Merry Wanderer of the Night + TIME

Montaigne Mondays: Week Three

The Montaigne Readalong is a year long project in which I try to read over 1,000 pages of Montaigne's essays. Every Monday I write about the essays I read for the week. You can share your thoughts or join the readalong if you'd like, just check the Montaigne Readalong schedule. You can read several of these essays for free on Google Books or subscribe to Montaigne's essays on Daily Lit.

Note: I'm posting this on Thursday rather than Monday because I was participating in a giveaway hop on Monday.

Essays Read this Week:
1. That the taste of good and evil things depends in large part on the opinion we have of them
2. One is punished for stubbornly defending a fort without good reason
3. On punishing cowardice
4. The doings of certain ambassadors

Favorite Quotations:
"... that it is with pain as with precious stones which take on brighter or duller hues depending on the foil in which they are set: pain only occupies as much space as we make for her" (The taste of good and evil things depends on our opinion).

"The man who is happy is not he who is believed to be so but he who believes he is so: in that way alone does belief endow itself with true reality" (The taste of good and evil things depends on our opinion).

General Thoughts:
The longest essay I read was That the taste of good and evil things depends in large part on the opinion we have of them, which is probably why I have the most to say about it. Montaigne spends quite a bit of this essay talking about pain and death, which was attractive to me this week because I have thumb injury causing quite a bit of pain. He says the most painful part of death is not death itself, but the time we spend thinking about it. Death, he says, is actually the release from pain. This basic principle can be moved to other parts of life though. For example, I spend a lot of time thinking about writing my papers, but once I finish the paper I find it's actual quite painless and relieving. If I would just quit thinking about the paper and write it I could save myself a lot of pain and misery.

I really liked the second quotation I posted from this essay though. It seems like the more negative energy you put out, the more you find yourself in a negative state of being. If you believe you are happy and put out positive energy, good things will come to you. This isn't always true, but I think there is something to be said for it. I've recently been dwelling in negatives so it seems like a lot of negative things have happened to me. In reality as many positive things have happened as negative, it's just easier to focus on the negative for some reason.

I did tsk tsk about halfway through this essay when Montaigne talks about how crazy women are for putting themselves through the pains of corsets and other crazier things (flaying themselves alive to have a fresh color in their skin?) just to become beautiful. Clearly Montaigne lived during a different time, but he doesn't acknowledge why women were driven to do these things, probably because no one thought about it much. But that is a story for another day...

Over the course of One is punished for stubbornly defending a fort without a good reason and On punishing cowardice I felt like Montaigne was relying on Nature to explain new human values. He talks about how humans are going against Nature because of new technology and broken traditions, and what this means for humans. Just funny that this argument continues to go on today.

From The doings of certain ambassadors I came away loving the first idea of the essay. He says when he meets other people he tries to bring the conversation back to the subject each person knows best. I thought this was a great idea and one I should observe more frequently.

1. Do you believe that having a negative/positive attitude changes the way you feel about yourself or your life? Do you think you can apply "positive spin" to your own reality?
2. What subject are you an expert on? What would others want you to talk about?

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Montaigne Mondays: Week Three + TIME