Undressed of its every manifold something-ness, an empty place remains—unfilled un-fillable repulsion from every last shade of any-bodyness. But what could the “non-signifying,” that which points to no-thing alone, possibly signify? We point to a thing of no-thing in the bl_nk. It is the sort of thing, unique among things, which is no-thing at all.
And yet it cannot merely be empty of content. For the no-thing to remain in place on the far side of something-ness, it must remain singularly ‘marked’ by its emptiness. If it is to persist in its being no-thing, it must not slacken its death-grip on this singular mark of its emptiness of content for so much as a moment, lest some slippery bit of something-ness or other be let through.
And yet the no-thing has no stake in this project of fortifying its own consistency! It is we, in our something-ness, who are tasked with delimiting the no-thing. You can be absolutely anything in your somebody-ness so long as it isn’t nothing. To be just the very some-body you are—you must hold the no-thing ever in your sights, if only to keep it at bay on the far side of you, keep it from infringing into your own sovereign somebody-ness. Every some-thing or -body must be drawn apart from no-thing to receive its origin. And the no-thing must in turn be left behind, or left outside, en route to something-ness. This, however, is precisely what cannot be done.
Try as we might to fix the bl_nk in our clutches, no-thing can only ever come out to more or less than itself. For so long as we cling to the singular content of its no-thingness, take it to be the sort of thing that no-thing is, it can never be quite no-thingy enough, and has ipso facto always already overshot itself by an infinite margin. Just as soon as we qualify it in its being no-thing (as opposed to something), mark it with the sigil of marklessness, it simultaneously falls ever short—and hangs over at once in excess of itself.
But this no-thing, precisely because it can be nowhere in particular, needn’t wait on any crack to enter, to have taken up in the locus of our some-thingness from the outset. Laozi tells us, in Chapter 43 of the Daodejing, that “what’s altogether without presence enters where there is no gap.” A border might be thought to hold, however shoddily, between two discriminable some-things, each demarcated by its negation of the other, conjoined in this mutual repulsion. But because no border could hold the no-thing in place like this—we can never hope to expel it from ourselves, can never hope to hold it there on the far side of us, past the outer edge.
This impossibility of fastening onto it as an object set over against us—instead traces the signature of its ubiquitous coursing in our heart of hearts. The bl_nk’s constitutive de-centerment from itself—its always having fallen short and come up in excess of itself—is born out instead through its materiality-in-absentium, shining in the warp and weave of our every some-thingness.
The bl_nk points to our singular failure to represent it—and the insatiable generacy of this glitch in the project of being some-thing, some-body. It’s natural to feel that what we have makes us who we are. I stand to come into my self, into my own—by occupying some self-fit constellation of desires, fears, identities, hopes and dreams, etc.
But the bare fact of my standing at the hub of it all—this much is provided only by what I am without, what within me I lack for. This bl_nk in my heart of hearts, the unplaceable inner edge of me is, however, far from some definitively empty space. For if it is to be truly bl_nk, it must recoil even from its own bl_nkness. And so, like the hollow of a tube, the bl_nk cannot but open into the fathomless resonance of ever new soundings coming up—the absence of absence from itself making way for the presencing of what will come to presence.
The blank testifies to the shifting locus in each thing where it has come originally free of itself from the inside, through this inner edge, into some fresh reticulum of assimilations and differentiations. In the blooming of some-thing or -body freed from itself across this inner edge, it does not leave the bl_nk behind at the beginning, but carries it along in a trajectory pointed forward and backward at once.
Laozi tells us, in Chapter 16 of the Daodejing, that “though things spring up on every side, through this we can observe their return to the root.” What might it be like to take up in the bl_nk, this root of us received back only in each subsequent springing forth? What might it be like to play ourselves out “from” there? To be drawn out by the very root of us past ourselves, in wanderings far-flung and unfettered?
- Tyler Neenan