Playing With Strangers

Agility is a sport and a kind of game that is built on the tie of cross-species work and play. I have said a lot about work so far but too little about play. It is rare to meet a puppy who does not know how to play; such a youngster would be seriously disturbed. Most, but not all, adult dogs know very well how to play too, and they choose doggish or other play partners selectively throughout their lives if they have the opportunity. Agility people know that they need to learn to play with their dogs. Most want to play with their canine partners if for no other reason than to take advantage of the tremendous tool that play is in positive-training practices. Play builds powerful affectional and cognitive bonds between partners, and permission to play is a hugely valuable reward for correctly following cues for both dogs and people. Most agility people want to cavort with their dogs for the sheer joy of it too. Nonetheless, astonishingly, a great many agility people have no idea how to play with a dog; they require remedial instruction, beginning with learning how to respond to real-life dogs rather than fantasy children in fur coats or humanoid partners in doubles tennis.39 Better at understanding what someone is actually doing than people are, dogs can be pretty good teachers in this regard. But discouraged dogs who have given up on their people's ability to learn to play with them politely and creatively are not rare. People have to learn how to pay attention and to communicate meaningfully, or they are shut out of the new worlds that play proposes. Not so oddly, without the skills of play, adults of both the canine and hominid persuasion are developmentally arrested, deprived of key practices of ontological and semiotic invention. In the language of developmental biology, they become very bad at reciprocal induction. Their contact zones degenerate into impoverishing border wars.

I suggest people must learn to meet dogs as strangers first in order to unlearn the crazy assumptions and stories we all inherit about who dogs are. Respect for dogs demands at least that much. So, how do strangers learn to play with each other? First, a story.

"Safi taught Wister to jaw wrestle, like a dog, and she even convinced him to carry a stick around in his mouth, although he never seemed to have a clue what to do with it. Wister enticed Safi into high-speed chases, and they'd disappear over the hills together, looking for all the world like a wolf hunting her prey. Occasionally, apparently accidentally, he knocked her with a hoof, and she would cry out in pain. Whenever this occurred, Wister would become completely immobile, allowing Safi to leap up and whack him several times on the snout with her head. This seemed to be Safi's way of saying, 'You hurt me!' and Wister's way of saying, 'I didn't mean it.' Then they would resume playing. After they tired of racing, Safi often rolled over on her back under Wister, exposing her vulnerable belly to his lethal hooves in an astonishing display of trust. He nuzzled her tummy and used his enormous incisors to nibble her favorite scratching spot, just above the base of her tail, which made Safi close her eyes in bliss."40

Safi was bioanthropologist Barbara Smuts's eighty-pound German shepherd-Belgian sheepdog mix, and Wister was a neighbor's donkey. Meeting in a remote part of Wyoming, dog and donkey lived near each other for five months. Wister was no fool; he knew his ancestors were lunch for Safi's ancestors. Around other dogs, Wister took precautions, braying loudly and kicking threateningly. He certainly did not invite them into predator chases for fun. When he first saw Safi, he charged her and kicked. But, Smuts relates, Safi had a long history of befriending critters from cats and ferrets to squirrels, and she set to work on Wister, her first large herbivore buddy, soliciting and inviting, skillfully and repeatedly, until he took the great leap to risk an off-category friendship.

Of course, the kind of predators dogs are know how to read in detail the kind of prey donkeys are and vice versa. Evolutionary history makes that plain. The panorama of pastoral economies in human-animal histories also testifies to this fact; dogs have herded sheep and other chlorophyll-chomping species in a wide range of naturalcultural ecologies.41 The whole process would not work if sheep did not know how to understand dogs as well as dogs know how to interpret them. Herbivores and canines have also learned to work together in other ways that depend not on predator-prey semiotics but on the sharable meanings and practices of social bonding and territory identification. Livestock guardian dogs and their herbivorous charges and companions testify to this skill. But the fully adult Safi and Wister played together by raiding their predator-prey repertoire, disaggregating it, recombining it, changing the order of action patterns, adopting each other's behavioral bits, and generally making things happen that did not fit anybody's idea of function, practice for past or future lives, or work. Dog and donkey weren't precisely strangers at the start, but they were hardly conspecific littermates or cross-species partners given to inhabiting one member's fantasy of unconditional love. Dog and donkey had to craft atypical ways to interpret each other's specific fluencies and to reinvent their own repertoires through affective semiotic intra-action.

I contorted sentences into knots in the last few paragraphs to avoid using the word language for what is happening in play. Too much weight has been loaded on to questions and idioms of language in considering the doings of the great variety of animals and people alike.42 Especially for thinking about world making and intelligent intra-action among beings like dogs and donkeys, to ask if their cognitive, communicative skills do or do not qualify for the imprimatur of language is to fall into a dangerous trap. People always end up better at language than animals, no matter how latitudinarian the framework for thinking about the matter. The history of philosophy and of science is crisscrossed with lines drawn between Human and Animal on the basis of what counts as language. Also, the history of training in agility is littered with the dire consequences of people thinking dogs mean the same thing by words and their combinations that human beings do.

I am not uninterested in the lively theoretical work and empirical research going on these days in regard to questions about language touching human and nonhuman animals. There is no doubt that many animals across a wide range of species, including rodents, primates, canids, and birds, do things few scientists expected them to be able to do (or had figured out how to recognize, partly because hardly anyone expected anything interesting to show up, at least not in testable, data-rich ways).43 These recently documented talents fuel conversations and arguments in several sciences as well as popular culture about what counts as language. When even Noam Chomsky, long famous for his touching faith that the hard science of linguistics proves that people do it and animals don't, becomes the object of his still pure colleagues' ire for selling out, or at least reconsidering the matter from another point of view and in the company of odd new colleagues, we know something big is happening in evolutionary comparative cognitive sciences, and language is on the menu. In particular, MIT's Chomsky and his Harvard colleagues, Marc Hauser and W. Tecumseh Fitch, said in print, ""However, we argue that the available data suggest a much stronger continuity between animals and humans with respect to speech than previously believed. We argue that the continuity hypothesis thus deserves the status of a null hypothesis, which must be rejected by comparative work before any claims of uniqueness can be validated. For now, this null hypothesis of no truly novel traits in the speech domain appears to stand."44 That nicely turns the tables on what has to be proved!

Let us stay with the word continuity for a moment, because I think it misrepresents the strength and radicalism of Chomsky, Hauser, and Fitch's resetting of what counts as the null hypothesis. Because the odd singular words human and animal are so lamentably common in scientific and popular idioms and so rooted in Western philosophical premises and hierarchical chains of being, continuity easily implies that just one continuum is replacing one chasm of difference. Hauser and his colleagues, however, belong to a tribe of comparative cognitive scientists and neuro-biologists who have thoroughly demolished that lame figure of difference. They disaggregate singulars into fields of rich difference, with many geometries of system and subsystem architecture and junctions and disjunctions of properties and capacities, whether at scales of different species or of brain organization in a particular critter. It is no longer possible scientifically to compare something like "consciousness" or "language" among human and nonhuman animals as if there were a singular axis of cali-bration.45 Part of the radicalism of these powerful recent scientific comparative evolutionary interdisciplines is that they do not invalidate asking about consciousness and language. Rather, inquiry becomes inextricably rich and detailed in the flesh of complexity and nonlinear difference and its required semiotic figures. Encounters among human beings and other animals change in this web. Not least, people can stop looking for some single defining difference between them and everybody else and understand that they are in rich and largely uncharted, material-semiotic, flesh-to-flesh, and face-to-face connection with a host of significant others. That requires retraining in the contact zone.

Similar to the question of language is the wrangling over whether critters other than people have a ""theory of mind," that is, know that other beings have the same or similar sorts of motives and ideas that oneself has. Stanley Coren argues that "dogs . . . do seem to understand that other creatures have their own points of view and mental processes."46 Coren insists that this ability is highly advantageous for social species and for predator-prey associates, and its development is likely to be greatly favored by natural selection. He and others provide numerous descriptions and accounts in which it seems both appropriate to acknowledge this capacity in many other species, including dogs, to recognize different points of view and also intellectually anorexic, indicating extreme epistemological fasting and narrative regurgitation, to assume the opposite.

Nonetheless, exacting, comparative, experimental testing is, in my opinion, extremely important, with the null hypothesis in force that the lack of the capacity is generally what has to be shown to a high degree of statistical significance if folks are expected to believe their dogs have no "minds" and no ability to take account of the "minds" of others. Precisely specified similarities ought to be the position that has to be refuted, rather than the opposite. What might possibly be meant by "mind" and by "recognizing another's point of view," of course, is at least as much at stake for people these days as for pooches. No single axis of difference, and so no single postulate of continuity, does justice to the motley of communicating critters, including people and dogs. "Minds" are not all of the human sort, to say the least. Figuring out how to do the needed sorts of experimental work, in which heterogeneous material-semiotic entanglements are the norm, should be great fun and scientifically very creative.47 That such acute work largely remains to be done gives a pretty good idea about how abstemious, if not frightened of otherness, researching and philosophizing humans in Western traditions have been.

Among beings who recognize one another, who respond to the presence of a significant other, something delicious is at stake. Or, as Barbara Smuts put it after decades of careful scientific field studies of baboons and chimps, cetaceans, and dogs, copresence "is something we taste rather than something we use. In mutuality, we sense that inside this other body, there is 'someone home,' someone so like ourselves that we can co-create a shared reality as equals."48 In the contact zones I inhabit in agility, I am not so sure about "equals"; I dread the consequences for significant others of pretending not to exercise power and control that shape relationships despite any denials. But I am sure about the taste of copresence and the shared building of other worlds.

Still, the figures of language and mind do not take me to the kind of inventiveness Cayenne and I experience in our game. Play is the practice that makes us new, that makes us into something that is neither one nor two, that brings us into the open where purposes and functions are given a rest. Strangers in mindful hominid and canid flesh, we play with each other and become significant others to each other. The power of language is purported to be its potentially infinite inventiveness. True enough in a technical sense ("discrete infinity"); however, the inventive potency of play redoes beings in ways that should not be called language but that deserve their own names. Besides, it is not potentially infinite expressiveness that is interesting for play partners but, rather, unexpected and nonteleologi-cal inventions that can take mortal shape only within the finite and dissimilar naturalcultural repertoires of companion species. Another name for those sorts of inventions is joy. Ask Safi and Wister.

Gregory Bateson did not know that fine dog and donkey, but he did have a human daughter with whom he engaged in the risky practice of play. Play is not outside the asymmetries of power, and both Mary Catherine and Gregory felt that force field in their father-daughter contact zone in "Metalogue: About Games and Being Serious."49 They learned to play in that force field, not in some Eden outside it. Their play was linguistic, but what they had to say tracks what Cayenne and I learned to do, even if Wister and Safi remain undisputed masters of the art. Here's how this metalogue starts (14):

daughter: Daddy, are these conversations serious? father: Certainly they are.

d: They're not a sort of game that you play with me?

f: God forbid . . . but they are a sort of game that we play together.

d: Then they're not serious!

Then ensues their noninnocent playful investigation into what is play and what is serious and how they require each other for their reinvention of the world and for the grace of joy. Loosening the iron bit of logic, with all of its utterly functional ability to follow single tracks to their proper ends, is the first step. Father says hopefully, "I think that we get some ideas straight, and I think that the muddles help." He says, "If we both spoke logically all the time we would never get anywhere" (15). If you want to understand something new, you "have to break up all our ready-made ideas and shuffle the pieces" (16).

F and D are playing a game, but a game is not play. Games have rules. Agility has rules. Play breaks rules to make something else happen. Play needs rules but is not rule-defined. You can't play a game unless you inhabit this muddle. D ponders aloud, "I am wondering about our muddles. Do we have to keep the little pieces of our thought in some sort of order—to keep from going mad?" F agrees, then adds, "But I don't know what sort of order" (16). D complains that the rules are always changing when she plays with F. I know Cayenne and I have felt that way about each other. D: "The way you confuse everything—it's sort of cheating." F objects, "No, absolutely not" (17). D worries, "But is it a game, Daddy? Do you play against me?" Drawing on how a child and a parent play together with colored blocks, F aims for some sort of coherence: "No. I think of it as you and I playing against the building blocks" (17). Is this Safi and Wister's playing against the rules of their species heritages? Is it Cayenne's and my playing in the arbitrary swatch of yellow paint that is our contact zone? F elaborates, "The blocks themselves make a sort of rules. They will balance in certain positions, and they will not balance in other positions" (18). No glue allowed; that is cheating. Play is in the open, not in the glue pot.

Just when I thought I had it, F paraphrases D: "'What sort of order should we cling to so that when we get into a muddle, we do not go mad?"' F answers his paraphrase, "It seems to me that the 'rules' of the game is only another name for that sort of order." D thinks that she now has the answer, "Yes—and cheating is what gets us into muddles." No rest for the wicked is F's motto: "Except that the whole point of the game is that we do get into muddles, and we do come out on the other side" (19). Is that what the playful practice of making mistakes interesting in agility training helps us understand? Making mistakes is inevitable and not particularly illuminating; making mistakes interesting is what makes the world new. Cayenne and I have experienced that in rare and precious moments. We play with our mistakes; they give us that possibility. It all happens very fast. F owns up, "Yes, it is I who make the rules—after all, I do not want us to go mad." D is undeterred, "Is it you that makes the rules, Daddy? Is that fair?" F is unrepentant, "Yes, daughter, I change them constantly. Not all of them, but some of them." D: "I wish you'd tell me when you're going to change them!" F: "I wish I could [he doesn't really]. But it isn't like that . . . certainly it is not like chess or canasta. It's more like what kittens and puppies do. Perhaps. I don't know" (19-20).

D jumps at this: "Daddy, why do kittens and puppies play?" Comprehending that play is not for a purpose, F unapologetically, and I suspect triumphantly, brings this metalogue to a close: "I don't know—I don't know" (20). Or, as Ian Wedde said of Vincent, "He enriches my ignorance." And, as Wister said of Safi: "I'll give this dog a chance. Her constant bowing might mean I am not lunch. I'd better not be mistaken, and she had better see that I have accepted her invitation. Otherwise, she is one dead dog, and I am one savaged donkey."

So, we reach another point to which Bateson takes us: metacommu-nication, communication about communication, the sine qua non of play. Language cannot engineer this delicate matter; rather, language relies on this other semiotic process, on this gestural, never literal, always implicit, corporeal invitation to risk copresence, to risk another level of communication. Back to another metalogue. D: "Daddy, why cannot people just say 'I am not cross at you' and let it go at that?" F: "Ah, now we are getting to the real problem. The point is that messages we exchange in gestures are really not the same as any translations of these gestures into words."50

Bateson also studied other mammals, including monkeys and dolphins, for their play and their practices of metacommunication.51 He was not looking for denotative messages, no matter how expressive; he was looking for semiotic signs that said other signs do not mean what they otherwise mean (as in a play gesture indicating that the following bit is not aggression). These are among the kinds of signs that make relationships possible, and "preverbal" mammalian communication for Bateson was mostly about "the rules and contingencies of relationship."52 In studying play, he was looking for things like a ritual bow followed by "fighting" that is not fighting and is known not to be fighting by the participants (and by human observers who bother to learn something about the critters they are privileged to watch). Play can occur only among those willing to risk letting go of the literal.53 That is a big risk, at least for adults like Cayenne and me; those wonderful, joy-enticing signals like play bows and feints usher us over the threshold into the world of meanings that do not mean what they seem to mean. That is not the linguist's "discrete infinity," nor is it the comparative neurobiologist's "continuity." Rather, the world of meanings loosed from their functions is the game of copresence in the contact zone. Not about reproducing the sacred image of the same, this game is nonmimetic and full of difference. Dogs are extremely good at this game; people can learn.

Biologist Marc Bekoff has spent countless hours studying the play of canids, including dogs. Granting that play might sometimes serve a functional purpose either at the time or later in life, Bekoff argues that that interpretation does not account for play or lead one even to recognize its occurrence. Instead, Bekoff and his colleague J. A. Byers offer a definition of play that encompasses "all motor activity performed postnatally that appears to be purposeless, in which motor patterns from other contexts may often be used in modified forms and altered temporal sequenc-ing."54 Like language, play rearranges elements into new sequences to make new meanings. But play also requires something not explicit in Bekoff and Byer's definition in the 1980s, namely, joy in the sheer doing.551 think that is what one means by "purposeless." If "desire" in the psychoanalytic sense is proper only to human language-constituted subjects, then sensuous joy" is what play-constituted beings experience. Like copresence, joy is something we taste, not something we know denotatively or use instru-mentally. Play makes an opening. Play proposes.

I want to stay with altered temporal sequencing for a moment. Functional patterns put a pretty tight constraint on the sequence of actions in time: first stalk; then run to outflank; then head, bunch, and cut out the selected prey; then lunge; then bite and kill; then dissect and tug. The sequences in a serious conspecific fight or in any other of the important action patterns for making a living are different but no less sequentially disciplined. Play is not making a living; it discloses living. Time opens up. Play, like Christian grace, can allow the last to become first, with joyful results. Ian Wedde's reflections on his walks with Vincent the ridgeback tell me something about the temporal open that I and, I think, Cayenne experience when we play together, whether choreographing the more structured forms of an agility run, with its dance of rule and invention in the kinesthetic matching of two swiftly moving bodies, or the looser play patterns we do with chase, wrestle, and tug. "I'm unsure about the theri-anthropism involved in pondering a dog's sense of time—what I know is a degree of reciprocity in our shared experience of it. For me it came to involve pace, space and focal length, as well as duration and memory. My sense of the present became more vivid; concurrently, Vincent's perceptual pace altered if he was required to share my speed. Our combined time contained my enhanced sense and his altered pace; we were both fixed in vivid temporal foregrounds."56

In Cayenne's and my experience of playing together, this play of strangers, both partners experience Wedde's kind of altered temporal sense. Inside that jointly altered but still unidentical sense, time in the sense of sequencing also opens up. Unexpected conjunctions and coordinations of creatively moving partners in play take hold of both and put them into an open that feels something like an eternal present or suspension of time, a high of "getting it" together in action, or what I am calling joy. No liver cookie can compete with that! Agility people often joke with one another about their "addiction" to playing agility with their dogs. How can they possibly justify the thousands of hours, thousands of dollars, constant experiences of failure, public exposure of one's foolishness, and repeated injuries? And what of their dogs' addiction? How can their dogs possibly be so intensely ready all the time to hear their human utter the release word at the start line that frees them to fly in coordinated flow with this two-legged sf alien across a field of unknown obstacles? There is, after all, a lot that is not fun about the discipline of training for people or for dogs, not to mention the rigors of travel and the erosions of confined boredom while waiting for one's runs at an event. Yet, the dogs and the people seem to egg each other on to the next run, the next experience of what play proposes.

Besides, joy is not the same thing as fun. I don't think very many people and dogs would keep doing agility just for the fun; fun together is both unreliable in agility and more easily had elsewhere. I ask how Cayenne can possibly know the difference between a good run and a mediocre one, such that her entire bodily being glows as if in the phosphorescent ocean after we have flown well together? She prances; she shines from inside out; by contagion, she causes joy all around her. So do other dogs, other teams, when they flame into being in a ""good run." Cayenne is pleased enough with a mediocre run. She has a good time; after all, she still gets string cheese and lots of affirming attention. Mediocre runs or not, I have a good time too. I've made valued human friends in agility; I get to admire a great motley of dogs; and the days are uncluttered and pleasant. But Cayenne and I both know the difference when we have tasted the open. We both know the tear in the fabric of our joined becoming when we rip apart into merely functional time and separate movement after the joy of inventive isopraxis. The taste of " becoming with" in play lures its apprentice stoics of both species back into the open of a vivid sensory present. That's why we do it. That's the answer to my question, Who are you, and so who are we?

Good players (watch any adept dog or reread Mary Catherine and Gregory Bateson in their metalogue) have a sizable repertoire for inviting and sustaining their partners' interest and engagement in the activity and for calming any worries the partner may develop about lapses into the literal meaning of alarming elements and sequences. Bekoff suggests that these animal abilities to initiate, facilitate, and sustain joint "fair" play, where partners can take risks to propose something even more over-the-top and out-of-order than the players have yet ventured together, underlie the evolution of justice, cooperation, forgiveness, and morality.57 Remember Wister's letting Safi whack him with her snout when the donkey had accidentally caught the dog's head with an overly exuberant hoof. I remember also how many times in training with Cayenne, when I am incoherent and hurtful instead of inviting and responsive, that I describe what I feel from her as her forgiveness and her readiness to engage again. I experience that same forgiveness in play with her outside formal training when I misinterpret her invitations, preferences, or alarms. I know perfectly well that I am "anthropomorphizing" (as well as theriomorphiz-ing) in this way of saying things, but not to say them in this manner seems worse, in the sense of being both inaccurate and impolite.58 Bekoff is directing our attention to the astonishing and world-changing naturalcultural evolution of what we call trust. For myself, I am also partial to the idea that the experience of sensual joy in the nonliteral open of play might underlie the possibility of morality and responsibility for and to one another in all of our undertakings at whatever webbed scales of time and space.

So, at the end of "Training in the Contact Zone," I return to Isabelle Stengers, whom we met in chapter 3, "Sharing Suffering," in her introduction of the idea of cosmopolitics, which requires copresence. I need Stengers here for her reading of Whitehead's notion of a proposition. In her paper titled "Whitehead's Account of the Sixth Day," Stengers writes, "Propositions are members of the short metaphysical list of what can be said to exist, what is required by the description of actual entities as such. . . . The coming into existence of new propositions may need, and does need, a social environment, but it will not be explained in social terms. The event of this coming into existence marks the opening of a full range of new diverging possibilities for becoming, and as such generally signifies a break in continuity, what can be called a social upheaval."59 I risk this excursion into speculative process philosophy and Whitehead's vocabulary, this other playing with strangers, in the same spirit that I approach training with my partners in the contact zones of agility. Stengers says that the conceptual role of Whitehead's technical terms lies in "the imaginative jump produced by their articulation. . . . their meaning cannot be elucidated right away, just as an animal cannot be approached right away. In both cases you need some slowing down and learning what they demand and how they behave" (1). It is a case of conceptual politesse, of cosmopolitics, this learning to play with strangers.

I said that "play proposes," and I argued that people must learn to meet dogs as strangers, as significant others, so that both can learn the corporeal semiosis of cross-species trust and enter the open of risking something new. Agility is an ordinary sport or a game, in which the syncopated dance of rule and invention is the choreography that reshapes players. I know that Whitehead did not have dog-human agility runs in mind when he elaborated his sense of a proposition, but Stengers is more promisingly promiscuous in her love of the speculative work and play of propositions. Emboldened by Stengers, I suggest that a "good run" in agility is a "mode of coherence," a "concrescence of prehensions," and an event of "profound disclosure"—all in Whitehead's terms.

For Whitehead, coherence means interpreting together what had been seen only in mutually contradicting terms. Stengers quotes White-head, "In the becoming of an actual entity, the potential unity of many entities in disjunctive diversity acquires the real unity of an actual entity"

(12).60 An achieved actual entity is outside time; it exceeds time in something I will call the sheer joy of that coming together of different bodies in coshaping motion, that ""getting it," which makes each partner more than one but less than two. An actual entity increases the multiplicity of the world: ""The many have become one, and are increased by one" (23). This is ordinary reciprocal induction. " Becoming is not to be demonstrated; it is a matter of sheer disclosure. In contrast, the question of 'how an entity becomes' is the one for which a demand for coherence may be positively put to work" (13). Reasons, experiments, training hard, making mistakes interesting, objectivity, causes, method, sociology and psychology, consequences: here is where these things come into their own. Human beings (and other organisms) need the fleshly practice of reason, need reasons, need technique, but, unless they are delusional, and many are, what people (and other organisms) do not have (except in a very special sense in mathematical and logical proof) is transcendent sufficient reasons.

The open beckons; the next speculative proposition lures; the world is not finished; the mind-body is not a giant computational exercise but a risk in play. That's what I learned as a biologist; that's what I learn again in the contact zones of agility. People must not explain away by tautology—just-so stories of relentless function—what needs to be understood, that is, disclosed. I think Stengers agrees with me that the same thing applies across species.

If we appreciate the foolishness of human exceptionalism, then we know that becoming is always becoming with—in a contact zone where the outcome, where who is in the world, is at stake. ""For Whitehead, the experiences which come to matter on the sixth day are those which may be associated with the intense feeling of alternative, unrealized possibilities" (16). Stengers insists that philosophy aims at transformative disclosure and that the efficacy of propositions is not limited to human beings. "Propositions should not be confused with linguistic sentences. . . . The efficacy of propositions is not restricted to creatures of the sixth day. . . . Propositions are needed in order to give their irreducible reasons . . . for the possibility of the kind of disruption of social continuity we may observe when even oysters or trees seem to forget about survival" (18). A proposition is about something that is not yet. A proposition is a social adventure, lured by unrealized ideals (called "abstractions") and enabled by the risk of what Stengers and Whitehead call "wandering," what Bateson named a "muddle," and what Wedde and I suggest is the risk of play. This is queer theory, indeed, outside reproductive teleology and off-category— that is, off-topic, out of topos (proper place), into tropos (swerving and so making meaning new).

God is definitely not queer. The sixth day of creation in Genesis 1:24-31 is when God, helpfully speaking English, said, "'Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds.' . . . And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." A little overfocused on keeping kinds distinct, God then got to making man (male and female) in his own image and giving them all too much dominion, as well as the command to multiply out of all bounds of sharing the earth. I think the sixth day is where the problem of joint mundane creaturely kinship versus human exceptionalism is sharply posed right in the first chapter of Jewish and Christian monotheism. Islam did no better on this point. We have plurals of kind but singularity of relationship, namely, human dominion under God's dominion. Everything is food for man; man is food only for himself and his God. In this feast, there are no companion species, no cross-category messmates at table. There is no salutary indigestion, only licensed cultivation and husbandry of all the earth as stock for human use. The posthumanities—I think this is another word for "after monotheism"— require another kind of open. Pay attention. It's about time.

ENDING IN A CONTACT ZONE: THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

August 28, 2001 Dear Agility Friends,

Up until now, I would not have said Ms Cayenne Pepper was drawn to the pause table. This morning, however, while Rusten was putting the last coat of lurid yellow paint on the rough sandy surface of the new pause table he made me for my birthday (along with a very professional A-frame, broad jump, and teeter-totter),

Cayenne made known her great, if newfound, love for jumping onto this contact obstacle. Splat into the wet, bright paint she leapt, blithely ignoring my strongly worded suggestion that, in fulfillment of her normal morning obligations, she leave early and speed the newspaper to Caudill's mailbox in exchange for a tasty vitamin pill.

As my teacher Gail Frazier will attest, it is not unheard of for Cayenne in training and at trials to bounce off the pause table before the magic of the release cue. Not this time. She held her ground with conviction; no two-point penalties for her. Belly to the paint, Cayenne was telling me that we now have that automatic down on the table for which we had worked so hard. Timing is all.

Decorated for play at this weekend's USDAA trials, Donna

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