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Despair and Art

I recently read an interesting passage in Emil Cioran’s “On the Heights of Despair,” which is a rather melancholic collection of things Cioran wrote when he was about twenty-two, like me.

I like thought which preserves a whiff of flesh and blood, and I prefer a thousand times an idea rising from sexual tension or nervous depression to an empty abstraction. Haven’t people learned yet that the time of superficial intellectual games is over, that agony is infinitely more important than syllogism, that a cry of despair is more revealing than the most subtle thought, and that tears always have deeper roots than smiles?

On further reflection, I have never known anybody personally who is contented with their life who produces meaningful art of any kind, be it film, literature, or crafts. I can say anecdotally that my negative emotions far outweigh my positive in their strength, except when I feel passionate love or infatuation. As my friend puts it, finding any kind of incongruity in one’s life encourages one to labor to fix it, and perhaps it is an evolutionary adaptation for negative feelings to make one want to labor so hard. Every real artist is always looking to reveal this thing that is responsible for them feeling this particular negative thought . . . although, thus far, Cioran seems to just dance around whatever his problem is.

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