Affect is Knowledge

Just for the goof, today, read the entire world from the perspective of affective resonance. Put aside normative structures, put aside the so-called literal meanings of words and look, actually look at what's happening. There is an elaborate invisible architecture, an invisible calculus of affective collision.


Living in the Mooded World

We — or, perhaps, I — spend considerable time trying to read my body, my mood, and how best to adjust this or that. I shift my diet, my sleep, my booze, my recreation — all in an effort to "feel good."

Now, I go about all this — and, I believe, we all go about this — as if our bodies, and our moods, were distinct from the environment. That is, we view ourselves as contained and containable entities — more or less static machines that need adjustment.

But I've recently become more and more interested — and more and more aware — of the inclination of the world, both visible and invisible.

A brilliant friend of mine, Allison Holt, spent time with shamans in Java learning and mapping their metaphysics. And they operate within a world that has planes of energy, in which events persist in an almost spatial sense, as something to be reckoned — just as we, here, reckon our own bodies.

William Burroughs, too, spoke often of possession, of the winds of madness, delirium, malevolence, excitation that operate in this world.

And so I want to suggest a different architecture of thinking the relationship between body and world — a world that is always already mooded, that has its own inclinations and demands and that weighs upon us, quite literally, in multiple ways all the time. These can be as obvious as the cold of Minnesota vs. the dampness of San Francisco. But they can be as mysterious and elusive as an invisible tide of angst or an eddy of excitement.

As we — as I — tend to my body and mood, rather then trying to adjust it, we should be trying to configure it to best navigate, best negotiate, best "go with" the prevailing — and latent — mooded winds. This is to say, our bodies are always already fundamentally — ontologically — enmeshed with the environment.

And so we need not to be reading our bodies per se. We need to be reading the interaction of our bodies with the world. This means that adjustment of diet, of sleep, of recreation is more or less constant as circumstances shift, as environmental conditions shift.

We are mooded bodies moving amongst mooded bodies, visible and invisible. We are mooded bodies that are always going with a mooded earth, mooded trees, mooded streets, mooded people, with mooded spectres of all kinds. The world is a plenum of moods, infinitely dense, perfectly dense with itself, with affective resonances.

Tending to self is not a matter of tending to a body-machine. Tending to self is a matter of tending to a body-world-machine, to a complex of interactions, many of which remain mysterious and magical.


We Live in Multiple Times

I've been struck recently by how we live — all of us, everyday — in multiple times at once. The now is always a multiplicity, a series of intersecting nodes that never quite coalesce: the now is a network of varying speeds and various times.

In his Cinema books, Deleuze notes that a filmic image always enjoys multiple times. The example he uses is a man walking a dog through along a river, through the mountains. He asks us to note all the different times occupying the frame at the same time: river time, mountain time, dog time, man time, the time of the frame itself.

I am now seeing this multiplicity of temporalities, of speeds and durations, co-existing in me. I feel the continuation of high school loves — that incredible pathos — winding through me, right now, and projecting itself into the future, into possible worlds. I feel tastes for certain foods — things I loved at one point — burbling now and again and with each craving I am existing then and now. I see the things that make up my life — my son's drawing, art I've acquired recently, art I've acquired ages ago and each item is a time, not just its time but my time, a time of me, of my becoming. Now take all the objects that surround me — the pens and scribbled notes, the bowls with their chips, the forks with their bends, the stored food I once craved: each is a time of my becoming, a duration of my becoming that is absolutely distinct and yet harmonizing, impossibly, awkwardly, with these other times, these other durations.

Yes, we endure — as Bergson notes — and this endurance is a network of durations.

Think now about cyclical knowledge such as the zodiac. What a strange temporality! What a strange kind of knowledge! The cycles are so vast, too vast for one lifetime to truly comprehend. And so the very nature of such grand cyclical knowledge is premised on collective knowing that is temporally rather than spatially distributed. And this calendar, which was forged across time, inflects the present as we consult it, learn from it.

Suddenly, I see the great teem of durations, of temporalities, everywhere I look: the stains and nicks and potholes, the dents and rusts, the gleams and polishes, the wear and tear, the tears and cries and giggles: they are all their own durations existing alongside each other.

And this great swarm of times flourishes within us. Or, rather, this great swarm is our becoming.

Bergson tells us that memory is not reflection. We are our memory — it's how we know how to tie our shoes, throw a ball, drive a car; how we know what we like to eat, what we like to do. Memory is not a warehouse of images. Memory is the name for this great swarm of times that carry each of us along, that is our respective becoming.


The Power of Place

I, for one, constantly underestimate the power of place. Despite my rigorous proclamations about the materiality of life, I instinctively imagine myself as somehow floating above it: when I change environments, I imagine I'm not changing.

But we are fundamentally enmeshed with our place, with where we find ourselves. And these places are deeply enmeshed with us. Space is not a neutral background on which we lay our chairs, rugs, bodies, lives. Space — place — is not the stage upon which our lives play. Space is part of the play, and an integral part at that.

As a perhaps odd aside on that, this is one reason I really love the Pirates of the Caribbean films: with each new film, a piece of the presumed background becomes an active player in the action — the boat is alive, the water is alive. Which is to say, the action doesn't take place on the ship or on the water; it takes place with the ship, with the water.

I was recently in the town I grew up in. I realized that while there I avoid certain places, those places where so much of my youth happened. This time, I went to what I consider the epicenter of said activity. Just approaching it, my body began to hum, my heart beat. I sat in the spot I'd sat a thousand times — a spot where kisses and drinks and drugs and loves long gone all took place.

And all of a sudden, I found myself davening — rocking back and forth as if in Jewish prayer — and soon tears were rolling down my face. And you might say that it's the memories that were the cause. But what is a memory? Where is a memory? I'll tell you: my memories are not solely in my head. They are in this place, part of this place.

And now I find myself moving, leaving a neighborhood I've lived in for over 19 years. I walk those streets I once roamed so freely and they quite literally transform my 41 year old, bald self into a 25 year old jewfroed wonder boy. And now that I'm leaving, I am overwhelmed, as if breaking out of a cocoon — only, instead of a butterfly, I'll just be a bald 41 year old hebe living alone in the middle of nowhere.

But what's surprising is that I am constantly surprised by the penetrating depth, the profound resonance, of the emotion I feel. I mean, of course I should be emotional about it. After all, we live with space, with place — and it lives with us. And yet.

To move is not just to transform one's environment; it is, necessarily, to transform oneself. But we have no ritual to mark this transformation; we talk about it in terms of getting good rent, a cool view. the hassles of moving a couch.

But we tend not to talk about the mourning, and all that that entails.

The Posture of Things

You're shopping for a chair. As you browse the aisles, you note the variety — from backless computer chairs to high bar stools to plush ...