March 3, 2011 § 8 Comments
Writing this dissertation has introduced me to some fairly interesting thinkers, philosophers, and essayists. Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (but all the cool scholars just call him “Montaigne”) is one of those great thinkers, philosophers, and essayists. Triple-threat, baby.
Montaigne composed a great number of essays in his lifetime, several of which I am currently reading, and a few of which I intend to include in my dissertation. Montaigne is controversial for his time (late-Renaissance France) because he understands religious views (Christianity, of course) enough to appeal to a broad enough audience and to speak intelligently about topics at the fore of Christians’ thoughts; however, Montaigne was “half pagan and less than half Christian,” according to David Frame who writes the introduction of an edition of Montaigne’s travel journal. What I like about Montaigne is that he offers a fairly practical approach to some of the most incendiary of Renaissance hot topics; rather than inciting his readers to impose a sort of Fatwa upon one another, he challenges readers to approach controversy and difference with logic. (Consider that!)
As I’ve been reading a few of Montaigne’s essays, I am deeply moved by their utter pragmatism. Yes! I want to shout in the not-so-quiet-but-oh-so-public coffee shop. This is exactly it! (The venue I choose for the shouting instead, of course, is my blog. You’re welcome, general public. My apologies, blog readers.) Montaigne had no idea that, over 430 years after he published his essays, his pragmatism and liberal concepts would still hold such topical import.
Allow me to turn, as an example, to the most recent cataclysmic debacle that is Charlie Sheen’s descent into drug-induced egotism. As we well know, Charlie Sheen has littered our airwaves with a treasure trove of brilliant gems, such as calling his two live-in girlfriends his “goddesses” and revealing that because he is such a special person he deserves special accompanying privileges to participate in a polyamorous relationship with them. Whatever. Look, what two or three or five consenting adults choose to do in the privacy of their bedroom(s) is none of my business and I have absolutely no interest in passing judgment. For me, monogamy is the way to go. But maybe for someone like Charlie Sheen, he’s got to spread the love; and why not? He’s special. (And why not? Human sexuality is a complex, fluctuating, exciting tangled web.)
What does strike my ear funny, then, is the extent to which Sheen indulges his fancies. He constantly appeals to the “logic” of any who will give him a microphone that he is a special dude. But, amid all his self-aggrandizing, has Sheen lost the point of living the life of a bitchin’ Martian rock star with tiger blood and Adonis DNA, fists of fire, and the power to overcome drug addiction simply by choosing not to be addicted anymore?
I say yes, and I believe Montaigne would tend to agree. Of men who over-indulge themselves, Montaigne tells us:
“Nor do ladies titillate the man who enjoys his fill of them. He who does not give himself leisure to be thirsty cannot take pleasure in drinking.”
–Montaigne, “Of the inequality that is between us” (1572-4)
I love the second sentence in particular. “He who does not give himself leisure to be thirsty cannot take pleasure in drinking.” If you would please indulge me, I would like a moment to speak directly to Warlock Sheen.
Your Highness, please note that Montaigne speaks figuratively here. Obviously, as I am sure you understand with your utterly passionate, bi-winning mind, Montaigne does not imply that 1. a man should turn to drinking any substance in particular (except, perhaps, that of “life” in general) and 2. a man should binge once he has made himself thirsty.
Thanks for your consideration,
The utterly unworthy and not special A.Hab.
P.S. I also do not have the genetic code of which you yourself are capable of boasting. Please excuse any indolence in the preceding message.
P.P.S. Yes, I read the AV Club article that reminds us all to laugh a little more at your intended dark humor and sarcasm. I get the jokes. They’re just not that funny.
What I do believe Montaigne instructs us to do, however, is to live in moderation. Appreciate our unique Selves as far as that appreciation does not intrude upon others’ appreciation of their unique selves. When Sheen makes grandiose claims about his employers and network, he oversteps his own boundaries and ignores the victims of his vitriol their needs and desires. He utterly misinterprets what is an appeal to logic and an encouragement for medical assistance as judgment, condescension, and trauma.
Although I do believe the media is purposefully preying on the public’s fascination with a good, old-fashioned self-destructive implosion, I think what can ultimately be gleaned from all this manic nonsense is that Charlie Sheen and the media both need to back the hell up off each other. We all need a chance to feel thirsty in order to appreciate what progress Sheen makes (whether real or imagined–at this point, it doesn’t much matter to me). The media needs to stop indulging the public’s binge-drinking of Sheen’s downward spiral. And Sheen needs to stop indulging his own ego-binge as well.
I’ll leave this entry on another couple of thoughts by Montaigne:
“There is nothing so hampering, so cloying, as abundance. […] And besides, I believe that this luster of greatness brings no slight drawbacks to the enjoyment of the sweeter pleasures: they are too much in the limelight and exposed to view.”
–Montaigne, “Of the inequality that is between us,” 1572-4
And perhaps not to empathize with Sheen more than is deserved but more to understand our fascination with celebrity:
“And, I know not why, the great are more obliged than we to hide and cover up their faults. For what in us is indiscretion, in them the people judge to be tyranny, contempt, and disdain for the laws; and it is true that besides their normal pleasure from vice, it seems that they take an added pleasure in insulting public observances and trampling them underfoot.”
–Montaigne, “Of the inequality that is between us,” 1572-4
(and both a response to Montaigne and taking it one little step further…which is what I’ve been saying from the very beginning of this nonsense.)