Monday, August 22, 2011

Laura Calderon de la Barca -- Towards the Ordinary and the Overlooked

A Forward to the Book "Pilgrimages of the Gift" by Christopher Kinman

Book available at:

I met Chris – a story teller of gifts of the Alive, and a weaver of life-honouring relationships. I met him, as he might say: once upon a rhizome. He welcomed me to his world within an open heart, a place for the exploration of all things human and alive. This welcoming began in 2007 at a small gathering, a conference he organized in Vancouver, focusing on the future of the helping professions.

I made my way to this event through unexpected connections that arose between us. I heard about the event through Harlene Anderson (Houston, Texas). I had personally witnessed Harlene’s capacity to discover ways of being with others that welcomed inspiration, authenticity and openness. I suspected I might find some of this same inspiration at the gathering Chris was organizing. I was not disappointed. At the time, I was waiting for the examiners of my PhD thesis to submit their report. The rather unusual theme of the thesis, a therapeutic session for a pretty complex client, Mexico, my country of origin, won me a place in the meeting. Chris contacted me and we arranged for my attendance. So it was that during those beautiful sunny days in November, overlooking the breath-taking, snow-capped mountains and Vancouver skyline from the Vancouver Rowing Club’s Trophy Room, I heard him speak -- inspired by Gregory Bateson and his understanding of the Creatura -- about the world of the Alive.

The ideas he spoke of that day, and that he shares with us in this book are not bare abstractions. They come in flesh and blood as we experience the moments of the Alive inexorably associated with them. I have been moved not only by these ideas and their possibilities, but by the actual connections that were brought to life in conversations first with Chris and then with his book.

It is in this sense that Chris seems to me a story-teller. The things he talks about have names, have occurred in specific contexts, in particular times. These things can only be grasped through their embodiment in the material world. And yet, there is something in the way they are animate that inspires reverence, and that seems somehow to paradoxically transcend time precisely by being grounded in it -- from the rushed atmospheric dynamics that create sounds of wind in the trees to the time-worn crustacean shells that create a beach.

As can be seen throughout the book, Chris sees, with Christopher Alexander, ‘the Alive’ as connected to both nature and creative actions: we are part of the creative creatura, us humans; but we don’t own creation. As we become present to our relatedness to the rest of creation, a certain intensity comes to life, ‘a thickening of feeling’, as Chris would say, through which the Alive enters, opens up, opening us up. And through this we can find ourselves in ‘joint creations in cooperation with the moments of a living world’.

As I follow the book, it becomes clear to me that these creations occupy us as music occupies notes. Each of us is, in this game of creation, a note; singular and beautiful, but insufficient to make music, as Chris wisely points out (p. 89). The music of creation is only available if we surrender to something larger than our individual selves. And in the book, Chris beautifully demonstrates how to be a part of this music: by truly being with others; that is, by offering ourselves as witnesses to the becomings of the world, allowing ourselves to respond to them and making our response known.

In that sense, Chris’ story-telling of the Alive doesn’t just happen through narrative. Story-telling often requires a conclusion, a point to be made, a lesson, an evaluation. Chris’ stories are not like that. As the abundance he writes about, he has little interest in judgment. His stories do not offer to take you anywhere better, or to go and change anything. And it is precisely in letting go of that attempt that they move you, they change you. For these stories are sharings, a bringing-back of moments when he was present to something Alive, something that touched him and made him Alive. His words take us with him, to become witnesses of the Alive in the becomings of the world, to be found in the most apparently random locations: in a little boy’s combusting squiggle, in economies riding on the wing of a gull, in the visual beauty of a swarm of gnats, in the fragile companionship of a generous rabbit, or in the ephemeral touch of a child’s hand, his own child. And, regarding this touch, in the awareness of the possibility of the absence of this touch’s, its barest grazing unleashes in him ‘that roar which lies on the other side of silence’, as George Elliot would say, moving him, and myself with him, to tears as I become aware of the Alive in me, as I, childless, feel the loss nevertheless... or maybe because of it.

The Alive is not made present in Chris’s words alone, it also comes forth in his images. The knack he has for catching life unaware is evident in his pictures, in the gentleness apparent in the lick of the puma, the purple beauty of a partially crushed oyster, slowly becoming a beach, or the easy companionship of Pessoa’s friends in the café in Lisbon. He has tenderly intimated with the Alive, offering it his openness and sensitivity, and finding in return that it reveals itself to him in the overlooked and the ordinary. Sharing his findings with us, Chris offers us in passing a glimpse of what we might find if we cross our own doorway to the other side of silence. Enjoy the roar.

Laura Calderón de la Barca

Vancouver, BC; Mexico City

Friday, May 20, 2011

An Aphorism -- On Thought

Thought is not generated inside a skull, it cherishes no friendship with the emptiness of interiority.

Thought emerges in the midst of engagement with a world -- with innumerable worlds.

Thought is that which oozes between the abundances of bodies, that which squeezes between complexities of relations.

Monday, April 11, 2011

On Becomings

Deleuze, following Nietzsche, talks of becomings. I wish to continue in that flow.

I wish to talk of becomings rather than change. I wish to talk of becomings rather than established truths or determined states.

No beginnings, no endings -- just flows, perpetual movements.

No beginnings, no endings -- always in the middle of things.

In the middle -- between times more than at a point in time; never concerned with providing firm resolution to difference; never in a central and fixed location.

We do not have any surety of where becomings will lead us, but we can, from within our rhizome connections, create imaginations regarding how these becomings might be transforming us and others. Such imaginations are powerful creative forces (though not concerned with accuracy or predictability) and must never be trivialized.

Becomings – Nature and People

Becomings are not about a person/organism manipulating life and surroundings for the purpose of ensuring a determined outcome.

No, instead it is more likely we find ourselves carried by, even living out the desires of... becomings.

Particular becomings.

Becomings are best understood not as abstract generalities (i.e. becoming generous, becoming strong, becoming responsible) but as becoming a specificity, an image, a name (becoming animal, becoming woman, becoming river, becoming sea, becoming child, becoming eagle, becoming Buddha, becoming Christ, becoming godless, becoming... ).

I wish to talk of the becomings we are connected to as intimately associated with the becomings of nature. I wish to see our human worlds as indistinct from nature. I wish to see our becomings as sharing much in common with the constant becomings emerging within the grass, the rivers, the trees, amidst the lives of birds, fish, insects...

We know, of course, that the language we give to nature often invites separations – nature/culture; natural/artificial; natural/human -- dualisms that can set the stage for numerous violations and violences.

Yet, we still wish to talk of nature. We wish to see ourselves connected to those vast becomings wherein all life moves.

Rhizome Becomings

Becomings are always rhizome events, can be nothing but communal.

Individuals never determine and construct their own becomings. While we can easily delude ourselves with language, we can never truly be separate from the diversities of life.

As individual organisms we can give creative energy to our becomings, but that which is created is never simply the product of our own actions, it is never something over which we can individually claim ownership.

The initiation of becomings is also never an act of individual powers. Life initiates incessant becomings; they can go unnoticed, they can be purposely ignored, but they also can grasp us, even sweep us off our feet.

Becomings connect us to new worlds. They create repeated innovations, including new and renewed rhizome community.

Becomings and Negation

These becomings which we experience do not emerge from negation processes.

Now, clearly, negations surround us. Out of force of habit, we repeatedly participate in them. Negations are all too often engrained in our thought. They appear integral to the very structure of our lives.

We are led to believe that change only emerge by means of bravely coming face-to-face with negations. We are told that if we discover what is wrong with us, if we acknowledge what is wrong with us and if we then make changes based on such learnings we will accomplish our required redemption.

However, in life I see very little of this. Negations are far more likely to create reactive negations in response -- negations triggering further rounds of negations. Or they are likely to create a depressive paralysis, an immobility that breeds further depressive negations, that leads toward a sense of falling-backwards.

There seems to be a significant tie between those experiences we see as depression and worlds dominated by varied and incessant negations. Reactive and negative forces tend to glorify depression. These forces inform us that it is necessary to bear the burdens of one's errors, to repeatedly be reminded of the pain of one's sins – this is often thought of as a requisite for the journey towards a healed life.

Negation is part of the age–old tradition of sin/redemption. In this tradition our connections to the natural world swarming around us are condemned. Such connections were historically considered "pagan" and undesirable. In the dominions of fall/redemption we are informed of our sinfulness, of our transgressions against, not imminent forces around us in our lived world, but forces transcendent to life, forces far beyond everything that is nature. We are also informed of the requisite transcendent mechanisms which are able to redeem us. People are thereby pulled away from nature, from the forces of life, and become dependent upon the transcendent worlds of redemption. Such ideas of transcendent redemption become firmly established and ordained within modern religious and secular institutions.

A further note on the idea of redemption: as Deleuze aptly suggested, we must learn to live life and not save it.

Entering the Becomings

While we as individuals are not the architects of our own becomings there are actions that we can engage in.

However, as tempting as it might be, I refrain from detailing here such responses. Detailed suggestions coming from outside the specificity of the flows of a rhizome life are likely to fall somewhere between useless and damaging.

We all bring to life creative powers in abundance. Responses will appear to all of us who:

· affirm the creativity that life has bestowed upon us;

· resist the influences of negation which repeatedly attempt to keep us from creativity and action;

· appreciate and affirm the rhizome relations in which our lives are embedded.

The challenge for us is to learn how to determine which response to give, not to determine if there is a response.

What can we do, beyond providing detailed instruction?

· We can dare to put aside the influences of negation.

· We can affirm and respond to life, immanent life; affirm and respond to life as it moves amongst bodies (human and otherwise); respond to the endless complexities that life produces.

· We can create things, with others, with nature as a partner and leader.

· We can create rhizome words that engender relations with many and diverse bodies and, therein, many powerful becomings.

· We can enter with the grass and the trees, the grasshopper and the crow, those unmanaged and joyful realms of becoming.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Re-Imagining Life and Time -- Gilles Deleuze and Brian Eno

The Experimentations of Brian Eno

Brian Eno -- musician, collaborator, producer, musical experimenter -- has recently found his interest focussed on the artistic image. Using his long experience with sound experimentation, Eno now experiments with images that move and shift, constantly recreating, never repeatable. A new show where he highlights these experiments is generating intense interest, it is called 77 Million Paintings.

In this art-form Eno introduces a new idea about time into the concept of image or painting. Not simply the implication of movement in a still image, but images that actually constantly morph, constantly generate new forms. It also introduces an art which is not dependent upon the artist for a distinct and specific form, but rather the artist is involved in a process which in turn creates art-forms in movement, in constant becomings. This is a radicalization of art, where art is no longer the gift of a single person, but more like a process of nature, a generator of beauty that is not dependent upon the artist, but not removed from the artist either.

Eno also introduces another twist on art-in-process. Eno creates music which is set to the images of life-in-process. Images move in ways parallel to real-time, in rhythms connected to the flows of time nature creates. Not dependent upon narrative inventions, just the flows of time and life. A forest which simply morphs through seasons. A tree by a river, moving through days and months.

Gilles Deleuze and Brian Eno

I find much resonance between Eno's visual and auditory experiments and the various conceptions of time and life created by Deleuze.

Outside of Narrative

Deleuze presents concepts which invite a view of life and time not structured so much by narrative or other traditional inventions for seeing and organizing time. These concepts invite appreciation for and engagements with the many possibilities for the movements of life in the process-of-life.

Complex Relations

A quick note on Deleuze's thinking on life. He creates ways of seeing that evade all simplistic description.

For Deleuze life:
  • evades categorization,
  • is always connected to diversities,
  • is engaging in constant movements,
  • generates unpredictable futures,
  • and is always tied together through numerous lines of relationship.
A Generative Process

Deleuze does not invite a copying of nature, not a forming of structures that simply replicate what we have come to believe about how nature operates, but he calls for the creation of ideas, concepts and ways of life that connect us to the endless possible movements of life. To re-emphasize -- this is a generative, creative process that creates much more than ideas and words, it creates new possibilities of relationship with the diversities of life itself.

Next Posting -- Becomings and Rhizome

Two ideas Deleuze presents that illustrate such connections to life are "Becomings," and "Rhizome."

I will explore these two concepts in upcoming postings.


A final video. Brian Eno with Bono and The Edge.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Opposite of a Morality of Salvation

Immersed with thoughts from Lawrence, Whitman and Spinoza, among others, Deleuze talks about the soul and the body.
The soul and the body, the soul is neither above nor inside, it is "with", it is on the road, exposed to all contacts, encounters, in the company of those who follow in the same way," feel with them, seize the vibration of their soul and their body as they pass", the opposite of a morality of salvation, teaching the soul to live its life, not to save it.

Deleuze, Dialogues, pge 62.
Let me repeat...
"Feel with them, seize the vibration of their soul and their body as they pass", the opposite of a morality of salvation, teaching the soul to live its life, not to save it,
The soul as described here is not a divine creation, a product of higher powers inserted inside a body. It is not aligned with either the interiorities or the individualisms of Western life. It is not about an inner life. The soul is outside us -- it is with us, with all we walk through life with.

As Lynn Hoffman would say, the idea of the soul creates a "withness" not an "aboutness." It does not reside above or within, it resides amongst.

The soul accompanies us, connects us to complex worlds of relations. And it connects us to the pragmatics of our movements in real geographies and ecologies.

Experiments with Gilles Deleuze

I have clearly been absent from regular posting on this blog for sometime now. This is not because certain ideas and ways of living are not moving me, or that the words are absent, but because the forms of creation that I have been driven to have altered from when I was regularly posting on this site.

However, I now want to return, but to do so with a particular and different focus. Recently I have been taken by an old passion -- that is the ideas created by French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze. I want to experiment in this blog, at this point in time, with the thoughts of Deleuze, see where they might lead. I am not doing this out of a sense of discipleship, and certainly not from some sense of obligation.

It is more like a kind of exorcism, a desire to give my own form to these ideas, to address them, remove them from the vague, less-than-formed mass they feel to be right now. Remove them, create with them, and move on to some other ground...

I do not feel I am mining his thoughts, nor searching for an authentic author's voice for Deleuze. No, I want to let his ideas springboard to new places, let them create new ideas, actions, communal-relations, timely-constructions that assist in nudging and moving to productive places in life.