Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Until now I have with nimbleness and tenacity managed to avoid game theory. With one exception: “Pokemon,” or “pocket monsters.” If you’ve forgotten, they are the little electronic gismos that provided a dependence on people, thus stimulating their desire to relate through protection. They had to be “fed,” “cleaned,” and so on in an imitation of real pets and if you failed, they cried and then, BLIP, they died. These little “beasts” grew into a menagerie of critters, one of which was “Pikachu,” which is a sort of rodent with red cheeks that have an electrical charge so that they can cook their food right in their mouth. Of course, an electrical charge can have other shocking uses.

So here I am looking for the high scholarly definitions of Deleuzeguttarian thought, and what I find is a nice shortlist with useful descriptions of terms like the ones I used yesterday, and they turn out to be from these goofy little critter games! Pikachu, Squirtle and Charmander (apparently variations on the theme of turtle and salamander) feature in all sorts of tchotkes (like “hello kitty”) elaborating the world of mostly Japanese cartoon virtual domains like anime. Evidently the rules and descriptions of these inventions are drawn in part from thinking about Deleuzeguttarian post-post-structuralist categories, which are efforts to break up dominating colonial assumptions, usually Euro-male-historical ideas meant to maintain the status quo. I suppose that these clever little animals are a lot more fun than math as concept place-holders. I take it that what they are really “after” is the way things work, especially if one’s aims are subversive. All in the interest of justice and renewal, of course. And sales to Americans.

I’m not about to trade in my two fat cats for pocket monsters, but it seems clear to me that this is a source of renewal among youngsters. It will teach them a different way of thinking than what is taught by school or church or family or whatever source of ideas they have: television, tricks, peers, street gangs. And there is no risk so long as the dominant culture thinks it’s just a cute little game. So I’m not really helping them out by pointing to this. If I weren’t just writing a humble blog from a corner of Montana, I might worry.

Some of this thinking comes out of diasporas, people who have left the homogeneous culture that accompanied ethnic or racial unity, and now find themselves among a “different” people who live baffling ways, eat strange foods, and talk gibberish . Once the first homesickness passes and a certain amount of desperation is calmed, the deeper issues can be addressed. Sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they’re just suppressed. Or they get twisted. Sometimes they erupt in violence. Most often they just mean a lot of loneliness.

Electronic games and online gaming, esp. those that create virtual communities, become very attractive and, depending on the quality of the thought (i.e. more than just destruction), can help in the necessary work of building a new identity that is a mixture or possibly a transcendent melding or maybe even an immanent identification with the specifics of the new place, like homesteaders who come to love the prairie more than “back east.” There are two tasks, really. One is to dissolve the old stratification, striations, attachments and rules. Time helps with that. The other is to become aware of the new already-in-place rules and assumptions. But the highest task is to create something entirely new that takes the best from all sources available: not just the old versus the new, but also the inspired, the cherished, the newborn.

At first there will just be an assemblage, a collection, a loose way of seeing what there is. New eyes and ears may be required, because sometimes the most valuable “things” are ignored, too familiar to be seen, like water to a fish. Then there’s “becoming,” the process of the things interacting to create something new, a synergy. Yes, like meiosis in reproduction, AKA “sex.”

Next term is “Body without Organs.” “The BwO is a post-Enlightenment entity, a body but not an organism.” The definition is poetic, which is often the case in this kind of philosophy and the math-lovers hold it against them, claiming impurity. “You never reach the Body without Organs, you can't reach it, you are forever attaining it, it is a limit. People ask, So what is this BwO? But you're already on it, scurrying like a vermin, groping like a blind person, or running like a lunatic; desert traveler and nomad of the steppes. On it we sleep, live our waking lives, fight—fight and are fought—seek our place, experience untold happiness and fabulous defeats; on it we penetrate and are penetrated; on it we love.” Sounds like Tillich’s “Ground of Being” which was a term meant to resolve the classic dilemma of whether God is or isn’t. The Ground of Being is whatever it is that embraces both. Potential, maybe. It’s meant to resolve an argument, the way the Trinity is. At least the Ground of Being is immanent. It’s too bad it’s already been used by theology, because it sounds more like what is evidently meant here by a Body without Organs, more like “geophilosophy.

Then they say, “Rather than narrativize history and culture, the rhizome presents history and culture as a map or wide array of attractions and influences with no specific origin or genesis, for a rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo. The planar movement of the rhizome resists chronology and organization, instead favoring a nomadic system of growth and propagation.”

“In this model, culture spreads like the surface of a body of water, spreading towards available spaces or trickling downwards towards new spaces through fissures and gaps, eroding what is in its way. The surface can be interrupted and moved, but these disturbances leave no trace, as the water is charged with pressure and potential to always seek its equilibrium, and thereby establish smooth space.”

I take this to be like the Zen “be where you are” idea. It also suggests to me that lovable old idea that some languages, like Hopi, have no nouns, only verbs, and therefore never think about beings but only about becomings, which is my state of mind as I struggle to figure this out.

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