T.A.Z. moments stand for Temporary Autonomous Zone, and moment, well, let’s just agree on the face value of the word moment for the sake of this argument.
This term was first proposed by Peter Lamborn Wilson, a.k.a. Hakim Bey, in his book that bears the same title. A definition of that is found on the web:
A Temporary Autonomous Zone is a liberated area of land, time or imagination where one can be for something, not just against, and where new ways of being human together can be explored and experimented with. Locating itself in the cracks and fault lines in the global grid of control and alienation, a T.A.Z. is an eruption of free culture where life is experienced at maximum intensity. It should feel like an exceptional party where for a brief moment our desires are made manifest and we all become the creators of the art of everyday life. (Source)
Essentially, a T.A.Z. moment is a period of time, whether it be a few seconds or a few days, in which we experience a different possibility of being in the world after which we go back to our ‘reality’ ready to make changes and adjustments.
This term has been the base of different modern anarchist movements when applied politically. It is also a foundational idea for hackers. The idea is that we can create spaces within the rigid grid of control that scape that control and in which we can experience different ways of relating to one another.
The reason why is temporary is that we are not working against a particular system, or grid of control, trying to bring it down, but we are creating within it the possibility of experiencing something utterly different to it. It occurs within that system and hence it will be crushed soon after it emerges, for it challenges the fundamental status quo. The goal would be that through the continuous creation of these T.A.Z. moments the individual will not only awaken to, but experience, a different possibility of being that will change him and, therefore, his circumstances. The idea being that to free oneself, you need to taste freedom.
The caveat of this argument would be that the group would never achieve the final resolution, and be able to turn a T.A.Z. into a Permanent Autonomous Zone, because by the very nature of group dynamics, there will always exist a grid of control of the group over the individual, whether it is manifested as law or as the meta-rules of that particular group, hence there will always be a need for this temporary zone.
Without underestimating the validity and the concept and practice of T.A.Z. in the socio-political context, it turns really interesting is if we apply this to an existential position of the individual.
What is being proposed, in essence, is that we move between two zones: the ordinary and the extraordinary, understanding these terms without any given moral value. Ordinary is that which we experience repeatedly and extraordinary that which seldom occurs. In this context, our daily lives are ordinary -they belong to our normal order of things (normal without pejorative meaning and from a subjective point of view) and the extraordinary is that which occurs and alters this normal order.
In the extraordinary we have a chance to experience a T.A.Z. moment. And perhaps, it is only really extraordinary if we do experience such a moment. Let me illustrate this with the example of a journey.
When we travel we are exposed to a set of circumstances different to our usual ones which give us the opportunity to encounter the conflict that they propose in a different manner that we would normally do. If we are able to face these circumstances an approach them differently, meaning, we resolve the conflicts creatively and not simply applying our usual methods, we would have experienced a different way of being. This is an extraordinary moment that perhaps it will open our eyes to understand that we can approach our ordinary differently. This, then, becomes a T.A.Z. moment.
Of course, not all journeys are T.A.Z. moments. Most often than not a journey is what we could call a ‘holiday’. Meaning that we take our usual selves to different circumstances in order to outwardly scape the repetitiveness of our life and release some pressure so that we can go back to continue doing what we were doing before. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be even necessary at some points, but it serves to illustrate the difference.
Our lives move between the ordinary and the extraordinary. If the experience of extraordinary becomes a T.A.Z. moment, then we go back to the ordinary and we strive to bring it closer to our experience of the extraordinary. If we succeed in doing so, then our new normal becomes what previously was extraordinary and we look for a new extraordinary.
This might seem discouraging for some because we would never actually achieve that fulfilment or wholeness that we desire and that we seem to taste in a T.A.Z moment. But this is one of the most creative and interesting parts of being alive, realizing that we would never reach a moment in which we ‘are’ because we are constantly ‘being’. This is what can transform the mundane into extraordinary giving it meaning.
Another possible T.A.Z moment is the moment of sexual intimacy between a couple. For an instant, there is the possibility of experiencing becoming one with the other, a moment in which we are physically and spiritually so intertwined that we forget that we are two individual subjects and we taste the ecstasy of giving ourselves completely.
The moment after the climax we return to our individuality but having envisioned the possibility of being larger than ourselves. This moment is followed by the often routinely experience of a shared life but given a new meaning from the T.A.Z moment that can be sexual intimacy.
Love, then, is not to be found in either one or the other; love is the constant creative tension to bring the mundane life into the experience of the extraordinary knowing that reaching a moment in which love is completed or full is not possible and is not the goal. Love is that creative tension that keeps two individuals together reaching for something larger than themselves, with full knowledge that they will never reach a moment in which is completed.
Of course, we know that not all sexual activities are T.A.Z moments. As it happens with travelling, most often than not is an escape valve, in the best-case scenario.
Another possible T.A.Z moment is the prayer. Praying offers us the elements in which we can experience a state of consciousness in which we are in harmony with the reality of ourselves and in conversation with the Real. It is a moment of an audience in which exists the possibility of contemplating reality as it is, so that when we have finished praying we can contemplate the world as it really is, and not as it appears to be. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Prayer is the freshness of my eye”.
Is our effort to bring that state of consciousness to a constant that we call himma, and that state of consciousness we call it Taqwa. Himma is the constant creative tension to bring our life into a constant state of consciousness -Taqwa- knowing that achieving a full Taqwa, full consciousness of the Real, is not possible, at least not while we are alive.
A T.A.Z moment is also a transformative experience. In the sense that we transform the idea of ourselves and our place in the world after the encounter with the extraordinary.
We can say then, that if T.A.Z. stands for a Temporary Autonomous Zone, it can also stand for Transformative Autonomous Zone, and this is a term that I like more.