Directory of Life

Introduction to the Directory of Life (Overview)

What is a “directory of life”? Can we make a guidebook-like directory to help us live? In contrast to the usual meaning of the word, the text presented here is not an attempt at comprehensive enumeration of all the details of our lives. It also does not indicate the beginning and end of life, or try to give our lives order or meaning, or to append headings and a table of contents to them. The purpose of this directory is instead to disrupt and shake the entrenched rules, patterns, and structure of meaning in our lives. It expands upon the overarching theme of “Wild Grass.” Wild grass is the very power of nature, and the self-assertion and -affirmation of life. As such, it ignores existing borders, meaning, order, structure, and planning. It unexpectedly and suddenly interrupts the conventional rules and regulations of life. Passing through the chaotic exterior, it finds formless energy, speed, and rhythm. Its impact on and interruption of meaning and order derive from life and our own lives themselves. Our lives are nothing other than wild grass, i.e., arbitrary combination, horizontal connection, temporary structures of meaning, chance encounters, attitudes open to others, and ceaseless change and formation.

The Directory of Life presents ways of being and potentialities for lives to unfold in different directions, different domains, and different time and space, and shows the grammar and creases & folds of life, both hidden and clear. Spurred by these elements, we may come to reconsider the existing conceptual frameworks and analytical premises, reflect on and criticize them, while traversing and going through them. At the same time, we may decide to examine the relationships of tension between the various dichotomous pairs that are used to establish reality, order, meaning, and borders in our lives, e.g., public/private, political/non-political, serious/comic, and periphery/center. The texts contained in this directory give us a chance for re-education, but they are definitely not “guidance for ideal living.” On the contrary, this directory, which is basically in a stable state, replete with coincidence, and on the verge of falling apart at any time and place, consequently has an allegorical correspondence with our very lives. It is not a document providing a method for accurate and proper understanding of actual society or a report on research in the field of taxonomy. It is like an indistinct constellation and invites us to combine, rewrite, annotate, reread, translate, parody, and adapt the texts as we please. Our position may be likened to that of a gardener who has been freed from a particular set of esthetic principles as he confronts various wild plants in the garden. If we open up the existing meaning, order, and structure of life to nature, the world, and others (i.e., if we open up life to life itself), various possibilities that have not yet been brought to light or have been quickly forgotten will come into view. It is not difficult for us to notice them.

These texts in the Directory of Life are not far from us in terms of time; on the contrary, they speak directly to our times, history, and lives. They extract the structure of meaning and mode of encryption in the present-day world that we take for granted from mutually different directions, and describe the political, intellectual, and cultural energy lying dormant in everyday life, each applying original, unclassifiable methodologies. They are seeds that open the door wide to a different world. They make it possible to picture utopias under the historical circumstances in which we find ourselves, as well as to create new social linkages, new modes of symbiosis, and new communities grounded in the concrete circumstances of being.

Let us live like wild grass. Let us live together with wild grass. Why? Because we have always lived by doing so.

Directory of Life

Fellow thinkers and sources (published year in the original language)

Fellow Thinker: KARATANI Kōjin
Source: Principles of the New Associationist Movement (NAM), Translated by Michael K. BOURDAGHS, 2001/2024
[First published in Japanese, 2000]

Fellow Thinker: WANG Hui
Source: “Let Us Ask Again: Equality of What?” in Chapter 6 “Three Concepts of Equality,” Translated by Lewis HINCHMAN and Christopher CONNERY, CHINA’S TWENTIETH CENTURY: Revolution, Retreat and the Road to Equality, London; New York: Verso, 2016
[First published in Chinese, 2011]

Fellow Thinker: David GRAEBER
Source: “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: A Work Rant,” Strike!, 2013

Fellow Thinker: Judith BUTLER
Source: Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2015

Fellow Thinkers: Björk & Timothy MORTON
Source:”Björk’s Letters with Timothy Morton,” Björk: Archives, London: Thames & Hudson, 2015

Fellow Thinker: MATSUMOTO Hajime
Source: Manual for a Worldwide Manuke Revolt, Translated by Max RES, The Anarchist Library, 2021
[First published in Japanese, 2016]

Fellow Thinker: McKenzie WARK
Source: Capital Is Dead, London; New York: Verso, 2019

Fellow Thinker: SAITO Kohei
Source: Slow Down : How Degrowth Communism Can Save the Earth, Translated by Brian BERGSTORM, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2024

Fellow Thinker: Anonymous
Source:Tangpingist Manifesto: Tangpingists of the world, unite!, Translated by Bugs, The Anarchist Library, 2022
[First published in Chinese, 2021]

Fellow Thinker: Ingo NIERMANN & Erik NIEDLING
Source: “The Walder Diet,” written for the 8th Yokohama Triennale, 2024