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  • mono 7:45 pm on October 16, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Emil Cioran, , Lies, , Lying, Personal life, , Physical body, Richard Howard, Short History of Decay, , Spoken language   

    Life is the Novel of Matter: An E.M. Cioran Moment 

    “Only inert things add nothing to what they are: a stone does not lie; it interests no one – whereas life indefatigably invents: life is the novel of matter.” (E.M. Cioran “A Short History of Decay, pg. 84).

    To live in the human world, is to live through a virtual screen of interpretations and imaginations. We bind ourselves to the world we know by the stories that we tell each other and the minds/cultures that we are wrapped around, existing through; the other story-tellers that exercise their influence upon us. The tree does not tell to us, it cannot tell us stories. It stands inert and rooted. Rather, we tell others about the tree. We form an image of the tree through how we address the tree given our intentions and ways of being toward it. For you and I, although we may both be looking at the same physical object, it will come to life for us in different ways. An environmentalist and a lumberjack see the same tree is a radically different way, or at least, depending on who they are and what their situations are, could do so.

    Moreover, to speak is to lie. That is, it is a telling of how things aren’t. The worlds that we can have are spoken into existence – we live out our words. Through our speech, we are the inventors of the human world. We mind that world through how we come to speak about it. Although, we, too, are matter, we are more than matter: we are consciousness and mind. It is difficult to step back and analyze the life stories that we create, as each stepping back places us in yet another facet of the same story.

    The stories of our lives are woven through the words that we can use and make intelligible to others. Human life is a “standing-out” against matter. And, where does all this lead us?

    If you want to read more E.M. Cioran articles, please see the E.M. Cioran page.

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  • mono 7:18 pm on September 23, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Emil Cioran, , , , Name, , Reputation, The Devil, The Fall into Time,   

    The Beast of Fame – E.M. Cioran: An Explication of “Fame: Hopes and Horrors” (Lesson One) 

    People talk about us and we talk about other people, too. We are, simultaneously, connected and divided by our talk with others. What remains of me after I have a conversation with you is out of my control. Who I become for you is decided by you and through those conversations you have with other people. We arise out of what we do and out of of how we are perceived by self and others. Our name, our own special flavor, slips from our tongues and onto the tongues of others. It is a virus. “Reputation” is that slippery wraith, which we must wrestle with, from which we cannot escape.

    E.M. Cioran, from his essay “Fame: Hopes and Horrors,” writes, “Just as each of us, in order to ‘make a name for himself,’ strives to outstrip the others, similarly in the beginning man must have known the vague desire to eclipse the animals, to affirm himself at their expense, to shine at any price (108).” For Cioran, this tendency toward, what could be called “personal branding” or “reputation” is not a recent phenomenon, but is rooted in our very being, in the everydayness of our “minding” of the world. That is to say, this desire toward recognition and reputation, while perpetually settled in front of our eyes as something as natural as falling snowflakes, comes from a suspect source: the Serpent’s kingdom. Nonetheless, us humans like to shine, to be in the “spotlight,” to be seen, to increase our visibility. More than “like,” we crave it.

    Cioran continues, “Man alone, in the state of nature, wanted to be important, man alone, among the animals, hated anonymity and did his utmost to escape from it. To put himself forward, such was and such remains his dream. It is difficult to believe he has sacrificed Paradise out of a simple desire to know good and evil; on the other hand, it is easy to imagine him risking everything to be Someone (108).” The shift that occurred from selflessness to selfhood, is something that we cannot know, by virtue of our ability to be knowledgeable about the world and about ourself. But, a faint glimmer of selflessness remains, can flourish if nurtured, can, at times, overcome the Beast of Fame.

    To be anonymous in a Web 2.0 world is to not exist, to fall off the map of the social media grid. Take away the technological connections from our life and we are once again in confrontation with the raw presence of ourself and those immediately present to us. Nonetheless, give us a sandbox and we will build profiles, vanity sites, products, commercials, microblogging clients and ten thousand other things. Why? Simply put, to be someone. “Personal branding” involves shifting the focus from the Other to oneself. The network that one chooses to be a part of shapes the image, helps build a sense of self and gives the Other a context from which to form an opinion about someone. Our name itself becomes more than a name, but a brand, a logo, a marketable representation of our greatness, of our strive toward fame.

    “When one cannot save one’s soul, one hopes at least to save one’s name (109).” In our everyday experience, the soul seems to flee from us as we engage in various tasks. That elusive thread follows behind us, throws itself in front of us and projects itself onto us, faint and wispy. The name, on the other hand, is ever present, it is who one is to others (and to oneself). Reputation and name are intimately connected, are two sides of the same coin. The character in the old Western film declares, “Mah good name was a slandered.” In Japan, the family name is the first name you give when introducing yourself. The family name is the larger unit from which you came, to which you are still joined: your most precious circle. In American culture, the first name is one’s skeleton key to a world of unabashed self-creation and individualization. The way of the name may differ from culture to culture, but the value of the name does not. The name is conjoined with the human world, the soul sits between this world and another, the place before birth; it arises from the place of pre-birth.

    On the “mania of reputation,” Cioran concludes, “If this mania were to seize any animal in its grips, however “retarted” that animal might be, it would press forward and catch up with man (109).” Thus far, no other animal has strived for the kind of otherworldly sense of reputation that us humans possess. We are the kings and queens of the imagined world, of the creation of our self and the responsibility to be someone. So, who are you?

    E.M. Cioran – “Fame: Hopes and Horrors” from the book “The Fall Into Time.”

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  • mono 6:48 pm on May 26, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Aleister Crowley, Book of Lies, , , , Earth, Emil Cioran, Improvisation, , , Noise Music, The Trouble with Being Born, , Total Immersion   

    Cioran + Morita + Crowley 

    I found this aphorism by E.M. Cioran and would like to share it with you. It is from his book “The Trouble with Being Born”:

    “To think is to undermine-to undermine oneself. Action involves fewer risks, for it fills the interval between things and ourselves, whereas reflection dangerously widens it.
    …So long as I give myself up to physical exercise, manual labor, I am happy, fulfilled; once I stop, I am seized by dizziness, and I can think of nothing but giving up for good (192).”

    A Moritist Connection

    Surprisingly, we can see a similar line of thought in Morita therapy, which is the call to action, the way of thinking that by blending oneself with one’s actions, the pain and the hurt that one is feeling may temporarily pass, dissolve. I find it odd how difficult it can be sometimes to simply hang up the laundry when it is finished washing. I have been known to re-wash clothes that I simply neglected by leaving them. It is an odd combination of feeling relaxed by the sound of the washing machine and failing to do what needs to be done. How often do we talk ourselves into convenient excuses for failing to live up to our potential. And yet…


    This aphorism leaves me with questions. Is Cioran suggesting that reflection is not a beneficial exercise to self-development? Perhaps he is leading us down the path of someone suffering from an extreme form of unhappiness. The last fragment “and I can think of nothing but giving up for good.” leaves us wondering about the stream of our thoughts and how overwhelming it can be if we let it run its meandering course without recourse to action.


    I have been known to play music and have worked a lot in the style that could be called “noise.” In noise performance and improvisation, I have given myself over to the moment of the action and eradicated the conscious thought process as to what I should do next. Usually, operating through this form of performance, I listen to the recording afterward and am quite pleased with the results. I think that many people who create, whether it be music, fiction, film, art, etc. can relate to this sensation of self-forgetting and total-immersion. In fact, even working a day job can be artfully acted out through total-immersion in the task at hand.

    Perhaps Cioran is calling us to approach that Blank state of minding the world, that Nothingness that rejoins us to the Earth and to the higher levels of existence simultaneously, that state that fills one’s very being when melded to action: the action of doing or non-doing.

    A Crowleyan Connection

    Although I focused on Cioran in this short piece, I would like to end with a quotation from Aleister Crowley‘s “The Book of Lies”, which proves relevant in this context. I have often returned to this passage and have passed it along to friends in need of consolation or encouragement. I hope you find it beneficial to your life situation as well:

    “Practice a thousand times, and it becomes difficult; a thousand thousand, and it becomes easy; a thousand thousand times a thousand thousand, and it is no longer Thou that doeth it, but It that doeth itself through thee. Not until then is that which is done well done. Thus spoke FRATER PERDURABO as he leapt from rock to rock of the moraine without ever casting his eyes upon the ground (74).”

    • Jeff Jefferson 12:46 pm on May 27, 2008 Permalink

      Thank you for the excellent post here, Jamie. Very inspiring to see that interpretation of that particular Cioran aphorism which is similar to my own, as well as these other ways you’ve driven that interpretation through others’ ideas. It inspired a lot of thought for me; my full reply is over at my blog:


      I certainly relate to the idea of “Total-Immersion” that you mention here. It’s something that I strive for in my writing; when I find that kind of immersion in my writing I become delirious with happiness as I pour myself into my work. I love thinking about how other people see me at the coffee shop when I’m that entranced.

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