2.16.2016

Notes on the Plenum


Going through old files of my writing, I found this. I have no idea what prompted it. The tone is a bit preachy know-it-all as this was before the fall, as it were. I've edited it a bit for good measure....

Let’s begin, then, from here: everything is multiple. A person, a body, a family, an animal, politics, feelings, moods, ideas, cocktails, love, technology, business, desire, appetite, meaning: everything is a multiplicity.

A thing is one thing that is many things. I am father, lover, pervert, sweet, nasty, brand consultant, critic, writer, blogger of philosophy, would-be adult, man, adolescent, frustrated driver — often all at once, sometimes one more than another.

We are run through with ways of going that exceed us, crisscrossed with flows of culture, blood, history, image, desire, disease, ideas, fears, anxieties, needs, dreams, and drugs.

The weather in San Francisco changes frequently. And with it, the moods of its citizens. Which is to say, our very private selves are environmental selves — the world, the universe, the cosmos runs through us, in us, with us at all times.

So-called Western medicine tries to isolate an ailment from its environs — treat the stomach, treat the toe, treat the mood. It then finds itself following a trail of effects — the stomach treatment changed the mood; the new mood treatment changed the kidneys; so treat the kidneys….and on it goes.

We are body but we are also mood; we are flesh and we are idea; we are blood and we are notion. The visible and invisible parts of us are marbled and cannot be separated once and for all. Things and ideas go together. This is important to understand.

We are ever changing networks (without an outside), internally and externally. These networks break down the perceived rigid lines that would separate me from the weather, me from the traffic, me from you.

The self is fundamentally ecological: it is part of an infinite system of relations, contingencies, connections, a Rube Goldberg machine of cosmic proportions.

We are multiple from the get go. This is not something to be avoided, shunned, or reduced. It is something to be celebrated and negotiated. Multiplicity is the state of things. And this is good, even if at times overwhelming and difficult. Making sense of life in all its teeming complexity should not always be easy.

It’s not that I am sometimes this and sometimes that. It’s that I am always this, that, that, and that in ever varying degrees of intensity. This variation never stops, not for one moment, even if at times it moves very, very slowly.

But this is not to say that we are a chaos. No, each of us is a singular node of networks, a singular amalgamating of elements, ideas, bodies, gestures, moods. Each of us is a way of going, a process, infinitely becoming — a differential equation.

I want to say that each of us is a different way of assembling these things. This way is what we might call a style: each of us has his own style of putting himself together. This style emerges rather than determines. Style changes.

We are productive nodes. Each of us takes up different things in different ways at different speeds with different intensity and makes different things of them. What I do with tequila is talk; what you do with tequila is dance; what he does with tequila is vomit.

You are an assemblage point. Things and ideas and people and moods and events gather around you, gather with you. You are a local torrent of activity, a magnet for certain kinds of things — some you attract strongly, some less so, some not at all. Others, you repel. So it is with bodies: they push, pull, and ignore each other. This is the cosmos, galaxies, solar systems, marriages, friendships, diets, addictions.

You are a manner of going. You are not first yourself and then you act. You are always acting, putting yourself and your world together. Which is to say, you are fundamentally temporal.

You are not. You become. You don’t become something. You just become — always moving, always shifting, but within limits.

You are bound and you are infinite. You are forever becoming along a particular trajectory — that is determined by that trajectory (rails are rare in the universe).

The world flows through us, in and around us, always. Before we are born, we are already figured in a network of becoming — race, class, gender, sexuality, religion. And throughout our lives, every day in many ways, the power of the world streams through us, carries us along and we inflect it just so. We are not determined; nor do we determine. We all go together, more or less. Just because I'm a so-called man doesn't mean I have to do manly things. I make — inflect — "man" just as "man" makes — inflects — me.

The world — what we might call our environment as long as we understand our environment to include buildings, roads, people, trees, air, clouds, stars, planets, oceans — the world is not an empty stage. It’s not a blank canvas, a neutral space, a background, a backdrop. The world has its moods, its needs, its complex desires: the roots of trees will sprawl, crab grass will find a way, the moon will tug at the ocean, billions upon billions of microbes will adapt and morph.

The air itself is curved. Just look at the clouds. 

We, as human beings, do not dictate this vast ecology of forces. But neither are we outside of them. We are part of them. Just as the wind blows the leaves that, in turn, shape that wind, we are part of everything happening. We are inflection points, changing things and being changed by things — always. This is the way of the world, of the universe happening. It exceeds us and includes us, envelops us. There is no outside and it's always happening. 

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