Reading the aphorisms and short essays of Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran, I feel as if I’m entering a vortex in which every kind of cherished belief perpetually collapses under its own weight and vanishes, having revealed itself to be an illusion. Cioran’s cognitive and poetic mise en abyme knocks every dogma—even the dogma of not holding to any dogma—off its pedestal.
Cioran has earned the label of a pessimist and a nihilist. Even so, I find an odd comfort in his writings, such as this pithy meditation—with a hiss of regret—on the inherently impermanent nature of thought:
“To conceive the act of thought as a poison bath, the pastime of an elegiac viper.” (Anathemas and Admirations)
Here are a few of Cioran’s aphorisms that I had copied into a daybook some years ago: