Sometimes life gets so tight, like the experience of the asthmatic child being forced to run through the woods and wheezing at the ever blurrier trees. So I spent the evening watching a documentary about the Humboldt squid, and would you know it, that flashing sea creature has hooks on its tentacle suction cups. Maybe sometimes circumstance is that squid, following us with its eye, possibly but equally maybe not wanting to feed on us.
"There is no desire more natural than that of knowledge. We try all ways that can lead us to it; where reason is wanting, we therein employ experience, ... 'By various trials experience created art, example shewing the way.'—Manilius, i. 59," writes Montaigne. But he is wont to draw you into his individual story, he even writes as much, "Here are some of the articles [of] my form of life". Yes, Montaigne, but as much as we like you for those tentacle suction hooks, we like you for the general phrases you write:
I am most apt to stumble in an even country, like some horses that I have known, that make most trips in the smoothest way; We must learn to suffer what we cannot evade; Death mixes and confounds itself throughout with life.
For all of his musing, Montaigne nonetheless anticipates the Enlightenment: No generous mind can stop in itself; it will still tend further and beyond its power. To fill the mind with particulars is to make the asthmatic child wheeze at the trees, asking them to stop spinning. After all, an individual tree shares characteristics with the others, otherwise how would we know to call them trees, or ὕλας (one laughs at the philosophy joke). My account of a generous mind would be for it to stop thinking sometimes and perhaps listen in on the rain, watch giant squid with their eyes. What do they see? Man with no measure, going where he pleases, to where they live or were living in peace, until... To happen upon a hill tribe, perhaps one that had never seen fair skin, blue eyes, before, surely one feels the creeping question: am I really meant to be here?
I do not know about other people or even myself a lot of the time, but I know that I strive towards the golden mean, often elusive like Tagore's golden stag, and I feel that people who shrug off wondering and sometimes worrying saying, "that's nothing" have so much more than their neighbours, that they are indeed like those people in Tagore's poem, that the perspective of the person with something and the one with something more to lose can never be the same. For it is one thing to shrug off what may be irrelevant because one has hewed off that bark oneself as an unnecessary burden and another to to deny that there are wooden rings that trace us in, within ourselves, as much as they are growing out.
Writes Montaigne: "And physic itself professes always to have experience for the test of its operations: so Plato had reason to say that, to be a right physician, it would be necessary that he who would become such, should first himself have passed through all the diseases he pretends to cure, and through all the accidents and circumstances whereof he is to judge. 'Tis but reason they should get the pox, if they will know how to cure it; for my part, I should put myself into such hands; the others but guide us, like him who paints seas and rocks and ports sitting at table, and there makes the model of a ship sailing in all security; but put him to the work itself, he knows not at which end to begin."
According to one of those international proverbs (Yiddish, Arabic, Slavic?), the sated believes not the starved. Sometimes I worry that I might be the one with le ventre plein, hauling around an internalised sack of potatoes. This fear is teaching something about intentions. But in this, as in all things, I feel the need to stand back for a while. Watch the squid with its oversized eye. Read Rumi who writes all kinds of things including, the kind thing is sometimes the disciplinary thing. Take an ox-whip to your donkey. Tenderness is not always appropriate. Sometimes, there must be a sudden turning away. ... The love-king says, It takes courage to keep the deep self quiet.
When someone humiliates you, turn your face there ... Do not avoid your suffering. Plunge it in the Nile. ... Purify your stubbornness. Drown it. ... Reason and patience like well-meaning uncles come to rail about how difficult this world is. Love helps you see into the invisible.
Down in the depths, one rescues one's raggedy self and it is beautiful because it is one's own and it is shimmering, because it is something that can be seen for its being shared.