Bloom Theory


Mr. Bloom watched curiously, kindly the lithe black form.  Clean to see: the gloss of her sleek hide, the white button under the butt of her tail, the green flashing eyes.  He bent down to her, his hands on his knees.

“Milk for the pussens,” he said.

“Mrkgnao!” the cat cried.

They call them stupid.  They understand what we say better than we understand them.   

James Joyce, Ulysses

At this hour of the night

The great watchmen are dead.

Doubtless THEY killed them.

The weak glow of their solitary stubbornness disturbed the party of sleep too much.  That, at least, is what we think, we guess – we who’ve come so late – in light of the perplexity that their name still stirs up at certain times.

Every living trace of what they did and were has been erased, it seems, by the maniacal obstinacy of resentment.  In the end, all that’s left of them for this world is a handful of dead images that it still haloes with the villainous satisfaction of having conquered those who were better than it is.

So here we are, orphans of grandeur, marooned in a world of ice where no fires light the horizon.  Our questions have to remain unanswered, the old ones assure us; then they say, all the same: “there’s never been a blacker night for intelligence.” 

Who Are You Really?

The pretty, snow-blanketed countryside slips fast across the window.  It won’t be long now until the trip between V. and R., which in the old days would’ve been a matter of weeks, will be over.  For less than an hour, you’ve been the occupant of some seat or another in one of the twenty identical cars of this high speed train, one of so many.  The regular - doubtless optimal - arrangement of the seats spreads out in an abstract harmony of gentle neon.  The train follows along its rails, and in this train car, so seamlessly in harmony with the idea of order, it seems that human reality itself travels along invisible rails.  A clean and polite indifference inhabits the space that separates you from the lady sitting in the seat next to you.  Neither of you will have your trip disturbed by the superfluous need to even say a word, much less strike up a conversation.  That would disturb your distraction, and, in the case of your neighbor, her applied study of the feminine press (“how to sleep with a guy without him knowing,” “soft flirting,” “gifts with meaning,” “is he a good lay?” “who are you REALLY?” etc.).  And when her cell phone rings, the young woman doesn’t think it necessary to get up, either: “hello? … listen, what do you mean you’re not there? … are you shitting me? … listen, I’ve been stuck with the kids for the past three weekends, I work all week, and it’s already a bitch finding time to live, man… no, no, no, I just can’t, that’s all… deal with it, it’s not my problem… everyone’s gotta have their own social life; I’ve already wrecked mine enough… how many times do I have to tell you: I’m going out with Jerry this weekend, and that’s all there is to it… oh yeah, is that so?  With the kid putting me through his freak-outs all day, sniveling about “where’s daddy?” … well come on, ‘cause you’re his father! … it’s out of the question… I don’t give a fuck, you’re taking care of them this weekend… well too bad for her, all you had to do was find a little more of a peacemaker… I’m warning you, if there’s no one there, I’m leaving them with the doorman… well hell yes; I’m being completely reasonable…  that’s all, then; ciao.”

The scene repeats itself in all its banality.  More – obviously – of the same.  It’s like a slap in the face when it happens; it’s brutal at first - but we should’ve been preparing for it for years, after all, considering how scrupulously we’ve worked to become perfect strangers to each other: blank existences, indifferent presences, no depth.  At the same time, nothing in this situation could be so easily acceptable to everyone if we weren’t absolutely intimate in this foreignness.  So, that foreignness also had to become the figure of our relationship with ourselves; and really, from all angles – we are Blooms.

If Bloom is also found in a certain book, it’s because all of us have already crossed paths with him in the street, then, later, in ourselves.  This just confirms it.

One day you pay more attention than usual to the collective silence on a metro line, and are overtaken by a deep shiver, a primal horror, coming out from behind the shared fakery of contemporary morals and suddenly plain for all to see.

The last man, man of the street, man of the crowd, man of the masses, mass-man; that’s how THEY represented Bloom to us at first: as the sad product of the time of the multitudes, as the catastrophic child of the industrial era and the end of all enchantments.  But even there, no matter the name, there’s still that shiver; THEY shiver before the infinite mystery of ordinary man.  Each of us feels a pure force growing behind the theater of our qualities, hiding out there; a pure force that we’re all supposed to ignore.

What’s left is the necessary anxiety we think we can appease by demanding of one another a rigorous absence from each other’s selves, and an ignorance of a force which is common, but is now unqualifiable, because it is anonymous. And the name of that anonymity is Bloom.

Kairos [the right moment]

In spite of the extreme confusion that reigns on its surface, and perhaps precisely because of that, our era is by its nature messianic.  

What should be understood by this is that very old distinctions have now been effaced, and that many thousand-year-old divisions have now in turn been divided.

Our era is reducing itself to one single, basic reality, and to amusement in that reality.  More and more visibly, our contemporary non-societies - those imperative fictions - endlessly populate themselves with pariahs and parvenus.  And the parvenus are themselves merely pariahs that have betrayed their condition and would like to make it forgotten by all means -- but it always ends up biting them in the ass.  One might also say, following another line of demarcation, that there’s nothing left of these times but idlers and the disturbed, and that the disturbed are in the end no more than idlers trying to cheat on their own essential inaction.  Will the pursuit of “deep feelings,” of “intense life,” which seems to be so many desperate people’s last reason to live, ever really distract them fully from the fundamental emotional tone that inhabits them: boredom?

The reigning confusion is the result of the planetary deployment of all these false paradoxes, under which our central truth nevertheless is born.  And this truth is that we are tenants of an existence which is a kind of exile, in a world which is a desert, that we’ve been thrown out into this world with no mission to accomplish, with no place assigned us, and no recognizable filiation – abandoned.  That we are at the same time so little and already too much.  

True politics, ecstatic politics, begins there.  With a brutal and all-enveloping laugh.  With a laugh that undoes the pathos oozing out of the so-called problems of “joblessness,” “immigration,” “precariousness,” and “marginalization.”

There’s no social problem in unemployment, just the metaphysical fact of our own idleness.    

There’s no social problem in immigration, just the metaphysical fact of our own foreignness.

There’s no social problem in precariousness or marginalization, just this inexorable existential reality that we’re all alone, dying of it alone in the face of death,

that we are all, for all eternity, finite beings.  

You decide what’s serious about that and what’s just social entertainment.

The era that opened in 1914, where the illusion of “modern times” completed its decomposition while simultaneously metaphysics completed its self-realization, saw the ontological burst out into history in its pure state and on all levels.  Such tectonic upsurges of truth appear in those rare moments where the lie of civilizations starts to crumble.  Our times are part of a curious constellation, which includes the decline of the middle ages and the first Gnostic centuries of our era.  The same Mood [Stimmung] expresses itself everywhere, with the same radicalness: finiteness, perdition, separation.  “Modern times” and the Christian west were born before that from such outbursts, as a reaction.  

This kinship keeps us from considering the emotional tone that dominated the twentieth century as simple “malaise in civilization.”  And it’s not about subjective dispositions, nor some capricious propensity towards despair or disapproval: no, this tone is, on the contrary, the most obvious one of our era, one that THEY work ceaselessly to repress, at every stage in its advancement.

It’s not that men have - negatively - “lost their bearings”; it’s rather that they have positively become Blooms.


From now on there’s nothing anywhere but Bloom and Bloom’s escape.

He saw no more future before him, and the past, in spite of all his efforts to consider it explainable, resembled something incomprehensible.  The justifications were scattered about like crumbs, and the feeling of pleasure seemed more exhausted every day.  Travels and long walks, which long ago gave him a mysterious joy, had become strangely odious to him.  […] He was neither truly a man without a country, nor did he feel honestly and naturally at home anywhere in the world.  He would have liked very much to have been an organ player, or a beggar, or a cripple, so as to have some reason to ask for men’s pity and charity; but even more ardently than that he wished to die.  He was not dead, and yet he was dead; he was not poor to the point of having to beg, and yet was indeed a beggar, though he did not beg; even now he still dressed elegantly, even now he still humbled himself before people like a mechanical, annoying girl, uttered clichés and got upset about and horrified by them.  How atrocious his own life appeared to him, his soul false, and his miserable body dead, the whole world foreign, and the movements, things and events that surrounded him so empty.  

 Robert Walser, Short Essays

Stimmung [mood/tone]

Kafka’s characters are in a fundamental sense the same thing as Kafka’s world.

Understanding the figure of Bloom doesn’t just require renouncing the classical idea of the subject, which is no big deal; it also requires abandoning the modern concept of objectivity.

The term “Bloom” doesn’t in some exotic way fill the need for a word in the current lexicon to designate a new human type that has recently appeared on the surface of the planet that we should defend ourselves from.

“Bloom,” rather, is the name of a certain Stimmung [mood], a fundamental tonality of being.

This Stimmung doesn’t come from the subject, like a kind of fog clouding perception, or from the object, as a liquefied version of the Spirit of the World; rather it is the basis upon which the subject and the object, the self and the world, could exist as such in the classical age, i.e., as clearly distinct from one another.

Because it’s “how” every being is the way he or she is, this tonality is not something unstable, fleeting, or simply subjective; rather it is precisely what gives consistency and possibility to each being.  Bloom is the Stimmung in which and by which we understand each other at the present time, without which these words would be no more than a succession of meaningless phonemes.

Historically, Bloom is the name for an uncommon Stimmung: one that corresponds to the moment the subject retreats from the world and the world from the subject, the moment when the self and the real are suddenly suspended, and just might have been abolished.  For that reason Bloom is the general stimmung where nothing but Stimmungs are apparent, where the primacy of the stimmung over all other realities manifests itself as such.

Since it always impregnates beforehand all the conceptual instruments by which PEOPLE might claim to understand it, the Stimmung cannot be understood, circumscribed, or analyzed "objectively," no matter how much one might be able to feel it.  The best we can draw out of it is the Figure that corresponds to it, in the sense where a Figure is a human power to configure worlds.  What we're aiming at with this "theory" is therefore indeed a Stimmung, but we're doing so by seizing upon a Figure.

Bloom also refers to the spectral, wandering, sovereignly vacant humanity that can no longer rise to any other content besides that of the Stimmung that it ex-ists in, to that twilight being for which there is no more real, no more I, only Stimmungs.  

changed May 27, 2010