Category Archives: philosophy

Emil Cioran: “Unconscious Dogmas”

“Unconscious Dogmas”
from A Short History of Decay by Emil Cioran

          We are in a position to penetrate someone’s mistake, to show him the inanity of his plans and intensions; but how wrest him from his persistence in time, when he conceals a fanaticism as inveterate as his instincts, as old as his prejudices? We bear within us—like an unchallengeable treasure—an amalgam of unworthy beliefs and certitudes. And even the man who manages to rid himself of them, to vanquish them, remains—in the desert of his lucidity—a fanatic still: a fanatic of himself, of his own existence; he has scoured all his obsessions, except for the terrain where they flourish; he has lost all his fixed points, except for the fixity from which they proceed. Life has dogmas more immutable than theology, each existence being anchored in infallibilities which exceed all the lucubrations of madness or of faith. Even the skeptic, in love with his doubts, turns out to be a fanatic of skepticism. Man is the dogmatic being par exellence, and his dogmas are all the deeper when he does not formulate them, when he is unaware of them, and when he follows them.
          We all believe in many more things than we think, we harbor intolerances, we cherish bloody prejudices, and, defending our ideas with extreme means, we travel the world like ambulatory and irrefragable fortresses. Each of us is a supreme dogma to himself, no theology protects its god as we protect our self; and if we assail this self with doubts and call it into question we do so only by a pseudo-elegance of our pride: the case is already won.
          How escape the absolute of oneself? One would have to imagine a being without instincts, without a name, and to whom his own image would be unknown. But everything in the world gives us back our own features; night itself is never dark enough to keep us from being reflected in it. Too present to ourselves, our non-existence before birth and after death influences us only as a notion and only for a few moments, we experience the fever of our duration as an eternity, which falters but which nonetheless remains inexhaustible in its principle.
          The man who does no adore himself is yet to be born. Everything that lives loves itself; if not, what would be the source of the dread which breaks out in the depths and on the surfaces of life? Each of us is, for himself, the one fixed point in the universe. And if someone dies for an idea, it is because it is his idea, and his idea is his life.
          No critique of any kind of reason will waken man from his “dogmatic sleep.” It may shake the unconscious certitudes which abound in his philosophy and substitute more flexible propositions for his rigid affirmations, but how, by a rational procedure, will it manage to shake the creature, huddled over its own dogmas, without bringing about its very death?

Emil Cioran’s perpetual collapse of belief

I construct a form of universe; I believe in it, and it is the universe, which collapses nonetheless under the assault of another certitude or another doubt. The merest illiterate and Aristotle are equally irrefutable—and fragile. The absolute and decrepitude characterize the work ripened for years and the poem dashed off in a moment.
—E. M. Cioran, A Short History of Decay



Camille Martin

Second Gallery: Krewe of St. Anne, Mardi Gras

                                All photos on this page copyright Camille Martin.


        A couple of weeks ago, I posted the first gallery of photographs from the Krewe of St. Anne parade in the French Quarter, Mardi Gras Day 1999. That gallery can be found here.
        I hope you enjoy the second gallery as much as I enjoyed taking the photos.
        May the peace of Frog be with you!

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Connie Deanovich’s Essence of Saint

the poem, then a brief essay

Requirements for a Saint

think of a saint
and you think
of the incredibly dull clothing of a saint
perhaps extreme temperatures
or the difficult terrain they travel
(everything about a saint draws attention to itself)
think of a saint
and your thought is not
of a train thrusting through lightning
but of wind that smells of wood
or a wet disease
(saint world is the world of the empty hand)
breath is sometimes banged out of copper
and so is a saint
often with bell attachments
I’ll make you a saint
from an unblemished code book
that must be read
in a German restaurant
where beer is served in glasses
wrapped in brown leather
when the cuckoo strikes twelve
this will be the moment
of ascension

Connie Deanovich, from Watusi Titanic (New York: Timken, 1996)

        When I think of Connie Deanovich’s “Requirements for a Saint,” I think of chairs—or rather, the chair, the mental image of the one that can reasonably represent the entire category of chairs. I see in my mind’s eye Van Gogh’s straw chair or my idea of a generic dining room chair. Actually, there’s no such thing as a completely generic chair (a visualization has to look like some kind of chair), but rather chairs of our quotidian experience. What I don’t automatically see is a lounge chair, an antique commode chair, or Lily Tomlin’s giant rocking chair. Continue reading