Tuesday, February 5, 2008

More Dictionary Items -- Rhizome and Bearing Witness

Following are two more sections for the new Dictionary (of sorts)....


This description of rhizome is taken from an earlier post in this blog.

The rhizome is a botanical image. It describes a certain kind of assemblage that connects together through networks of nodes and lines.

Think potatoes, grass, poplar trees -- Many believe that the largest trees in the world are not sequoia or redwoods but rather poplar trees, for poplars are rhizomes. In the foothills of the Rocky Mountains one will notice that, in the fall, a large section of a hill will turn yellow, while the other sections are still green. These patches of poplar trees are actually one genetic organism, one large rhizome assemblage.

Think weeds – almost every weed in your garden -- Rhizomes are productive spaces, enabling effective and flourishing movement through terrain and barriers often seen as impenetrable and impossible.

Think of human creations such as telephone systems, the internet, and, to some extent, the power grid -- Human creations, even institutional creations are not always institutional in structure, sometimes they appear in rhizome form. This is especially true of some human creations that involve many diverse and loosely connected players.

Rhizomes are typically found underground. They are not usually conspicuous -- If one opens the paper or turns on the evening news, one is primarily given stories and information pertinent to institutional life. Rhizome life is not usually considered news-worthy. Rhizome movements are powerful, but are not as easily visible.

Rhizomes are made of nodes and lines that connect the nodes -- nodes connected with numerous lines which in turn connect to other nodes and lines. Think the American interstate system. Think prairie dog towns. Imagine the ‘communal’ not as relations with local institutions, not as a realm of service institutions, but rather as rhizome connections, as lines connecting with people, places, animals, things. Think of our communal worlds as rhizome abundances.

Rhizomes have no practical beginning, ending or centrality -- Imagine that one wanted to get rid of the crab grass in one’s lawn. The idea of going after the beginning grass, the one that started it all, or the latest frontiers of crab grass, or the boss crab grass – this type of thinking is insanity in the worlds of rhizomes. Rhizomes are not influenced by such linear and rank-oriented interests. Military-type might is notoriously ineffective at influencing rhizome community.

Rhizomes are extremely difficult to destroy -- Rhizomes in nature, or the communal rhizomes– they are all most difficult to destroy. We must stop thinking of rhizome-like things as if they were vulnerable, instead we must see them as resiliant and brimming with creative powers.

We are suggesting a view of humanity, of relationships, of community, even of mind and body that is like rhizome. We are suggesting worlds outside of bodily encasement, beyond familial identity, outside of that which is typically conceived of within the language of ‘system’, toward lives that are tied by uncountable lines to uncountable bodies, where relationships of many different types become engulfing and repeatedly formative. These rhizome connections are certainly about relationships with people, but they are also about so much more -- they are about relationships with animals and plants, relationships with air and water, relationships with landscapes, relationships with buildings and rooms and spaces and lines of travel, relationships with relationships, relationships with countless other assemblages, whether created by people or by nature (as if that distinction can be maintained), relationships with cars and rivers and musical instruments, relationships with music itself, relationships with values and goods and affects such as love, humour, romance, sadness, loneliness, joy, annoyance. All these and numerous other assemblages not mentioned and not previously considered are connected to us and through us within rhizome space.

Bearing Witness

In the Old Testament book, Song of Songs, there is a marvellous dance which ensues. Two lovers exchange these exquisite, poetic affirmations of the other, or more precisely affirmations of the body of the other. These affirmations become this swirling, ecstatic crescendo of words – words coming from and words returning to bodies. Relations between words and bodies are created within the Song of Songs which can feel most foreign to a Western sensibility.

It must be stressed that the desire of these words is repetitively affirmation, affirmation of the body, affirmation of love, affirmation of the very sense of the Alive. The words in Song of Songs seem to be boiling over with affirmation desires.

Following these sections where the lovers engage in such vollies of affirmation, appears a further work of affirmation. A new realm of words joins into these swirling flows. A chorus emerges, new bodies appear, and these bodies break out into song, celebrating the words and actions of the lovers themselves. This chorus also affirms with both poetic and embodied words, but its affirmation is focused upon the very affirmations of the lovers’ themselves. A second-order affirmation is added -- affirmations of affirmations. Much later in history the necessity of this process was repeated by Nietzsche. He suggested that affirmation, on its own, is not sufficient, for added to this affirmation must come an affirming of affirmation itself. This was one of the meanings he gave to the Eternal Return, a return of affirmation upon affirmation.

A specific type of work is described here. It is a work of bearing witness. Not a form of bearing witness which counts the wrongs or articulates dimensions of illness, but rather a work which bears witness to and joins within the swirling words of the lovers. It is a work worthy of song, it is a work of affirmation, a work where the lives of people, and other forms of life, are honoured, are recognized, are celebrated. And also, this is a work which repeatedly affirms the affirmations, which joyfully bears witness to the work of bearing witness.

From Song of Songs, through Lucretius, Spinoza, Hume, through Bishop Berkeley, Nietzsche and D. H. Lawrence, and more recently through Bateson, Deleuze and Derrida, and, of course, through many more, a work is described, that is the work of affirming the affirming movements of life itself.

No comments: