Poverty of Existence: Suffering, Asceticism and Irrationality
There's so much I find intriguing and consonant with in E. M. Cioran, (8 April 1911 – 20 June 1995) a Romanian philosopher, who struggles for years with insomnia and spends long nights walking around his quiet city thinking about his despair.
His lyrical essays revolve around themes of suffering, failures, decay and nihilism.
Even as a young man, he thought of suicide.
What prevented him was this lucid insight that “Only optimists commit suicide, optimists who no longer succeed at being optimists. The others, having no reason to live, why would they have any to die?”
“The fact that life has no meaning is a reason to live --moreover, the only one.”
And writing was his way to tame his ferocious despair.
“A book is a suicide postponed,” he says.
He sees futility everywhere and so distances himself from society and keeps only a few friends.
“I don’t understand why we must do things in this world, why we must have friends and aspirations, hopes and dreams. Wouldn’t it be better to retreat to a faraway corner of the world, where all its noise and complications would be heard no more?"
He continues, "Then we could renounce culture and ambitions; we would lose everything and gain nothing; for what is there to be gained from this world?”
“As far as I am concerned, I resign from humanity. I no longer want to be, nor can still be, a man."
His response to meaninglessness is to clearly accept that all of life is pointless.
"What should I do?
Work for a social and political system, make a girl miserable?
Hunt for weaknesses in philosophical systems, fight for moral and esthetic ideals?
It’s all too little.
I renounce my humanity even though I may find myself alone.
But am I not already alone in this world from which I no longer expect anything?” (On the Heights of Despair)
What is the source of man's despair?
Man is cursed with his ability to think deep.
"True thinking resembles a demon who muddies the spring of life or a sickness which corrupts its roots. To think all the time, to raise questions, to doubt your own destiny, to feel the weariness of living, to be worn out to the point of exhaustion by thoughts and life,.. all this means you are so unhappy that reflection and thinking appear as a curse causing a violent revulsion in you.”
Cioran believes thinking lucidly is incompatible with life.
He says, "That kind of thinking, that understanding that pushes too far, is dangerous....life is only bearable because one does not go to the end (of thinking); doing something is only possible when one has particular illusions...for everything."
To be happy, don't think!
Just vegetate with illusions.
Eat, drink, be merry.
Contra Socrates, the unexamined life is a happy life.
“Only those are happy who never think or, rather, who only think about life's bare necessities, and to think about such things means not to think at all," observes Cioran.
In an interview, he insightfully remarks in conclusion and with total resignation,
"I am ... fed up with cursing at the world, at God;
the whole thing is simply not worth it."
His best-known works are "On the Heights of Despair" (1934) and "The Trouble with Being Born" (1973).
His first French book, "A Short History of Decay", was awarded the prestigious Rivarol Prize in 1950.