E.M. Cioran, 1973
("The trouble with being born", 1993)
If it is true that by death we once more become what we were before being,
would it not have been better to abide by that pure possibility, not to stir
from it? What use was this detour, when we might have remained forever in an
Time, fertile in resources, more inventive and more charitable than we think,
possesses a remarkable capacity to help us out, to afford us at any hour of
the day some new humiliation.
Life is nothing; death, everything. Yet there is nothing which is death,
independent of life. It is precisely this absence of autonomous, distinct
reality which makes death universal; it has no realm of its own, it is
omnipresent, like everything which lacks identity, limit, and bearing:
an indecent infinitude.
Once we begin to want, we fall under the jurisdiction of the Devil.
It is a great force, and a great fortune, to be able to live without any
ambition whatever. I aspire to it, but the very fact of so aspiring still
participates in ambition.
The blank time of meditation is, the only "full" time. We should never
blush to accumulate vacant moments - vacant in appearance, filled in fact.
To meditate is a supreme leisure, whose secret has been lost.
It is because of speech that men give the illusion of being free. By speaking,
they deceive themselves, as they deceive others: because they say what they
are going to do, who could suspect they are not masters of their actions?
I pride myself on my capacity to perceive the transitory character of
everything. An odd gift which spoiled all my joys; better: all my sensations.
I have decided not to oppose anyone ever again, since I have noticed that I
always end by resembling my latest enemy.
Buddha: "By what right do you claim to rule over men and universe?
Have you suffered for knowledge?" This is the crucial, perhaps the sole
question we should ask ourselves when we scrutinize anything, especially
a thinker. There is never too great distinction made between those who
have paid for the tiniest step toward knowledge and those, incomparably
more numerous, who have received a convenient, indifferent knowledge,
a knowledge without ordeals.
We make choices, decisions, as long as we keep to the surface of things;
once we reach the depths, we can neither choose nor decide, we can do
nothing but regret the surface...
The fear of being deceived is the vulgar version of the quest for Truth.
A work is finished when we can no longer improve it, though we know it
to be inadequate and incomplete. We are so overtaxed by it that we no
longer have the power to add a single comma, however indispensable.
What determines the degree to which a work is done is not a requirement
of art or of truth, it is exhaustion and, even more, disgust.
"An enemy is as= useful as a Buddha." Exactly, for our enemy watches
over us, keeps us from letting ourselves go. By indicating, by divulging
our least weakness, he leads us straight to our salvation, moves heaven
and earth to keep us from being unworthy of his image of us. Hence our
gratitude to him should be boundless.
Over the centuries, man has slaved to believe, passing from dogma to dogma,
illusion to illusion, and has given little time to doubts, short intervals
between his epochs of blindness. Indeed they were no doubts but pauses,
moments of respite following the fatigue of faith, of any faith.
Each time you find yourself at a turning point, the best thing is to lie
down and let hours pass. Resolutions made standing up are worthless:
they are dictated either by pride or by fear. Prone, we still know these
two scourges, but in a more attenuated, more intemporal form.
When, after a series of questions about desire, disgust, and serenity,
Buddha was asked: "What is the goal, the final meaning of nirvana?"
he did not answer. He smiled. There has been a great deal of commentary
on that smile, instead of seeing it is a normal reaction to a pointless
question. It is what we do when confronted by a child's WHY. We smile,
because no answer is conceivable, because the answer would be even more
meaningless than the question. Children admit no limits to anything;
they always want to see beyond, to see what there is afterward. But there
is no afterward. Nirvana is a limit, the limit. It is liberation, supreme
A golden rule: to leave an incomplete image of oneself
Our first intuitions are the true ones.
I have always lived with the awareness of the impossibility of living.
And what has made existence endurable to me is my curiosity as to how I
would get from one minute, one day, one year to the next.
To have opinions is inevitable, is natural; to have convictions is less so.
Each time I meet someone who has convictions, I wonder what intellectual
vice, what flaw has caused him to acquire such a thing.
When you no longer believe in yourself, you stop producing or struggling,
you even stop raising questions or answering them, whereas it is the
contrary which should have occured, since it is precisely at this moment
that, being free of all bonds, you are likely to grasp the truth, discern
what is real and what is not. But once your belief in your own role, or
your own lot, has dried up, you become incurious about everything else,
even the "truth", though you are closer to it than ever before.
"What's wrong - what's the matter with you?" Nothing, nothing's the matter,
I've merely taken a leap outside my fate, and now I don't know where to turn,
what to run for...