May 12, 2023
Thanks to Ally Zlatar, a 2023 Fellow in Ideas, for today’s post.
Emil Cioran’s The Trouble with Being Born is a collection of philosophical essays that takes the reader on a journey into the darkest depths of human existence. The book is a masterpiece of alternative writing style, which is a refreshing break from the dry, academic tone that dominates much of contemporary philosophy. Cioran’s work is a testament to the power of language, and the importance of experimenting with form and structure in order to convey complex ideas in a way that is both accessible and engaging.
Cioran’s writing style is characterized by its poetic, aphoristic quality. His prose is dense, evocative, and full of startling insights that leave the reader reeling. He is a master of the one-liner, and his sentences pack a punch that is both philosophical and emotional. This style of writing is a breath of fresh air in a field that can often feel overly cerebral and inaccessible. One of the great strengths of The Trouble with Being Born is its willingness to grapple with the big questions of human existence. Cioran is unflinching in his exploration of the darker side of the human experience. He examines the nature of despair, the inevitability of suffering, and the futility of existence itself. His writing is raw, honest, and deeply personal. He speaks directly to the reader, inviting them to join him in the depths of his own existential crisis.
However, while Cioran’s writing is undeniably powerful, it is not without its flaws. One of the main criticisms of the book is its apparent nihilism. Cioran’s relentless focus on the negative aspects of human existence can be overwhelming, and his rejection of any kind of meaning or purpose in life can be deeply disheartening. While it is true that life is full of suffering and that death is inevitable, it is important to remember that there is also beauty, joy, and love in the world. Cioran’s refusal to acknowledge this can be seen as a kind of intellectual cowardice, a refusal to engage with the full complexity of the human experience. Moreover, Cioran’s writing can sometimes come across as elitist and exclusionary. His focus on the individual experience can be seen as a rejection of community and social responsibility. His writing is often characterized by a sense of superiority, a belief that he has somehow transcended the common lot of humanity. While it is true that each of us must grapple with our own existential crisis, it is also true that we are all in this together. We are all born into a world that is full of suffering and uncertainty, and we must work together to make the best of it.
Despite these criticisms, The Trouble with Being Born is an important and valuable work that deserves to be read and studied. Cioran’s writing style is a reminder of the importance of experimentation and innovation in philosophy. His willingness to engage with the darker aspects of human existence is a necessary corrective to the overly optimistic and naïve perspectives that dominate much of contemporary thought. And his rejection of the idea of meaning and purpose in life is a reminder that we must make our own meaning, that we must create our own purpose in a world that is often cruel and unforgiving.
In many ways, Cioran’s work is more relevant today than ever before. In a world that is increasingly characterized by uncertainty and upheaval, his writing serves as a powerful reminder of the fragility and precariousness of human existence. It is a reminder that we must cherish the beauty and goodness in the world, even as we acknowledge the darkness and suffering. And it is a reminder that we must work together, that we must support and care for one another, if we are to make it through the challenges that lie ahead.
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