Walking down King, I see ahead of me three coworkers on a smoke break. I time it so that I draw in a breath about two metres in front of them and hold it in until I pass. I find the idea of breathing in smoke that has been in a stranger’s lungs and mouth repulsive. (The smoke of a friend’s exhalations is a different story.) The repulsion or revulsion I feel signals the stirring of what DG would call my body without organs. It protests against my being organized into a smoke-recycling machine.
Undoubtedly I wouldn’t be so repulsed if the smoke couldn’t be seen or smelt. Indeed, how many other secondhand entities do I take in and give back every second of the day whether I’m indoors or out? All the gases and particles that circulate through me, some of which my organism captures and puts to work, are components of the preindividual ground of my existence. Without this containing ground, I could never be. There’s no question which comes first: it’s the pre-individual field, not the individual.
Sometimes I feel similarly repulsed overhearing a group of people talking. In such cases, it’s not my nose but my ears that need plugging. But unless I’m wearing headphones I do have to suffer taking in their talk. In 99 cases out of 100, the talk I take in can be broken down into component phrases that come from elsewhere. (We get by quite easily without invention.) Such phrases are in evidence in this very post: I didn’t invent the terms “smoke break” or “different story” or “get by” or even “ground of existence” or “pre-individual field.” William Burroughs thought that the presence of such “reported statements” in a person’s “reporting statements” an indication of a disease he called “the yacks.” Contracting the yacks is like contracting cancer from second-hand smoke. Except that there’s always a chance that you won’t contract cancer from second-hand smoke. You can’t avoid catching the yacks: because all direct discourse is grounded in indirect discourse. You can’t open your mouth without spreading the disease.
So the pre-individual field presents two sides to us: the side of second-hand smoke and the side of second-hand statements. DG would say that the pre-individual field of our everyday life is composed of interlocking strata. Each stratum is marked by a double articulation: content and expression, an assemblage of bodies (co-worker bodies, friend bodies, smoke bodies, gas bodies, bodies without organs) and an assemblage of enunciation (reported statements, reporting statements). These two sides can be viewed as independent from one another, each following along its own auto-poetic way. Each side has its own forms and formalizations. Yet at the same time, they are completely entangled and interactive…