Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eat the Fish; Pick out the Bones

I suppose I came down a bit hard on Michel de Montaigne in my recent post. I understand there are people out there who carry Essays around with them as a manual for living. There's some good stuff in Essays too. The accusing-women-for-having-shallow-love-for-their-children part is relatively short.

You don't need to dread reading Essays. It's pretty easy to follow. Montaigne speaks informally. You feel like you're having a conversation with your rich, quirky uncle (although I don't think Montaigne would have imagined that his conversation would include women -- esp. a nursing peasant like me -- ha!)

You know -- your rich, quirky uncle who happens to live in a chateau --
File:St Michel de Montaigne Château01.jpg
Chateau de Montaigne

You listen, sip your tea, and occasionally nod politely -- but dear Uncle can be long-winded and as he rambles on about how his book "means more to him than any flesh and blood son ever could", your eyes start to cross.

Last night, as I was reading Essays something stood out to me that made me soften a little toward Montaigne: he recognized his own ignorance. Now that I think about it, he really was not one to gloss over his faults. He was also indecisive; just when he is about to make a point, he changes his mind. His amiable tone, his frankness, and the fun-facts about antiquity which he often sprinkles in, are what keep me reading.

What have I learned so far on my quest?

St. Augustine showed me the restorative power of confession, the exaltation of the lowly, the immense wisdom and grace available to a yielded heart.

Margery Kempe showed me that if a person has a distinct vision and enough passion, she can accomplish her dream -- even if she is an illiterate, emotionally unstable woman with fourteen children.

Maybe the lesson from Montaigne is this: it's OK to choose a topic you know very little about and prattle on about it. You can even change your mind midstream and go the opposite direction. Above all, assume that everyone in the world cares about what you think.

Isn't that what we bloggers do every day?


  1. Love this. Montaigne - the father of blogging!

  2. I'm feeling less intimidated by the autobiographies by the minute. Confession, tons of children, talking out of ignorance? Maybe I'll write my own.


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