Under what circumstances does a tiger pounce? What possesses this cat to swim? To eat a child? To climb a tree? Wait: is a tiger’s -esqueness sufficiently feline to inspire it to climb? To be determined. To be invented. When does a tiger travel to other planets? What makes a tiger fly? [..]. [The child playing tiger] departs from dynamic situations, extending the animal’s -esqueness beyond all known territory. Brian Massumi, 2014: 84

In What Animals Teach Us About Politics (2014) Brian Massumi describes how a child playing tiger becomes tiger in an intensive becoming of “tigritude”. (85) Rather than imitating and thus resembling a tiger in any sense, the child becomes tiger in its intensive movements with a processual faithfulness that creates new variations of tiger (83) – tiger doing. Massumi writes

One look at a tiger, however fleeting and incomplete, whether it be in the zoo or in a book or in a film or video, and presto! the child is tigerized. Transformation-in-place. The perception itself is a vital gesture. The child immediately sets about, not imitating the tiger’s substantial form as he saw it, but rather giving it life—giving it more life. The child plays the tiger in situations in which the child has never seen a tiger. More than that, it plays the tiger in situations no tiger has ever seen, in which no earthly tiger has ever set paw. (83)

The child caught a glimpse of “the dynamism of the tiger, as a form of life.” (83) It moves through this, with this, across this, and becomes tiger in a mutual inclusion that adds to tiger as much as it adds to child – N + 1. “This is what the child saw—all of it, in a glimpse; all in a flash. Not just a generic animal shape: a singular vital movement sweepingly immanent to the visible form. What children see: the immanence of a life.” (84; my emphasis) The child does not see a tiger; it sees tigritude. There is no separating out of this moment, of this movement to be compared to any other movements of a tiger, be it what would be called an actual tiger or whatever else in the form of a tiger. On the contrary, everything is swooped up into this moment creating in itself this differing variation, the differing difference, of a tiger in its tigeresqueness. It launches “into the improvisational movement of a lived cartography that is one with its own activity.” (84)

All earthly restraints lose grounds and the event opens to other worlds, other universes: “When does a tiger travel to other planets? What makes a tiger fly?” (84; my emphasis) The child in tigritude takes on a cosmic bodying that far exceeds any planetary limitations, or any physical limitations for that matter. It launches off beyond space as it creates wholly new spaces, other planets, novel universes. In the mutual inclusion of this event the tiger itself cannot but become different as its movements carry on to new variations. As Massumi says, “[e]nthusiasm of the body doesn’t sweep up one without sweeping up at least two. It marks an instantaneous transformation-in-place that is immediately transindividual in nature.” (42) It is “trans” in the sense that it is not between the two, the child and the tiger; it is trans because it is the middle that creates the two, that gives space to each in their variation. The trans of transformation is immediate, “crossing the universe in an instant”. (Deleuze and Guattari, 1994: 201-2)

There is something extraordinary, fully fabulatory about the event, about that moment of exploration when a body in becoming is no longer bound by the earth, when it is swept up launching into cosmic adventure. It is not so much that it takes place on some far away planet relative to the planet of departure; between the earth and that planet a between is continuously constitutive of the adventure itself – ‘trans - formation’. This means the adventure does not take place here or there, the adventure is the creation of another, co-extensive space itself; adventure is the middle that makes possible the two same yet different planets. That moment that in human eyes can look so insignificant carries with it the force of a completely novel cosmos. But, all too often, little do humans know, and less do they see …

I am thinking of a little child that has carefully arranged diverse objects, some big some small, in a way that the child thinks nice and attractive, on the table of its mother for making do ‘much joy’. The mother comes. Slowly, distracted, she takes one of the objects which she needs and puts another in its place, undoing everything. When the desperate explanations that follow the tears of the child reveal to her the extend of her mistake, she cries sorry: “ah! my child, I hadn’t seen that it was something!” (Souriau,1939: 17; my translation)


Massumi proposes play as an image of thought, a ludic one. What Massumi thus foregrounds is that perhaps play conceptualized in this manner could create the conditions that themselves create new thought thinking. The image of thought that is play attunes to immanence moved by what Massumi calls “mutual inclusion.” (Massumi, 2014: 6) In contrast to prior images of thought – perhaps those characterized by Deleuze and Guattari as the different eras of thought philosophy has created, the eidetic, reflective, and communicative (xx) – play is fully ludic and gay in its foregrounding of continuous joy. Play is immanent in that it resists universalization in always taking in more than one without any exclusion or separation, which in the end lead to some sort of idealization. Thus play does not succumb to idealization by ways of thinking thought as tending to the Good form, making of thought itself an act of transcendence; nor does it succumb to thinking thought as representation in merely reflecting upon a constructed world in its own light, making of thought itself some sort of emanation; and certainly does it not succumb to thought thinking that it came into being by means of its own grounds, making of thought yet mere mediation in intentionality. The continuous foregrounding of joy in play means that thought is fully in the act, that it ‘falls together with being into infinity’ – this is Deleuze and Guattari’s beautiful way of saying that thought cannot be separated out from the act, that it comes always in the shape of the act.

In play, what is foregrounded is the shape of enthusiasm. The shape of enthusiasm, Massumi says, resists first of all a separation based on logic: play effectively mixes two logics, as do the monkeys Bateson sees in the zoo when they are both in combat and in play at the same time. But, Massumi adds, play also resists a confusing of the two logics, that is, they mix but remain “logically distinct” (2014: 46). In other words, play resists any inclusion (mixing) that is effectively exclusionary in annulling the difference between the terms and thus sterilizing the situation – Massumi is very clear on this point, the necessity of mutual inclusion lies in avoiding the path of the excluded middle and its sterile paradox for it merely mixes in confusion to refound the given (69; 71). “What are suspended in that case are not normative functions, as in play, but difference itself. Furthermore, the suspension is not enactive but merely logical.” (67) The play of the monkeys is not either combat or play, it is both combat and play at the same time. Massumi writes

The mode of abstraction produced in play does not respect the law of the excluded middle. Its logic is that of mutual inclusion. Two different logics are packed into the situation. Both remain present in their difference and cross-participate in their performative zone of indiscernibility. Combat and play come together—and their coming-together makes three. There is one, and the other—and the included middle of their mutual influence. The zone of indiscernibility that is the included middle does not observe the sanctity of the separation of categories, nor respect the rigid segregation of arenas of activity. (6)

Unlike other images of thought that in some way instil transcendence into immanence (wherever thought is separated out it will ultimately succumb to a universalization) – be it by contemplation (which makes of contemplations things itself “as seen in the creation of their specific concepts”), reflection (which makes of thought something that reflects on something else, as if other practices need philosophy), or communication (which foregrounds nothing but opinions and a regressive search for consensus) – a ludic image of thought does not limit thought thinking in any relative way; there are still limits, but these are virtual limits as poles of the tendential movements that mix in (46; 52). The ludic image of thought moves with an absolute survey, “this immediate dynamic straddling of disparate perspectives without the vantage point of a supplementary dimension […].” (36) The event of launch or the launch of the event, the sweeping up of one another does not hold a vantage point for its exploration, it is absolute in its eventness. This means that this event emerges in its self-enjoyment, not on the account of one or another (child, tiger, spectator, and especially not the philosopher’s). It also means the event informs whatever shapes are participating in the process, which is a way to ask, in regards to what an event does, “what do things do when they shape each other?” (Manning forthcoming) In total, the mutual inclusion of the events concrescence plays the and and and, ad infinitum. This is the shape of enthusiasm, that cannot but create new variations in its continuation.

In its eventness, the ludic image of thought that is play resists any origin or destination. Rather, play informs what an origin could have been and what a destination could become, both in the sense of not-yet but ready to become either. “The ludic element in play, -esqueness, comes with a transindividual transformation-in-place launching a movement of potential evolution that is fundamentally self-driven, in an autonomy of inventive expression.” (Massumi, 2014: 37) If we can speak of a “play drive” this is only insofar as the drive is one ‘towards’ intensification, purely in its own enjoyment:

Whitehead defines the appetitive direction of life’s movement as an aim toward intensification, which he in turn defines in terms of the capacity of a becoming to hold a maximum of contrastive terms in itself without imposing the law of the excluded middle on them. He equates this aim toward intensification (here, the supernormal tendency) as the aesthetic process of appetition, which he further equates with ethical “progress.”” (43)

Play is thus brimming with aesthetic concern in the sense of a body’s “capacity to feel.” There is an intuition to play, or what Massumi, by ways of reclaiming, calls instinct. (3) This is not, however, an instinct that relapses back on some ground or primordial sense, but a feeling for variation that moves the organism. “Ruyer’s proposition is even more radical: he says that every instinctive act produces an aesthetic yield. This places play on a continuum of instinct and, conversely, in- stinct on the artistic spectrum. It is then a question of emphasis whether you consider play a variety of instinct, or instinct a carrier of play. Both are correct: mutual differential inclusion, with artistry as the operator of the inclusion.” (10) Thus, the ludic image of thought is a long cry removed from a thought thinking that thrives on universals in any sense – as a matter of fact, play does not know universals in and what the one universe since it creates new universes time and time again, artfully so.


As the event extends “beyond all known territory” it is inside outside exploring the event. Fabulous exploration extends the event in this sense, in the sense of a “becoming of continuity.” (Whitehead, 1978: 53) It is an extension that moves sideways, as in co-extensive. That is to say, as the child launches off “from dynamic situations” it becomes prone to drift in the unfolding of the event while simultaneously infolding new qualities, new contrasts.

Under what circumstances does a tiger pounce? What possesses this cat to swim? To eat a child? To climb a tree? Wait: is a tiger’s -esqueness sufficiently feline to inspire it to climb? To be determined. To be invented. When does a tiger travel to other planets? (84)

All forms encountered as different degrees of intensity, no matter to what degree abstract, all can potentially fold into the unfolding event. The child becomes seer – or it is perhaps always already the seer. In the event, it sees what otherwise goes unseen only on account of what normally diverges. In this manner, things do not diverge because they are logically incongruent, making them incompossible. Rather things mix without making them confused. This is what it means to let incompossibles into the same world – the inclusive disjunctions hold two things possible at the same time that normally would not be possible at all, Deleuze refers to this as the Nietzschean “powers of the false” (Deleuze, 1985: 131).

The child tiger in its tigritude makes possible the impossible, it generates the impossible. What occurs in the following is not determined by any sorts of will of the child, though it certainly figures into it; what follows is simply a matter of whatever affects the dynamic situation in ways that make it move, that make the body shift in intensity, more intense. This is how the tigeresque child can climb, can fly, can travel into space to other planets. All forms, abstract and the like, can affect the fabricated variation of tiger and the moving tigritude. It adheres to a whole new, other logic.

“This other logic is nothing if not performed, nothing if not lived out. The form of abstraction staged in play is a lived abstraction.” (Massumi 9) It is lived abstraction precisely in that it tends to forms informing, and forms intercessing in the processes that form. This is the process of fabulation, of fabricating other worlds necessary to cut open, to schizz the risk inherent to the excluded middle and the included exclusion. For as Massumi notes, where “enthusiasm of the body comes to be emotionally contained, it becomes pressurized by the containment.” (Massumi 80) In other words, enthusiasm contained one way or another risks to become the weight holding down the body, producing a possible variety of symptoms. The schizz in fabulation cuts open such containment.

Play cannot help but tend to fabulation as it affirms lived abstractions: the glimpse of the tiger activates whatever idea of the tiger is alive in its movement, as tendency. It does not hold to some ideal tiger be it as a pre-existing form that only needs to be recollected (Plato’s solution), nor to play as an accord of the transcendental categories where a sensus communis generates the ideal (Kant’s solution), nor is it the mere product of one’s perspective or the composite of one’s intentions as a mediated ideal (Husserl’s solution). The idea is fully real insofar as it plays on its own terms between two virtual poles:

[…]the poles of tendential movements are ideal: movements from a starting point that was never occupied, because in point of actual fact there has never been anything other than mixtures in nature; and movements to a destination point that is never reached, because tendings never end, so that mixings never cease. (Massumi, 2014: 52)

Whatever other idea is activated, it is real in its tendency. What emerges is ideal only insofar as the singularity the event generates is ideal and real, mixing whatever transcendental ideas are participating while altering them at the same time in a moment that explodes intentionality and is itself the emergence of consciousness as the event informs subject and object. By virtue of the lived abstraction as intercessor the habitual tendency is swept up and away and brought beyond itself. Two terms are one as three in the singularity that is the event.

This happens only sideways, co-compositionally: in fabulation it is not the thought thinking that makes something real, it is real in what it does ecologically. This means that something becomes real only sideways to the act – thought thinking does not contemplate it, reflect upon it, or intent towards it; it grasps it sideways, brushes up to it in being swept up; it emerges co-extensively by doing something else, by composing with it — becoming is always becoming-with, which is the mutual inclusion in the event.

“Intercessors are essential. Creation is all about intercessors. Without them, there is no work.” (Deleuze in Manning 2017: 7) Sideways, whatever plays intercessor is fully real, but also in that relation there is infinite shifting in the absolute survey: the child is as much intercessor for the tiger as the tiger for the child, and the lake in which the tiger might swim also, as is the tree it might climb, and the planet it might travel to. Each allow the child to be swept up to commence a cosmic adventure. The creation in fabrication resists precisely in that it does not belong to one or the other nor does it confuse and sterilize, it thus resists a difference that can only be raised between two things. It is rather the inverse, the difference that raises two things, two different worlds both equally real. The child, in play, fabulating, holds two thoughts at the same time.

Fabrication is a far cry removed from representational imagination that projects one onto the other; it is even further removed from the self perpetuating production of a novel appearance that turns out to never really be novel at all. In holding two worlds, or more and more as fabulation tends to unfold in the event, there is a surge of vital breath that emerges between. This is a life in its full force, the immanence of a life in its cosmic informing shattering any image of thought that still rests in the illusion of transcendence.

There is still much, infinitely so, to learn from how easily children enter these different universes, to learn from what they see all the time.

To think without principles, in the absence of God and in the absence of man him-self, has become the perilous task of a child-player who topples the old Master of play, and who makes incompossibles enter into the same world, shattered.

Gilles Deleuze resonating Friedrich Nietzsche, 76.