I am writing in defense of it in text;
Maybe it shouldn’t be spoken aloud. Maybe it is only a site for potential, for dreaming; a modality.
It’s a question of dissolving while blocking. It’s a matter of being the hurdle that launches. It’s the moment a plane’s landing gear kisses off the ground and it’s moving too fast to return. It’s a question.
There’s that episode, the final episode of Star Trek: Voyager, where Captain Janeway travels from the future to the past to bring her crew home to Earth in less time than it took. She’s collapsing tenses for all in-tense-ive purposes. The Borg Queen is there, too: a metallic Elizabeth cyber-embracing the death of the body as it was and the birth of the body as it will be. The Borg cannot leave their birth bodies behind fully. I’ve never known why. The Borg forcefully sweep up whole civilizations, pumping them full of tiny robotic cells that dissolve an individual into the Borg collective. To be Borg is to be an interconnected, boundary-fluid area. Maybe a tidal zone. Before going to meet with the Borg Queen, Janeway infects herself with some kind of computer virus so she can infect the Borg.
Okay but that’s where I’ve got questions because
Janeway doesn’t want to be a Borg
Because the Borg are computers
And when the Borg take over your body, they do so by inserting a disk into Drive D:
How does a human body contract a computer virus
Without becoming a computer first?
Janeway had to become it
To stop it
From becoming her.
Did you catch that?
She became it so it wouldn’t become her.
It never changed,
But she did.
That’s what linguists call noun declension—a noun or pronoun shape-shifting to compensate for its syntactic surroundings. She can’t be her as a subject and her can’t be she as an object but her is still Janeway, she is. The Borg call that “adapting.” See, Janeway is adapting before she’s Borg. Before she’s Borg, she’s on her way to becoming it.
The body of the tongue hangs towards the front of the mouth, near the roof. Air slips around wet curves. Next, the tip of the tongue presses against the teeth as the body wriggles back to block air from escaping the lungs. Pressure builds until it is released:
Molecules tagging each other just as the tongue tagged the teeth. You’re it. The air tags your ears and you hear the rushing shimmer of excited gas. You’re it. It’s an exchange, a negotiated definition of reality. I drew it in and pressurized it and released it back out at you so you could hear it and share it with me.
There’s an ice cream sandwich called “It’s It” and it’s really good. Dani (pronoun: “it”) likes it. It’s hot and semi-frozen. It’s wanting and wanted. It’s providing and receiving pleasure, a tongue agob with fat and sugar resting on a tongue. It is dissolving into it/self. It is agent and patient, doer and done-to, ice cream and person. It’s an open-plan house, with implied compartmentalizations that are only mentalizations in partial communication with the reality of it. Living in tension between the inescapability of reality and the power of itself to imagine more, better: it-itivity. It is an ambiguity looking itself in the mirror and seeing an ambiguverse.
I am looking at a rising, waning moon. It glows far from me and its light, sticky like summer, catches my breath when I see it. Waves of light which minutes ago touched its surface are now caught up in the tiny chasms of my eyes. A dissolving. The moon is changing me on a cellular level and in between us, a space activated. I think it lives in space. Am I reaching back out? Eva Hayward writes of spiders and cup corals and the sensorium of living. Separating the spider from the spider’s web is a choice on our part, even though the spider feels through the spider’s web and knows the world through the web. What if I reimagine my eyes? Let me reimagine my eyes. My eyes are sending out questions like a web. The moon is answering back. The moon is a part of how I sense, maybe part of my web. If the land around me were dark enough, I could use the moon to see. It would answer more questions. Streetlights take up the space where the moon would speak, like pharmaceutical molecules designed to block this hormone or that neurochemical. My sensorium, my knowledge of where I am and where this is has been changed by the questions unanswered. I am perhaps a bit of web for the earth. Dissolving.
It is the moment between the posing of a question and the response, when reality is less certain, when who-ness can be up for grabs.
There are surveys, and I won’t be looking them up today, Mr. Chomsky, wherein English speakers demonstrate a preference for gendering animals. Dogs are boys, cats are girls, and many creatures – spiders included – are it. When the intelligence of a creature, or its way of being – maybe being through sensing – is too dissimilar to that of humans, the creature becomes it. Even among humans, this sensibility has been leveraged to produce the idea of people-as-property, to promulgate eugenics. It is dangerous in this way. It is a kind of tranny, we might surmise: a creature whose way of being – maybe through sensing – is too dissimilar from those who are unquestionably human. In this way, it may only be a potential space for dangerous diving.
I meant to type “dreaming,” but “diving” came out. I’ve never gone diving. For humans, diving involves immersing oneself in an unusual medium, one which seems to touch back. The risk of diving is that we cannot sustain all of the touch water can offer. Our lungs just aren’t equipped for that level of familiarity. Dangerous dissolving. My mind probably isn’t equipped to handle it full time. That’s the dangerous dive: sustaining the will to live outside of the schema which provides value to my life. If I am no longer human, then I must find new ways of feeling myself and feeling others that revel in dissolution without re-it-erating the violent history of it.
Ititivity (n.) (it-itiv-itiy): The quality of being it. As a non-etymologist, I can see three chunks of meaning embedded in “ititivity”:
The it that is it.
itiv which turns nouns into adjectives.
ity which turns adjectives back into nouns.
To adapt to the surroundings, the noun transformed nounself into adjectival form, then back to noun form, so that noun might render nounself a dead-end and stop the adjective from reaching out to other nouns. A spider with no web. An eye with no moons. Anesthetized diving. I don’t know how to add suffixes to “ititivity,” except by making it plural. Many of a delimited thing, no thank you.
A cliché: all fag killers are secret fags. But in my life I’ve found that the things I resist most are the things most deeply embedded in me. When I was 18, my friend and I used to sing – to the tune of “If My Sister’s in Trouble”: if my sister’s a tranny, she ain’t my sister anymore. I hid from being a—listen, it’s my essay—a tranny, from being poor, from being mentally unhinged at the seams by insisting that the trannies and the poor and the crazy were shocking mutilations of personality, flesh, and taste. Janeway feared the Borg and did not want to become like the Borg—but the only way she could find to stop the Borg was to reveal that she could become Borg without collective help. Eye-to-eye with a cybernetic regina, Janeway was already full of what she feared would fill itself with her. In that moment, she demonstrated that the human/Borg divide could be crossed in many ways, could be crossed from her side of the line. She always had it inside of her; not because it contains everything but because it can contain anything. In the moments before her computer virus was downloaded into the Borg’s shared brain she stood as a body in conversation, in response. In the moments of those changes, or maybe in that quiet post-operative moment before the conscious mind can narrativize, she’d done it.
Let’s return to it. It reveals a wanting beyond the body and beyond s/h/e/r. Some kind of floating multiple voice. Something awash in something which contains the thing which is awash…in. It accepts companions willingly but provides no static point for semantic mooring. If that’s what you want, then you’ll have to put in the work. It is floating. It opens to the chasm of nothingness, the possibility that we have no meaning or direction. It does not subscribe, it only says it can be.
I am not good at resisting the nihilist romance it provides. I think I have always been depressed. Am I sensing out incorrectly? Is that how I feel such hollowness? I do not feel hollowness or the Libra flirt of death when I think of Harrison, so maybe some of my emotive tentacles are wrongly directed into jugs of poison. About a year into our relationship, we did a performance where we rubbed lotion onto one another while an MP3 of heavy-handed art babble played in the background. Re-sensitizing tough skin through discount pharmaceuticals, with sloughed-off cells piggybacking along. Sometimes the willingness to sense out involves a willingness to be sensed. In tide pools, you have to be rubbed up against and be known if you intend to rub up and know for yourself. It is a situation of swapping.
I watched a really great YouTube video in which a cephalopod specialist described the challenge of measuring cuttlefish intelligence. Their intelligence is so differently organized, with different sensory priorities and schemas, that we have trouble knowing what cuttlefish can and cannot know. The neurological structure of a cephalopod does not resemble that of a human. An octopus’ tentacles seem to receive and process sensory information before relaying that information to the octopus’ brain. The tentacles can make decisions – in a manner of speaking which grossly exaggerates the claims of scientists. The centrality of the self, the idea that the self resides in a discrete location, is complicated by the octopus. The octopus is all of its body. And if the octopus does feel and become a being of feeling in cooperation with water and other oceanic creatures, then the location of the octopus diffuses further.
Not that such diffusion matters to the octopus when lured into a trap. It might just be a site for imagination, not a site for living.
Dani (pronoun: “it”) has a coffee cup in its office. It sits on the desk, where it can hear tree branches tagging the long-ignored window frames in a dorm-building-turned-university-office-building. A monsoon approaches. It’s a pleasant thing. It’s alive. The clock moves its hands. It is time.
Capitalization is foregone in many languages, so let’s forgo capitalization here and see where it takes us. Let’s make the “I” in “it” small and keep it small. Dissolving. Along the same lines. Lower cas(t)e. it is the soil, nurturing and upholding growth that is not its own and beauty that does not belong to it; all the while, developing itself and taking into itself that which enriches. it is the soil washed around in the sudsy flood of monsoon downpours, doing what it can where it is now. Sometimes it is exposed in brilliant sunlight, to be seen and witnessed as a loose arrangement of particles both ancient and immediate. Sometimes it’s submerged under ripe mesquite pods: it is a backdrop. it is de-centering itself as a radical (definition: relating to roots) means of relinquishing energy to where it is needed while evading deadly lines of sight. Always cross-hairs adjacent if possible.
When Q, in Star Trek: The Next Generation, introduced the Borg, he said, “Interesting, isn’t it? Not a he, not a she. Not like anything you’ve ever seen.” I think I’ve always loved the Borg because, like me, the Borg’s gender somehow attracts initial commentary. Word one: it
what is it?
look at it.
it’s coming this way
Dani Lamorte is a Tucson-based writer and performer. It received its BA in linguistics from the University of Pittsburgh and is currently pursuing an MLIS degree from the University of Arizona. More of Dani’s work can be found at danistuchel.com