Monday, January 01, 2007

`Excrements of an Aged Mind'

Two thousand and six was the year I learned to blog and continued to learn how to write. This effort has taught me that blogging is largely a benign, not particularly useful way to keep one’s self amused and to amuse a few others. Describing his reasons for writing essays, Michel de Montaigne says:

“I cannot keep a record of my life by my actions; fortune places them too low. I keep it by my thoughts. Thus I knew a gentleman who gave knowledge of his life only by the workings of his belly; you would see on display at his home a row of chamber pots, seven or eight days’ worth. This was his study, his conversation; all other talk stank in his nostrils.

“Here you have, a little more decently, some excrements of an aged mind, now hard, now loose, and always undigested.”

I draw this from “Of Vanity.” Like all honest men, Montaigne is bifurcated, at once humble and proud. He puts little effort into resolving the inconsistencies and contradictions in his nature. Using only his essays, an anthropologist from a minor world in the Large Magellenic Cloud could reconstitute our species.

“The corruption of the age is produced by the individual contribution of each one of us; some contribute treachery, others injustice, irreligion, tyranny, avarice, cruelty, in accordance with their greater power; the weaker ones bring stupidity, vanity, idleness, and I am one of them. It seems to be the season for empty things, when harmful ones weigh upon us. In a time when it is so common to do evil, it is practically praiseworthy to do what is merely useless.”

“Merely Useless” would make a good name for somebody’s blog.


Nancy Ruth said...

Fifty years ago I knew a man who thought that all conversation was useless. He didn't even say "Hello." He taught physics and was a superb teacher. No wasted words. I often wonder what happened to him. Did he keep up this regimen the rest of his life?

Anonymous said...

If you find blogging not particularly useful, then why continue?

David Hodges said...

Reminds me of the entry for Earth in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe: "Mostly harmless."

Anonymous said...

You are very good at thinking up blog names, Patrick! I think I have already borrowed one from you -- Loopholes of Retreat -- so maybe I should start (yet another) blog with this new title!

Happy new year to you, I very much like reading your blog and hope to continue to do so during 2007.

My best wishes

Kate S. said...

For my part, I find your blog enormously useful--new insights into writers I've already read and recommendations of writers whose work I haven't yet discovered. Thanks to one of your recent posts I've just acquired a copy of Chrsitina Stead's Letty Fox: Her Luck and I look forward to diving in. Nevertheless, I do appreciate your riff on Montaigne here!