Mundus Est Fabula [the world is a fiction]


Because Bloom is he who can no longer separate himself from the immediate context containing him, his gaze is that of a man that does not identify.  Everything blurs under the Bloom effect and is lost in the inconsequential wavering of objective relationships where life is felt negatively, in indifference, impersonality, and the lack of quality.  

Bloom lives inside of Bloom.


Spread out all around us is a petrified world, a world of things where we ourselves, with our "I," our gestures, and even our feelings figure in as things.  Nothing can belong to us as truly our own in such a landscape of death.  We are more and more like exiles, never sure of understanding what's happening all around.  

In spite of this gigantic relinquishment, in spite of the inexplicable suspended-animation that now strikes everything that exists, the overall mechanism continues to function like it was nothing, processing our isolation.

In this perpetually renovated empire of ruins, there's nowhere for us to take refuge, and we don't even have the ability to desert it all by withdrawing into ourselves.  We've been delivered up, without appeal, to a finiteness with no landmarks to orient us, totally exposed across the whole surface of our being.    

Bloom is thus that man whom nothing can save from the triviality of the world.  A reasonable mind might conclude: "Well, then, in fact, Bloom is alienated man."  But no, Bloom is man so completely mixed up with his own alienation that it would be absurd to try to separate him out from it.


Empty angels, creatures without a creator, mediums without a message, we wander among the abysses.  Our path, which could easily have come to an end yesterday or years back, has no reason and no necessity outside of that of its own contingency.  It’s a wandering path, one that carries us from the same to the same on the road of the Identical; and wherever we go we carry within ourselves the desert that we're the hermits in.  And if some days we might swear that we are the "whole universe," like Agrippa de Nettesheim did, or more ingenuously that we are "all things, all men and all animals," like Cravan, it's just that all we see in everything is the Nothing which we ourselves so totally are.

But that Nothingness is the absolutely real, in the light of which everything that exists becomes somehow ghostly.  




 [fragrance]


Nothing's more impenetrable to Bloom than those men of the Ancien Regime who claim to participate fully and immediately in life and have such a firm feeling of their present incarnation, of their existence, and of its continuity.  For us, wherever we look, we never find this solid, massive "I," this substance of our own that we are so generously given as soon as we claim to exist.


In the same way as all harmonious moral philosophy which might have given consistency to the illusion of an "authentic" self is now lacking, everything that could have made one believe in the unambiguousness of life or in the formal positivity of the world has been scattered as well.  In truth, our "sense of what's real" never ends up as more than a limited modality of that "sense of the possible which is the faculty of thinking through all the things that might ‘as well’ be and give no more importance to everything that is than one gives to what is not." (Musil, The Man without Qualities).  Under commodity occupation the most concrete truth about everything is the truth of its infinite replaceability.  


All the situations that we find ourselves engaged in bear, in their equivalence to one another, the infinitely repeated stamp of an irrevocable "as if."  We collaborate in the maintenance of a "society" as if we were not part of it; we conceive of the world as if we didn't ourselves occupy a specific situation within it; and we continue to grow old as if we had to always remain young.  In a word: we live as if we were already dead.


And that's certainly the most painful paradox of Bloom's existence: he can no longer hear the voice of his living body, the speech of his physiology.  And this at the very moment that PEOPLE want at every instant to make them mean something sexual.  

Whether Bloom's flesh is the body of a woman or of a man, or even a body with indiscernible form, it is always the prisoner of the non-sensual sexualization it’s riddled with.  But this sexualization, which is omnipresent and at the same time never really lived, is but the source of a deaf and persistent suffering, like amputees feeling their phantom limbs.  From this comes the essentially spectral character, the sinister aura of contemporary mass pornography: it is never more than the presence of an absence.  In Bloom's world – a world made fully semiotic – a phallus or a vagina are but symbols referring to something else, to a reference that can no longer be found in a reality that never stops fading away.  Bloom's flesh is sad and has no mystery to it.


It's not sex that has to be re-invented: we're already living among the ruins of sexuality, and our bodies themselves are but relics therein.  Bloom cannot transform the gender roles that he has inherited due to the shortcomings of traditional societies, frozen as he is in an unstoppable pre-pubescent phase.  Both male Blooms and female Blooms thus go through the same old tired dance, to the tune of the classic gender roles.  But their gestures fall apart.  Their dance is awkward.  They stumble.  And it's painful to watch.  


A thing among things, Bloom keeps himself outside of it all with an abandonment identical to that of his world.  He's alone in every kind of company, and naked in all circumstances.  That's where he rests, in extenuated self-ignorance, away from his desires and the world, where life rolls the rosary-beads of his absence day after day.  All lived content is indifferently interchangeable for him, as he passes through it in a kind of existential tourism. 


We've unlearned joy like we've unlearned suffering; we've become emotional illiterates; we only perceive diffracted echoes of feelings.  Everything's worn out, in our late-in-coming eyes; even unhappiness.  And that, in sum, is perhaps the real disaster: that nowhere do we find support, doubt, or certainty.


Everything I do and think is but a Specimen of my possibilities.  Man is more general than his life and acts.  More possibilities than I could ever imagine fit perfectly into the expected.  Mr. Teste says: My possibilities never abandon me.

Valéry, Monsieur Teste [Mr. Head]


For a being who feels attached to life no more than by so tenuous a bond, freedom has such an incomplete and yet final meaning that it can no longer be taken away from him: the freedom to carry into his becoming a certain sense of the theatrical uselessness of everything, a terminal manner of spectatorship on the world, even of being a spectator of himself.  In the eternal Sunday of his existence, Bloom’s interests thus remain forever emptied of any object, and that’s why Bloom is himself the man without interest.  Here, disinterestedness, in the sense where we don’t manage to have any importance in our own eyes, but also in the sense where the bourgeois category of interest can no longer strictly account for any of our acts, is no longer an expression of individual idealism, but a mass phenomenon.


Assuredly, man is something that’s been transcended.  

All those that loved their virtues have perished – at the hand of their virtues.


“Everyone is more foreign to himself than to anyone else.”


Bloom’s fundamental experience is that of his own transcendence of himself, but this experience, in spite of how nice it sounds, is above all one of impotence, an experience of absolute suffering.


Whatever high esteem we’d like to hold ourselves in, we are not subjects, finished products, autarchic and sovereign even in our allegiances.


We evolve in a space that is entirely sectioned off and policed; a space occupied, on the on hand, by the Spectacle, and on the other, by Biopower.  And what’s terrible about this gridding, this occupation, is that the submission it demands of us is nothing that we could rebel against with some definitive break-away gesture, but something that we can only deal with strategically.


The regime of power that we live under in no way resembles that which could have run its course under administrative monarchy, that expired concept which up until recently, that is, even within biopolitical democracies, remained the only enemy recognized by revolutionary movements: a simple restriction mechanism, a purely repressive mechanism of coercion. 


The contemporary form of domination, on the contrary, is essentially productive.


On the one hand it rules all the manifestations of our existence – the Spectacle; on the other, it generates the conditions for it – Biopower.


The Spectacle is the kind of Power that wants you to talk, that wants you to be someone.


Biopower is benevolent power, full of a pastor’s concern for his flock; the kind of Power that wants its subjects to be safe, that wants you to live.  Caught in the vise of a kind of control that is simultaneously totalizing and individualizing, walled into a double constraint that annihilates us by the same stroke with which it makes us exist, the majority of us take up a kind of politics of disappearance: feigning an inner death and keeping our silence, like captives before the Grand Inquisitor.  By subtracting all positivity and subtracting itself from all positivity, these specters steal from a productive power the very thing it might have exerted itself upon.  Their desire to not live is all that they have the strength to counterpose to a power that intends to make them live.  In so doing, they remain in Bloom, and often end up buried there.


So this is what Bloom means: that we don’t belong to ourselves, that this world isn’t our world.  That it’s not just that it confronts us in its totality, but that even in the most proximate details it is foreign to us.  This foreignness would be quite enjoyable if it could imply an exteriority of principles between it and us.  Far from it.  Our foreignness to the world consists in the fact that the stranger, the foreigner, is in us, in the fact that in the world of the authoritarian commodity, we regularly become strangers to ourselves.  The circle of situations where we’re forced to watch ourselves act, to contemplate the action of a “me” in which we don’t recognize ourselves, now closes up on and besieges us, even in what bourgeois society still calls our “intimacy.”  The Other possesses us; it is this dissociated body, a simple peripheral artifact in the hands of Biopower; it is our raw desire to survive in the intolerable network of miniscule subjugations, granulated pressures that fetter us to the quick; it is the ensemble of self-interested contrivances, humiliations, pettiness; the ensemble of tactics that we must deploy.  It is the whole objective machine that we sacrifice to inside ourselves.  


THE OTHER IS THE ECONOMY IN US.


Bloom also means that each person knows for himself that he is not himself.  Even if momentarily, faced with such and such a person - and most frequently in anonymous interactions - we might get an impression to the contrary, we still retain at bottom that feeling that this is an inauthentic existence, an artificial life.  The internal presence of the Other takes shape on every level of our consciousness: it’s a slight and constant loss of being, a progressive drying-out, a little death doled out continually.  In spite of this, we persist in assuming the external hypothesis of our identity with ourselves; we play the subject.  A certain shame accompanies this shredding process and evolves with it.  So we try evasion; we project ourselves ever more violently to the outside, towards wherever is as far away as possible from this terrifying internal tension.  We feel the need to let nothing about it appear, to glue ourselves to our social “identity,” to remain foreign to our foreignness: TO KEEP AN AIR OF COMPOSURE before the field of ruins.


This lie is in our every gesture.

That’s the essential thing.

It’s no longer time to make literature out of the various combinations of disaster.


Up to now, too much has been written, and not enough thought about Bloom.




Ens Realissimum [the most real being]


The Ptolemean, when looking inside of himself, only found “two phenomena: sociology and emptiness.”  And we must begin there: not from what we think we are – sociology – but  from what we intimately feel ourselves to lack, because that’s the most real thing, the ens realissimum.  Bloom doesn’t mean that we’re failed subjects compared to the classical subject and its superb sufficiency; rather it reveals that there is a principle of incompleteness at the very basis of human existence, a radical insufficiency.  What we are is precisely this failure, which can, if it so desires, choose to put on the mask of subjecthood.


What’s certain is that we’re nothing, nothing but the nothingness around which spins the movement of our ideas, our experiences, our miseries, and our feelings.  What’s certain is that we are the empty axis of this pit without walls, an axis that does not exist in and of itself, but only because every circle has its center.  But this hopeless deficiency itself can be understood as an ultimate positivity, which is expressed as follows:


I AM THE INTERMEDIARY BETWEEN WHAT I AM

AND WHAT I AM NOT.


Bloom is indeed such an intermediary, but he’s a passive one; he’s the witness to his own desubjectivation, to his endless becoming-otherwise.  He conceals within him a primordial differentiation: knowing that we are not what we are, and that none of our particular attributes can really exhaust our potential.  

Incompleteness is the mode of being of everything that remains in contact with potential; the form of existence of everything devoted to becoming.


The Most Disturbing Guest


Because he is the emptiness in all substantial determinations, Bloom is indeed the most disturbing guest within man, the one who goes from being a simple invitee to becoming the master of the house.  Ever since he took up residence inside us, we’ve found ourselves saddled with a purely sartorial being.  Whatever we undertake to try to buy back some substantiality, it ends up only ever being just something contingent and inessential relative to our selves.  Bloom is thus the name of a new, ageless nudity, the properly human nudity that disappears under every attribute and nonetheless bears it, which precedes all form and renders it possible.

Bloom is masked Nothingness.  That’s why it would be absurd to celebrate his appearance in history as the birth of a particular human type: that there are such men without qualities is not a certain quality of mankind; but on the contrary this is mankind as such, as mankind; the final realization of a generic human essence which is precisely a deprivation of essence, pure exposedness, pure availability: larva.


The bourgeois republic can flatter itself that it was the first historical expression of any magnitude of this controlled ecstasy, and in the end the model for it.  In it, in an unprecedented manner, the existence of man as a singular being finds itself formally separate from man’s existence as a member of the community.  Thus, in the bourgeois republic, where man is an acknowledged, veritable subject, he is abstracted from all qualities specific to him, and is a figure with no reality to it, a “citizen”; and where in his own eyes, as in the eyes of others, he passes for a real subject – in his everyday existence – he is a figure with no truth, an “individual.”  The classical era has in a way established the principles whose application has made man what we know him to be: the aggregation of a double nothingness: that of a “consumer,” that untouchable, and that of a “citizen,” that pathetic abstraction of impotence.  




But the more the Spectacle and Biopower perfect each other, the more autonomy is obtained by appearances and the basic conditions of our existence, the more their world detaches from men and becomes foreign to them; and the more Bloom draws back into himself, deepening and recognizing his interior sovereignty relative to objectivity.  And as he detaches ever more painlessly from his social decisions and from his “identity,” he gets stronger as a pure force of negation, beyond all effectiveness.


The condition of exile in the unrepresentable that men and their common world are in coincides with the situation of existential clandestinity which befalls them in the Spectacle. That condition is a manifestation of the absolute singularity of each social atom as the absolutely anonymous, ordinary social atom, and its pure differentiation as pure nothingness.


It is assuredly true that, as the Spectacle never tires of repeating, Bloom is positively nothing.  But as to what this “nothing” means, interpretations vary.


 - Having come to this point, all sane minds would conclude from all this that it would be constitutionally impossible to come up with any kind of a “Theory of Bloom” and would leave this path, as they should.  The cleverest will probably cough up some fallacious reasoning like “Bloom is nothing; there’s nothing to be said about nothing, and therefore there is nothing to be said about Bloom, QED” and will then surely regret having wasted their time on the present writing to the neglect of their fascinating “scientific study of the French intellectual world.”  For those of you who in spite of the obvious absurdity of our topic of discussion here continue to read on, you should always keep in mind the necessarily vacillating character of all discourse regarding Bloom.  Really dealing with the human positivity of pure nothingness can only mean exposing the most perfect lack of qualities as itself being a quality, and exposing the most radical insubstantiality as substance, even at the risk of ending up giving a face to something that’s invisible.  Such a discourse, if it does not wish to betray its object, must let its object emerge only so as to let it disappear once more the very next instant, and so on ad infinitum. –

changed May 27, 2010