“Let us a little permit Nature to take her own way;
she better understands her own affairs than we”
Since age 18 I have hung a wall poster of a complex waterfall and this Montaigne quotation. It is no wonder I am finding a valuable companion in Sarah Bakewells, How to Live, a writing on Montaigne’s life. I hear my own perspectives voiced in Montaigne, but, according to Bakewell, I am not alone. Many readers find Montaigne speaking their own intimate consciousness.
Bakewell’s rendition of Montaigne seems a valuable support for maintaining balance in the midst of upheaval. Montaigne is knowledgeable, educated, but doesn’t take himself too seriously. According to Bakewell a favorite adage of Montaigne was “there is no escaping our perspective: we can walk only on our own legs, and sit only on our own bum” (p.10). The person one can most impact is oneself and being aware and responsible for this one person is the primary way to respond to disruption and chaos in one’s world.
One cares about the the health and well being of physical world and all beings within it, but responsibility need not involve entrapment in words or ways words are used, in manipulations to support some particular agenda. It is helpful live in experience before or beneath the formation of words and to then measure truth by means fuller than the words spoken. Uncertainty is more true than any object or view we cling to. With this underlying perspective, Montaigne becomes even more helpful.
May I, may we, humbly accept uncertainty and responsibility. Let us not shut out the world, but let us be alert, not to be played, bribed with short term personal benefits, intimidated by revelation of faults, or lulled by repeated verbal proclamations or manipulations. We accept our limitations and keep a long view that is not limited to personal interests but includes the good of all.
“I hold back.” (Montaigne) He suspends judgment, recognizing limitations of holding only one’s own perspective.
“There is no solution [or right answer]. Seek it lovingly.” (L.Gehring)