Sunday, 31 August 2014

Ingesting 'till you can no more

The flaw in Cioran’s theory of lyricism? He doesn't account for the inexpressible. He, who considered himself a specialist in matters of death at the age of 20, saw dying possible only through externalization. As if we only died if we were extracted from ourselves. Let the world fall to pieces. Who cares? The self is forever alive. Eternity of the one awaits us if we repudiate the outside.

Cioran’s generalisation is exaggerated, of course, because writing (or lyricism) gives embodiment only to that which contains in itself the potential to be embodied. I eat what's edible. I drink what's drinkable. I breathe what's breathable. I touch what's touchable. And, logically now, I embody what's embody-able. But that's not everything there is in the World. Apart from the expressible, there is that which escapes all forms of human signification – that which doesn’t give a dead rat for our existence and exists in spite of our determination to manufacture meanings. This rest, this indescribable quantity that stands at the edge of signs without giving itself to the power of signification, this rest is what will not be spoiled by writing (if spoiling is what we fear the result of writing will be). It's in this rest that Cioran's theory doesn't hold water. It's exactly here that it fails to fulfil its own prophecy: the promise to give shape to an interior intensity.

A short digression on inelasticity

Cioran would have liked expandable I's; egos like elastic vessels, capable of holding gallons and gallons of consciousness; never to burst. That would have been the ideal for him.

Source: Design Squad Nation
Obviously, the great irony (impossible to overlook) is that Cioran himself produced books. Quite a few of them, in fact. He was the child of his own expressivity, verbose and talented like all the great writers who failed at being saints. But hey, we don't have to do what the priest does. Only what the priest preaches matters. Cioran (son of a priest – here's another irony) did not do what he himself preached. Or preached something that didn't come up in his doing. One of the two. He must have known that what he was professing had a great deal of hypocrisy in it. But truth is no deterrent. It didn't obstruct Cioran’s attempt to imagine the ideal. The Ideal (as in Plato) is a toy we can play with at our heart's content; we won't know if the game we're playing is the right game (we won't even know if what we're playing with is the Ideal!), since nothing can provide us with that confirmation. And so with Cioran: he could afford being a little naughty around the edges, imagining, like Nietzsche, a subjectivity that could transgress the world and become the World.


What would it be like to swallow everything and give nothing back? To ingest without letting out? To eat without excreting. This Cioranian ideal, this accumulation, would make us look very much like writing in its pure form, which consists of a unique storing capacity. We would carry along the baggage of our own consciousness like an archive. The way Borges' Funes carried with him the memory of the entire universe, archived so as to fit inside a single mind. But this is an archive which, sooner or later, will be read, whether we like it or not. Because reading, unfortunately(?), happens regardless of the effort we invest in writing; it happens in spite of us.
How rude! Yet how impossible to avoid!

Source: Fast Company
But let's face it: we are discourteous too. Relying exclusively on our capacity to store is harmfully narcissistic of us. O, how we'd like to enjoy the pleasure of looming large over life! As large as Being itself! But in hoping so we only confirm the true weakness that characterises us: our patronising attitude towards Being ("You, there, you're only what fits inside my brain. You are my neurons.") And also our semiotic mistake of believing that the totality of Being is the totality of us ("There's nothing else out there apart from me. In fact, there's no out-there at all".)

The Outburst

Of course, Cioran's philosophy is centred on the individual. Indeed, when faced with the outside-as-threat, we crave the isolation of our selves, where we can find the peace of mind we lack in the society of others: the peace of our mind. At contact with the complex World we could do pretty well with a mysticism of the simple I. But that's just one way (the simplest and the laziest) of dealing with the problem. The other one (in which writing is an important, if often overlooked, element) is the Outburst. In it, we take an active stance; we attack the complexity we think we're capable of by placing it vis-à-vis Being. Rather than trivialising the World, we trivialise ourselves. It's better this way (because we put ourselves in perspective and we takes away the godly burden weighing down on our shoulders), but also harder (because this relativisation translates as self-criticism, self-examination, and self-chastising).
Walking out of one's carapace comports the obvious risk of death (death which, like a microbe, comes from the outside - always from beyond us). But being out also gives us the chance to contemplate life. And BTW, we're not immortals. Life is progression; Being is Becoming. We live to die; we write to be absorbed by writing.

(Mis)reading and the refusal to write

So writing preserves in the writer an intensity and a joy that's not lost with the output. Proof? We don't always 'get' the writer's intention. We misread because we sometimes don't have a clue as to what has been put into the text. And there's something incredibly fulfilling in not having been understood; in the failure of others to read the writer's text (the text that the writer writes, as well as the text that the writer is). Even when the writer declares to be offended by this lack of understanding he observes in his readers, he is in fact pleased by it. He must be. And if he's not, he should think twice. With ignorance, he preserves intact the special status of being a writer. When you are understood, you can also be imitated, laid bare. Trivialised. But when you're looked at with suspicion and uncertainty, you're still the one who's holding the reins.

Source: Write on Target

Cioran redux

The reason Cioran is so vilified by some is because he doesn't find glory in writers. On the contrary, what he finds in them is weakness. The ones who write are, to him, the ones who want to tell the world they're fucking Claudia Schiffer. They cannot hold the breath of singularity, the subjective intensity that hurts and devastates their minds. They needs outputs. As such, writers are only big mouths. That's what they are. Expressive, wonderful, mesmerising, mind-blowing bigmouths. And when this is the case, writing appears to be an activity in need for literacy. Once out in the open, it needs institutions. It needs institutions as backups. It longs for the regularity of offices, because this regularity is where affirmation takes place. There's an office where the signing of the Mephistophelian pact is certified, and Cioran doesn't want to be a witness to this certification. Painful as it may be, it's better inside oneself than it is out, among office-workers.
But Cioran is onto something I would like to agree with. Writing/expression, once produced, takes writers out of their souls. It takes them out and puts them into a world where conducts are defined by rules. As a response to this legalistic tyranny, creativity turns inwards. It becomes turmoil in the sense of a boiling-up that is not of the world's but of the individual's. The world rejects this tension because the tension is the Truth. So not-writing is really rebellion. Refusing literacy is a pay-back. Any revolution is first and foremost an exercise in illiteracy, since the revolutionary repudiates the taken-for-granted.
In this regard, I want to agree with Cioran. But I don't know if I can keep close to him for long.