Saturday, February 12, 2005

More Montaigne Hodge-Podge Goodness

The Montaigne essay hodge podge continues! That Our Deeds are Judged by the Intention The editor's note for this one reveals that it was one of the last essays Montaigne wrote before he died. What I want to know then is why they editor placed it as the seventh essay in book one? Shouldn't it be, you know, in book three as one of the last essays? Why do editor's do stuff like this? Anyway, the essay is only one and a half pages long and ends with Montaigne declaring, "If I can, I will prevent my death from saying anything not first said by my life." I like that thought. Montaigne reaches that conclusion because he spent the previous paragraphs musing over people who have done bad things after they have died. Like, for instance, King Henry VII who had gotten Don Felipe (son of Emperor Maximilian and father of Emperor Charles V) to hand over Henry's enemy the Duke of Suffolk with the promise that Henry would not harm him. Not long after, Henry died but in his will he ordered his son to kill the Duke, which he did. A nasty trick. You don't have to be a king or a duke to get the shaft, and to save your hatred until you're dead to be revealed in your will. Not a nice thing to do. So while you're alive be sure to tell anyone who might be expecting a piece of your pie when you die, "Oh by the way, that vase you always hated, I'm leaving it to you in my will with the provision that you can never give it away or destroy it. You thought you were getting the crystal? Nope, that's reserved for someone I actually like." Bet that goes over real well. On Idleness When Montaigne retired from public life to his estates to "devote myself as far I could to spending what little life I have left quietly and privately" he went a little loopy. Back then they called it "melancholic delusions." Therefore Montaigne concluded that idleness is bad because "when the soul is without definite aim she gets lost; for, as they say, if you are everywhere you are nowhere." In a day and age when we are always busy and rarely stop for longer than a brief holiday, it is hard to imagine having too much idleness, in fact we find ourselves longing for it, and for good reason. Bertrand Russell even wrote an essay, In Praise of Idleness. It's quite good and wins my vote over Montaigne's views hands down. Ceremonial at the Meeting of Kings This very short essay discusses the etiquette of meeting your superiors: "The normal rule governing all our interviews is that it behoves[sic] the lesser to arrive at the appointment first, since it is the privilege of the more prominent to keep others waiting." Is this why my doctor/dentist is always late when I've arrived on time, even early for my appointment? Montaigne thinks these rules "vain obligations" and that there is no harm done to omit certain forms of politeness "with discretion." So I can finally stop worrying if I am using the proper fork. What a relief! Next week Montaigne madness continues with: "One is Punished for Stubbornly Defending a Fort Without Good Reason," "On Punishing Cowardice," and "The Doings of Certain Ambassadors"