On Pessimism

And it is death, the most intimate dimension of all the living, which separates humanity into two orders so irreducible, so removed from each other, that there is more distance between them than between a vulture and a mole, a star and a starfish.

Emile Cioran: A Short History of Decay

On Pessimism

The central dictum of pessimism is that life is futile, that the universe is indifferent too all our wants and needs – even hostile to every human aspiration; and, that humanity is a “meat puppet” (Ligotti) whose mind is controlled by malevolent forces just below the threshold of awareness. Born into this menagerie of existence humans seek solace in myth, religion, and tribal customs no matter how sophisticated to stay them against the world’s harsh truths. Reality is a nightmare from which none of us shall awaken, and the only hope is none at all; it being but an anchoring fiction to fill our futures with meaningless imaginings of progress and futurial redemption. Bound by determinate forces of unreason humanity has built the cage of reason as a defense against this universe as it is, living out their lives in sublime ignorance and bliss of the dark and bitter truth of a chaotic and inhuman world.

Some would say if this is all true then why continue. The pessimist would say why not end it now and be done with this madness. Yet, being bound by the interminable puzzles of our existence we assume our fictions and trite narratives will save us even from this dark truth. We are sadly mistaken.

Of course the pessimist is rejected outright by all but fellow laborers in the outlands of human imaginings, for humans cannot bare such absolute indifference to their blind faith and will to life. They see in the pessimist an enemy of life and their sublime dreams of salvation and redemption. And as in days of old they would seek to slay the dark harbingers of such hopelessness, and make of them a sacrifice to their unknown futures. The pessimist merely nods that it does not matter either way, life will have its own way with humanity willing or not. There is no defense against the truth of the uncreated.

8 thoughts on “On Pessimism

  1. Somehow there is an inexplicable jauntiness after these realizations. Maybe it comes from reading the reviews with the so-called spoilers and knowing how our human movie will end before it ends. There is nobility in such foreknowledge.

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    • I’ll agree absolutely. Why else use all the power of rhetoric and persuasion, the aesthetic dimension of human existence to even speak of it if there was not an exhilaration in such forbidden knowledge. Spending my whole life in pursuit of linguistic prowess who should I not allow this darkness to be displayed in it stark beauty and terror. The universe does nothing less and so much more… if anything it’s the sublime terror that keeps us going. Another futile effort? Assuredly, and yet it’s the one labor we can still share in this dark world of thought.

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  2. Fatalism is one of the most sublime ways of existence. Simply accepting that there is no salvation in worldly pleasures and in the afterlife. One just is, and that’s enough. No loss, no gain, no endless profits, no endless pursuits. Despair is there waiting, a joker around the corner who wants to cheat you to trade your peace for promise of pleasure and joy. You say no to the joker, and continue living.

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      • Of course. The difference is if one pursues sensory pleasures, and that ultimately leads to suffering, or cultivates spiritual pleasures which lead to enrichment. This is the usual rhetoric, but one must be honest with the effects of each on the individual. If one pursues spiritual pleasures only, he or she is liable to spiritual decadence, boredom etc. This happens to Huysmans’s des Esseintes in “Against Nature.” As Holderlin says in another context, this oppositions which endlessly confront each other need to be surpassed in a more ideal way. For me, it is any form of true communion. Be it filial care, family, friendship, between lovers and so on. One is lucky if he has these things, and miserable if he has not. So, the conclusion is, one must not go into extremes, and cultivate relationships, and both sensual and spiritual pleasures, to a degree. This is the ideal combination, which is not easy to attain. Many things have to fall into place. I am a pessimist because I feel that there is a possibility (ideally) of a good life, but in modern circumstances, like a ship in the storm, it is liable to breaking apart.

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  3. Technological progress is real and provides pragmatic possibilities of escape, at least for those sufficiently initiated to see them. Meat puppets don’t contribute to or give rise to forces that self-organize into a new level of existence and control. Humanity may not make it but that doesn’t need to be the case for its progeny.

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  4. Well reading write-ups like this one provides a form of reality based distraction from the overwhelming fictional constructs to deflect that most of humanity subscribed to.

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