To the Stoics, though, the crucial limits to freedom are internal, not external. Many people who are free outwardly are enslaved by the contents of their own minds. We become free, Zeno proposed, if we recognize the difference between the things we control and the things we don’t. What do we control? Our actions in our outer lives—our words and deeds—and our actions in our inner lives—our thoughts, beliefs, and values. What don’t we control? Everything else.
To the Stoic, then, the things you control are the things that matter. The process of becoming a Stoic is one of learning how to value the things you control more than the things you don’t control.
The movie I’m most looking forward to, as 2018 unfolds, is ANNIHILATION – Alex Garland’s adaptation for the screen of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. The books feature a woman known as The Biologist. Her field of study is transitional areas; liminal zones where one habitat merges with another, itself a kind of habitat or ecology. Returned from her adventure in the magical realist exclusion zone known as Area X, she’s found standing in a vacant lot. When she’s later held by the Authorities wanting answers to the nature of Area X, the talk by Christopher Brown this post is built around seems exactly the kind of material she’d take comfort in viewing… #thebiologisthasaposse
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Father of resilience theory C.S. Holling has a useful way of thinking about a time like this. He calls it a “back loop.”28 This concept refers to the adaptive cycle, the main heuristic used by resilience ecologists to describe the four phases of life experienced by all natural systems–a human being, a city, a society, a civilization, a swamp, a forest, a company. On one hand, the adaptive cycle contains a “front loop” of early rapid “growth,” leading to a “persistence” or “stability” phase dominated by a few species and characterized by rigidity and the capture of earlier energies. Those “stable” states are not permanent. Gradual or sharp disturbance can cause systems to slip into a “back loop,” marked by a “release” phase where energies and elements previously captured in conservation phases are set free, unexpected new combinations emerge, and wild, exuberant experimentation becomes the modus operandi. The most understudied aspect of ecological systems, back loops are also one of the most exciting. As observed in ecological systems, the back loop is the phase of life in which individual organisms or small groups of individual organisms interact across previously unbridgeable divides and in doing create something fundamentally original. In contrast to life in the regimes we are leaving behind, where innovation was stifled and influence limited to a few actors with the greatest power—the stability “trap”—in the back loop beings and things are released and open to new potentials.29 Although most back loops studied by ecologists have been regional in character, in 2004 Holling penned an essay suggesting that “we are at the time of a large-scale back loop,” a global situation in which “each of us must become aware that he or she is a participant.”30 I think Holling’s challenge is important; but it is also an apt description of a phenomenon already underway.
We do not use the terms ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’. All societies are rational and irrational at the same time. They are perforce rational in their mechanisms, their cogs and wheels, their connecting systems, and even by the place they assign to the irrational. Yet all this presupposes codes or axioms which are not the products of chance, but which are not intrinsically rational either. It’s like theology: everything about it is rational if you accept sin, immaculate conception, incarnation. Reason is always a region cut out of the irrational — not sheltered from the irrational at all, but a region traversed by the irrational and defined only by a certain type of relation between irrational factors. Underneath all reason lies delirium, drift. Everything is rational in capitalism, except capital or capitalism itself. The stock market is certainly rational; one can understand it, study it, the capitalists know how to use it, and yet it is completely delirious, it’s mad. It is in this sense that we say: the rational is always the rationality of an irrational. Something that hasn’t been adequately discussed about Marx’s Capital is the extent to which he is fascinated by capitalists mechanisms, precisely because the system is demented, yet works very well at the same time. So what is rational in a society? It is — the interests being defined in the framework of this society — the way people pursue those interests, their realisation. But down below, there are desires, investments of desire that cannot be confused with the investments of interest, and on which interests depend in their determination and distribution: an enormous flux, all kinds of libidinal-unconscious flows that make up the delirium of this society. The true story is the history of desire.
Nietzsche’s Strong of the Future and the “revolutionary, popular, minority, mutant machines” spoken of here appear throughout Deleuze’s work — both with and without Guattari — as the “people who are missing”, a “people to come”. If capitalism comes at the end, the prophetic fulfillment of these people coming to pass does not denote the actualization of a new historical plateau, but a movement that breaks outside of history, that uses global, integrated capitalism as the raw materials for new formations. Deleuze and Guattari’s portrait of capitalism is one of a metasystem that operates through a kind of double-bind, or a machine that carries out a reciprocal process of stratification and destratification on either side of itself. It unleashes radical energies in the volleys of a deterritorialization that is only relative, as it becomes subjected to a subsequent and compensatory reterritorialization. The people to come, however, stake out a position on the path of absolute deterritorialization, and thus find themselves in remarkable affinity with the primary process lurking below and beyond all other secondary processes.
Consciousness permeates reality. Rather than being just a unique feature of human subjective experience, it’s the foundation of the universe, present in every particle and all physical matter.