Humans are characterized by a vile need for consolations. We want to feel good about ourselves, about how we’ve acted throughout our lives, about the world we live in, and finally, about the state of our souls. The list of beliefs, consolations, and promises that humans have concocted to assure themselves that they can, in the end, go peacefully with impunity and a good conscience, is endless. Our day-to-day fabrications are even more numerous, by which we convince ourselves that (if only we did this or that…) the struggle could be mitigated, an outcome better than oblivion achieved. This need for consolations comes from our inadequate, indeed cowardly attitude toward the struggle (existence). We believe that the violence of our lives must be appeased, tempered, made meaningful by something that is greater than this chaos and scum. These needs have such clout in our mental and cultural economies that only those individuals most hardened by the ravages of death and loss will recognize it for what it is: a pacifier for babies scared shitless by the onslaught of time…
It is against all such nonsense that I would like to take aim with the flame-thrower of my own disenchantment. I have personally felt the pull toward conciliatory promises and I am ashamed by the lack of sobriety required of me to give assent to these promises– reifying them as through prayer and raw profession. By assenting to them, one indeed gets “answers”, even everlasting answers; one is also inundated with accepting gestures from those who believe the same. But when the struggle returns (as, inevitably, it does; it is as simple as whatever’s next…), we are challenged to look twice at the answers that satisfied us and to ask if those believers are, willfully or not, guiding reality through a stock lens, playing tricks on themselves so they can feel “alright.” Usually we reaffirm the validity of the Answer and place all the blame on ourselves (a lack of will, a slackness in our duties…); while also looking to the excellent members of the group as our models. But what if something different was required here? What if, instead, we stomached the fact that no answer will ever stifle the struggle or quiet existence? And that, therefore, our search for consolations — our belief in the judicious order of things– was indeed unfounded, if not even gravely misled? What if it was no good to feel “alright”? What if, indeed, it was not… alright?
It is not within my jurisdiction to tell others how to live, how to believe or not to believe. I am very aware of the fact that belief systems ultimately amount to moralities: they tell us what is right to do and what is wrong to do. Often, they set up a retribution/mercy schema that motivates us to do what is right (although there is a huge release valve: existence is very “forgiving”!). But the importance of the link between morality and belief should not overshadow the fact that consolation, along with the reward logic, makes it possible. An “answer” leads us to perform actions whose motivations and results are made good by something other than us– i.e., by the conciliatory party who gives us the answer in the first place (usually God, but we should remember that virtually anything can take the place of this “absent answer” which the name God tries to fill…). In this servile relationship to the Answer, it seems to me that we lose what is genuinely free about us, namely, our being-an-origin-of-the-world in and of ourselves, each time; and, humanly, that our actions and decisions (despite all limitations and deceptions) are our own.
It is not just that we do not know what’s best, and that therefore we must act without purporting to know. The situation is altogether more unnerving: there is never any pre-given, including when it comes to “best” and “worst.” And it’s not as if the Light of Truth had been snuffed out over time; on the contrary, we have always been groping in the night, trying to control the uncontrollable. This mechanism of control is initiated with the “I” itself; but it is never at rest in the tension of the interdependence it establishes with the unknown when it comes into existence. We do not know what is happening in this.
The moral interpretation of phenomena ceases once answers are renounced. Every mode of moral interpretation is called into question when the Good (the consolation) cannot be given as a coherent Idea, mode of action, or desired outcome. Without any answers, with just existence, there is no grounds for morals or beliefs (because there needn’t be…). Many things ought to be said here. This situation, stripped of any strictly moral sense, is also one stripped of all assurances. We absolutely do not know. We act blind. But so our existence is one “in common” with all things, high and low, sacred and filthy. It is this factual, amoral, and uninterpretable existence that Nietzsche and Bataille (along with the whole modern world…) point to most ferociously– not because of any project or goal, moral or philosophical or otherwise, but rather because existence itself is free (given freely, freely given)– “amoral” and “uninterpreted,” outside all economic or spiritual valuations. All precedence is given to this (whatever) existence: nothing preexists it (“this”!)– no code, no meaning, no direction.
In this assent, not to any Answer but to this (each) existence, one no longer sees or knows or interprets anything, but rather is with (and so sort of is…) everything being thrown against itself. What I have tried to say does not set up prohibitions against answers or against seeking them, even if the drive to consolation per se appears “outmoded”. It is rather in favor of an openness to what is outside any answer (i.e., any morality, any belief, any understanding…) and outside all rest, in favor of what has no need of consolation, what is. And this means one thing: in favor of open existence, of an openness to existence. Saying Yes, even in the depths of the pit…
A toss of the dice can take on the weight and meaning of a whole world, or it can mean nothing and be forgotten seconds later. Such an existence (ours) is vertiginous in that nothing is decided; free in that everything is undecided; and joyous in that it says Yes to (its) existence unreservedly, and so to everything, the whole world. This is an existence that never stops struggling, an existence that is abandoned and exposed to itself, to others, to time and to death… to foreign, abject, disconcerting influences, up to the horror of death itself. And nevertheless this existence says Yes and lives it. This existence, thrown into its own night, its own not-knowing-what-it-is, unafraid. This existence– broken down perhaps, or overjoyed, or all over the place– but there.
One final note regarding the relation of these comments to the question of language. I have already tried to indicate that the consolation is intimately tied to the giving of an answer, which fills the “lack of answer”; likewise this means the lack of an adequate language of response. This does not render us incapable of responding, but it does tear our language apart. Existence has no “need” of language, even if, of its free accord, existence speaks. No matter what it is, it is its own “answer”. Saying this, we prioritize existence (“all things becoming and flying away”), which is not a word denoting anything, not even referring to anything, but rather referring you to what exists now, to “your” existence. I’m trying to get you back to this “absent” seat of pure potentiality-for-sense, which we/you are… by dislocating myself in my own language, unseating myself…. so as to “echolocate” ourselves in you, wherever you are. This writing could only hope to awaken a sense of the originality and freedom of yourself and things in you, and to locate that awakening right here, stripped of everything, including words– but open.