8 Snow Day in Chicago: On Idleness

A snow day should be a good time to write — but not so when you’re busy watching three boys in diapers, snowbound. Fortunately, today Montaigne writes about why he started his project, giving me an opportunity to reflect briefly on why I continue mine. Having decided to retire to his estate, Montaigne soon found himself having to tend to his mind as much as his vineyard:

When the soul is without a definite aim she gets lost; for, as they say, if you are everywhere you are nowhere.

Montaigne had hoped that this solitary time would help clarify and focus his thought, but in fact the opposite happened. He found that his mind

bolted off like a runaway horse, taking far more trouble over itself than it ever did over anyone else; it gives birth to so many chimeras and fantastic monstrosities, one after another, without order or fitness, that, so as to contemplate at my ease their oddness and their strangeness, I began to keep a record of them, hoping in time to make my mind ashamed of itself.

We should be thankful that he did not censor such oddness and strangeness, that he let himself fly freely off on tangents and even contradictory thought. In this age of Glenn Beck ideological lunacy, it would be nice if our public voices (I can’t bring myself to call them thinkers) would let their originality roam free, rather than take their ideology to the logical, insane conclusion.

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