I’ve spent the last few months getting some rhythm back into my everyday life. I am enjoying life more. I am enjoying the rhythm and the work rhythm does to enable me to dissociate (more in chemistry sense, than psychoanalytic) some elements of my life. These elements are being raised through a kind of active forgetting into habit (or perhaps compulsion). Getting a rhythm going for me is to assemble a means of selecting those things I need to think about and what can remain unthought. I use to think about this in terms of going to the gym and doing exercise, which is super important, but now I think it was the rhythm of the gym workouts and how they enabled my to structure other rhythms around them.
Habit is often talked about in a negative way. The way someone cultivates ‘bad habits’ or the way consumers are encouraged through repeated prompting to exist in certain ways in response to commercial exchange (“Do you have a Fly Buys card?”). These negative forms of habit are premised on negative affects (‘Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘black hole’, addiction, etc.) or passive affections, where the consumer body ‘suffers’ the affects put in circulation by assemblages of consumption.
Rhythm, for me, now, is a selection and a sorting; that is, of enveloping active affects in a rhythm that produces a milieu, which can then be used as a resource. My own life and its active affects serves as the associated milieu from which I am implicated in passive affections. I am describing a different kind of habit. I have participated in enough elite sport (12 training sessions per week! two sports at once!) to recognise that many elite sportspeople operate at a high level in the same way.
To use a physics example, it is the difference between acceleration, which requires a massive amount of energy because of the relation to mass (and therefore inertia), and velocity. This is pertinent because my old ‘catch phrase’ during the completion of my PhD was ACCELERATE! I never stopped accelerating. Now I would describe my behaviour in terms of assembling a greater number of consonant rhythms so that I was transducing my active affects into the passive affections of my rhythm in increasingly intensive and complex ways. I have worked to assemble the rhythm, but now it runs on its own accord. Following the rhythm, ‘suffering’ the passive affections of my body’s own active affects, requires a great deal less energy than the initial work of dismantling old habits and assembling new ones (deterritorialising and reterritorialising).
The curious thing about all this is the materiality of rhythm. Sure, the drum beats, but rhythm is in the differential repetition of the drum beating. There is a count; perhaps without number, or the number is less important as an extensive delineation of spacetime than as an intensive relation to a future event. This intensive relation is a felt tendency that serves as the duration of experience between one moment and the next. It is a virtual architecture that superposes one moment upon the next mapped according to the concatenations of my rhythm. The architecture of the rhythm serves as a kind of enabling passage; a differential relation of expectations and anticipation. Here is the crux of the issue for me at least: The passage between one state of being — depressed, unhealthy, minimally productive, feeling unattractive — to another state of being where I actually enjoy life is an impasse that is overcome through this transductive process.
Nice piece. Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind is good on habit. But it certainly needs to be understood as a pharmakon: both the habit of pretending to lack habit, and the habit of pretending to know one’s own habits are dangerous medicines.
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