from which the individual can only emerge as a form that is no more than an iteration. For Deleuze this is to become imperceptible and which finds it direction from the impatience and imprudence of desire that has been able to forget the law. Desire is revolutionary because it treats the unconscious as neither individual nor collective, neither dependent on a social structure nor a defined community but as that which takes place between the two. The unconscious takes place in the very establishment of the ties between an individual (becoming a subject) and a group to which s/he would belong. Since the unconscious intervenes at the link between the two it can be neither natural nor spontaneous, it only exists when assembled or machined. In this way the unconscious assembles a desire of which its substance needs to be produced, manufactured, to get flowing, existing only as a social and political space always already in need of conquering.

Each group or individual has to construct a plane of immanence on which they lead their life and carry out their business and to do this the minimum real unit is not the word, the idea, the signifier but the assemblage. If the utterance is the product of the assemblage it is always collective for it is not possible to speak for, to speak of but only to speak with; with the world, a part of the world, with people… It is never easy to be free, to break through the codes, to flee from all those who need our sadness to make us slaves but only in organizing encounters can we increase our power to act. We must make the body a power which is not reducible to the organism, to make thought a power that is not reducible to consciousness and we must understand philosophy as no more than the art of functioning, of creating its own assemblages.

Martin Wooster, Sept 2010

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