The Saṃsāra Dictionary

by Ştefan Bolea

translation from Romanian by A.C. Clarke and Alina-Olimpia Miron [MTTLC]

Arthur Schopenhauer (b. 22 February 1778, d. 21 September 1860, reborn on 17 November 1944) – German philosopher, famous for The World as Will and Representation, a treaty that aims at solving the issue of Kant’s unknowable noumenon. He was fonder of his poodle than he was of most of his contemporaries. He is among the first philosophers to have advocated animal rights. And that was almost 200 years ago. An inveterate antifeminist as well as a remarkably sensual man. He is the man who introduced the problems of Indian philosophy to the West. He thought Hegel (1770-1831, r. 1913 as a hit-man), the leading philosopher of his day, was a pathetic trickster. After a few hundred years’ dearth of good writing in the discipline, Schopenhauer is the first philosopher to actually write well. Furthermore, he considered music to be the supreme art [and it’s difficult not to agree with him: writing is so indirect, that it’s hard to believe it gets read]. Reborn as Mustafa Maluka, an illiterate stonemason in Morocco. He has led a quiet life, has a mulatto wife and four children. Every time someone has tried to teach him how to read, a suspicious inertia and a pleasant drowsiness has come over him as if he had been sedated. A moderate activist in volunteering to promote women’s rights. He considers his Labrador to be like a human being and can communicate with it. At present he’s retired. Sometimes he has irrational panic attacks in the mosque.

Søren Kierkegaard (b. 5 May 1813, d. 11 November 1855, r. 17 August 1977) – Danish philosopher, famous for being the founder of existentialism. He considered the activity of writing and that of pater familias were incompatible: he broke off his engagement with the beautiful Regine Olsen and dedicated himself to philosophy [some biographers claim he was impotent]. He built existentialism on the ruins of Hegel’s hyper-rationalism which he tenaciously deconstructed. He thought most of his contemporaries who considered themselves Christians were hypocrites [faith is a scandal!]. His father had the impression that his life was under a divine curse (which reverberated from the source) and perhaps he traumatized [or sacrificed] his son with his excess of religious angst, just like in the obsessive story of Abraham. In his youth, Kierkegaard was a Copenhagen dandy, but he died alone and broke. In 20 years of writing, he filled tens of thousands of pages. He is famous for having invented several pseudonyms to write under, who sometimes passionately dispute with each other. Reborn as Thierry Henry, French football striker who has way more fans than the Danish philosopher. He has read 5 books in 35 years, 3 of which have been course-books. Not many people know this, but when he was 21, while playing for Juventus, he had 28 aliases on the Warcraft forum and they were all arguing amongst themselves, some even threatening to expose or stone him. When he signed with Arsenal and his brilliant career began, he had 78 accounts on Utopia and sometimes he attacked himself under cover. The serotonin excess in his sports life has saved him from an over-reflective disposition which would have pushed him towards illness or suicide.

Charles Baudelaire (b. 9 April 1821, d. 31 August 1867, r. 25 July 1982) – probably the first modern poet, highly acclaimed for The Flowers of Evil. During his lifetime he was considered a minor poet. Exceptional activity as a theoretician, art critic and translator (fan of Edgar Allan Poe [1809-1849, r. 1894 as an Indian shaman]). He often frequented brothels and took pleasure in drugs. He died following a year-long agony during which he was aphasic. The accuracy of his thinking could place him amongst the ranks of philosophers, though he’s actually a true ideologist of nihilism and a precursor of psychoanalysis and surrealism. Reborn as Gabriel Tomşa, a gypsy from Bucharest, revered by his people as an authentic religious spirit, despite his youth. Not much can be said about him as he died in the Revolution (d. 25 December 1989): his family considers him a potential Buddha.

Friedrich Nietzsche (b. 15 October 1844, d. 25 August 1900, r. 29 May 1951) – German philosopher and philologist (also poet and composer). His critics consider him either nihilist or anti-nihilist. Famous for declaring the death of God. Precocious genius, university professor at 24. Admirer (and later detractor) of Schopenhauer and Wagner (1813-1883, r. 1955 as an engineer at Chernobyl). He went – in all likelihood – only once to a brothel where he contracted syphilis. A suffering, sickly character obsessed with health [one year he was so sick that he forgot his birthday]. If we study him carefully, we can see how our inferiority complexes can turn into superiority ones. Exceptional poet, at the border between symbolism and expressionism. His contemporanies also claim that he was a skilled pianist with a special genius for improvisation. According to a book website, Thus Spoke Zarathustra ranks as the best philosophy book of all time. Reborn as James McGuire, an Adventist pastor from Alaska. Again, not much can be said about him as he vanished in the Arctic Circle in 1979. [We might find out more after we have studied his next reincarnation, scheduled for 26 March 2013].

Arthur Rimbaud (b. 20 October 1854, d. 10 November 1891, r. 13 August 1990) – French symbolist poet of shocking precocity [next level after Baudelaire] Being too good for writing, he gave it up in order to become a slave trader in Abyssinia. Famous for A Season in Hell, a book that is far in advance of the 19th century. Hooligan, junkie, alcoholic and homosexual. His lover was another famous poet, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896, r. 1971 as a formula 1 pilot). Rimbaud gave up writing at 20: because he wrote with letters of fire which only he could see? because he felt sick that writing meant so little – the activity of a scribe, of a slave? At any rate, his genius and his gesture make writing seem small-minded]. Reborn as Heinrich Krebs, a butcher from Berlin.

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Heinrich got off work and went for a walk through Alexanderplatz at a slow pace. Sometimes the fancy jewellery in the shop windows caught his eye. He looked at the pieces neutrally, out of pure aesthetic curiosity. “Not that I couldn’t afford them, but I just cannot want them…”. Displays of ultramodern toys, with motion sensors and voice activation were another diversion. The shop windows had been arranged for the imminent arrival of Easter and the excess of Easter rabbits, each one more brightly coloured, fluffier (or more robotized) than the last, reminded him of the connection between Jesus and the Hare Club in South Park. Heinrich was in a light-headed, absent-minded, benign mood when he saw on a 67-inch plasma TV scenes from a film with Leonardo DiCaprio in which the latter was sitting in a library, writing like crazy. He had no clue about the plot of the film and because he seldom went to the library, he couldn’t understand why the scene had been so gripping. He continued to watch the movie which had a siren’s seductiveness, urging him, calling him, enticing him. When the DVD had finished, Heinrich was a new man: the movie had raised him to a whole new level of consciousness which he refused to abandon even now, in the subway. Never before had he been this reflective, he whose life was mostly chopping meat, continuing his dialogue with cutlets and joints in his dreams. Usually, for him only meat existed and now his gaze was vacant, vaguely contemplative and prayerful, betraying an intellectual life rather above his usual level. He got off at his stop and headed for his studio apartment in Lichtenberg. He stopped at the petrol station next to his block, splashed his head, face and body with the hose and aimed his lighted Zippo at his head until the flames started to scream.

~~~

Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891, reborn in 1990 as Heinrich Krebs, entered Nirvana on 14 April 2011).

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