I can’t shake this guy. Neil Reynolds writing in the Globe & Mail last week quoted Montaigne extensively in connection with Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s fall from grace: “the worst thing you can say of someone is often the most truthful thing” and “The most sanctimonious men invariably perpetrate the worst sins. There are two things that I have always observed to be in singular accord…supercelestial thought and subterranean conduct.” He went on to discuss Montaigne’s cynicism, his “deep distrust of humanity in general and limited expectation of humans in particular: He advised people, for example, to trust their enemies more than their friends.” — Is this caution related to the sage advice about no good deed going unpunished, I wonder?
…and then he (Montaigne) showed up this past weekend at Chesterman Beach at Tofino — in the bookshelf of the lovely house we rented with my Salt Spring Island in-laws so that we could all attend the Tofino Food & Wine Festival. So I had to get up early (no hardship) to squeeze in an hour’s read. I made it through a long essay on educating the child which was all about educating young men (of course) but interesting for it’s ‘modern’ ideas about sparing the rod and inspiring a love of learning not to produce brains stuffed with facts but rather to develop moral individuals, fit in both mind and body, and (the not so modern bit) loyal to their sovereigns. This loyalty he encourages for the sake of order and the sustenance of civil society … at least that’s what I took from it. And it’s true that despite the archaic style and that it’s translated, his voice these many centuries later sounds clear and persuasive.