Thinking with Kindergarten

–vincent hiscock

Through the support of the GOTH Program, I work as an Instructional Assistant at St Andrew’s School. I spend much of my time in Kindergarten.

During my first weeks in Kindergarten, I was impressed by the degree to which early childhood education is itself the orchestration of a collective assemblage (a classroom, with itineraries to the playground, the library, the lunchroom, etc) working towards the co-management of diverse developing psyches. A chime territorializes attention, says “quiet stillness now.” Ms Davis claps a pattern. The children clap back. We learn a song, the melody teaching the days of the week more speedily by far than simple speech. Rhymes combine, teaching in pure phonemes that which exceeds the possibility of “an explanation.” Little refrains repeat incessantly, animating the present and casting it simultaneously into its future. The presence of the teacher is primary, but not as I had expected. This presence relies on a constant, a fundamental forgetting on the part of the children (deterritorialization) that allows for its revitalization in the next instant. What happened?

The question augments in relation to autistic spectrum children, with whom I often sit. They have lines of their own customs as well as lines of drift, and the lines constantly overlap. A child pauses, looking in the air–what happened?–finds a line with two claps or a rapid turn. And sweeping across the rest of the well-determined classroom there are always fine segmentations, unfindable tiny postures of disorientation or deterritorialization operating almost unconsciously or anonymously through different little agents. But the repeated postures of the teacher (or I) intervene, enrapturing children in this our inverse suspense, enveloping psyches in incessant developments upon tiny motifs.

It is not unlike church (especially our ecumenical variety), or life as a GOTH “resident.” Life proceeds, constantly plotting a segmentary line. Segments fit, conjugate, an interplay of well-determined territories, and the segments, in the end, prevail (or do they only seem to?). They include much tenderness. My housemates and I gather in a specific room in order to be contemplative, prayerful. I walk to the VMFA. I go to work, check the weather, take the children out to play at precisely 7:50.

Then there are the great molar aggregates: the State, institutions, economic classes. Our lives are also made like that. There are well-defined segments, already outlined: classroom, low-income housing project, church. “We” at St Andrew’s School “serve families at or under the poverty line.”

A child whispers in my ear: “My Daddy’s in jail. I miss him.”

A child asks me, in order to resolve a question that’s emerged with his friend over breakfast: “Could I die from being pepper sprayed? It could be worse for me, cus I have asthma too. Right?” The child is six, I think.

These are living lines, supple or blurry contours, in which between the macropolitics that seeks to draw straight lines, to overcode, there is a micropolitics that envisions classes, peoples, and feelings in a way that is not at all the same. Here there is whole roller coaster of possibilities. Life passes between our near-sighted critical geometries. Here we are no longer well-determined. It is still a political affair, but now in incommensurable, ungraspable, and non-superposable matter, where there is always a double, an alternate self in the form of a secret question asked of us, it would almost seem, by the atmosphere itself: Whatever could have happened? 

Answers are ungivable, the content of the question unassignable. It is not a matter of the past but of the living present. It is a matter of becoming, even to oneself, imperceptible. In my last entry, with its concluding notes on Day, Day’s light is not pure. It is rather that there are no longer any shadows to help us see more clearly–only glare. Critical modes of analysis lose their explanation; it is no longer possible for anything to stand for anything else. One comes to the end of the line, lenses broken, having dismantled oneself, to meet a blind Double on the other side.

At such a time, love thy neighbor as thyself. To become imperceptible oneself, to have dismantled love, in order to become capable of loving. Not abstractly, not universally, but with a love that shall choose me, blindly, just as selfless as I. I have been thinking of Deleuze & Guattari: “Everything was in the AND that made one and the other imperceptible, without disjunction or conjunction but only a line of flight forever in the process of being drawn, toward a new acceptance . . .”

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