The Witch’s Ride

March 12, 2007

It’s been a couple of weeks since returning from the conference. I wanted to express some of the joy I felt to be part of this important learning community that takes up so many interesting and significant questions of how we are negotiating the transition in apparatus from literacy to electracy. So I posted the following to the invent-l list. Here’s the message:

I’m just now getting on *my* feet a bit after the conference. Guess it takes me a little longer. . .

During the keynote speech at the conference, Greg defined Spinoza’s concept of “conatus.” I looked this up in Deleuze’s book on Spinoza, in which Deleuze uses a passage from Malamud’s THE FIXER as an epitaph, which says, “I didn’t understand every word but when you’re dealing with such ideas you feel as though you were taking a witch’s ride.” (invent-l list, 5 March 2007)

A witch’s ride: I think that captures something of my experience the last five or six months. . . .

When I looked up “Conatus” in Deleuze’s index of the main concepts in Spinoza’s Ethics, I was redirected to “Power” and read the following:

“In joy … our power expands, compounds with the power of the other, and unites with the loved object… It can be said that joy augments our *power of acting* and sadness diminishes it. And the *conatus* is the effort to experience joy, to
increase the power of acting, to imagine and find that which is the cause of
joy, which maintains and furthers this cause. . .” (101).

I have experience this joy, this power, in community. A neuron needs a network to
get all fired up. . . .

Thank you all for providing a community of scholarship in which to experience such joy.

Ulmer followed this up with a joke about how as a scholar he works on his own, in a flip kind of way:

this conflicts with my ascetic nature, but oh well… (invent-l list, 11 March 2007)

Which I have to admit kind of hurt my feelings. (Is this what you’re supposed to do in a blog? Spill your guts? gossip?) Because he seemed so genuinely grateful that we had all come to the conference, had gathered around him. As a result, I didn’t post for quite a while. It kinda exhausted me. My “capacity to act” was diminished to some extent. And now to continue in this vein of being the hurt little child, he did the same thing during the conference, when we were sharing our presentations the night before the conference. I had spent a lot of time making a nice looking, tri-fold posterboard with bold-faced headers and images from SL. Stayed up way too late the night before finishing it up. And Ulmer joked that it looked like a (7th grade) science project.

Now don’t get me wrong–I love his sense of humor. But these two instances seem to be at my expense. Maybe I’m being too sensitive, but I’m just telling it like it is.