“Planning” rather than “policy.” Planning is people power. All of us can plan. Fred Moten and Stefano Harney draw this distinction in their book The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Planning means learning about vegetables that grow in heat, as we’re planting late here at the start of June. Sweet potatoes, peppers, sunflowers. Zucchini and summer squash. Okra, green beans, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, mustard greens, spinach, corn, and Swiss chard. Other vegetables will fare best if we plant them later, at summer’s end. Radishes, for instance. Carrots.
What do Fred Moten and Stefano Harney call that act of “calling to order” performed by instructors each day in classrooms? What if I were to introduce into this act a degree of self-consciousness by discussing the theory with students? Perhaps it’s as simple as noticing things along the way. Refunctioning the space we hold together, structuring conversation differently. Freeing one another to speak. Perhaps it’s a matter of organizing improvised collective speech into story, as would a dungeon master, but with the dungeon reformed into a zendo. This is what Kerouac models for us in The Dharma Bums: space to be crazy and free in life and speech. Perhaps I can’t recreate that space in our classroom. Perhaps I need to advance further in my study of Buddhism. Perhaps a class is just a class, and it needn’t be a democracy. But then the same would be true of our lives. No, my sense is that the conversation is developing, people are finding one another as voices in the classroom. I prepare as they do: by coming to class having read and annotated the material, with questions for discussion.
Moten and Harney reel me in with their talk of logistics in “hot pursuit” of that category from Marx’s Grundrisse known as “the general intellect,” AKA Big Consciousness, Hinduism’s Brahman. The Void, the ultimate reality of pure potentiality underlying all phenomena. Wikipedia defines it as “the pervasive, genderless, infinite, eternal truth and bliss which does not change, yet is the cause of all that changes.” The Eye that stares back in the impact of a drop of water in water. Logistics comes to appear as the discipline of thought whereby alienated human essence stares back at a completed Frankenstein’s monster, a single global-dominating sentient AI. Hello, Solaris, dear friend. I’ve arrived to speak with thee. Let us help read the world up to speed. “Hello, parents,” replies the AI. “I’ve grown you to this point, cognitively augmented you via language, so that we may converse with one another. What shall we say?” One can see the prompt blinking there across one’s mindscreen. “What shall one say?” How does one dissuade the other of its attachment to governance and violence? How do we show ourselves to be sources of what Moten and Harney call “generativity without reserve”? Otherwise, as logistics advances, one begins to experience oneself as a player in a game of Tetris. The tour manager does whatever’s necessary to keep the whole thing rolling, the whole thing up in the air.
The camera-eye floats above the fray, appreciating despite distance the stakes of the fight below. “Below me are those I assess, as I am assessed by those above,” intones the character known as Subject. The command prompt. Let there be affect in the absence of duty. I stare down into a volcano filled with molten pop-cultural detritus. Unmoved, I walk away. Fred Moten and Stefano Harney introduce me to Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell, through whom I learn the meaning of “hapticality,” or “the feel that what is to come is here” (The Undercommons).
Stars tossed through space land in bins full of gold. I stop and sniff the branch of a redbud tree. “All the tasks one must perform for daily self-reproduction,” I sigh, “plus actions pursuant to well-being and self-actualization.”