“Cioran’s ‘grain of ataraxy’: boredom, nothingness, and quietism” (James Farrugia)

Antae Journal, Volume 2, Issue 3, University of Malta, 11-2015

Abstract: In reading E.M. Cioran’s œuvre, one is faced with an immediate and unremitting abrasiveness that has its roots with our being born into time. Indeed, the author of The Fall into Time and The Trouble with Being Born thought that it is precisely this accidental and unredeemable temporality, an original sin that results in a life forever situated in cycles of striving and becoming, which is to be exhuastingly apprehended in the experience of boredom: ‘Life is more and less than boredom, though it is in boredom and by boredom that we discern what life is worth.’ Cioran’s pessimism never relents; even his lugubrious friend Samuel Beckett had to keep a distance after finding him ‘too pessimistic’—who else but Cioran could write that ‘leukemia is the garden where God blooms’? Despite this, in Cioran’s often autobiographical, aphoristic and essayistic writings, we find a richly-timbred boredom (ironically so) which gives us incisive observations into a multitude of related concepts and realities. Nothingness, God, silence, mysticism, suffering, and quietism (among others) all feature in Cioran’s writings on boredom, as well as in this paper’s attempt to better situate Cioran’s work with respect to his more famous pessimistic and existentialist relations’s take on the subject, namely Arthur Schopenhauer and Martin Heidegger. In exploring his work on boredom vis-à-vis his specific interest in mysticism, Taoism, nothingness, time and insomnia, this paper aims to show how the failure to attain what Cioran called ‘a grain of ataraxy’, necessarily presupposes a limited set of ‘possibilities’ and ‘prospects’ when faced with the experience of ‘the sensation of the emptiness of existence’ that is boredom (Schopenhauer). [Pdf]