The Intense Life: An Ethical Ideal

As a morally perfect, the extreme outlook of the libertine or the romantic could nevertheless be against the non-severe. However, when intensity has become an ethical best for all, even what changed at least severe started to be experienced, perceived, and represented in an electrifying fashion. Even a feeble man or woman should exist strongly. For a long term, the proper depth was bolstered by its competition to figures epitomizing the negation of critical depth. The libertine, the romantic, the electric adolescents braved social norms and challenged pillars of the established order, including the priest, the Justice of the Peace, or the professor.

These establishment figures, serving as foils to the acute individual, have been frequently the butt of satire in the margins of reputable tradition, inside the poems of Bohemian society or the fantasies of the Cercle des Poètes Zutiques.1 They had been fodder for the tracts, pamphlets, and insolent manifestoes of Russian or German avant-gardes, surrealism, and situationism. Visceral competition to the non-depth of the social order became the engine of the daring avant-gardist spirit. Artists and revolutionaries excoriated the predictable life that turned into not grounded in the elemental depth of the world.

As long as they remained attached to specific ethical content, the acute person should locate something profitable, besides the ennui of people who are not absolutely alive. To be more precise, even this ennui will be of interest, supplied it become strongly felt, a sort of appropriate ennui, the excellent neurasthenia of a Bartleby or Oblomov, the idleness portrayed via the aesthetics of “incommunicability” of the 1960s, in the novels of Moravia or the films of Antonioni.

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The opposite of the acute person is not often a life of low depth, for such revel in can give upward thrust to an excessive transmutation, via an alchemy characteristic of modernity, reworking weak into sturdy, small into large, the existential void into aesthetic depth, and idleness into an oeuvre. No, the opposite of the acute individual is above all of the dimly feeble, that is to mention the average—the tepid individual.

In enthusiasts’ poetic or political discourse, tepidity is absolutely usually taken into consideration as unworthy. Often, the language of joyous exaltation is reserved for the ones on our facet. To describe our worst enemies, we draw on an abusive, however lively vocabulary. Yet best terms expressing disgust and disgrace are used to label people who no longer choose, who’re a little bit of the whole thing but not anything very intensely. “What is one to make of the paucity of choice, the paucity of convictions and appetites that outline tepidity,” Philippe Garnier asks in his essay La Tiédeur. The tepid is likewise impartial.

Intense Life

Scorned for his lack of engagement, a byword for cowardice, the person perched midstream keeps affinities with all of us, expecting records to determine. An ability traitor to all facets, the neutral evades contradictions. The neutral consequently pretend no longer to be charged with a high intensity towards both aspects. Discharged, it isn’t always natural but low electricity. It is what it is in a mediocre style.

Far from embodying the area mediocrity (the “center floor”) celebrated by way of the Latin poet Horace, mediocrity has come to designate in cutting-edge poetry, novels, and movies the irremediable flaw of an average guy, the “flat” man or women. A high depth of something, consisting of suffering, is better than a mediocre fact, splendor, or life.

Perhaps this conviction is a remnant of an aristocratic ethic in democratic instances: one does not judge the substance of behavior, as an alternative preferring to intensify the distinction of its fashion and to assess its depth. True nobility is living in the manner, no longer the call. Whether a fascist, a revolutionary, a conservative, a petty-bourgeois, a dandy, an amazing guy, a crook, or a gangster, be it with panache. What topics aren’t always to be the extreme man or women, but to be who you are with intensity. The time period has taken a democratic flip.

Thus, the appropriate depth is capacious enough to wrap itself around its opposite. More and more frequently, triteness, neutrality, and depression are rendered with uncommon pressure. In this example, the extreme character duly acknowledges the ability fee of mediocrity. Separate mediocrity from the lackluster and triteness from the uninspired, and each can become stimulating reviews.

Houellebecq’s first novels provide an amazing instance. Modernity has cherished effective evocations of existential weariness, stupid moments, low-intensity emotions, beliefs, and thoughts. Captivating bills that probe the mystery of the normal existence and the emotional profundity of existences—regularly mistakenly study surfaces reminiscent of still water—can be observed inside the novellas of Chekhov, Carver, or Munro.

As literature advanced into zones previously solid into the darkness of democratic regular life, the whole thing that had proved proof against depth henceforth fell under its sway. Ennui, mediocrity, and provincial lifestyles had been enlivened by a form of aesthetic strength, a drab flamboyance, the seeds for which have been planted in Flaubert’s novels.

What becomes left to withstand this aesthetic intensity? The social incarnation of the middling mediocrity. The name was given to this incarnation—the bourgeois—substantially exercised the current mind. “Mediocrity is bourgeois,” Simone de Beauvoir wrote in her Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter. All individuals who, for extra than a century, desperately preferred intensity in life and idea hated this intermediate social elegance, which became neither the aristocracy—the custodian of the beyond—nor the proletariat to which the future seemed to belong.

There is not any worse insult to trendy individuals than being known as a bourgeois. What does it mean? It means you’re without intensity. As Honoré Daumier’s caricature depicting the French king Louis-Philippe as a pear intimated, to be bourgeois is to be languid. Pleased with himself, the bourgeois eats whilst he’s hungry and not best then. Flaubert immortalized him inside the parent of Homais, Rimbaud’s sarcasm took intention at him, and the young humans in Jacques Brel’s songs insult him (“the bourgeois are like pigs”).

He is “a young man of approach, a botanist, potbellied,” Verlaine writes in an amusing verse of “Monsieur Prudhomme.” From Borel, Baudelaire, Daumier, and Courbet to Bob Dylan (think of the figure of Mr. Jones in “Ballad of a Thin Man”), the bourgeois is the person who passively resists the intensification in their senses. Sitting within the mild in their dwelling room lamp, their internal life is anything.

They are well mounted, settled, married, their life course charted earlier. They are worried about material safety, endowed with a slender and formatted thought, appreciative of affection—but inside limits—and understand what they need to about science. Calculating and business-savvy, they may be a stabilizing force in society. Yet the bourgeois turned into additionally the ultimate to put up social resistance against moral intensity. This resistance sarcastically allowed depth to persist.

Faced with bourgeois adversity, the idea of dwelling intensely retained a transgressive and electrifying meaning. Even extra so than the priest or the pontificating truth seeker, the bourgeois absolutely represented the final antipode of depth. The bourgeois would be a person of neither danger nor wagers, a stranger to thrills unless they were assured of their protection. Gentrification designates the chance for the thoughts of a lack of dangers: “The annihilation inside the soul of all transcendent anguish paves the manner for bourgeois banality,” Nikolai Berdyaev wrote in 1934 in The Fate of Man inside the Modern Age.