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  • Writer's pictureCrone

Being happened to

You’re wondering what that means. Don’t blame you.


Let me begin with, if you like, a detour. My friend told me that one of her tutors used to ask the question ‘How does that mean?’ rather than ‘What does that mean?’ When words are used in ways that are unexpected, unusual, bizarre, it can sometimes trip us out of everyday thinking, open up new avenues. Unclose our minds.


In a similar vein, perhaps, instead of thinking of how animals might be like us (Yes, they too have feelings! They can solve problems! They have memory! They can deceive others!) or how they might be different (What is it like to have no hands? To fly? To echo-locate?) maybe we can edge in somewhere else. Realise that we are like them, perhaps. That we too have our bodies influenced by outside: just as a farmed animal’s body is affected by the beliefs of the human owners, so we are impacted by advertising and food production systems. We too are tools for other species – one bug gives us the shits to pass itself on to other hosts, another bug makes us sneeze for the same purpose. Millions of micro-organisms regard us as home, pasture and prey.


Val Plumwood, an Australian ecofeminist, was nearly killed by a crocodile. She came to realise that she, like other animals, was (also) meat. It deepened her sense of connection to non-humans.


Gilles Deleuze talks of ‘becoming-animal’ and says something like, in becoming animal the animal becomes something else. So, as you begin to realise the connection, the indistinction, you begin to see the other as a becoming (rather than being) in its own right.


Yes, becoming.


This taps into the sense of identity or self as not something static, but a node in a connected network of relations…. Ah, think like a point in a spider’s web of multi-dimensions, not just two, that is moved and influenced by every silken strand in the structure. But even that is too limited… connection between unchanging points is not quite right… Perhaps if the strands were hollow and all different coloured sands flowed from node to node – as emotions or thoughts do – and so at any time each node has a different composition?


And here the ‘happened to’. If the psyche, the self, instead of being self-created and dominant, is happened upon by the flowing grains? That always the world and others happen upon it and it is happened to by all that it is not. In effect, it is a constellation of that which it is not.


I’ll leave you to think on that.


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