Why & How the Body without Organs (or any concept) with Reference to Meditation

This is someone named Eva Strohmeier's map of the BwO.
[I can't find a direct link; I apologize as I love this.]

Sometimes, I find myself talking about a concept — say, the Body without Organs — to someone who has not enmeshed themselves in philosophy (I'm trying out that they/them thing). They listen, ask a question or two — often with a hint of defensiveness — before saying: Ok. So what? What am I supposed to do with that?

This is the best question possible: What am I supposed to do with that? What can I do with that? For it — life — is always a matter of doing.

Then again, I'm simultaneously thrown by the question. After all, haven't we been taught concepts since we were kids, throughout our education both formal and informal — evolution, the unconscious, sickness from germs, holistic? Why does this one concept, BwO, prompt that question? I believe it's because the idea sounds so odd, so esoteric, that it brings the very activity of all concepts to the fore — which is unsettling. I believe the question can house a certain anti-intellectualism which surfaces in comments like: That's just mental masturbation. Which is not an accusation I've ever understood.

Here's a concept I just read in a book: You have a core purpose. What are you supposed to do with that? Presumably, you're supposed to discover, then reach for, this core purpose.

But then someone else comes along and says: I don't know about that core purpose stuff. I don't think we have a core; and I don't think we have a purpose. I think we're all just adrift and the trick is to ride it with grace. And, for a calculus of reasons, you believe this latter guy. So now rather than taking time alone and considering your core purpose, you move into the social, into the fray of experience, but without judgement or exploration you used to have. Now you seek grace as a passive subject within the Great Teem, riding this whole shindig out.

Two concepts. Two different architectures of experience. And at least two different directives on how to behave. Concepts, like many figures, organize our sense making. They have us see the world a certain way, to process the stuff of this world a certain way. (I'd argue that any figure has this power; after seeing Francis Bacon's paintings, I see the world, I experience the world, I organize the world differently.) And this processing, which we might call understanding, inflects our desires, our experience, how we interact with ourselves and other bodies.

Concepts, like all figures, have the ability to (re)order the very structures of who we are as individuals and as a social body. They famously wrote: A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.  

So what are you to do with the Body without Organs? Well, like all concepts, it proffers an architecture of bodies: within this organized body there is another body, one that is run through with forces and flows, with becomings and desires of all sorts. This refers not just to the human body but to all bodies — to cities, houses, classrooms, relationships, discourses of every kind.

Let's take massage. You're getting a massage as your shoulder really hurts. One therapist massages the body with organs so focuses on your shoulder, on the muscles and tendons and what-have-you. Another therapist massages the body without organs so feels around for different flows and connections, moving from that right shoulder down across the back to the left side lower back before gliding across the glutes, back up, and then over the other glutes down the leg. I'm not sure which will "work"; I, for one, would prefer the latter. But preferences aside, the point is: different architectures of the body due to different concepts become different practices — and different experiences for you-of-the-sore-shoulder.

Now take your living space. Sure, there's a living room in which you do certain things; a dining room where you eat; a kitchen where you cook; and so on. It's a highly organized space — organized before you ever set foot in it not just by architects but by discourse, by the things we're taught since birth about how space is organized. But there is another space within that organized space, a schizo space, a space of different flows of action, of different possibility.

Ever since I've lived on my own, I've had this practice in which when I find myself frustrated with my living space, I wait until night and then I turn off all the lights, open all the windows, shed most or all of my clothes, and then move room to room feeling for what it wants and how the space might go together. I might play music; I might even dance. I'll sit on different things to get different vantages; I'll lie down on the floor, on the table, over the back of the couch. Sometimes, this ends up in a reorganization of the space — couch here, table there. But that's not the point; I'm not redecorating. The point is this ritual of experiencing the space outside of its organized body, inviting its BwO to play, to think the space, to enjoy the space, to have it move me through it.

I took a class in college on ethnicity in which the professor told this incredible story. There was some controversy in upstate New York where there are Native American reservations. It seems the residents were living in these makeshift homes of oil barrels and tar paper. So, to save the day, some state senator built houses on the reservation. A few weeks later, the residents had taken sledgehammers to the walls. The state was, of course, befuddled so hired my professor to figure out why. Well, it seems these Native Americans lived in wide open common spaces — the oil barrels and tar paper; walls were strange and disruptive to them — ergo, the sledgehammers, like a good conceptual brick, at once breaking down and building up. Within any space, other spaces lurk — spaces of radically different flows. A house enjoys a body without organs, too.

BwO, then, refers to any body — spatial, social, discursive. But what about the human Body without Organs? What do I do with that in my life besides choosing a massage therapist?

Over the past two years, I've thought about, read about, and practiced some meditation (not a lot, mind you). What do I, what does anyone, want from meditation? Practitioners of Transcendental Mediation (TM) talk about simply sitting and experiencing one's deep inner peace. They use a common figure in this world: the ocean. At the surface, there are waves crashing and moving this way and that. But under the waves, deep down in the ocean, there is a great stillness. This, we are told, is how we as human beings go: on the surface, we are waves of errands, work, worries. But we also house a great stillness which we forget about. Meditation doesn't just remind us; it is an experience of a stillness that lurks in all of our bodies.

This is quite different than the Body without Organs. BwO doesn't proffer stillness; it proffers a veritable flux of movement, of flows. BwO is not still or passive; it is active, emergent, vital, seething — not with the anxieties of the everyday but with the forces of life, of the cosmos.

Well, why access such a body? Isn't life complex enough? Maybe. But maybe the organization of the body with organs is the source of the stress and anxiety. Maybe exerting so much energy to hedge and control the Body without Organs is precisely the source of stress, of sickness, of dis-ease? Maybe accessing the BwO is a way to health. That rather than the BwO creating greater complexity, it creates less. In any case, BwO is a not a way to stillness but to ecstatic movement (internal and external).

I think there is a meditative practice to access the BwO that is different than TM. Which is not to knock TM at all; that stillness is beautiful, important, essential. To me, TM's oceanic body is another body alongside the bodies with and without organs. It is to say that there is perhaps a meditative practice of listening not to the silence but to the teem and flow of the BwO. This meditation might not entail sitting quietly; it might entail moving, writhing, yelling, muttering, rolling about.

Maybe we don't call it a meditation. But to me it's a meditation in that it's a disruption of everyday habit in order to allow whatever comes to come — whether silence or screams, stillness or writhing. What I imagine is a listening, not for silence, but for the myriad, affective flows and sensations.

I believe the co-opting of "mindfulness" by industry — health insurance companies, tech companies — is to make our bodies that are being torn apart by the conditions of capitalism more productive, able to keep working, keep buying, not go to the doctor. Which is to say, this form of meditation has the ability to stall and hide the symptoms of modern life rather than heal.

Needless to say, this need not be the case. It seems to me a mindfulness practice opens you up to the world beyond work and consumption, to the world of the weird and vital within the everyday. In this case, meditation becomes a kind of access to the BwO.

Of course, the risk of opening oneself up to access the BwO is a certain madness. It's certainly not always pleasant; it's not just jouissance. But it's also jouissance. One issue, it seems, is how to move between and among one's different bodies, how to have the ecstatic states of one body not just hinder the other but to have them propel each other. This may be a misguided wish; some messiness, some conflict, some pain might be inevitable, even good.

I'm still trying to figure that out for myself: Do I want only quiet peace? Do I want to be the depth of the ocean and only the depth of the ocean? I don't think so. I have energetic flows in me that want out, that don't want to be suppressed like a tantric ejaculation, holding back my reserves for internal power — even if that is fantastic, powerful, and beautiful. It's just not the only way I want to come. I also want to writhe and moan, I want to scream, to feel my body disintegrate only to reform along new and strange lines.

Mind you, it's not an either/or. All these bodies intersect each other. All these bodies exist — the angular body with organs; the writhing Body without Organs; the deep oceanic body. All these states exist — dealing with the anxious everyday; bleeding, moaning, and coming in different directions at once; resonant, quiet peace. But we can lean a little more this way than that. (Which body decides which way to lean?)

This is what this esoteric sounding concept, BwO, does for me: it multiplies the bodies I find operating in the world and within me. I, for one, don't think we have a core. Or, rather, I believe we have a core but we also don't. Burrowing to one's core is only one mode of living, even if beautiful. But there are other bodies in me. To live, it seems, is a little schizo.


On Kink and Enjoyment, Social and Private

A caveat: this is a true essay, a try, a reaching with words that comes from my ongoing interest in the question of enjoyment, especially within capitalism. What is the relationship between what I enjoy and what I am produced, induced, programmed to enjoy? What is the relationship between social and private enjoyment? Kink is not something I've thought a lot about but seems to operate within this odd, blurry space between the social and private and so got my attention. All of which is to say, I'm not sure at all about kink; these are just some thoughts. There are smarter people who've thought more about it. I welcome their input.

Kink is a discontinuous, though perhaps contiguous, moment within a trajectory. It's a veer, an inflection point, a point of differentiation. The rope is hanging there but at some juncture it doesn't just hang there. It does something different — turns abruptly, frays a bit only to reconstitute itself, knots and continues, bends in a different direction.

And not just because of how the rope is lying. A kink is concerted, distinctive, differentiated from the series. You can't just shake the kink out to make the rope straight again. A kink, alas, is more determined than a wrinkle. A kink is constitutive, not an accident. A kink may be the thing that breaks the series of a body, interrupts the series, or introduces a new series — or some combination thereof.

Kink doesn't just pass, even if it's temporary. After a lifetime of never paying them much mind, you may suddenly enjoy feet immensely only to find, after some time, that feet have returned to their previous status. And yet there will always be some shadow of those feet, a ghost of those soles, a wiggle of those toes wisping about your sense of the world. Such is kink: it doesn't just make an impression on you; it is an impression on you, of you, with you.

This is precisely what makes kink unsettling: it is a discontinuous moment within the narrative of yourself. Yeah, I'm just a normal guy but, well, it seems I really enjoy smelling armpits while I slow dance to REM in my underwear with a vibrator wedged gently into my rectum. Or some such thing. Is this still just a normal guy? What story does he tell himself about himself once he starts getting jiggy with "Fables of the Reconstruction"?

Of course, what is normal? Why would anyone write a narrative about themselves in which they — yes, I've adopted the pluralization of third person to avoid the he/her awkwardness; for me, this is as aesthetic as it is political; mind you, sometimes I still use the singular but hopefully in ways that are a swerve from the norm; in my book, I usually refer to "the reader" as a she, but not always — anyway, why would anyone ever call themselves normal?

Then again, we are fundamentally social creatures (pace Aristotle not to mention Althusser). We make sense of ourselves within the social body and so there is always some normal we are negotiating even if we quietly reject it. This neither good nor bad; it is what we do, necessarily.

All of this is to say a lot of things but, for now, it's to say that kink is relative. It's a moment, albeit a resonant and I dare say ontological moment, within a trajectory that is different from the rest of that trajectory. In one of my favorite books with one of my favorite titles, On the Nature of Things, Lucretius (somewhat) famously writes:

When atoms move straight down through the void by their own weight, they deflect a bit in space at a quite uncertain time and in uncertain places, just enough that you could say that their motion has changed. But if they were not in the habit of swerving, they would all fall straight down through the depths of the void, like drops of rain, and no collision would occur, nor would any blow be produced among the atoms. In that case, nature would never have produced anything.

Lucretius calls this swerve, this shift in direction, this deviation from the same-old-same-old — this kink — clinamen. I love that clinamen is at once a term of geometry — the grades of a slope, of an incline — and of being in the world, as in having an inclination for, say, running or tequila. Kink, for me, is just such a swerve; it's clinamen.

Bodies are not all the same, even to ourselves. And they are not solely determined by an external force, a nudge from god or God or the wind. Nor are bodies hermetic and solely self-determining. No, bodies have tendencies —  I go for tequila, you go for a run, she loves mountains, he loves deserts. Why? Well, there is no final explanation. Sure, we can trace our respective body chemistries and upbringing by way of explanation but that only begs the question. As Nietzsche writes in "On Truth and Lies," all knowledge is tautological. Clinamen is beautiful in that it is its own final term: like all bodies, I go as I go and, at some point, there nothing else to say by way of explanation. We are these emergent forms in motion, ever in flux and yet bound, pushed and pulled by what's around us according to invisible magnetic, gravitational forces. We are all falling only to swerve here and there and thereby make the world.

Now, we generally define sexual kink as a swerve from the social norm — most people, we believe, don't bite each other. So if I bite, I'm kinky. Kink as a social term is helpful and clear. It's quantitative: most people do X so if you do Y, you're kinky by definition. It's a way, however reductive, to make sense of each other and ourselves vis-à-vis the social body.

But what does kink mean in my relationship to myself, to this body and how it goes? If all I do is bite — biting this, biting that —  then wouldn't kissing be the clinamen, the kink in the trajectory that is me?

Now, if I'm a rope, a kink comes from some way I've made my way through the world. But as a human body who desires and does certain things for my pleasure, whence my kink(s)? What makes us say doing this or that is kinky and not just something we've done? That is to say, like the rope that suddenly finds itself kinked, I might bite or be bitten due to some way of going: I met a woman, we ended up at her place, we start fooling around and, just like that, she bites me. I can certainly say that is kinky in relationship to my usual sexual experiences and, perhaps, to the social norm (but everyone has a different social, right? We're not all subject to USA Today's polls). But these bites are not a clinamen, not a swerve in how I'm falling through space. At this point, these nibbles are a wrinkle, not a kink.

But, at some point, something changes. I now think about biting and being bitten. I dream of that sensation of teeth meeting flesh — not just fingers, cock, or tongue but the porcelain rigidity of teeth. I begin seeking it out and performing it. It is now not just a desire; it's an enjoyment.

What I've always loved about the word "enjoy" is that it is at once an indifferent performance of an action — to enjoy a piece of tofu can mean simply to eat a piece of tofu— and a declaration of an inclination: I enjoy eating tofu. Kink operates at this intersection only it is not just something I do and something I enjoy doing: it is something that distinguishes itself within my trajectory, something that pops.

But what marks discontinuity with myself? Well, I suppose it's a matter of behavior: I've never bitten someone's thigh before! It's a new thing I do. But what makes it stick, what makes it sing out — what makes it a kink and not a wrinkle — is that I enjoy it. It is something I want to do, yes; but, more, it is something that resonates through me, as me, something that makes me swerve. If a wrinkle is an accident, localized and passing, kink is thorough: it pervades the body. It's not just a matter of, Well, that feels good. It's  matter of: Holy fuck! Yes! That! 

And yet isn't that all resonant satisfaction — namely, that it's a Holy fuck! Yes! That!? What makes kink — in this case, mutual flesh nibbling or, perhaps, voracious consumption of flesh — different from other resonant experiences of sexual behavior?

If I take deep, thorough, resonant enjoyment in getting a hand job — or in kissing, in soft core pin-up pictures, in holding hands — what makes this more or less kinky than taking a deep, bloody bite out of a thigh? Sure, socially they are different. But from the perspective of my body, my trajectory, what is the difference? What marks the clinamen other than the resonant pleasure — which is to say, the enjoyment?

I wonder, then, if enjoyment is in fact the source of the swerve, of the clinamen. No doubt, there seem to be things other than enjoyment that inflect a trajectory. To wit, if I think about the defining curves of my trajectory, I'd say: my father abandoning me; my mother re-marrying; moving from the way Upper West Side of Manhattan to Westchester; having a kid; getting divorced; the death of my sister. On the other hand, I've enjoyed all these things in the sense that I've lived through them. They've not just resonated through me, they've resonated as me. They've all shifted my trajectory or, better, they've created my trajectory, the kinks in the trajectory that is me.

And so what is kink — not in the social sense which is, alas, really an arithmetic equation but in the personal sense, in the story we tell ourselves?  I wonder if it has less to do with some general sense of the odd or different than in the distinctive experience of enjoyment, those resonant experiences that stand out from the fray of it all? And so what defines kink for me would be: What gets you all nutty worked up, so worked up that you're a little bit different that you just were? What stirs you unto the cosmos? What makes your rope bend, twist, and head off in a distinctive direction, even if only for a few moments?


Deleuze & Guattari's Body without Organs (BwO), Yoga, S&M, Drugs, and a Morass of More!

Yoga, chakras, discipline, crack, LSD, trees, Gargantua, Humberto Maturana and autopoiesis, and so much more!

 And I give you some Boredoms to perform the Body without Organs.....


Schizo Sense: On the Space, Place, and Drape of the Image in Marc Lafia's "Making Sense"

I first encountered this body of work in his house. This is not in and of itself unusual. I've done plenty of studio visits over the years which are often in the artist's house, in a room set aside for that purpose.

But this was different. There was no studio. There was a large, long living room. The art, however, was not set up to be viewed per se. That is to say, most of my studio visits involve seeing art that has been arranged precisely to facilitate seeing, one image after another along a wall or floor so I can peruse the images one at a time. The space is immaterial, an afterthought at best; I'm there to see the images. It's as if the frames exclude their environment, letting me confront the image without hindrance.

But, in this case, the art was not displayed for this. It was everywhere — hanging from clothes lines that ran the length of the room at different angles; from windows; draped over couches, objects, paintings, chairs; and, when I could peek through the windows, I could see it lying over bushes and trees.

This is not art that one sees as much as one wears: we don't see it as much it drapes us. Drape is a term of fabric and, yes, this art is made predominantly of different fabrics. But when I say drape, I mean more than the mode of display: I mean the mode of engagement. A painting, photograph, or film usually privileges a certain relationship between object and eye: everything is about clearing lines of sight, illuminating the image just so in order to see it more clearly.

This art operates with a different relationship to vision, light, and the viewing body. The experience is not one of the eye taking in an image but of an affective body being draped in a certain ambience of light and material. Light, in this case, does not illuminate the image; on the contrary, light shifts the image itself. Mind you, it's not light art à la James Turrell in which the material facilitates an experience of seeing. For Turrell, the object is light which he hangs just so. Lafia's work does the opposite: it doesn't present light but insistently presents materials that metabolize light. If for Turrell, material serves light, for Lafia, light serves material.

This art, then, drapes us. It doesn't contain itself to the eye; it flows all around us. Its folds and pleats, its ridges and nudges, seem to make it sculptural but sculpture tends to reenact the architecture of painting: it is something to be seen. (I still can't believe that we're not allowed to climb Oldenburg's "Cupid's Span" here in SF. Seeing it is a bit banal; it wants to be touched, climbed, slid down. In Philly, we could climb on his "Split Button.") Lafia's work is of a different order: it is, at the very least, haptic — that is to say, sight and touch are entwined and, at times, even interchangeable. In any case, to see this art is to be draped in a sensual experience that at once palpates and is palpable. (The great French phenomenologist would call this a chiasm, an intertwining, articulated in the middle voice — neither active nor passive, both active and passive.)

One thing was clear to me immediately: there is no clarity as to what constitutes an image here. This is not an experience of discrete experiences; it is an experience of ever-shifting relationships. They may have stitches here and there but they are not framed. These works bleed, essentially. It is how they go. They can pick up and go elsewhere and find themselves comported in an absolutely new way — what was once on a clothes line may now be over a window, a bush, covering, filtering, and making new sense of something else. This work is not a series of works. Nor does any one piece have a definitive way to display itself. It's generous, willing and able to be here or there.

Over time, this bleed only intensified. When I revisited it a few weeks ago, it had begun to take up objects around it. The fabric no longer just lies there metabolizing light; it metabolizes other art and things, creating localized dramatic scenes.

And all of it still in that large, long living room. One of the great effects of this space is that it's not always clear what's art and what isn't. That coat hung over the chair? Those rolls of paper in the corner? That old painting against the wall? In this environment, the line between art and everyday objects blurs. Which, frankly, is beautiful, calling to mind Niezsche on the Greco-Romans for whom everyday objects, and beliefs, were art as much as they were utility.

So when the curators of the 1GAP Gallery — at Grand Army Plaza, the glass and steel Richard Meier building on Prospect Park in Brooklyn — agreed to show this work, I wondered how they'd display it (I almost wrote "hung," which is telling: that is what galleries do — they hang art for the viewer's eyes). I imagined its vast glass walls lined with textures and fabrics, the space not just inhabited but ravaged by this work, this work that has a will to bleed. And that would no doubt be glorious.

But this gallery is interesting in that it occupies, and moves through, a residential building. Only the residence is not the artist's; it's occupied by owners and paying tenants, many of them with kids. And it's curated as a gallery that is, lest we forget, a seller of art. Both factors — residents with kids and objects to sell — call for a certain discretion. (The fact that these two factors align in their intention is not a coincidence, of course; both are bourgeois institutions. That said, kids themselves — as distinct from children as a socio-juridical entity — disrupt bourgeois propriety in such a glorious manner, espeically vis-à-vis art. When my own child was young, I usually kept him in line wherever we went as I enjoy quiet. But at museums, I'd encourage him to run wild. Such is my prejudice: I want art to be in, of, and as the everyday rather than as a special thing to be worshipped.)

The gallery had the odd task of turning this bleeding drape into discrete objects, works that could be hung alone, titled, and sold. And I have to say: it was fantastic. The individual objects, hung rather than draped, and then optimized for viewing are beautiful, engaging, hilarious. If I had walked in and seen the work just like this, each as one piece within a series, I'd have been astounded. (You can see more images of that show, which is up through the Summer, here.)

The gallery, needless to say, turned Lafia's work into "art" — into an institutional commodity, framed and poised for consumption. This institution is more than the gallery; it is the history of art, an engine of capital, academia, publishing, museums, collectors. Duchamps' "Fountain" only works because there is such a thing, an institution that is as much transactional (for buyers as well as viewers) as it is ideological and spatial. The curator in this case, Suzy Spence, had the difficult task of transforming Lafia's viral, schizophrenic work into something respectable and readily consumable. And she did an incredible job, choosing work that works in the windows, work that works on its own, work that is witty and has something to say within the discourse that is institutional art.

Unlike most people who will see this show, I've had the luxury of experiencing it in the two venues. And this affords me a distinct pleasure: I was able see this body without organs, as Deleuze would call it, become a presentable organism — a shapeless, shifting morass of color, texture, and affect become a refined yet witty conversationalist. And so now I see it in both states at the same time, a body that keeps shifting its posture in such fundamental ways while somehow remaining recognizable — the funky underwear slipping out of the tuxedo pants while the tuxedo sits comfortably amid the drape of silk, plastic, neoprene, rubber, latex, and paper. Back and forth this work goes, always becoming, always becoming other to itself in the very act of its actualization.


In Search of an Object to Critique

The art of Marc Lafia is a persistent source of nourishment for me, feeding me objects to critique. Look at this from his recent work. It draws me in, pops from the fray, but without ready answer. It's monstrous, in the best sense, in that it's not a known quantity. That knowing comes in and with my reckoning, my writing, my critique. And that is decadent, like happening upon a feast of my favorite things.

How does one choose what to write about? I've kept this blog — is "to keep" the right verb? — for 10 years now. I've written about photography and images in general; about particular images and image makers, including films; about death, dating, tequila, Nietzsche, repetition, Deleuze, and Kierkegaard; about teaching, writing, and teaching writing; about language, words, grammar, and teaching language, words, and grammar; about therapy, the will to boring, and the pros and cons of the fact of other people.

Why these things? Well, why not. So perhaps the question is: How these things? How did they occur to me? Well, they obviously come from a reckoning of the life I'm leading. I never thought really about death until I watched and helped my sister die; I didn't write about therapy until I was in it and not about the will to boring until therapy taught me it; as for the pros and cons of other people, that emerged when I fell in love for the first time in decades.

Still, there are many things in my life I don't write about. I rarely mention noodles, for instance. And I don't write a lot about my son, despite the fact that he's the most important and present figure in my life. I suppose noodles are just not that interesting to me and my son is too interesting to me.

Interesting to me: that's a phrase that begs the question. How does this come to the fore as an object of critique but not that? I fear my answer right now is banal and continues the begging: some things just do pop to me while other things do not. We are, all of us, metabolic systems. This means we are desiring machines, filters, and processing engines. I crave noodles the same as I write about Nietzsche — I desire them, I take them up, I process them and enjoy processing them.

Of course, when I was younger — when I was in grad school — everything was interesting (which is actually the tagline for my kid's middle school). The architecture of the classroom, of my writing pad, the various speeds of my pens, the tenor of my voice in the classroom, the size of a book, this or that font, the distribution of trees on the street, even noodles. I was voracious; I could take up anything and critique it. And I did, all the time, often in my own head, too often to those around me.

That was 25 years ago, though. Today, I'm at once more discerning but also less voracious. I choose what to take up, what to process, what to critique. (Note, please, that critique here is an affirmative practice; it is not to criticize or judge. It is to flesh out, flush out, animate, extend, reckon.)

Sometimes, nothing pops to me. This can be frustrating in that I find myself mired in too much me — the same ideas, the same books, the same objects. I become a bit zombie-like. But another aspect of this is luxurious: I enjoy the things of my life, live with them as they nourish me.

Still, I usually jump at the opportunity to have a new object, something fresh to digest — a film, an art work, a book. I am grateful to my friend, Marc Lafia, who continues to make and show great, beautiful, complex art — and asks me to write about it. What a gift! He feeds me new nourishment. And this affords me the luxury of something to write about as, above all, I love writing.

Still, what is "interesting"? I think it's what is literally of interest to me, to this body, to how I go. I find something interesting that can fuel me, feed me, and as I said, nourish me. And these are things that somehow emerge from the din of the everyday, that come out of the shadows and present themselves to me as something different, something emergent, something now, something not yet known. My taking up is my process of knowing.

But it's not just that these things come to me. I go to them. It is a cooperative process of us finding each other, just as I happen upon the noodle section of the Asian market in the Richmond. It draws me in as I draw it in. I suppose it's a kind of magnetism, then. Which is itself a kind of love — and vice versa. (Love is a subset of magnetism just as magnetism is a subset of love; then again, we need not think about any of it in terms of hierarchies, of subs and such, but rather as networks of mutual becoming: magnetism as a concept and action pulls and pushes love as a concept and experience.)

Notice how all of this inquiry begs the question: How and why these objects to critique? This is perhaps the most complex thing to teach. I could tell my students the form of an essay, perhaps. But how do I tell them how to find an object to critique when this object is intimately entwined with their metabolism, their way of going? The things that speak to me most likely don't speak to them. So how do I, how does anyone, teach the finding of an object to critique?

My approach was to show. We'd read a text together — whether it was the classroom itself, an essay by Nietzsche, a Platonic dialogue. I'd literally read it line by line in class. When I think about that now, it seems insane. But that's how we did it: we'd read each line and I'd stop after each and critique everything we'd just read. Looking at it now, I think students believed I was teaching them particular things about this or that text. But I wasn't: I was trying to show them how to find an object to critique. And this meant pointing out how everything can be interesting, how everything can emerge from the fray of life, from the blindness of habit and conditioning, to be something vital, bizarre, new. I actually taught a class on watching films entitled, "Bring on the Strange." This may be the only goal of teaching, at least for me: teaching students how to see what's in front of them as something new, emergent, something to reckon anew, something downright strange.

Finding an object to critique, then, means discovering a moment of alienation, a moment in which social protocol drops and this thing stands there, odd and misshapen, and says: What about this?