November 11th, 2010

S.C. Hickman

E.M. Cioran: The Delusions of our Sadness

""However much I have frequented the mystics, deep down I have always sided with the Devil; unable to equal him in power, I have tried to be worthy of him, at least, in insolence, acrimony, arbitrariness, and caprice."
       - E.M. Cioran, Anathemas and Admirations

On rereading Edmund White's essay on E.M. Cioran's book Anathemas and Admirations I was reminded of my fascination with the power of the aphorism. White being his usual ironic self spoke of the late Cioran as "a Romanian who's lived in France since 1937, admires Buddhism of the most unconsoling variety, has contemplated suicide for decades, esteems extremists, fanatics and eccentrics of all sorts and has instituted vertigo into his daily life. Instead of accumulating wisdom, he has shed certainties. Instead of reaching out to touch someone, he has fastidiously cultivated his exemplary solitude." 

He is another member of that small  band of epicurean pessimists who will - as Dylan Thomas, said, "not go gentle into that good night" 

Cioran exemplified the dictates of Schopenhauer's musings when he said: "Unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim." That other disciple of suffering, Friedrich Nietzsche said it this way: "The discipline of suffering, of great suffering – do you not know that it is this discipline alone which has created every elevation of mankind hitherto? That tension of the soul in misfortune which cultivates its strength, its terror at the sight of great destruction, its inventiveness and bravery in undergoing, enduring, interpretating, exploiting misfortune, and whatever of depth, mystery, mask, spirit, cunning and greatness has been bestowed upon it- has it not been bestowed through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering?" 

In 1935 Cioran's mother is reputed to have told him that if she had known he was going to be so unhappy she would have aborted him. Later on in response to this incident he told a friend "I'm simply an accident. Why take it all so seriously?" In statements like this one has to laugh out loud. Maybe this is what Nietzshe meant when he said: "Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter." In his book, The Trouble with being Born, Cioran said of suicide: "It's not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late." The subtle humor of such aphorisms is not for the feint of heart.

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