Helena Verbivska

The route Bataille suggests taking is as follows: subject, who, all of a sudden, happened to meet the futility of the active engagement in life’s vicissitudes, and great aspirations motivated by treating things with regard to the project, jets off and takes a deep dive into existence at its best, embracing personal anxieties as well as enjoyments. Hedonism is merely the means which serve to a final life-dependent decision – the decision to be done with the knowledge and discursive reason, to forget heavens and pave the way to hell, an unhinged paradise for the empirical ego that relishes the impossible and descends deeper into far-too-familiar surpluses. As the slightest notion of the self fades away, the subject gets to be swallowed up by the beyond, dramatized, and exaggerated counter-reality.

During the final operation, this subject is bound to tame, with the help of the histrionic outburst, the contradiction that every dramatic story meticulously conceals. At first glance, it might seem that Bataille does try to justify the vicious circle when he points out that a drama necessarily (if not to say ‘dialectically’) contains comic elements. As a matter of fact, he is getting at the phenomenon of profane. State of questioning the sense, given once and for all, goes together with losing the ability to take things seriously and consider them significant without any hesitation, any scrutiny. The next step will be laughing at these things while playing the fool who ceases picking up on what is obvious, necessary, or meaningful. It’s like watching a Shakespearean play and, in lieu of being silent and wholeheartedly focused on the questions of life and death, laughing madly at Hamlet’s wretchedness, pushing aside your cultured manners in a publicly organized theatrical space where you’re expected to listen carefully and devotedly, while transmitting the shared sensation of grief, uneasiness, or satisfaction, and showing the respect for ready-made reactions on jaded and all-too-classic quotes. In such a case, we would treat Shakespearean theater as the theater of the absurd. We would commit a sacrilege. We would oblige those spectators to share our paramount experience of non-knowledge, to collaborate with us, the murderers of opulent seriousness. The gesture of renunciation covers up self-denial which runs the gamut from ‘I’m wrong’ to ‘I know nothing, I’m nothing’, insofar as the world has been extinguished and the idols collapsed forever.

As the subject partakes in a silent agreement with self-denial, making fun of the debris scattered chaotically after the final earthquake, the sacred kernel of sacrifice starts to transform into parody. The subject of non-knowledge is precisely on the brink of obscene, partly because of the fatal inversion which climaxes in the upside-down world. To eradicate seriousness and burst out laughing – that’s the greatest disobedience, the harshest profanation, and the most inappropriate response to the sacred which doesn’t make sense, which is as empty as the gaping abyss of a frozen world. The direction towards the inner experience goes through the drama/comedy dialectics and non-discursive activity, which opens on to re-evaluating self-knowledge and dismissing the ego as such in a manner that is far from asceticism indeed.

Bataille presents us with the idea that the type of non-knowledge he advocates for cannot amount to what Dionysius the Areopagite calls apophatic theology, an approach that masters the conceptualization of God through negating His attributes. Bataille goes further: he claims that 1) God is an atheist and 2) ‘one should be a God in order to die’. The first thesis puts forward the concept of self-denial as a chief source for breaking discourse and murdering the univocal ego, which would be able to speak the inward language, sporadic clamor deprived of identifiable words. God is the best example of a being that practices non-knowledge undertaking and completes ignorance of his existence.

The second statement holds that, during the process of dying, the subject eventually becomes Nothingness. The liberation from such a compelling and uncontrollable event, the liberation that doesn’t provide an escape from death, but allows meeting it on one’s own terms, might be accomplished through committing symbolic suicide, disavowing wholesome self, and showing God-inflected indifference to the order of things with their clandestine sense.

Picture — “Happy days” by Connor Walton (2008; source).