Entanglements and Why Change is So Difficult

Larval Subjects .

Why is social change so difficult?  In Entangled, Ian Hodder outlines four forms of entanglement where people, as it were, become enmeshed in the world in ways that render alternatives or change difficult.  These entanglements are forms of dependency forming series or chains.  There are, first, human – human entanglements (HH).  These are what the social sciences, political philosophy, and political critique largely focus on.  HH entanglements are the realm of representation, norms, laws, signs, and power.  In my last post, I spoke of an HH entanglement with respect to citizenship status.  Although citizenship or being categorized as undocumented is not a material determination but the result of a signifier or what Deleuze and Guattari call an “incorporeal transformation”, it nonetheless has profound material consequences for the person that falls within the web of these signifiers, determining what movements and forms of life are possible for that person.


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Meditation and Trauma

We are told that meditation is the answer to trauma; this is not always so. It can be–counter intuitively–a conduit for repressed trauma.

I came to this realization at the sound therapy session I went to a couple months ago, and I’ve been putting some things together from related experiences with this over the years.

My first intuitive awareness of this, goes back some 50 years ago, when I found that the calmed state at the end of a meditating session, not only didn’t last or translate into routine activities, it left me way MORE susceptible to snapping out in anger when ambushed by unanticipated disappointments or frustrations. This made me wonder– but I assumed there was something wrong with how I was meditating.

At that sound therapy session–it was something different–I left feeling more anxious, my thoughts wanting to skim the edges of various disappointments, things I’d done that brought me shame, and petty traumatic memories of childhood. I say petty, cause this wasn’t about remembering abuse or physical trauma–it was the cumulative experience of my first years of elementary school–stuff I’d thought I’d worked through years ago,.
I think it was the passivity of meditating, that recalled feelings of helplessness as a child, a powerlessness at the hands of adult “caretakers” … the passivity of waiting to be punished, waiting for some unspecified, but terrible, consequences of experiences I was incapable of understanding. .
I can meditate to an almost trance like state…but what it leaves me with, is not peace, not an alleviation of anxiety–but a vulnerability to lashing out at the first thing to interrupt that state.

I wonder if others have had this experience?

Imagination, not “Will”

It’s not ‘will’ but the stories we tell ourselves, that give us power–or have power over us.

Do I take the day off, or go to City Hall “just to see how things are going?” Do I go the Wine and Spirit Store, or save the money and do without? Such choices are made, not by “will,” but by imagination.

Will power is helpless against habit. It isn’t even real.
If I give in and go to City Hall, even though I need a full day off; if I go to the store and buy a bottle of wine, it’s because I more powerfully imagined having done these things, internally imagined them, and that imagination overrules attempts to “will” myself to make other choices. Every time.
I think that’s how I quit smoking almost 40 years ago. Quitting was hard, not because I lacked sufficient will power, but because Not Smoking, was impossible to imagine, Not Smoking brought to mind flickering pictures of the many situations where I really wanted a cigarette: after morning coffee, after a nice meal, when I felt stressed out and needed something to distract me–but I could imagine, stripped of any particular context, giving up just one cigarette–the next one.
Is it possible then, when I feel that internal “choice” to have already determined, to tell myself a different story (and this is the deeper meaning of how stories effect us, isn’t it?) I spin out a picture narrative, of what I will do…no! Not, what I WILL do, will to do–framed as a choice–but DOING it. I am catching up on my journal. I’m making rice and beans, step by step. I’m tapping down a piece of watercolor paper, preparing it for a painting. One thing at a time (that one-day-at-a-time) thing is useless, if you can’t fill the day ahead with a story powerful enough to carry you through).

If I find myself trapped by habit, by neurotic compulsion… –what are the stories I’ve been telling myself?

But then, imagination is all entangled with desire, so the question is, what do I want? But what I want is shaped by the stories that have shaped me. So who and what is it that tells us our stories?

Why psychoanalysis has more to tell about about ourselves than any of the behavior modification theories.


Assembly– Fragments of a Thought

Larval Subjects .

In In Defense of Things, Bjørnar Olsen notes that the word “thing” comes from the Old English term þing, meaning assembly or gathering.  Things are that which gather or assemble.  They are both assembled and assemble.  But what is it that things assemble?  We are accustomed to thinking of things as assemblages; especially technical things.  The tree assembles sunshine, water, and nutrients from the earth in forming itself to sing its hymn to the sky and the land.  Yet it also gathers all sorts of insects, birds, squirrels and other creatures aside that make their life in and around the earth.  Indeed, in dropping its leaves, the tree contributes to the creation of the soil upon which it depends to persist.  But it is not just that the tree gathers and contributes to the creation of the materials it requires to form itself and endure, it is also…

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Reading Motion of Light on Water

Just finished Samuel R. Delaney’s The Motion of Light on Water: Sex and Science Fiction. Writing in the East Village, 1957-1965.

Will take me a long time to find words… I can’t remember a book that touched me, took hold of me like  this… wrenched me, wrung me out.

I was born in 1941, Delaney in ’42. I was a child and came of age in the Midwest: Chicago, Kansas City, summers in east central Michigan. Delaney, in NYC. So very different–but so much of the external social climate of a childhood in post war America, the 40’s and 50’s–so much, the same. What we shared, was the bloody sword that slices the body from desire–that creates what he called “the split subject”…

” … the space between the two columns (one resplendent and lucid with writings of legitimacy the other dark and hollow with the voices of the illegitimate)–that constitutes the subject, it is only after the Romantic inflation of the private into the subjective that such a split can even be located.”

Like Delaney, I was looking to art and writing to negotiate the chasm, but shaking off the dressing of ‘legitimacy’ was so much harder, took so much longer–the weight of the Midwest was suffocating, and sex was at the center of it, the poisoning of desire that makes the body itself an empty vessel, spiritually empty, trying to belong to something utterly alien to me, and failing and failing and failing…an impoverishment of that spirit–which is the life of the body.

It can’t be a coincidence, that I returned to making art after 40 years, at the same time that I was able to embrace sexual desires that had been latent, but buried …. for at least  that long. It’s no good being coy! Name them. You have to name them, Delaney says. If fucking is good — so is sucking cocks! Or wherever else you body wants to take you!

Forty years — that should have been a wilderness — not a desert, but a rain forest paved over. Like weeds in the cracks of concrete, something kept pushing through, pushing out into the light. Forty years…
… so many lost lives, so much damage, so many scars.

As I clicked to post this…  it came to me, that I have a whole  series of paintings and drawings of broken concrete… how the psyche seeks to find bodily expression. You do these things, and don’t know why.


EndPars-Occupy City Hall

ICE down 1 Remains of medical station after cop raid at ICE, 8th and Cherry.

the 2011 Occupy camps were an open mass movement, a premature revolutionary experiment that wasn’t able to deal with how unprepared so many were who came into the camps. They had collapsed and outlived their service weeks before they were taken down by cops. But failures are how we learn.
When I first heard that there was going to be an attempt to ‘occupy’ the ICE facility, I was skeptical. Heraclitus had a pretty good rule of thumb for radical action: can’t step into the same river twice “Don’t Try to Repeat the Same Thing”

But from the beginning, it was clear that what’s become the end Pars occupy city hall camp (a single action in a larger coalition) learned some valuable lessons, whether from 2011 or from wiser young heads) — It only superficially resembles the 2011 Occupies. Contributing to this, is the deep, organizing that preceded it–diverse groups many that had been working independently, but were prepared for cooperative, intersectional action when the right occasion appeared.

Micro-organizing is the essential prerequisite for the success of any mass movement. Never despair because you are few! You are NOT FEW!