26 Nov Citizens Of The World.
WHEN I LOOK AT THE BOOKS on my shelf, it isn’t always the content of each book that comes to mind. I often imagine where I was when I read it, who I was, what I was going through. Books are powerful in this way. We can take them with us anywhere, a companion to help make sense of the world in which we live. Michel de Montaigne, a free thinker of sixteenth-century France gave up a life of aristocracy for this reason.
Montaigne devoted himself more than any other to the sublime art of living: rester soi-même, writes Stefan Zweig in his biography of Montaigne.
In his biography of Montaigne, Stefan Zweig illustrates him as someone who simply wanted to retreat to his tower and read in peace after a life of courtship and tirelessly working to please others. Montaigne believed in the profound energy of books, the ability they have to connect us to anyone or anyplace in history. To him, reading wasn’t about memorizing facts and dates to appear scholarly to others.
Rather, it is the human and emotional element contained in the book.
Through reading, we can imagine a world of five-hundred years ago on the cobblestone streets of Bordeaux with the Essais of Michel de Montaigne in our hand, a sense of curiosity sending us down a rabbit hole of exploration as it did for him. That’s what makes reading wonderful. Montaigne is an example that we don’t have to be extraordinary to make something meaningful. Montaigne just wanted to escape the brutality of his world and discover who he was, just as many of us do. Life’s a journey where reading, connecting and relating to history can often be just what we need to understand why we’re here now, as we are.
Montaigne wrote his famous Essais not to become famous or wealthy. He longed to understand the subtlety of living, the art of the everyday, not one to merely endure life, Montaigne wanted to live. Books, people, cultures, cities, history, life — it’s all beautifully intertwined when we expand our scope, dig a bit deeper, and look for the human connections just as Montaigne did. Through books, through travel, through sheer curiosity about the lives of others, the world is ours to explore.