e m cioran

231 Fight Club

If you watch the movie Fight Club, you would be amazed by the idea that a small crack in one’s life can lead to an full-fledged anarchy. It’s not just capitalism, not just consumerism. It is, mentioned in the film, civilization that Jack (the protagonist) wants to reject (makes me think of Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents). As my taste becomes darker and darker, I am increasingly fascinated by the power of destruction that seems to originate from prolonged sub-optimal life (the life in which you will never say “nothing is better than living”). I want to find out more.

One source is the original novel of Fight Club. Yes, the film was adapted from the novel with the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. A rather short and fragmented novel. Stylish. It feels like E.M.Cioran in action. I have also read his another novel, Haunted, featuring a character, Saint Gut-Free, an abnormally skinny man who lost part of his lower intestine in a masturbation accident. The first story of the novel actually details that masturbation accident, and it is not even among the most thrilling and disturbing stories in the book.

What is the agenda behind all those self-destruction? Is it just a protest against consumerism? Is it even relevant? There is one line in the movie saying (or maybe very similar)

“What you have to consider, is the possibility that God doesn’t like you. Could be, God hates us. This is not the worst thing that can happen.”

The movie never tells what that worst thing is, but the novel gives out some hints.

(Remember, I entertain the notion of God in a broader framework than just Christianity. In fact, I think Christianity makes freely talking about God difficult.)

See this line:

“What you have to understand, is your father was your model for God.”

I think this is probably true even for non-Christian.

“If you’re male and you’re Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your father bails out or dies or is never at home, what do you believe about God?”

Or if your father falls short of a role model. But this really depends. It could be that your mother is your personal god.

“What you end up doing, is you spend your life searching for a father and God.”

OK. But what is the worst thing than God hating you?

“How Tyler saw it was that getting God’s attention for being bad was better than getting no attention at all. Maybe because God’ hate is better than His indifference. … Unless we get God’s attention, we have no hope of damnation or redemption”

“Which is worse, hell or nothing?”

“Only if we’re caught and punished can we be saved.”

God’s Indifference. Indifference! THIS is the answer. You may be surprised to find that this indifference has been treated even in atheist’s framework: the philosophy of Albert Camus. This indifference is a key component of the notion the world is absurd. And the awareness of the absurd can lead to anything…

334 Fragmentary Thoughts

Nietzsche liked to write in fragments, Cioran followed suit. Some people like the style, but others hate it because fragmentary thoughts resist systematic understanding. Examples:

“What do you do from morning to night?”
“I endure myself.”

Having always lived in fear of being surprised by the worst, I have tried in every circumstance to get a head start, flinging myself into misfortune long before it occurs.

— “The Trouble with Being Born”, E.M.Cioran

The following paragraph is a rather self-explanatory account for the merit of fragmentary writing:

In any book governed by the Fragment, truths and whims keep company throughout. How to sift them, to decide which is conviction, which caprice? One proposition, a momentary impulse, precedes or follows another, a life’s companion raised to the dignity of obsession …. It is the reader who must assign the roles, since in more than one instance, the author himself hesitates to take sides. The epigrams constitute a sequence of perplexities — in them we shall find interrogations but no answers. Moreover, what answer could there be? Had there been one, we should know it, to the great detriment of the enthusiast of stupor.

— “Anathema and Admiration”, E.M.Cioran

The purpose of fragmentary writing is interrogating without providing an answer. Among questions that have no answer, the meaning of life is king. I don’t trust any answer to the meaning of life, neither do I accept the notion that this question has even an answer. Can you find any religion which acknowledges that life is pointless, and that suffering is meaningless? That’s why I am not committed to any religion.