Alain Aptekman recounts an interesting anecdote about Deleuze’s attitude to “schizos”:
“One day, Félix, Arlette Donati, Gilles, and I were eating at Dhuizon and we got a call from La Borde saying that a guy had set fire to the chateau chapel and run off into the woods. Gilles blanched, I froze, and Félix called for help to find the guy. At that point, Gilles said to me, ‘How can you stand those schizos’? He couldn’t bear the sight of crazy people” (François Dosse, in Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Intersecting Lives).
In this anecdote there is no mention of fear, nor even of the intolerance of unpredictable behaviour. Rather it is a matter of endurance, capacity and responsibility. Deleuze is concerned about the capacity to “stand” being responsible for people capable of dangerous acts that require immediate intervention, and thus to stand having to be ready to abandon whatever one is doing, at any moment. Schizoanalysisis not chaos, nor does it mean being perpetually submitted to the pathological manifestations of those in whom the schizo-process has been interrupted, resulting in clinical illness.
Deleuze has adequately theorised the difference between sympathy and (Christian) charity in DIALOGUES. He remarks that “sympathy” may sometimes take the form of deciding that one wants nothing to do with a certain person. La Borde was a very special assemblage and being part of it was very important for Guattari’s individuation. That does not make it the model of individuation for everyone else. Deleuze does not judge the La Borde assemblage, he does not advise Guattari or Aptekman to get away, he expresses his astonishment and by implication a pragmatic evaluation: being a member of such an assemblage would be unbearable for him, as it would decompose his own laboriously constructed relations. This is not a judgement from above, but an ethological observation: he is not the same sort of animal as Guattari.
To countereffectuate the event, to extract the becoming from the model, to attain the process behind the result, requires a subtle balance between physical incarnation and spiritual sublimation. Deleuze uses sublimation, or “counter-effectuation”, as a way of maintaining fidelity to the wild, the schizo, the nomad, to the uncoded singularity, but not necessarily to their literal physical exemplars. Sublimation in that sense can be found everywhere in Deleuze, de-literalising the models to extract the event, the process, the becoming.
Perhaps it was Guattari who was caught in a performative contradiction as he needed to live in close physical proximity to the literal schizophrenic to get in contact with his own schizo process. Literal schizophrenia provides no guarantee against forming Oedipal (or other) subjugated relations, just as the literal voyage provides no guarantee either. The relative dosage of sublimation and of literal acting out necessary to one’s becoming is a pragmatic question, to be decided heuristically according to each case and not absolutely according to rules.
In every utterance we must evaluate it’s pragmatic valences, and Deleuze indicates that the valences of ethics and politics, and of humour, are essential to understanding the “meaning” of the utterance. Seen as an ethical question “How can you stand those schizos?” would seem to be a question about the addressee’s, Aptekman’s, individuation. What makes positive the composition of his relations with those of that type of schizo (the type that can set fire to the chapel and then go hide in the woods, putting at risk not just lives and property, but the continued legal existence of the clinic).
As an ethical exclamation this question expresses, as we have seen above, Deleuze’s own incapacity or unwillingness to compose with that sort of assemblage and his positive capacity to relate to creative schizo processes without literal involvement with clinical schizophrenics. As a humorous remark, it acqires all its power of provocation from the context of his collaboration on ANTI-OEDIPUS in which it was proferred. Deleuze and Guattari in their KAFKA tell us that the utterance as singularity has both ethical (they say political, but in a very general sense of political) and humorous dimensions at the same time. Humour is equated with joy. This is at the end of chapter 4 in a long footnote. “It’s the same thing: the politics of the utterance and the joy of desire” (my translation).
Lastly, this anecdote was recounted by Aptekman, who does not seem to have been a philosophically reliable observer or narrator. Perhaps Deleuze wanted to provoke a new awareness in Aptekman that he was caught in a mimetic relation with Guattari or in a literal relation with schizophrenics.
As Aptekman tells the story, Deleuze paled (power of being affected) and Guattari leaps into action (power of affecting) whereas Aptekman “froze” (catatonia). Perhaps Deleuze was calling attention to both an insensitivity and a passivity as components in Aptekman’s own particular capacity to “stand” schizos.