Monday, May 30, 2011

Mondays with Montaigne (on discharging emotions against false objects)

From I:4. How the soul discharges its emotions against false objects

What causes do we not discover for the ills which befall us! What will we not attack, rightly or wrongly, rather than go without something to skirmish against? It is not those blond maiden tresses which you are tearing, nor the whiteness of that bosom which you are beating so cruelly in your distress, which killed your beloved brother with an unlucky musket-ball. When the Roman army in Spain lost those two great commanders who were brothers, Pliny says "flere omnes repente et offensare capita". [at once, they all start weeping and beating their heads.] A common practice. And was it not amusing of Bion the philosopher to ask of that king who was tearing out his hair in grief: "Does he think that alopecia gives relief from sorrow?" And how has not seen a man sink his teeth into playing-cards and swallow the lot or else stuff a set of dice down his throat so as to have something to avenge himself on for the loss of his money! Xerxes flogged the waters of the Hellespont, put them in shackles and heaped insults upon them and wrote out a challenge defying Mount Athos; Cyrus kept an entire army occupied for several days in taking revenge on the river Gyndus for the fright it gave him when he was crossing it; and Caligula demolished a very beautiful house on account of the pleasure his mother had taken in it.


Yet as that old poet says in Plutarch:
Point ne se faut courroucer aux affaires:
Il ne leur chaut de toutes nos choleres
[There is no point in getting angry against events: they are indifferent to our wrath.]

But we shall never utter enough abuse against the unruliness of our minds.

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About Me

I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.