Articles, Philosophy

Emil Cioran – “What a torment to be ordinary, a man among men!”

Emil Cioran (1911-1995) was a Romanian philosopher most known for his nihilistic and pessimistic views. Cioran wrote a number of highly acclaimed books including The Trouble with Being Born, On the Heights of Despair, and A Short History of Decay.

Here is a free pdf version of Cioran’s work, The Book of Delusions. Below you will find some especially enlightening quotes from Cioran:

“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?”

“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? Then we could renounce culture and ambitions; we would lose everything and gain nothing; for what is there to be gained from this world?”

“The fact that life has no meaning is a reason to live –moreover, the only one.”

“As far as I am concerned, I resign from humanity. I no longer want to be, nor can still be, a man. 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?”

“A zoologist who observed gorillas in their native habitat was amazed by the uniformity of their life and their vast idleness. Hours and hours without doing anything. Was boredom unknown to them? This is indeed a question raised by a human, a busy ape. Far from fleeing monotony, animals crave it, and what they most dread is to see it end. For it ends, only to be replaced by fear, the cause of all activity. Inaction is divine; yet it is against inaction that man has rebelled. Man alone, in nature, is incapable of enduring monotony, man alone wants something to happen at all costs—something, anything…. Thereby he shows himself unworthy of his ancestor: the need for novelty is the characteristic of an alienated gorilla.”

“I understood the non-sense of every gesture, every effort…I wanted to defend myself against all men, react against their madness, discover its source; I listened and I saw – and I was afraid: afraid of acting for the same reasons or for any reason, of believing in the same phantoms or in any other phantom, of letting myself be intoxicated in the same way or in any other way; afraid, finally, of sharing a common delirium and expiring in a crowd of ecstasies…It is troubling to think that…all sink into lying because they do not suspect the equivalence, in nullity, of pleasures and of truths.