Notes on Weirdness: Vertigo

Gravity is the force against which all firm things and intransigent principles are measured. Or so people say. I wish they were right; I know they are wrong. From my earliest days until I was seventeen, I lived in fear of the suspension of gravity. It could go in an instant. For no reason. Suddenly my sense of a relation of attachment to the ground or to any horizon would disappear. I’d crumple, curl up, and clutch my head. My self-perception would zoom out to include the available space — the room, the sky, the galaxy — in which I perceived myself to be an infinitely tiny and ungrounded mite. No considerations of propriety or self-preservation could stop me. In the street, in a classroom, in the car, in a bed: my sense of gravity would fail and I would fall. Vertigo they called it. I called it feeling dizzy.

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Cioran: The Ex-fanatic

Emil Cioran is my favorite among the small group of fascists whose brilliance or historical importance constrains one to read them despite everything. He’s not as good a philosopher as Carl Schmitt or Martin Heidegger, but he’s an infinitely superior writer.

Like many other ex-fascists, Cioran appears to have been too proud to make an honest admission like this: I endorsed Hitler and promoted Romania’s Iron Guard; I praised bloodshed as an intensification of life and indulged in racial mysticism; I contributed by my writing to the greatest moral catastrophe of the 20th century. Instead, he liked to regret his youthful “ravings,” taking the position that what was so bad about his fascist views was the sincerity or passion with which he expressed them. That’s just worming cowardice. And he liked to spin his disillusion with fascism into a general lesson about the dangers of “utopia” in general. Nonsense. To dilute the specificity of your own crimes by loudly regretting they belonged to a category that includes less egregious things is the counterpart to guilt by association: it’s pardon by association, and it’s just as fallacious.

Cioran dealt with his youthful fascism not by explicitly denouncing it (he seems to have been ashamed of his past to the point of silence, though it caught up with him in his second life, when somewhat against his will he became famous as a writer in French), but by inscribing a bloody circle of thorny aphorisms around it. “I am an idolater of doubt, a doubter in eruption, a fanatic without creed, a hero of fluctuation.”

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