Monday, June 18, 2012

Rhizomatic vs Aborescent

 One of the things I find completely thrilling about being alive is that I learn new things all the time -- concepts that I had absolutely no idea about before, that I didn't know even existed. Recently I heard the term "rhizomatic". I know what a rhizome is in the garden -- it's a way plants propagate. A darn good way to propagate, too. Some of the most difficult plants to wipe out -- mint, false indigo, obedient plant, to name three -- propagate that way. They send out shoots in all directions that start plants that send out shoots in all directions that start plants.

But that's not what this "rhizomatic" means. In this case, it was using the term to describe organization of knowledge. It can be contrasted with an "aborescent" scheme. You know what aborescent means -- it means "tree shaped" and you probably use it to organize things all the time. An aborescent scheme depends on binary decisions and dualistic categories. It is linear.

A rhizomatic scheme is non-hierarchical and is said to be planar. I'm not sure what this looks like yet, but I'm working on it. I think it means that there isn't a single starting point, but there could be unlimited points of entry or exit to content. Does it mean there isn't some sort of a "founding" concept? Is there no status that is associated with being that founding concept? In a tree structure, there is status conferred, either because the first item is oldest and the "father" of all the others, or because of the dualistic nature of the structure, where things are going to devolve to good and bad, right or wrong, eventually.

I am very interested in thinking about rhizomatic structure as it applies to linguistics and language. Spoken English is said to be very linear, but American Sign Language is not. Can ASL be described as rhizomatic in structure? Could it be diagrammed by describing different parts of a particular sign as existing on different planes? Does anyone describe it this way now?

My brain is so accustomed to thinking in a linear, binary way. Even the title of this posting is binary. As a Buddhist, I recognize the limitations of dualistic thought (although just to make that that statement compares dualistic with non-dualistic thought and is dualistic!) Up until now (now, not now) I've had no model (model, no model) to see phenomena (see, not see) as non-dualistic (non-dualistic, dualistic). How can I practice seeing things from a rhizomatic view point?

I'll let you know what I find out! :-)


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