Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Experimental Life: An Introduction to Michel de Montaigne – By Ryan Holiday

In late 1569, Michel de Montaigne was given up as dead after being flung from a galloping horse.

As his friends carried his limp and bloodied body home, he watched life slip away from his physical self, not traumatically but almost flimsily, like some dancing spirit on the “tip of his lips,” and then return. This sublime experience marked the moment Montaigne began a uniquely playful relationship with his existence and was a sense clarity and euphoria about life that he carried with him from that point forwards. Shortly thereafter he took a bold step, retiring from a promising public career—retired to himself, so to speak—and made self-study his official occupation.

Maybe you don’t know anything about this man, Montaigne; perhaps you know him as the bane of your high school existence for inventing the word “essay.” What I’d like to do in this piece is tell you a bit more about him and hopefully remove him from the realm of people-from-history-you-don’t-care-about and place him in his proper context: as our greatest philosopher of life. And Montaigne was a philosopher in the truest sense; he studied life and how we can wring all that we can from the short bit of time each of us is given. Philosophy can seem boring—truthfully, most of it is—but Montaigne is not only incredibly accessible; just a brush with his brand of thinking can change our lives.


Related books:

Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays

The Essays: A Selection

How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault

Related link: Selected essays of Montaigne