Monday, March 08, 2010


"Nomadism" is a way of life that exists outside of the organizational "State." The nomadic way of life is characterized by movement across space which exists in sharp contrast to the rigid and static boundaries of the State. Deleuze and Guattari explain:

The nomad has a territory; he follows customary paths; he goes from one point to another; he is not ignorant of points (water points, dwelling points, assembly points, etc.). But the question is what in nomad life is a principle and what is only a consequence. To begin with, although the points determine paths, they are strictly subordinated to the paths they determine, the reverse happens with the sedentary. The water point is reached only in order to be left behind; every point is a relay and exists only as a relay. A path is always between two points, but the in-between has taken on all the consistency and enjoys both an autonomy and a direction of its own. The life of the nomad is the intermezzo. (380)

The nomad, is thus, a way of being in the middle or between points. It is characterized by movement and change, and is unfettered by systems of organization. The goal of the nomad is only to continue to move within the "intermezzo."

--Deleuzegattarian glossary

For a long time I lived as a nomad in my van, not because I was homeless, but because I was circuit-riding, serving four Montana fellowships as their minister. I was like a scissors-grinder, going along a regular route, except that I was also like a candy-machine vendor, reloading specific mechanisms, except that I was also like a door-to-door salesman, making personal contacts in the hopes of a profitable continuing relationship. Since I was an introvert, the best times were alone in my van or at some friendly warm cafe in winter or at some hospitable spot along the road in spring or fall. (I kept the summers for myself because the fellowships stopped meeting.) Even when it was very cold, I was reluctant to stay with people. Sometimes they were invasive. Women were constantly wanting to get into my suitcase “to do my laundry” and to snoop like mothers reading diaries: what could it hurt? Wasn’t I supposed to be irreproachable? They had no consciousness of other people’s lives or of me recording them. Why would I do that?

They thought they knew what a minister was. They thought a minister lived in a “striated” space limited by rules and roles, very much dictated by society and controlled by the denomination. Maybe even God. (Except that some UU’s are atheists, actually mostly anti-theists.) But to me it was smooth space: being a minister meant being OUTSIDE the state, obedient only to Higher Laws and my own judgment, and since I was circuit-riding with more “points” (four) than anyone else, far out in the wide open West of Montana, I had escaped all the “striations” (rules, boundaries, lines on the map) except the constraints of roads and congregation-specific directions.

It was Mother Nature who was most unforgiving: ice, feet of snow, high winds, dust and sometimes beating heat. And from within, my own limits as an over-forty woman, not particularly athletic, probably beginning to develop diabetes II, though not enough for diagnosis. Just tired. Just coughing. Nothing sleep wouldn’t cure.

At one point I joked that if aliens lifted me off the highway on one of my 3AM trips, which wouldn’t have even surprised me very much considering what other sidereal displays were waving and glittering all around me, and if they had the capacity to rewind my memory like a tape player so they could see what my life was like, as though they were biologists who had attached a camera to the top of my head, all they would see would be hours and hours and hours of yellow lines, the striation that mattered the most when I was trying to stay on the right hand side of the road, no matter what.


"Smooth space" exists in contrast to "striated space"— a partitioned field of movement which prohibits free motion. Smooth space refers to an environment, a landscape (vast or microscopic) in which a subject operates. Deleuze and Guattari explain:

Smooth space is filled by events or haecceities, far more than by formed and perceived things. It is a space of affects, more than one of properties. It is haptic rather than optical perception. Whereas in striated forms organize a matter, in the smooth materials signal forces and serve as symptoms for them. It is an intensive rather than extensive space, one of distances, not of measures and properties. Intense Spatium instead of Extensio. A Body without Organs instead of an organism and organization.

Conducive to rhizomatic growth and nomadic movement, smooth space consists of disorganized matter and tends to provoke a sensual or tactical response rather than a starkly rational method of operation or a planned trajectory.

Deleuzegattarian glossary


How I love a new word that is truly useful. My haecceities, the intense place/events, were worship services in one of four Montana towns: Missoula, Bozeman, Great Falls, and Helena. Their upturned faces waited before me for an interchange, something between us that might transform their lives, and yet a guardedness, an insistence that their lives were their own to be lived as they chose. When that was missing, I worried. Easily filled means easily emptied. They might try to live my life instead of their own.

Once in Chicago I preached at a mental hospital where a short stout older woman rose during the service and asked to sing a sacred song. It turned out to be in Hebrew and she sang it very beautifully. Afterwards, when I went to the door to shake hands with the people as they left and when it was her turn to come to me, she turned up her face, plainly expecting to be kissed, so I did. I don’t know where she learned that expectation, but I still remember her pursed soft lips, the prickles of the few hairs around them, her smell. She seemed quite sane to me. Devout.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

Vans! Nothing like 'em.

I wonder how many writers are also professional drivers? Driving through beautiful landscapes with good tunes always gets the creative wheel churning.

Here's line from my book.

"Vans have a way of not just getting you there, but they are there WITH you."