The Trouble With Being Born

From Richard Howard’s 1976 translation of E.M. Cioran’s The Trouble with Being Born:

Tsimtsum. This silly-sounding word designates a major concept of the Cabbala. For the world to exist, God, who was everything and everywhere, consented to shrink, to leave a vacant space not inhabited by Himself: it is in this “hole” that the world occurred.

Thus we occupy the wasteland He conceded to us out of pity or whim. For us to exist, He contracted, He limited His sovereignty. We are the product of His voluntary reduction, of His effacement, of His partial absence. In His madness He has actually amputated Himself for us. If only He had had the good sense and the good taste to remain whole! (119)

My life is the embodiment of man’s estrangement from God. Sin is not merely an act, but a state of being in the world. My worldly possession—the world as my possessor—creates a spiritual wound. My being-in-the-world longs to reunite with God in the neither-here-nor-there, but as long as I am, I will never reach Him. This doesn’t preclude me from trying, hence my obsession with madness.

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