IF, LIVING, HE WORE HIS SHROUD

He had the pride never to command or to prescribe anything, anyone. Without subalterns, without masters, he neither gave nor received orders. Excluded from the empire of laws and somehow anterior to good and evil, he never made a living soul suffer. The names of things faded from his memory; he looked without seeing, listened without hearing; scents and savors vanished at the approach of his nostrils, his palate. His senses and his desires were his only slaves: hence they felt, desired nothing. He forgot happiness and misery, thirst and fear; and if he happened to recall them, he scorned to name them and thereby to sink to hope or regret. The merest gesture cost him more efforts than it would cost others to establish or overthrow a kingdom. Born weary of being born, he chose to be a shade; when, then, did he live, and by the transgression of what birth? And if, living, he wore his shroud, by what miracle did he manage to die?

E.M. Cioran, “Epitaph” (from A Short History of Decay)

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