• 84. On Cowardice, The Mother of All Cruelty

    It’s interesting to me that this essay hit at a crisis point for me both times I took a pass through Montaigne’s work. Maybe there’s something challenging about this point in the Montaigne narrative that I should just avoid going forward.  Please note that this essay reveals Montaigne at his most misogynistic. There are two…

  • 83. On Thumbs

    Blame Ridley Scott and his 2000 movie “Gladiator” for this: our conception of the thumbs-up, thumbs-down gesture is the exact opposite of what it was during the reign of the Roman Empire. Anthony Philip Corbeill of the University of Kansas completed a study of this in the 1990s and determined in gladiatorial bouts, thumbs up…

  • 82. On Pretending to be Ill

    This essay lands at a critical moment in my project. It was March 2023, and things were going well. My essays were getting better. I was expressing myself honestly, for the first time, about an important person in my life. Acceptance was a key feature in my personal narrative. And then I had a brief…

  • 81. On the Greatness of Rome

    It’s good to know that my capacity for being annoyed has not waned over the years. I re-read this Montaigne essay, a simple recitation of things he liked about the Roman Empire, and wondering if I came up with anything interesting to say about it 12 years ago. And then I saw that, nope, I…

  • 80. On Bad Means to a Good End

    The human mind is naturally poetic. We look for analogies constantly to explain the natures of large, complex systems. The mind itself is perhaps our greatest metaphor, seen in different ages as analogous to God, steam machines and, currently, to computers. We have extended that analogy so completely these days that we have, in a…

  • 79. On Riding “In Post”

    This is an amusing little dispatch from Montaigne about the postal system of his time, the sport of riding horses as fast as possible, and various methods used to spread messages as quickly as possible. It’s interesting to me we can still watch movies where people sent telegrams and marveled at the speed. Today we…