Essay: Montaigne How to Live

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[. . .] I know that I have, but then again, I am a misanthrope by nature and a loner.

Montaigne distrusted academics and abstractions and so do I, since I think many of them spend their time babbling nonsense just to make a living, and some would sell their souls to the Devil for a grant or tenure or a government contract. Montaigne wrote in a plain style that anyone could understand rather than a scholarly one, and preferred moderation and the private life. He agreed with Aristotle and the Stoics in saying that "I like temperate and moderate natures," and even praised mediocrity as greatness. Since I am a fairly mediocre person, just like all the other dull normal out there, I can definitely appreciate being told that true greatness is found at the mean with other average types. I have always districted stars, celebrities and elites of various kinds, including star athletes and Olympic winners who go on to sell me cereal and tries on TV. I think we also have especially good reason to distrust all the big shots and stars on Wall Street and among the capitalists in general who have left the economy in this condition. Basically they sold a bill of goods to the ordinary suckers, and as usual most of them bought it. Too bad, so sad for them, because now most of them have lost everything while a few people at the top are laughing all the way to the bank.

You know it and I know it, and a blind person could see it -- not that anyone is really going to do anything about it.

I am not a masochist myself and neither was Montaigne, nor was he a sadist who enjoyed all the pain and suffering that he say around him every day. As he said, only the insane part of human beings loved "pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings" (Bakewell Chapter 11). That is the type of thing that Hitler and his followers would have wanted to do, and they gave it the old college try at any rate, leaving 50-60 million dead. All those religious wars, civil wars and witch hunts of Montaigne's time racked up quite a body count as well. Obviously only the fanatics and crazies would enjoy living in that kind of world, but we have plenty who believe that God wants them to blow up everyone who dares to disagree with them. Montaigne distrusted ambition or extremism of any kind, and even claimed to be lazy, which is something I agree with as well -- and so should you. Most people only spend their lives working to make others rich, and in that sense we are still no better off than the masses of serfs, peasants and slaves in Montaigne's world. We are just being paid some chicken feed called wages, tips and salaries, but we are still slaves to the upper class. To be sure, Montaigne was an upper class, aristocratic type, too, so I wouldn't expect him to be too hard on himself in his writings.

If Montaigne had a model society at all, it was that of the Native American tribes, who lived happily without money, books, politics, slavery or poverty. This was the world of tribal simplicity and equality in contrast to the rigid distinctions of birth, class and caste that were common in Europe, where the majority of people were poor, oppressed and hungry. I'm not sure how happy I'd be living in a tribe like that, having to hunt and gather food, taking a bath in the river and having no central heating, air conditioning and indoor plumbing. On the surface it sounds like freedom, not having to work for The Man every day, putting up with crap from stupid customers, paying taxes to The Man on so on, but that's the price we pay to live in a place with air conditioning. Then again look at what happened to those tribes when they ran into people with guns and unknown germs. It wasn't a pretty picture, and even today their descendants are still slaves.

All right, so here I am, just another mediocrity and wage slave, playing around on the Internet, and there's not much I can do about it except sign some petitions to The Man once in a while -- not that he's listening. I can see why Montaigne didn't like religious fanatics, torturers and people who wanted to blow up the world -- not that I'd miss it very much if it was blown up tomorrow -- but beyond that there's not much else left to do except… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Montaigne How to Live."  Essaytown.com.  May 5, 2012.  Accessed April 20, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/montaigne-live-dear/3788841.