From the Unbearability of the I to the Exigency of Transgression

who is I? 

command, option, control and a tiny referent of a sliced-up spinning globe: our remote/controlled plane of a sliced-up spinning immanence. 

I’m in front of my laptop, I see these & I crave cake. zoom-in, inside my eye, and I talk about “us” as if I’d be Jesus, a mouth-piece as common as a police car’s siren. 

steady sight dissociative of the ideas locked and unlocked by millions of users, mesmerized by iridescence and bisexual lightings. blue light keeps us up, it’s worse than cocaine they say, but business is never cheap and neurons have to stay erect. 

we’ve been talking about dawn and the night’s reign, in a half-heartedly cry-baby tone about a half-heartedly adorned enlightenment, but the night for intelligence has never been bluer. we like it. yet everybody looks so bored, as if traffic was heavy on their way back home.

scrolling through pictures: the seat occupied, designer chair, comfort with no stars, but thick velvet, porcelain glasses green, very green (it’s matcha tea bi**h); he points romantically, as if baby’s gazing at the galaxies, to the rich man’s safe haven, filling up our blood like a vampire’s mouth with pharma sponsored endorphins. 

throwback to Debord?

I exhale. isn’t anarchism different from communism? the great watchmen are dead; doubtless they killed themselves, and in two squat, four-times-a-day, muscle-flexing exercises they came back to life, preaching about plastic idols that they’ve swallowed and possessed. 

we work for them to pay our rent…Camilla hears her grandma saying erhmm and when you grow up you should be your own boss sweety. I to be me owwn boss (?) and I thinks about money, but isn’t I my boss and isn’t grandma the I’s slave too? Yo grandma a boss at school has a gun.

and now this is me (my “bio”): Hey, my name is Camilla, I am 19, I recently graduated high school in Lithuania and feeling really excited to begin my new chapter of life. I am planning on moving to Amsterdam at the end of August because I am starting a media and culture programme. I don’t think being a girl is that cool but white men suck ‘cause they don’t care about identity, and all their stores are always just 5 min away, waiting for me. 

doom scrolling: girls ruin themselves by believing in love, Gilles Deleuze Dank Meme War-Machine, @simoneweillfooddiary, starterpacks for being a teenage girl with a cat-mouse face on the woman-animal spectrum, &  ha  -   ha  … when you’re sitting on the toilet … you’re actually connecting your butthole to a worldwide web of connected war-machines. 

a second hand metaphor.

a quote from kathy acker (<3): isn’t dream same as crime cause we’re all lacking something?

 a commonplace parade : I love it occasionally. 

and your baby is sooo cute

buT TEELL ME Is it?  Is IT too early in the morning for neurosis? 


Dear diary,

my thumb on the red button, safety off. slippery plastic, pressed against wet skin. I gathered my resolve. he looked calm under the covers. he didn’t deserve to die. he didn’t deserve anything. I strapped him with home-made explosives and blew him up. when we were children, staying at my grandma’s, she took us to the river, and we swam. always the last one to jump in the water, I got a huge kick out of it. this would be like that but forever. 


Dear diary,

It is self-evident to us that to live well in this world is to live in excess of its rules. We knew this since we were young schoolkids and skipped class to smoke. And we knew it even before that. The social scripts that were handed out to us made little room for the wild enjoyment we craved for, obviously. Sidelong glances were not enough, we desired abundance. How would we get there? Then there was something even more suffocating, more insidious than the authoritarianism of passed down scripts: those who passed them down to us did so in bad faith. Half-jokingly, half-apologetically, they looked embarrassed for putting us in line, as if authority had appeared in their hands without them having anything to do with it.  Only a madman is a king who thinks he is a king. Our parents wanted us to think of them as friends, our teachers asked us to teach ourselves, our bosses treated us “like family”, our lovers were like brothers and sisters, our friends were always potential lovers. Every ceremony of initiation was a thinly veiled illusion. Family, upward mobility, contribution to national prosperity, what have we to do with those vestiges of an earlier time’s idea of the Good Life? Even if they hadn’t been denied to us, they seem, frankly speaking, ridiculous. Childhood is the time of innocence because children still believe there is a law and freedom on the other side of it.

Goodnight! xX

One of her friends looks like Solomon, the main character from Gummo. The other friend reminds everyone of someone they know. 

Camilla: Reality is artificial. So are ethics. The world is a shitty simulation run by an A.I. child.  He made it for a school project and received a failing grade. Delete file.  

Friend: But what about love?

Camilla: Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Other friend: We said we were having a sleepover tonight. And now you're here... Why are you here? 

Camilla: I  have become… free from Myself and one with the Cosmos. My… Body is a vessel for the eternal flow of Bliss, and my Soul… has reached where it has sown new Life. Hear… the Spirit speak through my Voice and follow me. Let go of your bourgeois morality… and your petty feelings. Break… every law that holds you… down and… taste pleasure until the last drop.

Friend [Giggling infectiously]: She has never been more endearing to me than she is now.

Camilla: Cruelty is the shortest road to jouissance, which is also called excess. The Marquis de Sade and Caligula, the Roman Emperor and the mad king Nebuchadnezzar are all incarnations of Kali.

Other friend [reading  from her own palm]: Beyond good and evil, before the beginning and after the end [ looks at Camilla] into the clearing and out of this world  [sobbing] I follow her .

Camilla pukes blood. A nurse makes her friends clear the room.

Camilla: Where it was, I shall be. If I am, then it is not. Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?   

In real life, Camilla was a 47 year old man, an insurance company employee who had never left Arkansas. He never studied media, never had a boyfriend, much less had one explode. As a matter of fact he had never been guilty of anything other than the most minor kinds of transgression, as for example, that one time a couple of months ago when, on a whim, he chose to throw a regular garbage bag into the recycle bin, an act so harmless and insignificant that it couldn’t possibly explain the amount of excitement it had made him feel. Almost immediately, the glorious feeling was drowned by an equal amount of shame, which took him the rest of the day to overcome. Before it vanished, the shame had popped  into his head a memory from his school years, when he used to be the class clown.

I don’t want to sound dumb or so, but the first time I got serious about emotional introspection was at my 35th birthday party. It was nothing special, two or three people came to play darts and have a beer, two or three others would pat me on the back (harder than usual cause I was the bday boy and they were extroverts) after I’d hit the center of the target-board. Everyone got drunk, and their white cheeks were stinking red though nobody sang and I secretly missed it cause all good parties end with a dallied bday song. Carter was going, but just before, he gave me this stupid-ass card that read,  “happy bday, you’re 35! how's that for you?” And how was that for me, really? How was it? I was ten pounds overweight, had a senior dog, and the last time I went shopping, I got a framed photo with a racing horse. How was that for me? my biggest dream was to be swayed by a strong bribe and a very firm handshake. Momma named me Ben, and pathetically so, I grew up believing that she thought I’d be biiiig as an adult. My impression was strengthened by being “oh my little Ben” all throughout infancy till one day when seeing my foot got a size larger I told momma to stop it with the little–I was Ben becoming BIG. I never did though but it never made me sad before. 

Shortly after that bday, amplifying the feeling of having one’s cord cut from the world, my dog died and, because of the loads of hair that no vacuum cleaner could suck out from my blue carpets, I decided to take a break from having pets. It wasn’t just once that I thought my dog was the reason for still living by myself. My schedule was so centered around my big pal that I could never go on vacation or stay out too late. 

This is how a normal day with Taj looked like: 

06:00 Taj wakes me up; he drools all over me so i’ve got to wash my face real good and change the bed sheets 

06:30 feed Taj 

7:00-8:00 walk Taj; not too far cause he was old and got scared of new smells and spaces. I‘d sometimes need to carry him in my arms around the house 

8:00-8:20 clean Taj’s paws and comb his fur (he’s allergic to dust particles) 

11:00 cook rice with carrots for Taj 

12:00 leave for work with Taj (by car; it spared me the 20 min allocated to his cleaning)

*every 60 min change his water; the office gets warm fast 

15:00 walk Taj again around the office building 

16:00-16:20 clean Taj’s paws and fur again 

18:00 Taj wakes up to take his pills; I play some music to distract him 

20:00 go home with Taj; walk Taj again 

21:00-21:20 clean Taj’s paws and fur

22:00 make our bed and get ready for the next day–Taj was abandoned as a puppy and had intense nightmares if he slept alone. 

I think I sacrificed so much for Taj ‘cause as a child, I was never allowed to have dogs. Momma was a cat person ever since–in an argument with her last Lithuanian partner–a dog jumped from underneath a car and bit her ankle. They broke up. When momma got back from the hospital, I thought the bastard dog was the only thing stronger than her. 

It’s true though, after Taj died I started having all these dreams of Camilla–being her made me real, so I had to make them real somehow. I had to bring them to life. They dominated me, and if nobody knew about Camilla, she’d be stuck there by herself, in dreamland, in my land. I’ve never wanted to hurt anyone. There was just too little going on.  On the internet, everyone has feuds, and I’m sorry that some of you thought Camilla was a being of her own. If it brings any peace of mind, Camilla could’ve had a life-insurance with us, her grandma too. I’m certain there’s a Camilla similar to mine that someone has been with.

Notes on the Impossibility and Necessity of Transgression

the unbearability of the I

If we start thinking about the clashes of the subject with its surrounding reality–where “we” represents the two of us (writer 1 and writer 2), and maybe just myself as for now I am writing on behalf of both–and inquire about the structures of feeling, it will appear that the “I” suffers the most. [in line with what follows, I, as writer1, knowing that writer2 will soon be scrutinizing and correcting “our” work, do suffer most]. Formed at the intersection of the conscious with the unconscious, or where the Self meets everyday reality and the Other’s language, the I becomes both a form of address and the address itself. The I speaks and by acting re-actualizes itself against its completion, but for its ungraspable change. The I is thus, the Self perceived, a living subject.

Doesn’t it become unbearable to be on the brink of formulating your self consciously, only to be remembered that your self is always in flux with the Other? Instead of a standstill or the classical life-and-death struggle, people call this “being lost”. The Self is lost because a previously biological instinct must undergo alienation–a fundamentally communicational or linguistic relationship, that of the demand for recognition by the Other–in order to find satisfaction. What does the subject do when they are reminded of their prime alienation–the reason for their I’s openness and decoherence? What kind of politics of the Self encourages the subject to chase formulas of transgression, given that the initial split of the Self is both the reason and the limit of transgression?

first transgression a subject made was against its own self

According to Lacan, entering into subjectivity, or, in other words, the beginning of perceiving difference, is inextricably linked to a pre-subjectification alienation (Écrits). What I imagine when picturing the movement from singularity to alienation and finally to the split subject, is a stretch of immediacy that can no longer hold:  the infant exposes themselves to the Other because the former organically stops entertaining the feeling of self-sustainment without waiting. Gaining a sense of self that is separate from the mother’s, the child has to learn that the law of the Other is situated outside of themselves. Now, the child has to find ways to satisfy their desires, which is to permanently be conditioned by a loss. 

Following Badiou in  Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, this moment of split instantiates how one essential feature of the law is its exclusion, its exteriority to the subject’s desire. More than constructing a formal circuit from the Self to the object a, the law dictates what the subject cannot know what they are alienated from. Nevertheless, as an intrasubjective mechanism designed around a lack that cannot be known, the process of receiving what the law obfuscates is infinite. Therefore, “the law appoints to desire its object, and desire finds its determination and autonomy as transgressive desire. The law fixes the object of desire and chains the desire to it, regardless of the subject’s ‘will’” (Zupančič, 286).

Ironically, we can thus claim that our first transgression is of our own needs as we realize that the possibility of existence depends on the structuring of an encompassing of an other. The Lacanian extimacy is precisely this: placing the heart of the subject outside their body and making the subject chase it for as long as they live. The excluded core (object a) is representative of a forgotten limitlessness that one gave up, breaking the rules of a voidless self (Écrits). 

all-1 transgression is against the law

One possible conclusion we can infer is that acts of transgression are concomitantly acts of mourning. Incapable of recognizing and reappropriating what was lost, surpassing limits works as a commemoration of a virtual homeostasis–the Freudian return to life outside itself. To transgress and enjoy what’s beyond the limit is, first, to confound the limit and, second, a manifestation of the ego that realizes an imaginary breach of law. The misrecognition of the limit takes place in acts that challenge what is permissible or not, further considering that disobedience makes the law weaker. On the contrary, each time a purposeful transgression happens, the subject's psyche perceives law as becoming stronger as it enlarges its limits overriding one more attempt to challenge it. Structurally and ontologically, law can neither become weaker nor stronger, but a Cantonian obstruction (Zupančič, 291).  

We can ask ourselves then what sustains the impression of the subject’s omnipotence that does not seem to wither away. Instances in which we encounter a limit, a set of rules and norms, a virtue and so on, are imaginary formulations/metaphors for what desire needs for its fulfillment. By that, the ego works on the side of life, keeping the subject away from recognizing its void and pushing it towards its pursuit of the death-drive. Our fundamental fantasy is thus to break the mirror, know ourselves without being perceived, and renounce transgression altogether (Lippi). The involvements of the ego can be witnessed in extreme instances of jouissance, defined as moments where pleasure and pain submerge or as transgressions of prohibitions leading us to extreme pleasure (Bataille), getting a sense of jouissance is an opening to death. The limit to ultimate transgression is enforced by the ego or by self-sustainment. 

Consequently, the paradox that we are left with is that to truly transgress the law and not merely break it–set one’s ego against it–is to be incapable of any transgression. 

bearing the I at the cost of the Other 

In terms of politics of the Self, the negative inclinations of the ego towards self-preservation are, especially today, very well accommodated socially. There are several examples of such instances, maybe of the most prevalent being patriarchy, the institution of marriage, judicial systems, academia and so on. All these formations are embodying the figure of law and strengthening their imposition by accommodating attempts to transgress their laws. The position of the master, otherwise empty and headless, is being occupied by figures of authority and other establishments, supporting the obfuscation of our constitutional lack for its productive potential. We do not say that a socio-political change can fill in this ontological lack, but it can formulate itself under less exploitative conditions. Attenuating the violence of self-referentiality by distributing the privilege of the master to truth formulation, the law will be less prohibitive and more supportive of conviviality. 

Arguably so, the I cannot and does not have to symbolically situate or perceive the Other as its rival, but, intersubjectively, as a point of convergence striving for a we. Eventually, in its particular ways, the unbearability of the I is universal.

The Limit Experience: Maurice Blanchot reads Georges Bataille

Both of them writing simultaneously on philosophy and literature, Maurice Blanchot and Georges Bataille were highly influential for the later generation of French poststructuralists. The two were tied by a friendship to which we owe the concept of the limit experience. Slipping between philosophy and literature, between one author and the other, the trajectory of the concept’s crafting mirrors its content. To trace it linearly, we could say it was born in their private conversations in 1940 and then bifurcated into Bataille’s (1988) philosophical treatise Inner Experience and Blanchot’s (1988) experimental novel Thomas the Obscure. It was later revisited by Blanchot, in his essay of the same name, where he claims to be merely paying tribute to his friend’s thought, relinquishing any claim to originality or intellectual ownership. We found Blanchot’s text useful for our endeavors, so we decided to share some of its insights.  We read it as a cautionary tale about the impossible leap toward the outside of subjectivity and three dangerous logical moments that are inscribed therein. In each of these moments, the subject who transgresses is tempted to halt movement, as if having arrived at some kind of final destination. Unflinchingly, Blanchot encourages the subject to move forward toward the absolute transgression of the limit experience.

Born helpless in the midst of hostile nature, humans were not at home among beasts. We transgressed the natural order of things and in its place we instituted our own law, the law of abstraction. We built communities centered around it, which kept us relatively safe from natural violence–that of our instincts included. Yet we could not flourish in the world we had built for ourselves, its laws were not ample enough. We broke them to pieces and from these pieces we founded another, and then another human world. With each effort, our skills of reason were honed. In the end, the human subject could claim to know herself: she was the subject who could negate the world and reshape it in accordance with her intellect. A perfectly rational world was at last made conceivable. 

This much is true, as Blanchot reminds the subject at this juncture, but it fails to account for the limit experience. The technocratic dream leaves outside its purview 

the experience that awaits this ultimate man, the man who one last time is capable of not stopping at the sufficiency he has attained: the desire of he who is without desire, the dissatisfaction of he who is "wholly" satisfied, pure lack where there is nonetheless accomplishment of being.
(Blanchot 205) 

Blanchot’s figure of the ‘’ultimate man’’ hints at the ontological primacy of dissatisfaction. It breaks open the horizon of the limit experience, which can save us from becoming hardened in our faith in reason. And so we move past the first obstacle.  Should we lose track of the limit experience, we may lull ourselves into thinking that reason is our destiny. Thus we might set forth to establish the perfectly ordained world, wherein humanity will finally be at home. The worst types of horrors spring from this procrustean conviction. Again, in the critical moment when reason encompasses the whole world, the limit experience is what is left out. It is not the final step of reason, but the one that comes after that. We cannot grasp it conceptually. At most, we can try to trace it with loose hands. 

Somewhere along the process of freeing ourselves from the cruelty of nature and the obtuseness of tradition, we became strangers to our people and to nature. We longed to reconnect. We were then tempted to give it all up, turn our backs on the unfolding of the dialectic; violate the law of reason and ask to be readmitted among the deplorables, whose company we had so painstakingly escaped. This is the second obstacle, the illusion of preconceptual, immediate experience. Blanchot reminds us that “it is only beyond an achieved knowledge (the knowledge affirmed by Lenin when he announces that ’everything’ will one day be understood) that non-knowledge offers itself as the fundamental exigency to which one must respond” (208). The full unfolding of the dialectic is not to be followed by a return to pure intuition, a restoration of unreason, a reclamation of some pure, bestial nature. What we seek is not the fullness of experience, unadulterated by the cunning of reason.  Rather than constituting an experience of the limit, the limit experience indexes for us the limit of experience.  It is not as if reason, after running its course and failing to deliver on its promises, can then be safely discarded in favor of pure experience.  Reason might not be enough to get us where we want, but it remains a necessary precondition. It imbues experience with the quality of being not-whole.

From the moment we made the first transgression, which might well have been that of the law of horizontality (i.e. when we erected ourselves on two feet), we set in motion a process of absolute and irreversible estrangement. And yet it was only from within this process that the horizon of the limit experience opened up to us. In a Faustian bargain we never agreed to, we traded belonging for a few glimpses of the great outside. It was not thinkable, yet it presupposed all thought. It belonged to the order of experience, but only as that which escaped it. We grew enamored of this limit which exceeded our powers of both reason and intuition. We wondered if it was perhaps God’s mysterious way of revealing Himself to us. This thought quieted down the restlessness that had so far compelled us to escape. 

Mysticism was the third obstacle. We saw it as a promise of a meaning of a peculiar kind, one that did not translate to anything in this world. We would go on to worship the limit in its very unknowability. We would have to tread carefully, keep our concepts and intuitions in check; we could not let them dilute this immaculate revelation. Blanchot shakes us out of this state of pacification. He writes that the mystics 

participate in and contribute to the ultimate act: the unification of being, the fusion of ’earth’ and ’heaven’. We ought … to be wary of these marvels and we ought to say that the severe and untiring challenge to every religious presupposition—as well as to every revelation and spiritual certainty that is implied by the ’mystical’ inclination—belongs essentially and in the first place to the movement we are describing.

In the mystics’ pious reluctance vis-à-vis the sacred, we sense another variation of the desire for mastery. We are not ready to come to terms with the unreachability of the limit experience. We want our minds to be transfused by it, our senses to be drowned in it. We have no time for reverence.

Reason, immediate experience, the ineffable–Blanchot is dissatisfied with each of these potential outcomes of transgression, as are we. Carried out unencumbered, the operation of reason would yield a perfectly rational world. In it, the subject would experience an out-of-place-ness as intense as that from which she strived to escape by putting reason to work. If experience were to be given free reign and immersion into the preconceptual was sought after, the subject would again meet a dead end. At the heart of experience, she would only discover what she herself had already placed there, namely the structure of the concept she was supposed to be fleeing. Even if, by way of some mystical procedure, the inaccessibility of what lies beyond experience and beyond reason was transubstantiated into a principle of inaccessibility as such, this newly forged dialectical unity would hardly appease the subject’s desire. Grasping inaccessibility is not the same thing as accessing the ungraspable, which is what had motivated the mystical turn in the first place. So far we parsed transgression as a movement that commences from a known beginning, a solid launch pad, and shoots off to an unknown end, an ever escaping destination. It is by attempting to reverse the order of our investigation that the subject of transgression is revealed in its real impossibility.

Upon closer examination, what we lack seems to be precisely this firm point of departure.  By turning our look backward, Orpheus-like (to use a Blanchotean image), into the direction of our starting point, we come face to face with the limit experience. Blanchot writes about this in terms of an irreducible bifurcation of experience: 

[I]t is perhaps given to us to "live" each of the events that is ours by way of a double relation.  We live it one time as something we comprehend, grasp, bear, and master (even if we do so painfully and with difficulty) by relating it to some good or to some value, that is to say, finally, by relating it to Unity; we live it another time as something that escapes all employ and all end, and more, as that which escapes our very capacity to undergo it, but whose trial we cannot escape.

It is this doubleness, or lack of unity, that springboards the movements towards reason, unreason, and their mystical union. The limit experience speaks to the doubleness of experience, its bifurcation into work and worklessness, mastery and that which escapes it. It is this unresolvable tension that sends us flying, that impels us to transgress, to escape that from which there is no escape. 

We doubt there to be any solid ground where our movement-against would land and, even more importantly, we do not believe our launching pad to be any steadier. And yet we jump. Our aim, which we might as well reveal at this point, is not to leave the safety of our beginning for the adventure of an unknown end nor is it, inversely, to escape from the groundlessness of our starting point for the relative safety of a meaning of our own making.  We do not seek to bridge the gap between the beginning and the end, since we know both to be illusions. Our leap is destined to never get off this ground which is fissured into work and worklessness. Each foot firmly placed on either side, we push until the rift widens. In lieu of a jump, our effort generates meaning and experience, mystical or otherwise. While some of it is welcome, none is enough.  

And so,

 transgression is both impossible and exigent  :       I am Camilla I am Ben

I am here  _______________________________________________________ I am there

      my brother and my neighbor. sometimes I am a dog

& more often than not, I am found, twice 

in the same place  I am found

in the same place, 

(in a womb)

  or under the covers of some stale water, ready to be hit by the sun. 

Works Cited

Bataille, Georges. Erotism: Death and Sensuality, City Lights Books, 1986.

—. (1988). Inner experience, State University of New York Press, 1988. 

Badiou, Alain. Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, Stanford University Press, 2003.

Blanchot, M. Thomas the Obscure, Station Hill Press, 1988. 

Blanchot, M., & Hanson, S. The Infinite Conversation, Minnesota UP, 1992.

Dean, Carolyn J. "The Pleasure of Pain." The Self and Its Pleasures: Bataille, Lacan, and the History of the Decentered Subject, Cornell University Press, 1992, 170-200.

Hegel, G. W. F. “Self-Consciousness.” The Phenomenology of Spirit, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2018, pp. 102–116.

Jameson, Fredric. “Imaginary and Symbolic in Lacan: Marxism, Psychoanalytic Criticism, and the Problem of the Subject.” Yale French Studies, no. 55/56,  1977, pp. 338–395.

Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Translated by Bruce Fink, WW Norton, 2007.

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Anxiety (Book X), edited by Jacques-Alain Miller, Polity, 2016.

Lippi, Silvia. « Transgression et violence chez Bataille et Lacan », La clinique lacanienne, vol. no 10, no. 2, 2005, pp. 245-262.

mortnait. “Jacques Lacan : Encore.” YouTube, 6 Feb. 2014,

Schuster, Aaron. "You Can’t Ask Everyone to Behave Ethically Just Like That." e-flux, issue 65.

Zupančič, Alenka. "The Case of the Perforated Sheet." ++, edited by Renata Salecl and Slavoj Zizek, Duke University Press, 2000, pp. 282-296.


catrinel rădoi (b.1998) is studying literary (UvA) and psychoanalytic theory (GCAS). The work she feels closest to is her co-authored poetry book published at Dispozitiv Books.

Aristotelis Tokatlidis is a recent Literary Studies graduate and a current independent researcher. He enjoys queer and black theory, psychoanalysis, and all sorts of paranoid reading. Right now, he is most curious about literary mediations of family abolition.

No items found.
Reading time

Related articles

No themes were found

Related themes