I separated myself from philosophy when it was impossible for me to discover at Kant any trace of human weakness or an authentic accent of sadness; at Kant and at all philosophers.
In contrast to music, mysticism, poetry, philosophical activity shows a thin sap and a suspected depth which tempt only shy beings and executioners.
Essentially, the philosophy, as impersonal anxiety and refuge around some anemic ideas, is the appeal of all those who avoid the corrupting exuberance of life.
Almost all philosophers died well; this is the ultimate argument against philosophy. Even the end of Socrates had notihing tragic in it: it was just a misunderstandig, being the end of a teacher. And if Nietzsche collapsed, he paid for his ecstasy of poet and visionary, and not for his reasoning.
We cannot ignore existence because of the explanations; we can only live it, love or hate it, adore it or fear because of it in that alternation of happiness and horror that expresses the rhythm of the being itself, oscillations, dissonances, its bitter or sweet vehemences.
Practicing philosophy is not profitable; it is just honorable. You don’t risk anything as a philosopher: philosophy is a job without destiny, it fills the neutral and free time with bulky thoughts… refractory time to the Old Testament, to Bach as well as to Shakespeare.
Have these thoughts of philosophy ever been at the level of Job’s exclamation of pain ? Can it compare to a fright in Macbeth or the height of a symphony ?
The universe is not discussed; it is expressed. And philosophy doesn’t express it. The real problems start after you’ve gone through or exhausted them, after the last chapter of a huge book in which the final dot is put as a sign of abdication in favor of the Unknown, Unknown in which all our moments are rooted and we must fight against it because it is more immediate, more important than our daily bread.
Here the philosopher leaves us: enemy of disaster, he is quiet and prudent as rationality. And we remain in the fellowship of an old plague, of a poet who knows all the deliriums, and a musician whose sublime goes beyond the sphere of the world.
We begin to really live only at the end of philosophy, on its ruins, when we understand its terrible futility and the fact that it’s a hopeless act to ask for its help, that it is useless.
Emil Cioran, Manual de descompunere
I have never understood the paradoxes of my friend Teofil. He judges all in reverse; in every case where we are accustomed to giving an explanation that we have prepared, without having to worry about being original, Teofil finds an entirely unusual explanation. He’s extravagant in everything, but in matters of morality he’s even absurd.
This so positive science was completely overthrown by Teofil. What is good for everyone, for Teofil is bad and vice versa.
For example, night before I saw him doing something that put me in a big confusion. When I expressed this feeling, Teofil exposed a ridiculous theory about the duty of society to the virtues and vices of man. To see his paradoxical vision…
He argues that virtues are shilds and weapons for human struggle against society, and vices are his weak and vulnerable parts. Thus, my friend concludes, with his twisted spirit, that society doesn’t have to fight man’s vices or encourage his virtues. On the contrary, because man’s virtues are detrimental to the authority that society must exert on man, the vices are useful to society.
What justice is in this theory that society must support its enemies and fight its supporters ?
I confess that after listening to such paradoxes I stop talking, but I must tell you the story that made Teofil expose his strange theory.
I was on the street with my friend when I was back from the office. When we crossed the Mogosoaia Bridge we met two beggars who were there every day. I usually give 50 cents to the beggar on the left; he’s a good man and doesn’t go to bars. The one on the right, the crippled man, a former mechanic whose a saw cut off his hand, is a debauchee. I first gave money to both of them, but since I found out that the crippled man was a depraved one who spent his money on drinks and Royal cigarettes, I only gave money to the bagger on the left.
When I met Teofil, we went the same way. Close to the corner where the beggars were, I took the money out of my pocket and gave them to my good wretch. Teofil simply told me “Forgive !”, grabbed my hand and led me to the beggar on the right side and gave him 50 cents.
That revolted me.
“What ?”, I said. “You gladly give 50 cets to a drunkard, a vicious man, and you don’t give anything to a miserable good man ?”
“Do you know what he’s gonna do with your money ?”
“I know ! He will drink one liter of wine and buy three Royal cigarettes.”
“So. And you give him money ?”
“That’s why I give them to him. It’s my social duty to encourage vices.”
“So”, my friend replied before leaving. “I follow strictly social morality. What is the most important thing in social morality ? Charity ! But for man, isn’t charity also a vice ? I think it’s good for me to be charitable and that I follow the moral Christian two times when I give the alms and encourage the vices of others.”
“But you know it’s not like taht, Teofil… excuse me…”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t stay anymore, no matter how much I would have to encourage you to discuss moral philosophy… I’m waiting for dinner. Goodbye.”
It is impossible to persuade Teofil.
I. L. Caragiale, Paradoxal
Published in “Epoca” in 1896
In the interval between the two world wars there flourished a literary genre which seemed to have been neglected for a long time. Drama, with its capacity to use a local scene as a microcosm of the life and mind of the whole of society, was the genre which could best present man’s worried consciousness in action on the stage voicing his yearning for individual attainment, but during the first two decades of the century American drama had only continued the long established conventional patterns.
However, responding to the inner necessitties and to the experimental symbolic and critical patterns from abroad, it came, in the 1920’s, to involve the intellectual and emotional life as well as the major problems of society, of man and of the world he lived in.
The influience at work in the drama of the twenties were all centred on the subtile analysis of life and man. Expressionism, in the first place – a device developed by nineteenth century painting – held sway with its view that, in order to “express” or to convey the inner significance of his work, the artist must, in his efforts to objectify inner states of mind and emotion, stylize the representation of literal reality.
Secondly, ample use was made of the device of analysing psychological motivations which had already been ilustrated by Henry James in America and by James Joyce in England.
A third feature of new drama was the preference for and adoption of the language of poetic symbolism.
The playwright who did more than anyone else to destroy the stereotypes and to substitute for them an essentially different dramatic imagination along the lines already mentioned was Eugene O’Neill.
Throughout his plays his chief theme was to be the classic predicament of man struggling to understand his place in the universe while the answer to this was to be set forth in his affirmation of love as the basis of existance.
Born in New York City, on October 16, 1888, he was son of an actor who was a famous interpreter of Shakespeare. During his early years he travelled much with his parents from town to town being educated by tutors and in private schools. In 1906 he was sent to Princeton University but left before his first academic year was out, to travel as a seaman aboard a Norwegian freighter to Buenos Aires. During the ensuing voyages he came to know a variety of individuals such as sailors, stevedores, waifs, etc., who were to become his dramatis personae.
In 1912 we find him in a sanatorium affected with tuberculosis. During the six months he spent there he read the classic repertoire of the theatre including the Greeks, the Elizabethans and the most noteworthy among the modern playwrights such as Ibsen, the expressionist Strindberg, etc. His reading experience was to be added late on his experience of life at sea and in the world of the oppresed and the outcast.
In 1916, O’Neill joined the Provincetown Players that began to produce his “one-actres”. This group which side by side with others was to revolutionize the American theatre belonged to the new trend which had been started a year before.
Fidel Garcia – Filled with the Silent
After a series of one-act pieces O’Neill began to write his full-length plays. The first one, Beyond the Horizon, was followed by The Emperor Jones, an expressionist play which tells the story of a giant Negro, Brutus Jones, who becomes an autocratic “emperor” and is finally killed by the tribesmen rebelling against his exploatation. Desire under the Elms is a realistic study of the manners, morals, and psychology of a definite society which serves as the background for the eternal drama of man and his passions.
All God’s Chillum Got Wings as been taken as a contribution in the study of the Negro problem. The climax and triumph of his career is Mourning Becomes Electra, a trilogy imitating Aeschylus’s Orestia. Of his later plays special mention deserves Long Day’s Journey into Night an overwhelming tragedy based on the life of his parents.
Eugene O’Neill was the most daring and successful playwright who embarked upon destroying the rooted convention of the American theatre based on the combining of the Elisabethan tradition and the “well-made” play of O’Neill’s European predecessors.
Fundamentally, his liberation of the theatre was psychological. He enriched the American drama with a remarkable understanding of the new psychology – not simply Freudianism, but a far wider psychology including the analysis of all conscious and subconscious realities.
O’Neill work is free from direct influiences although indirect efects of his aquaintance with the plays of the Norwegian dramatist Ibsen and the Swedish dramatist Strindberg can be seen in his work.
His imagination was so rich that he never respects himself in any of his numerous dramas. Each of them is basically different from the others and each of his plays grows from its own conflict and psychology so that organically it is prefectly constructed.
Like Ibsen and Strindberg he shows preference for expressionism, a device first developed by nineteenth-century painting which allows the artist to stylize or distort the representation of literal reality in order to express better the inner significance of his work.
O’Neill also adopts the language of symbolism and considers that the imagination and emotion of high drama are more nearly those of poetry, than of prose. But in what he completely differs from many of his immediate European predecessors is his faith in the dignity of man which rejects the wiev that man’s destiny is determined by forces quite beyond his control.
Vincent van Gogh – Girl in the Woods
While this philosophy presents an orderly view of the human situation, it does not imply a sanguine one. If pain and action are inseparable, then it follows that the active, creative sensitive man is doomed to suffer. He is the one who knows that desire to express or to avoid grief is the impelling force of life – the pain is the Janus-face of joy; but then he becomes aware of the duality of all value ! He sees that life and action exist in a perpetual tension between opposites, each of which owes its existance to the presence of the other.
The tension is the source of all change and growth, for as night exist only in contrast to day, so night flows eternally into day and day to night again. The life of the race is perpetuated in the flow of natural process from birth to death to birth again. The life of the individual man moves from joy to pain to joy eternally.
SOURCES: Doris V. Falk – Eugene O’Neill and the Tragic Tension
Virgiliu Stefanescu – Eugene O’Neill