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Of Solitude (The Complete Essays of Montaigne)

A man must either imitate the vicious or hate them both are dangerous things, either to resemble them because they are many or to hate many because they are unresembling to ourselves.

There is nothing so unsociable and sociable as man, the one by his vice, the other by his nature.

Real transformation cannot occur only from changing one’s location or moving away from people, but requires one to remove himself from all of his unhealthy attachments.

You do a sick man more harm than good in removing him from place to place; you fix and establish the disease by motion, as stakes sink deeper and more firmly into the earth by being moved up and down in the place where they are designed to stand. Therefore, it is not enough to get remote from the public; ’tis not enough to shift the soil only; a man must flee from the popular conditions that have taken possession of his soul, he must sequester and come again to himself

We must pursue career and family, but our happiness cannot depend so much on them so that we have no alternate refuge.

We must reserve a backshop, wholly our own and entirely free, wherein to settle our true liberty, our principal solitude and retreat.

We must never attach ourselves too strongly to anything.

We must break the knot of our obligations, how strong soever, and hereafter love this or that, but espouse nothing but ourselves: that is to say, let the remainder be our own, but not so joined and so close as not to be forced away without flaying us or tearing out part of our whole. The greatest thing in the world is for a man to know that he is his own.

We are told to beware of our desires for they may injure us, but likewise, we should be wary of all it forms. Even books are pleasant, but too much studiousness can make us dull, and can impair our health. There is nothing that is good when done extremely.

The sages give us caution enough to beware the treachery of our desires, and to distinguish true and entire pleasures from such as are mixed and complicated with greater pain. For the most of our pleasures, say they, wheedle and caress only to strangle us, like those thieves the Egyptians called Philistae; if the headache should come before drunkenness, we should have a care of drinking too much; but pleasure, to deceive us, marches before and conceals her train. Books are pleasant, but if, by being over-studious, we impair our health and spoil our good humor, the best pieces we have, let us give it over; I, for my part, am one of those who think, that no fruit derived from them can recompense so great a loss.

There is a limit to everything we pursue. If an activity is enjoyable and yields practical benefits, Montaigne is interested in its pursuit, but some things can become problematic when they are pursued too extremely – not being mindful of the purpose they are pursued for.

In husbandry, study, hunting, and all other exercises, men are to proceed to the utmost limits of pleasure, but must take heed of engaging further, where trouble begins to mix with it. We are to reserve so much employment only as is necessary to keep us in breath and to defend us from the inconveniences that the other extreme of a dull and stupid laziness brings along with it. There are sterile knotty sciences, chiefly hammered out for the crowd; let such be left to them who are engaged in the world’s service. I for my part care for no other books, but either such as are pleasant and easy, to amuse me, or those that comfort and instruct me how to regulate my life and death:

Michel de Montaigne – The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics)Of Solitude (The Complete Essays of Montaigne) 1

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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