One could say that the great mystical traditions teach a certain sort of blankness, as a receptivity that Lyotard recognizes and to which Heidegger’s clearing perhaps acts as a precursor. But these seem to be connective moments, maybe not entirely empty of intention and waiting. But how about what seems to be a more contemporary loss, or abandonment of body, or thought, or feeling, more akin to an involuntary shock / severance (or even imposed as in the case of Agamben’s Muselmann), maybe akin to the numbness of the ‘shock of the new’ which modernism supposed represents (or maybe it’s Benjamin’s involuntary memory which erupts through the layers of nowness) or maybe some more archaic, spasmodic shudder which has a reach from some more chthonic ranges, signals hard to decipher now, so faint, attenuated, etiolated has the relation between earth and flesh become, fallen Greek gods whose only Homeric duty now is to cause dissociation, a flattening or numbing, the only thing that can pass for blankness or emptiness; a syncope or interregnum, the (non)thing most feared by the managers of where we are now, a cause for institutional concern since now (this is not ‘now-time,’ jetzeit, presumably), is not an emptied kairos but every moment to be programmed, leaving no blank spaces (and what is childhood but the beginning blankness of us all) until the final Great Blank of death.
In The Inner Touch: Archaeology of a Sensation, and the chapter entitled ‘The Anesthetic Animal,’ Daniel Heller-Roazen describes a contemporary ‘suffering of thinking’ which procedes by excision of feeling and even identity, minds for which the perception of bodily feelings apparently no longer exists, a mind without body: “A common insensibility, however ‘inhuman’ it may have seemed to Aristotle, has become the rule: we are all, to rewrite Musil’s famous phrase, ‘men without perceptual qualities.'”
Earlier, Heller-Roazen had written of this depersonalization phenomena:
“This may seem a strange state, and, in the course of the millennial reflection on the nature of the speaking living being in the West, there is no doubt that it is novel. But it can be said to have been in part anticipated by the tradition. One metaphysical determination of human nature now reaches its fulfillment. The animal vanishes from man: in a speaking being, thought and existence remain, at least absolved of the animal power that was the sense of life. Such an ‘absolution,’ to be sure, can seem a parody of fulfillment, but that makes it no less fulfillment of a sort.”
Thus a parade of blank faced, puppetized serial killers, school shooters, random violence, and the pursuit of the ‘X-treme’ in all areas of twentieth century life, anything to fill what seems to be an empty space which all the flotsam and jetsam of a life lived in media saturation strives to patch (“jetsam has been voluntarily cast into the sea (jettisoned) by the crew of a ship, usually in order to lighten it in an emergency; while flotsam describes goods that are floating on the water without having been thrown in deliberately, often after a shipwreck”), lives in the shadow of the ship wreck/catastrophe and disaster in slow motion.
This is the fate of fate: to be fateless:
“Are the great affects of the twentieth century, the sensible impressions discovered then and not before, not all feelings of the progressive retreat and vanishing of all feeling? The ‘poverty of experience’ (erfahrungsarmut) identified by Benjamin, the state of ‘being left empty’ (leergelassenheit) said by Heidegger to define the ‘deep boredom’ we all know, the overwhelming insomniac impression of the bare fact that ‘there is’ (il y a), described by Levinas as an absolute ‘experience of depersonalization’: these basic impressions are the fundamental feelings of a culture that has bid farewell to the primary perceptual power of the tradition. They are the affects that belong to animals who strive to think and to think about themselves with increasing might but who no longer sense that they sense, if not in perceiving at the limit, that their ailing perceptions are, in truth, of nothing and of no one.”
[….] “Some may wish to deny the fact; others may lament it as an evil of the present; still others may celebrate it as a triumph of a resilience of the mind and body unseen unti now. But the truth is that a transformation in the speaking living being poses a challenge to thought that can hardly be avoided. [….] Any ethics worthy of the name must confront the promise and the threat contained in the sensation that today we may no longer, or may not yet, sense anything at all.”
From the point of view of the Coming Machine Culture, the ability to dissociate, dis-assemble, and re-assemble body and soul will no doubt be seen as a virtue. It is already, wot!