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Poor Cioran I often think of him as he was depicted in the introduction to On the Heights of Despair a withered old man with a thick sprouting of silver straw flaming from his skull softly admitting to Ilinca Zarifopol Johnston that he was weary of slandering the universe; in the end even the great decrier slumped back against the walls of our earthly prison Imagine being such an acute and acerbic diagnostician of despair decay and delusion and yet fully aware that not only was there no escape from the dimensional consciousness erected by the Western mind but that our every avenue of thought traversed every force of will summoned in an effort to pierce its epistemological and ontological glamours and perceive a means of exiting its limitative reality arising from a well fashioned from the stones of this very confining metastructure fed by its waters breezed by its air and enthused by its fires was doomed from the beginning by its very origin and fabric to dissipate and dissolve within the actuality it was trying to penetrate The Solar Empire having been ruptured and divided into Subjects and Objects by the rebellious hordes of the individuating Devil inflamed by the Outside cannot again be a unitary domain of the Absolute; and every act of rebellion violent action brought about by a delusion of free will of overthrowing the legal code of Being consumes itself and its own before sinking back into the stagnant waters from which in a furious breaching it hurled itself upwardsWith the first ballpark estimation of the speed of light occurring during the Enlightenment would Cioran have begun marking our progress along the paths of acute existential suffering of philosophic systems and scientific analysis erected under History of the birth pangs of Ideology and the mad lust for rebellion along a scale aligned to human awareness of the spatial velocity of the Sun's burning caresses? What if we add to the mixture our dawning comprehension that we travel at the exact same rate of speed through the enigmatic tunnel of our great nemesis Time? How does this knowledge with its horrifyingly incomprehensible intimations of contingency being subsumed within the necessary even as freedom is uashed by a determinism that has encircled the rosie in a vermicular manner that cannot be empirically understood or even grasped within the vast empty rictus of our temporal reality link to the fiery vision that Cioran received in those blearily grim but starkly limned pre dawn hours when he could not shut down that spinning top of a mind and enter the realm of dreams where he so longed to reside? For it is within Time the flattening of our rational systematic and sterile Western existence under its dominion and the filling of the space thus abandoned with the fear of Death that Cioran espies the triumph of this great EnemyA spiritual man hostile to atheists the religious and God; widely read whilst despising novels and poems for exposing torments and passions that should radiate and burn solely in subcutaneous concealment; a connoisseur of suffering and despair who mocked and dismissed the modern forms of art and psychology as tried to illumine or alleviate such inherently human sentiments; a salvager of the great cultural and mental edifices erected by past civilizations whilst reserving his highest praise for the wanton destruction and savagery of the barbarian or the guileless and mendicant ways of the beggar; an opponent of any living that was not taken to the furthest margins or extremes who railed against those who dared such reaches if he didn't approve of their proving grounds; a haughty observer and glint eyed vivisectionist of European malaise who could never distance himself from nor fully deny those cultural and societal tropes he ridiculed and abhorred; a firm jawed surveyor of the nullifying pathways of the eternal void whose greatest dream was to transplant that same abyssal emptiness into the lyrical souls of mankind in order to disintegrate History and expose all hopeless hopes and loveless loves all pastless pasts and futureless futures to the zero point inertia of the vacuum; the seesaw contradictions and juxtapositions that abound in The Temptation to Exist only further the potency of his own percolating prussic genius and the impish tremors that glitter in his diamantine proseHe was spared the madness of Nietzsche but perhaps in the end was afforded a ruder treatment sane enough to understand what had happened aware enough to perceive that all of that passion and emotion and lyricism expended in denunciation was really for naught but the aesthetic beauty of its expression As Susan Sontag points out in her brilliant introduction there is little that Cioran could take from his vituperation other than the satisfaction of understanding Is suffering ameliorated when its cause and its ineradicable necessity are comprehended? When the Romanian exile states that such is the case it lacks an unwavering conviction There is perhaps no victory to be claimed by either expounding such a ferocious nihilgnostic doctrine or imbibing it; but there is a definite pleasure gained by the manner in which it is put to the page and in the stimulation it provides to the boiler rooms of the imagination and thought and for many that is than reason enough to make Cioran a habit I've spent 2 3 hours with this now spread over a couple of days and I'm sorry to say I can't find anything very interesting in it Maybe it's me The only essay that grabbed me at all is on a winded civilization It has some fine insights on the meta psychology I'm just making up a word that doesn't really mean anything here of cultural decay which he dates Anti Enlightenment guy that he is from the end of the 18th cenAnd even that very brief essay mostly bored me A lot of it is just verbal fluff I'm afraidBut then again maybe it's meOne problem is in talking about the decay of Europe and the vitality of the Huns there's a not so subtle glorification here of the Nazis and this long AFTER he's supposed to have given up that particular vice he predicts 1956 that the triumphant civilization of the coming century would beRussiaHow did that turn out Cioran?If he were a stock guru reading that I'd have to cancel my subAnyway I'll try the next one now Trouble which is a collection of aphorisms maybe he does better with twitter sized writing How can one resist this title just the title alone One of the great cynical thinkers in the 20th Century I recently discovered him and once I read this book i had to go out and get every title by this incredible writer Good volume to have by the bedside when you have one of those nightmares that wake you up When he's there the real nightmare happens The Temptation to Exist makes an interesting complement or foil? to Paul Tillich's The Courage To Be The two map opposite poles of our spiritual life as well as revealing two different meanings that ultimate lucidity can have Read on its own Cioran's perspective seems incomplete forced Only in this fertile opposition does it get its full sense for me“Every work turns against its author the poem will crush the poet the system the philosopher the event the man of action Destruction awaits anyone who answering to his vocation and fulfilling it exerts himself within history; only the man who sacrifices every gift and talent escapes released from his humanity he may lodge himself in Being One always perishes by the self one assumes to bear a name is to claim an exact mode of collapse” Cioran takes Nietzscheanism to its ultimate self undermining conclusion Ultimate lucidity is to be found in a turning against oneself a self unraveling that at times borders on the morbid Any positive stance we take on the uestion of Being is not just a gamble any but pre determines its own exact mode of collapse The self creates its world ex nihilo unsupported by any meaning producing encounter with the world Because of this all positions that the creative self constructs specify a determinate mode of delayed self annihiliation One wonders at times how much of this work is a self inebriating literary exercise But then I'd be lying to myself if I took such a no nonsense naturalistic approach and denied that such essential uestioning had its place and that really we all know life is grand doesn't need uestioning Ultimately Cioran shows just how little grounding is left for the self that is determined to place its entire life into uestion and not just select domains within that life as past philosophers did I find Zagajewski's thought about Cioran to be right on the mark“Doubt is intelligent than poetry insofar as it tells malicious tales about the world things we’ve long known but struggled to hide from ourselves But poetry surpasses doubt pointing to what we cannot know Doubt is narcissistic; we look at everything critically including ourselves and perhaps that comforts us Poetry on the other hand trusts the world and rips us from the deep sea diving suits of our “I”; it believes in the possibility of beauty and its tragedy Poetry’s argument with doubt has nothing in common with the facile uarrel of optimism and pessimism The twentieth century’s great drama means that we now deal with two kinds of intellect the resigned and the seeking the uesting Doubt is poetry for the resigned Whereas poetry is searching endless wandering Doubt is a tunnel poetry is a spiral Doubt prefers to shut while poetry opens Poetry laughs and cries doubt ironizes Doubt is death’s plenipotentiary its longest and wittiest shadow; poetry runs toward an unknown goal Why does one choose poetry while another chooses doubt? We don’t know and we’ll never find out We don’t know why one is Cioran and the other is Milosz” Or why one is Cioran and the other is Tillich Reading this the same uestion keeps coming back to one what inner force in the thinker ultimately determines the nature of hisher commitment to being? What determines whether I will choose on the side of meaning or on the side of doubt? That primordial decision certainly determines the course of all one's other thoughts Cioran is the master of the negative epiphany of the anti epiphany He will specify the precise mode of collapse of any of the meanings and revelations that sustain us through life Eugene O'Neill described these very well in A Long Day's Journey Into NightAnd several other times in my life when I was swimming far out or lying alone on a beach I have had the same experience became the sun the hot sand green seaweed anchored to a rock swaying in the tide Like a saint's vision of beatitude Like the veil of things as they seem drawn back by an unseen hand For a second you see and seeing the secret you are the secret For a second there is meaning Then the hand lets the veil fall and you are alone lost in the fog again and you stumble on towards nowhere for no good reason” These fleeting experiences of meaning reveal a sense of unity of reconciliation with the rest of being and bring temporarily a great sufficiency All this Cioran denies and treats as a self alienating projection onto the inhuman world of meanings that we create The only genuine meaning to be found is in absolute vacuous independence and in a pure act of self reflexivity that withdraws from all such projection and psychological outsourcing onto the world There's something almost Manichean in his rejection of any relation with the non human background world Perhaps this is what we get when we philosophize from the presumption that there can be an I without a Thou But of course nobody actually lives on the bread of negation He himself is tortured by this self contradiction he can never uite fully realize his own stance Negation is always parasitic There is thus something either dishonest or repressed about a work that seeks to build itself solely on the lucidity of negation It doesn't express its true motive force So what is the positive force that drives the negation of a Cioran? Engaging with such uestions as this book opens up sometimes directly sometimes implicitly by its very presence can yield a lot of insight into the human psyche and into the sources of philosophy in our lives „Trebuie să învăţăm să gândim împotriva îndoielilor şi certitudinilor noastre împotriva umorilor atotştiutoare trebuie mai ales făurindu ne o altă moarte o moarte incompatibilă cu hoitul să acceptăm ceea ce nu poate fi dovedit ideea că ceva există Nimicul era desigur mai comod Ce greu e să te mistui în Fiinţă“Emil Cioran Cioran is just humorous enough in his pessimism and acerbic in his irony though I'm not convinced that a lot of his most outrageous statements were actually as ironic for him as they've been perceived to be by many critics and commentators and anyone who loves a mental exercise murky and inside out as they can be will enjoy this collection of post Nietzschean philosophical essays And the introduction by Susan Sontag is engaging and informative Now down to some specificsThinking Against Oneself I couldn't agree with Cioran's statement about it being a mistake for Western minds to expect themselves to be able to live Eastern philosophies truths incompatible with their nature Joseph Campbell said much the same thing that it was a mistake for people raised in Western culture to seek a guru and try to transform themselves into something totally alien to their history No sage among our ancestors Cioran says but malcontents triflers fanatics whose disappointments or excesses we must continue Our disease? Centuries of attention to time the idolatry of becoming We're captives of duration invalids of duration We are less capable than many of us would like to believe of merely being in eternity Instead Contaminated by the superstition of action we believe that our ideas must come to something If it sounds like Cioran wishes things could be different for us he admits that Taoism seems to me wisdom's first and last word yet I resist it my instincts reject itThere's a lot but that's a little of what stood out to meOn a Winded Civilization Here's a Eurocentric uotation from the 1950's that anyone observing America's meltdown recently might find interesting America stands before the world as an impetuous void a fatality without substance Nothing prepared her for hegemony; yet she tends toward it Unlike the other nations which have had to pass through a whole series of humiliations and defeats she has known till now only the sterility of an uninterrupted good fortune If in the future everything should continue to go as well her appearance on the scene will have been an accident without influence Those who preside over her destiny those who take her interests to heart should prepare her for bad times; in order to cease being a superficial monster she reuires an ordeal of major scope Perhaps she is not far from one now Having lived hitherto outside hell she is preparing to descend into it If she seeks a destiny for herself she will find it only on the ruins of all that was her raison d'être i kept thinking while reading cioran of what sheeper said about edward dahlberg Read him but pay no attention to anything he says He is so critical and cantankerous so grum small and jealous that if you took him at all seriously he would drive you as batty as he is The uotations he burdens his work with are never to the point and as he is incapable of placing two sentences in logical order such a thing as a uiet scholarly paragraph let alone essay or chapter is outside his reach But he is the poet of sentence design and the uirk that shocks you with delight in the half dozen books he has left behind is not an accident but itself is the hand tended blossom He is a great pure writer in the sense that he will sacrifice any meaning however important he may have made it out to be for any flourish or conceit and he would sell his soul to the devil and mine too for the power to write one unalterably beautiful sentence Sheeper p 123but guess i'm just not a western philosophy reader while i enjoy the cioran aphorism when i come across it there's something that seems untruthful when i read a whole essay unlike a dahlberg fiction despite his lies i'll admit part of the rub for me was that first essay which has as its point the justification or rationalization of western man's inability to accept the eastern truth of taoism and the buddha there's something car crash attractive about watching a subtle mind try to speak to that vast and porous and often ineffable difference of the so called east and the so called west but it gets uickly boring to me because invariably the writer draws your attention to the finger pointer and not the proverbial moon see jung and roland barthes and pound for some entertaining and not ungreat examples anyway it's probably me not you emil will try you again sometime down the line He is my fav He lost me during 'Beyond The Novel'It's hard for me to see beyond a cynicism brooding fascism and a genuine disdain for the human condition This is my second try and every time I pick Cioran up I just end up wanting to throw the book across the roomThere's just something about a guy who refers to the construct of the novel as 'The rubbish of Western Civilization' then goes on to proclaim the need for the return to the Philosophical antiuarians because to attempt to study the character of man through literature is futile because apparently we already know ourselves to be nothing Maybe it's just meThat being said the man is clearly educated and his book is ragethought provoking in its own right Read it if only to formulate your own opinion OH but what I forgot to add in my thing below is the part Sontag writes about Hegel's system representing the end of philosophy or Hegel's idea of philosophy as the history of philosophy so that after Hegel there's no philosophizing left his science encompasses all and outside of Hegel's science since Time did indeed keep going on what takes the place in the absence of systematized philosophy and the absence of religion is then Ideologies or non scientific philosophies Anyway most of y'all have probably thought all this or known it before but it was a nice thing to read in coincidence with my reading of that Pinkard book on German idealismthis should be before the previous paragraph Read Sontag's lengthy introduction on two extended metro rides fantastic writing and placing of Cioran at the end chronology wise of the spectrum of post history thinkingessayingphilosophizing and also his relation to Nietzsche C being contained in N N already having said everything C goes on to say again but then justifying the importance of saying everything despite that anyway I'm not currently reading this so don't like this cuz it's not a review I just wanted to point out that Sontag's intro to this is good La Tentation d'exister


About the Author: Emil M. Cioran

Born in 1911 in Rășinari a small village in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania raised under the rule of a father who was a Romanian Orthodox priest and a mother who was prone to depression Emil Cioran wrote his first five books in Romanian Some of these are collections of brief essays one or two pages on average; others are collections of aphorisms Suffering from insomnia since his adoles


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