Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bastille Day, Montaigne, & Evolutionary Biology

Today I begin to re-read the 26 essays of Michel de Montaigne translated by J.M.Cohen, that I first read in the early 80's---that time in my life when I began to profess the questions that had germinated in a college course---that course in which I so embarrassed myself by my own naivete/ignorance/innocence/and acceptance of the literal understandings of childhood. It's not that I was taught to take things literally, but that I so took them, in the innocence of youth---from the way the stories were presented and simplified in childrens' Sunday school classes---Mennonite SS classes, I might add, to compound the nature and simplicity and purity of my childish adherence to the stories. I do not blame either my parents or my teachers for my own innocence. I get quite impatient with so-called intellectuals who think they are so brilliant as to shed light on the ignorance of their forebears---when what they really are doing is coming naturally to a more mature understanding of their own. In their writings they sound like they are the first ever to think in such an enlightened way. How dare they presume to interpret their parents' belief systems by the simplified versions presented to them as children. (I'm currently reading Julian Barnes's Nothing To Be Frightened Of, and he is a perfect example). I hope my children will give me more credit than that.

All of that to say, as I re-read the Montaigne essays, I am struck by the extent to which my prior reading of them has shaped my active questions of the past 25+ years about religion and the existence vs. non-existence of a higher power---about coming to a more metaphoric and evolutionary way of thinking. At age 20, I began to formulate the questions, at 30 to read in pursuit of more questions, at 40 to ask them publicly, and now, at nearly 60, I begin to think most of them unanswerable.

So I am taken with Montaigne's humility in his relentless quest for the truth---and when finished with this edition, hope to embark on The Complete Essays, tr. by M.A.Screech.

In the meantime, the parents housewren are working themselves thin trying to keep the loudmouths in the rhombus house quiet. As one parent leaves, the other returns. Today they enter the house only half-way with each delivery, neither disappearing all the way inside, nor stopping fully at the door. By the rapid progression of the feeding patterns, I'm guessing tomorrow may be the day of fledge. dkm

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