Me(1), I exist-suspended in a realized void-suspended from my own dread - different from all other being and such that the various events that can reach all other being and not me cruelly throw this me out of a total existence. But, at the same time, I consider my coming into the world-which depended on the birth and on the conjunction of a given man and woman, then on the moment of their conjunction. There exists, in fact, a unique moment in relation to the possibility of me-and thus the infinite improbability of this coming into the world appears. For if the tiniest difference had occurred in the course of the successive events of which I am the result, in the place of this me, integrally avid to be me, there would have been "an other."
The immense realized void is this infinite improbability and across it I, as imperative existence, play, because a simple presence suspended above such an immensity is comparable to the exercise of a dominion, as if the void in whose midst I am demands that I be me and the dread of this me. The immediate exigency of nothingness would thus imply not undifferentiated being but the painful improbability of the unique me.
The empirical knowledge of the structure this me has in common with the other mes has become an absurdity in this void where my dominion manifests itself, for the very essence of the me that I am consists in the fact that no other conceivable existence can replace it; the total improbability of my coming into the world poses, in an imperative mode, a total heterogeneity.
A fortiori a historical representation of the formation of me (considered as a part of everything that is an object of knowledge) and of its imperative or impersonal modes dissipates, and this allows only the subsistence of the violence and the avidity for the dominion of the me over the void in which it is suspended; at will, even in its prison, the me that I am realizes everything that preceded it or surrounds it, whether it exists as life or as simple being, as a void submitted to its anxious dominion.
The fact of supposing the existence of a possible and even necessary point of view that demands the inaccuracy of such a revelation (this supposition is implied by the recourse to expression) in no way invalidates the immediate reality of the experience lived by the imperative presence in the world of me; this lived experience equally constitutes an inevitable point of view, a direction of being required by the eagerness of its own movement.
A choice between opposing representations must be linked to the inconceivable solution to the problem of that which exists: what exists as profound existence liberated from the forms of appearance? Most often the hasty and ill-considered answer is given as if the question what is there that is imperative? (what is the moral value) and not what exists? had been posed. In other cases-where philosophy is deprived of its object-the no less hasty response is only the perfect and partial avoidance (and not the destruction) of the problem, if matter is represented as profound existence.
But from this it is possible to see-within the relatively clear given limits, beyond which doubt itself disappears with the other possibilities-that, while the meanings of all positive judgments on profound existence are not distinguishable from fundamental value judgments, thought remains free on the other hand to constitute the me as a foundation of all value without confusing this me (the value) with profound existence, and even without inscribing it within the framework of a reality that is manifest but hidden from plain sight.
The me, completely other due to its constitutive improbability, has been rejected in the course of the normal search for "that which exists" as the arbitrary but eminent image of nonexistence; it is as illusion that it responds to the extreme demands oflife. In other words, the me, as an impasse outside of "that which exists"-and in which are found reunited, without any way out, all the extreme values of life-even though it is constituted in the presence of reality, does not belong in anyway to this reality, which it transcends. It neutralizes itself (ceases to be completely other) insofar as it ceases to be aware of the total improbability of its coming into the world, and consequently of its fundamental lack of relations with the world (to the extent that it is explicitly knownrepresented as the interdependence and chronological succession of objects-the world, as the integral development of that which exists, must in fact appear necessary or probable).
In an arbitrary order where each element of self-awareness escapes from the world (absorbed in the convulsive projection ofthe me), to the extent that philosophy, renouncing all hope of logical construction, arrives at-as at an enda representation of relations defined as improbable (and which are only the middle terms of ultimate improbability), it is possible to represent the me in tears, or anxious; it can equally be thrown, in the case of a painful erotic choice, in the direction of a me other than itself but also other than any other. And thus the me can increase, as far as the eye can see, its painful awareness of its own escape out of the world-but it is only at the boundary of death that laceration, which constitutes the very nature of the immensely free me, transcending' 'that which exists," is revealed with violence.
In the coming of death, there appears a structure of the me that is entirely different from the "abstract me" (discovered, not through an active reflection reacting against all opposing limits, but through a logical investigation giving itself the form of its object in advance). This specific structure of the me is also distinct from the moments of personal existence, locked away due to practical activity and neutralized in the logical appearances of "that which exists." The me accedes to its specificity and to its integral transcendence only in the form of the "me that dies."
But this revelation of the me that dies is not given each time simple death is revealed to dread. It supposes the imperative completion and sovereignty of being at the moment it is projected into the unreal time of death. It supposes at once the exigency and the limitless breakdown of imperative life, the consequence of pure seduction and the heroic form of the me; it thus attains the rending subversion of the god that dies.
The death of the god is produced not as metaphysical alteration (concerning the common denominator of being), but as the absorption of a life avid for imperative joy in the heavy animality of death. The filthy aspects of the tom-apart body guarantee the totality of disgust where life subsides.
In this revelation offree, divine nature, the obstinate orientation ofthe avidity of life toward death (as it is given in every form of play or dream) no longer appears as a need for cancellation, but as the pure avidity to be me, death or the void being only the domain where-by its very breakdown-a dominion of the me, which must be represented as vertigo, infinitely raises itself up. This me, and this dominion, arrive at the purity of their desperate nature and thus realize the pure hope of the me that dies: it is the hope of a drunken man, pushing the boundaries of the dream beyond all conceivable limits.
At the same time the shadow of the divine person, laden with love, disappears-not exactly as vain appearance, but as dependence on a denied world that is founded on the reciprocal dependence of its parts.
It was the will to purify love of all preconditions that posed the unconditional existence of God as the supreme object of a rapturous escape from the self. But the conditional counterpart of divine majesty-the principle of political authority-leads the affective movement into the linkage ofoppressed existences with moral imperatives; the affective movement is thrown back into the platitude of applied life, where the me as me withers away.
When the man-god appears and dies both as rottenness and as the redemption of the supreme person, revealing that life will answer avidity only on condition that it be lived as the me that dies, he nonetheless eludes the pure imperative ofthis me: he subjects it to the applied (moral) imperative of God and thus gives the me as existence for others, for God, and morality alone as existence for itself.
In an ideally brilliant and empty infinity, chaos to the point of revealing the absence of chaos, the anxious loss of life opens, but life only loses itself-at the limit of the last breath-for this empty infinity. The me raises itself to the pure imperative, living-dying for an abyss without walls or floor; this imperative is formulated as "die like a dog" in the strangest part of being. It abandons all applications in the world.
In the fact that life and death are passionately devoted to the subsidence of the void, the slave's subordinate relation to the master is no longer revealed, but life and void are confused and mingled like lovers, in the convulsive movements of the end. Burning passion is no longer acceptance and realization of nothingness: nothingness is still a cadaver; brilliance is the blood that flows and coagulates.
And just as the freed obscene nature of their organs more passionately connects embracing lovers, so too the nearby horror of the cadaver and the present horror of blood tie the me that dies more obscurely to an empty infinity-and this empty infinity is itself projected as cadaver and as blood.
In this hasty and still confused revelation of an ultimate region of being, at which philosophy, like all communal human determinations, only arrives in spite of itself (like a manhandled corpse), the fundamental problem of being was even suspended when the aggressive subversion of the me accepted illusion as the adequate description of its nature. In this way all possible mysticism was rejected, in other words, all particular revelation to which respect could have given form. Likewise, the imperative avidity for life, ceasing to accept as its domain the narrow circle of logically ordered appearances, had nothing more than an unknown death at the summit of its avid elevation and as object it had nothing more than the reflection of this death in deserted night.
Christian meditation before the cross was no longer rejected with simple hostility, but assumed in a total hostility that demanded embracing the cross-in hand-to-hand combat. And thus it must and it can be lived as death of the me not as respectful adoration but with the avidity of sadistic ecstasy, the surge of a blind madness that alone accedes to the passion of the pure imperative.
In the course of the ecstatic vision, at the limit of death on the cross and of the blindly lived lamma sabachtani, the object is finally unveiled as catastrophe in a chaos of light and shadow, neither as God nor as nothingness, but as the object that love, incapable of liberating itself except outside of itself, demands in order to let out the scream of lacerated existence.
In this position of object as catastrophe, thought lives the annihilation that constitutes it as a vertiginous and infinite fall, and thus has not only catastrophe as its object; its very structure is catastrophe-it is itself absorption in the nothingness that supports it and at the same time slips away. Something immense is liberated from all sides with the magnitude of a cataract, surging forth from unreal regions of the infinite, sinking into them in a movement of inconceivable force. The mirror that, in the crash of telescoping trains, suddenly slashes open one's throat is the expression of this imperative-implacable-but already annihilated irruption.
In common circumstances, time appears locked-and practically annulled-in each permanent form and in each succession that can be grasped as permanence. Each movement susceptible of being inscribed in an order annuls time, which is absorbed in a system of measure and equivalence-thus time, having become virtually reversible, withers, and with time all existence.
However, burning love-consuming the existence exhaled with great screams-has no other horizon than a catastrophe, a scene of horror that releases time from its bonds.
Catastrophe - lived time - must be represented ecstatically not in the form of an old man, but as a skeleton armed with a scythe: a glacial and gleaming skeleton, to teeth adhere the lips of a severed head. As skeleton it is completed destruction, but armed destruction amounting to imperative purity.
Destruction gnaws deeply and thus purifies sovereignty itself. The imperative purity of time is opposed to God, whose skeleton is hidden behind gold draperies, under a tiara, and behind a mask: the divine mask and suavity express the application of an imperative form, giving itself as providence for the management of political oppression. But in divine love the freezing gleam of a sadistic skeleton is infinitely unveiled.
Revolt - its face distorted by amorous ecstasy-tears from God his naive and thus oppression collapses in the crash of time. Catastrophe is that by a horizon is set ablaze, that for which lacerated existence goes mto a IS the Revolution-it is time released from all bonds; it is pure change; It is a skeleton that emerges from its cadaver as from a cocoon and that sadistically lives the unreal existence of death.
Thus the nature of time as object of ecstasy reveals itself in accordance with the ecstatic nature of the me that dies. For the one and the other are pure change and both take place on the plane of an illusory existence.
But if the avid and obstinate question "what exists?" still traverses the immense disorder of living thought in the mode of the me that dies, what will be the meaning, at this moment, of the answer: "time is only an empty absurdity"?-or of all the other answers that refuse the being of time?
Or what will be the meaning of the opposite answer: "being is time"?
More clearly than in an order limited to the narrow realizations of order the problem of the being of time can be elucidated in a disorder embracing the ity of conceivable forms. First of all the effort at a dialectical construction of contradictory answers is set aside insofar as it is a prejudice that would evade the rending implications of any problem.
Time is not the synthesis of being and nothingness ifbeing or nothingness are only found in time and are only arbitrarily separated notions. There is, in fact, neither isolated being nor isolated nothingness; there is time. But to affirm the existence of time is an empty assertion in the sense that it gives less the vague attribute of existence to time than the nature of time to existence; in other words, it empties the notion of existence of its vague and limitless content, and at the same time it infinitely empties it of all content.
The existence of time does not even require the objective position of time as such; this existence, posed in ecstasy, means only the flight and the collapse of any object that understanding sought to give itself both as a value and as a fixed object. The existence of time projected arbitrarily into an objective region is only the ecstatic vision of a catastrophe destroying that which founds this region. Not because the region of objects is necessarily, like the me, infinitely destroyed by time itself, but because existence founded in the me suddenly looms there, destroyed, and because the existence of things is impoverished in comparison with that of the me.
The existence of things, assuming the value for me-projecting an absurd shadow-ofthe preparations for an execution, cannot enclose the death it brings, but is itself projected into this death. which encloses it.
To affirm the illusory existence of the me and of time (which is not only the structure of the me but the object of its erotic ecstasy) does not therefore mean that the illusion must be subjected to the judgment of things whose existence is profound, but that profound existence must be projected into the illusion that encloses it.
The being which, under a human name, is me, and whose coming into the world-across a space peopled with stars-was infinitely improbable, nevertheless encloses the world of the totality of things precisely because of its fundamental improbability (which is opposed to the structure of the real giving itself as such). The death that delivers me from the world that kills me has enclosed this real world in the unreality of the me that dies.
I. ["Le moi," usually translated as "the I,"' "the Self," or (in psychoanalysis) "the ego," ' has been translated here as "the me" (or "me"), in order to remain faithful to Bataille's syntax. Tr.l
excerpt from the book: Visions of Excess Selected Writings, 1927-1939 by Georges Bataille
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