We just can’t get through a class discussion recently without mentioning alliances or networks, now can we? Alliances with objects are inescapable in the lais we’ve read, including “Emare,” whose plot is driven by letters, a ship, and a robe, among others. Emare’s “alliance” with the robe had its up and downs, as it both led to her love with her husband and led to her banishment by the mother. But in the end, as in all lais, the story ended with Emare on top, with the net result of her alliance leading to fortune and a happy life. Does this suggest that all alliances with things are for the best? Perhaps, but a happy ending is an essential quality of the British lai, and perhaps not all networks and alliances end for the better. Especially since I’ve entered into an alliance with a special “thing” this week, a virus.
Now, the “thingness” of viruses has been up to debate for a while now. In short, they are composed of organic matter, eat, and reproduce, yet they do not autonomously self-reproduce and are thus damned by the scientific community to the level of “thing,” as opposed to the vibrant level of organism. Yes, we have beaten to death the idea that all matter is on the same level of existence, as things (anything, really) are only judged by their ability to act as actants, to influence or redefine other things. And this virus certainly is an actant, which led to my absence yesterday and has directed my discussion towards its existence. Does that mean the virus has agency? It certainly changed my plans for this week, limiting my actions and “forcing” me to feel rather miserable. I’m really not sure how to answer that question at this point, but hopefully I’ll be able to when my body is done hosting this rude guest. Whether the virus “wants” to or not, it’s destroying my cells and making clones of itself. In fact, that is its very purpose- to inject its RNA and produce clones of itself. But calling this agency is the same as claiming that a river chooses to flow into the ocean. This is its natural predisposition, and consciousness may be far removed from the virus and its natural life choices.
Is my alliance with this actant going to be beneficial in the end? I’m full of questions today, and I’m afraid that this one in particular may be impossible to answer. Who knows, maybe missing class was for the best, and allowed me to avoid some tragic end the other day, maybe I’ll emerge from this sickness with a greater appreciation for life, and do great things because of it and change the world. Maybe my changes will lead to a post-apocalyptic dystopia far after I’ve passed away and become one with the grass. With lais or any writing, there is a clear ending point in the text. A last word, a final page. But in life, there is none, at least none that I can comprehend. The net result of my life, or actions I took while under the influence of an actant, are an eternal mystery that can only be judged at the end of time. But for now, I judge this actant as harmful to my alliance with things, yet I think it for helping me create these thoughts as I type in a feverish delirium.