Saturday, September 25, 2010
Sieur de Montaigne, inventor of the essay that we work so hard at writing
The best writing is the best researched-- otherwise what can you contribute with your own awkward scrawls...At least, so I tell myself
Ordinarily, I research all my material--who had said in print what you now say, long before you, and probably better.
But I find I'm more like that ancient noble Frog, Montaigne. He wasn't up to too much research: "How can you square the circle when you're perched atop your wife?"
Saucy fellow....And way before Shakespeare.
The French are somehow superior, and they know it
Who else, in about 1550, could come up with a line like, "My stomach rumbled today...And that made me think of..."
Well, my stomach is rumbling today. Too heavy on the dumpster stew....Hey, I found a filet mignon not yet stale dated in the dumpster...Don't knock it if you haven't tried it!
....But I think it was that stale-dated tomato that is giving the old tum the rumbles. Shouldn't have had it raw, no matter how often I'd washed it. Shouldn't have had that salad with the tomato in it without parboiling it first....Gad, I think of Mexico. You had to practically parboil everything. And still, you wife would get tourista.
My stomach is rumbling today. One of my students insists that all my philosophy come from my rumbling stomach. A thought, a concept an idea...Nah, just the filet digesting.
I hope to feel more together and brilliant soon.
But not as brilliant as Montaigne. His stomach rumbled too, but that rumble came down the centuries.
Consider this observation on philosophy at it applies to teaching children. How does Montaigne compare to today's teachers, who blab, "Give my your input and I'll give you my feedback, or "What's your PTR?"
Since philosophy is the art which teaches us how to live, and since children need to learn it as much as we do at other ages, why do we not instruct them in it? ... But in truth I know nothing about education except this: that the greatest and the most important difficulty known to human learning seems to lie in that area which treats how to bring up children and how to educate them.
In his commerce with men I mean him to include - and that principally- those who live only in the memory of books. By means of history he will frequent those great souls of former years. If you want it to be so, history can be a waste of time; it can also be, if you want it to be so, a study bearing fruit beyond price. (Michel de Montaigne)
Myself, I would add, Hip is self destructive. Smart is timeless.
But Montaigne also had a mischievous, almost H. L. Mencken side. He writes, way back in the sixteenth century:
Here in my town, I pay to have my books printed. But all through France people pay money to read me.
Lord, have things changed for some of us in the last four hundred years?
I have printed some novels at my own expense. Now some professors from out of Edmonton, Alberta, want to pay me. Also India.
Ah, Sieur de Montaigne. Inventor of the essay.
Is that what I have been doing for the past fifty years? Writing the essay which somebody had already done, and done better?
I've got to give this some thought. I live in Canada, which was really founded at about the time of Montaigne (never mind the Anglos who say, officially that Canada was started in 1867. Canada is half a millenium old, if you count John Cabot and then Champlain.
I think as a non purloin, I am starting to learn.
We might have Shakespeare, but the frogs had Montaigne.
And even Balzac, the Shakespeare of the novel
Ah the melding of two cultures.
I think I am finally starting to get it.
...But I was sort of schizophrenic in the first place. :)