A Thousand Plateaus

A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari

“The question is not: is it true? But: does it work? What new thoughts does it make possible to think? What new emotion does it make possible to feel? What new sensations and perceptions does it open in the body?” Brian Massumi, translator.

There is no way to “review” this book, any more than there is a way to review the experience of witnessing sunlight over the course of one’s life. But there are clearly themes. For instance, the speed with which this book taught me just how much how much work I still have to do in slipping out of my internalization of the State. My habitual duty to sanctioned mind, reinforced by my participation in/with public institutions of all shapes and sizes, including the vanguarded traditions of psychology and philosophy. Have you glimpsed the ways you have performed the supression of your thoughts in the very act of “deciding” what books are worthy of reading? Or the pathways of thought you’ve cut off by reading chapters in the order they were “intended”? I have, and am appalled. Such is the impact of this book. It lays bare thoughts long mulled over in the private inner sanctums of the mind. It foregrounds assumptions long forgotten. Makes evident knee-jerk patterns of meaning making.

Recently, while reading a book of poems by Eileen Myles (I Must be Living Twice), I realized that I am far less faithful to linearity when reading poetry. My peripheral vision speaks up. Words enter my awarness in less predictable patterns. I allow myself to play with possible patterns of seeing, reading, circling back. I let myself linger; closing the book to give memories a chance to surface and body sensations a chance to speak. I do this with poetry, yet less so with prose, and even less so with anything I deem to be a “empirical research”. What practives might encourage us to flag points of departure when we engage with the artifacts of other minds? Isn’t that why we read books in the first place? To gather seeds? Do we assume we should only collet the seeds that have been carefully layed out for us, or do we, as with poetic readings, assume the pantry of documented thought is ours to plunder at will?

The partnership that is Deleuze & Guittari is itself worthy of rumination. A philosopher and a psychiatrist building works/worlds between themselves and inviting us to join them in their radical deprioritization of self in service of discovery. I’m reminded of my own explorations of co-discovery. For years I would end my calls with writer/artist Deborah Black with the nagging feeling that we should record and transcribe our dialogues. We could sense there was something other than our individual parts. A third “self” emerging between us. And in recent years it seems I have been gathering evidence to support that the study of such emergence lies at the center of the catalyst that will break the fever dream of this fantasy era of reductionism. A break that will sober us up to the unknowable forms of system thinking/making/researching that have been happening all along outside the fortress walls of certainty.

This is not simply the province of network science. System effects emerge everwhere, especially in the dealings between complex organisms like humans. Weather and traffic patterns are not the only places to question “what are the nodes and what are the edges?“. Complexity modeling can happen in any direction, at any time. A zen science. Although perhaps a bit more greedy than true Zazen, as we are thirsty for moments of stabilized meanings and the surfacing of hypotheses to test. We play with desire long enough to feel a sense of propulsion, yet know in some part of ourselves that it is a temporary folly. We believe in fixed nature long enough to see new ways of breaking it. The song of the rhizome, which Deleuze & Guitarri so clearly have learned to sing, stirs structured/unstructured cacophonies in multiple directions at once. Drunken choirs mashed with eloquent lectures, and all the murmurings between.

As I read this book I observe the need for decentralization. The need for minds to unlearn the habit of localisation. Self at the center. Self against other(s). Incessent tree thinking. Self as root. Memory as root. Desire as root. Are we ready to release upon our tidy thought structures a swarm of tori and rhizomatic proliferation? Can we do so without rupturing the necessary tools of mind-making? What ARE the necessary tools of mind-making? This book provides medicine, but what is the right dose? Why do we allow academics to binge on such medicine, while the average businesswoman scarecely hears of such lenses of self-understanding/self-making/self-unravelling? Deleuze & Guittari are never mentioned in The Economist or the New Yorker. Where do we begin to broaden the participation in this conversation that has been roiling in academia for decades?