:: Article

Simone de Beauvoir and Emil Cioran: Blackstar 10/1/16

Simone-de-Beauvoir-2

cioran1

Simone de Beauvoir and Emil Cioran take oblique passes on hearing all the Blackstar tracks.

Simone de Beauvoir: The proletariat could plan to massacre the whole ruling class; a fanatic Jew or black could dream of seizing the secret of the atomic bomb and turning all of humanity entirely Jewish or entirely black: but a woman could not even dream of exterminating males. The tie that binds her to her oppressors is unlike any other. The division of the sexes is a biological given, not a moment in human history. Their opposition took shape within an original Mitsein, and she has not broken it. The couple is a fundamental unit with the two halves riveted to each other: terristic of woman: she is the Other at the heart of a whole whose two components are necessary to each other.

Emil Cioran: 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 aesthetic 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?

SB: The fact that we are human beings is infinitely more important than all the peculiarities that distinguish human beings from one another; it is never the given that confers superiorities: ‘virtue’, as the ancients called it, is defined on the level of ‘that which depends on us’.

EC: What do you do from morning to night?

SB: For twenty years it seemed to me that I had been taking part in a game, and that one day, at the stroke of midnight, I would return to the land of shadows. …In a little while, the hands would be pointing to midnight; they would point to midnight tomorrow and the next day, and I would still be here.

EC: Tell me how you want to die, and I’ll tell you who you are.

SB: If I want to define myself, I first have to say, “I am a woman”; all other assertions will arise from this basic truth. A man never begins by positing himself as an individual of a certain sex: that he is a man is obvious. And yet we are told that femininity is in danger; we are exhorted to be women, remain women, become women. It would appear, then, that every female human being is not necessarily a woman; to be so considered she must share in that mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity. Is this attribute something secreted by the ovaries? Or is it Platonic essence, a product of the philosophic imagination? Is a rustling petticoat enough to bring it down to earth?

EC: I have never taken myself for a being. A non-citizen, a marginal type, a nothing who exists only by the excess, by the superabundance of his nothingness.

SB: But this element of failure is a very condition of his life; one can never dream of eliminating it without immediately dreaming of death. This does not mean that one should consent to failure, but rather one must consent to struggle against it without respite.

EC: It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late. 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? A book is a suicide postponed.

SB: Sewers are necessary to guarantee the wholesomeness of palaces, according to the Fathers of the Church. And it has often been remarked that the necessity exists of sacrificing one part of the female sex in order to save the other and prevent worse troubles. One of the arguments in support of slavery, advanced by the American supporters of the institution, was that the Southern whites, being all freed from servile duties, could maintain the most democratic and refined relations among themselves; in the same way, a caste of ‘shameless women’ allows the ‘honest woman’ to be treated with the most chivalrous respect. The prostitute is a scapegoat; man vents his turpitude upon her, and he rejects her. Whether she is put legally under police supervision or works illegally in secret, she is in any case treated as a pariah.

EC: The real, the unique misfortune: to see the light of day. A disaster which dates back to aggressiveness, to the seed of expansion and rage within origins, to the tendency to the worst which first shook them up. Our power resides in our incapacity to know how alone we are.

SB: A woman alone always seems a little unusual; it is not true that men respect women: they respect each other through their women—wives, mistresses, “kept” women; when masculine protection no longer extends over her, woman is disarmed before a superior caste that is aggressive, sneering, or hostile. As an “erotic perversion. Culture must be apprehended through the free movement of a transcendence; the spirit with all its riches must project itself in an empty sky that is its to fill; but if a thousand fine bonds tie it to the earth, its surge is broken. The girl today can certainly go out alone, stroll in the Tuileries; but I have already said how hostile the street is: eyes everywhere, hands waiting: if she wanders absentmindedly, her thoughts elsewhere, if she lights a cigarette in a cafe, if she goes to the cinema alone, an unpleasant incident can quickly occur; she must inspire respect by the way she dresses and behaves: this concern rivets her to the ground and self. “Her wings are clipped.” At eighteen, T.E. Lawrence went on a grand tour through France by bicycle; a young girl would never be permitted to take on such an adventure…Yet such experiences have an inestimable impact: this is how an individual in the headiness of freedom and discovery learns to look at the entire world as his fief…The girl may feel alone within the world: she never stands up in front of it, unique and sovereign

EC: I am like a broken puppet whose eyes have fallen inside.

SB: Some men, instead of building their existence upon the indefinite unfolding of time, propose to assert it in its eternal aspect & to achieve it as an absolute. They hope, thereby, to surmount the ambiguity of their condition. Thus, many intellectuals seek their salvation in either critical thought or creative activity.

EC: But where is the antidote for lucid despair, perfectly articulated, proud, and sure? All of us are miserable, but how many know it? The consciousness of misery is too serious a disease to figure in an arithmetic of agonies or in the catalogues of the Incurable. It belittles the prestige of hell, and converts the slaughterhouses of time into idylls. What sin have you committed to be born, what crime to exist? Your suffering like your fate is without motive. To suffer, truly to suffer, is to accept the invasion of ills without the excuse of causality, as a favor of demented nature, as a negative miracle.

SB: Art reveals the transitory as an absolute; and as the transitory existence is perpetuated through the centuries, art too, through the centuries, must perpetuate this never-to-be-finished revelation. Thus, the constructive activities of man take a valid meaning only when they are assumed as a movement toward freedom; and reciprocally, one sees that such a movement is concrete: discoveries, inventions, industries, culture, painting, and books people the world concretely and open possibilities to men.

EC: I have decided not to oppose anyone ever again, since I have noticed that I always end by resembling my latest enemy. Espousing the melancholy of ancient symbols, I would have freed myself.

SB: Vengeance is pointless, but certain men do not have a place in the world we sought to construct.

EC: I have recommended you the dignity of skepticism: yet here I am, prowling around the Absolute. Technique of contradiction? Remember, rather, what Flaubert said: “I am a mystic and I believe in nothing”. The tired intellectual sums up the deformities and the vices of a world adrift. He does not act, he suffers; if he favors the notion of tolerance, he does not find in it the stimulant he needs. Tyranny furnishes that, as do the doctrines of which it is the outcome. If he is the first of its victims, he will not complain: only the strength that grinds him into the dust seduces him.

SB: When an individual or a group of individuals is kept in a situation of inferiority, the fact is that he or they are inferior. But the scope of the verb to be must be understood; bad faith means giving it a substantive value, when in fact it has the sense of the Hegelian dynamic: to be is to have become, to have been made as one manifests oneself. Yes, women in general are today inferior to men; that is, their situation provides them with fewer possibilities: the question is whether this state of affairs must be perpetuated. What do you believe in?

EC: There are people to whom gain is unimportant, who are hopelessly unhappy and lonely. You?

SB: People’s sufferings, and the fact that it is abominable. One should do everything to abolish it. To tell you the truth, nothing else seems to me of any importance.

EC: The moments of refinement conceal a death-principle: nothing is more fragile than subtlety. The abuse of it leads to the catechisms, an end to dialectical games, the collapse of an intellect which instinct no longer assists. The ancient philosophy, trapped in its scruples, had in spite of itself opened the way to the artlessness of the lower depths; religious sects pullulated; the schools gave way to the cults. An analogous defeat threatens us: already the ideologies are rampant, the degraded mythologies which will reduce and annihilate us. We shall not be able to sustain the ceremony of our contradictions much longer. Many are prepared to venerate any idol, to serve any truth, so long as one and the other be imposed upon them, so long as they need not make the effort to choose their shame or their disaster.

SB: Women’s actions have never been more than symbolic agitation; they have won only what men have been willing to concede to them; they have taken nothing; they have received. It is that they lack the concrete means to organize themselves into a unit that could posit itself in opposition. They have no past, no history, no religion of their own; and unlike the proletariat, they have no solidarity of labor or interests; they even lack their own space that makes communities of American blacks, the Jews in ghettos, or the workers in Saint-Denis or Renault factories. They live dispersed among men, tied by homes, work, economic interests, and social conditions to certain men—fathers or husbands—more closely than to other women. As bourgeois women, they are in solidarity with bourgeois men and not with women proletarians; as white women, they are in solidarity with white men and not with black women.

EC: Without the idea of suicide I would have surely killed myself.

SB: Tragedies are all right for a while: you are concerned, you are curious, you feel good. And then it gets repetitive, it doesn’t advance, it grows dreadfully boring: it is so very boring, even for me.

EC: I dream of a world where one could die for a comma.

SB: It is a mistake to seek in fantasies the key to concrete behaviour; for fantasies are created and cherished as fantasies. The little girl who dreams of violation with mingled horror and acquiescence does not really wish to be violated and if such a thing should happen it would be a hateful calamity. The fact is that a true human privilege is based upon the anatomical privilege only in virtue of the total situation. Modern woman is everywhere permitted to regard her body as capital for exploitation.

EC: I’m simply an accident. Why take it all so seriously?

SB: If the feminine issue is so absurd, it is because the male’s arrogance made it a discussion.

EC: In every man sleeps a prophet, and when he wakes there is a little more evil in the world. Sometimes I wish I were a cannibal – less for the pleasure of eating someone than for the pleasure of vomiting him.

SB: People seem to think that if you keep your head empty you automatically fill your balls. Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.

EC: I cannot contribute anything to this world because I only have one method: agony. The same feeling of not belonging, of futility, wherever I go: I pretend interest in what matters nothing to me, I bestir myself mechanically or out of charity, without ever being caught up, without ever being somewhere. What attracts me is elsewhere, and I don’t know where that elsewhere is.

SB: The word love has by no means the same sense for both sexes, and this is one cause of the serious misunderstandings that divide them. Because we are separated everything separates us, even our efforts to join each other. Today, however, we are having a hard time living because we are so bent on outwitting death.

EC: Shame on the man who goes to his grave escorted by the miserable hopes that have kept him alive.

SB: But all success cloaks a surrender…

IMG_4063

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Marshall is still biding his time.

Buy his book here to keep him biding!

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, January 16th, 2016.