There are two parts of rhizomatic learning. One is intellectual and represents a European philosophical tradition that rises through the great upheavals of the 20th century but the other is biological, an analogy to the power of the root, the corm, the bulb, and the rhizome. I really don’t like the mishmash that Deleuze and Guattari make of the the two. I have been an observer of the natural scene for almost thirty years where I am now and longer. One truth I know is that when it comes to knowing, I am humbled every day. What D&G know about the natural world they are drawing their metaphors from is even less than humbling. (Sometimes it seems like an in-joke. I can’t imagine anything more disingenuous.)
And how do I know this truth? Directly through my own experience and indirectly in part through the work of one of my fellow Kentuckians, Wendell Berry. Read what Berry has to say below and tell me that D&G are not absolutely full of shit. And don’t give me an ‘apples and oranges’ argument either.
Then read the poem and be suffused with light from someone who has no use for the vapid conjurings of metaphysicians who use spells and ward words like “multiplicity/contextualism/heterarchy/Plane of immanence/asignifying rupture/decalcomania” instead of the real magic below.
Berry on form and its usefulness
It is true that any form can be applied with a stupid rigidity… But a set form can be used also to summon into a poem, or into a life, its unforeseen belongings, and thus is not rigid but freeing — an invocation to unknown possibility. Form, crudely or stupidly used, may indeed be inimical to freedom. Well used, it may be the means of earning freedom, the price of admission or permission, the enablement to be free. But the connection may be even closer, more active and interesting, than that; it may be that form, strictly kept, enforces freedom. The form can be fulfilled only by a kind of abandonment to hope and to possibility, to unexpected gifts. The argument for freedom is not an argument against form. Form, like topsoil (which is intricately formal), empowers time to do good.
I think that this also applies to the forms we use in teaching, the scaffolds, the templates, the checklists. Note the caveat: stupid rigidity. A clear and useful statement on the power of intelligent form, “Form, like topsoil (which is intricately formal), empowers time to do good. D&G wouldn’t know clarity from a hickory chicken. Dryland fish? Morel? OK, mushrooms–a real rhizome instead of the faux crap being fed to us by D&G.
So , after playing the believing game for this long, for anteing up, for having skin in the game, for pretending that these guys have anything to say to me except insofar as I can make it mean something through ugly hoop jumping, I …call…bullshit.
This is two years of thinking about this. Perhaps those who “understand” the private language can use it. I can’t. I appreciate them bringing it my attention. Now I can safely ignore it. And besides, my limited knowing indicates that there is nothing in this that substantively differentiates it from the connectivism/constructivism/whimmydiddlism that passes for guiding theory.
And this comes from me, a sheep farmer who happens to know that ‘theorizing’ can be the most practical verb in the language. This doodah ain’t practical. I tried to find examples of it and ended up discovering cool useful stuff that I tried to characterize into a rhizomatic whackamole black hole. I failed, but it was worth doing if only for myself. It was worth sharing even though almost no one shared. Truth tell, it was just an exercise of my own rhizome that most folks just call a brain.
If you want theory that you can practice, read Wendell Berry’s poetry. It is useful, applied knowing. And if it isn’t, then it will be clear what you can push back against.
HOW TO BE A POET
(to remind myself)
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill – more of each
than you have – inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.