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Saturday morning quote #12: Montaigne, music and current events

August 5, 2011

Intending to follow up on our continuing theme – relating effective leadership skills to training in the science and practice of music – we offer a series of choice quotes from the writing of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533 – 1592), who has been described as the first blogger.

Today’ quotes are excerpted from Essais de Michel Seigneur de Montaigne, first published in 1580 with several subsequent editions, and from the English translation by Charles Cotton (1630 – 1687).

Of the education of children.

[Dedicated to Madame Diane de Foix, Comtesse de Gurson]

I may say so, that some being of opinion that it troubles and disturbs the brains of children suddenly to wake them in the morning, and to snatch them violently and over-hastily from sleep (wherein they are much more profoundly involved than we), [my father] caused me to be wakened by the sound of some musical instrument, and was never unprovided of a musician for that purpose.

Presumably, the musical instrument mentioned was a stringed instrument of a particular type in common use during the 16th century.  This writer can attest to the effectiveness of a child awakening to the sound of a lute.  One morning when my son was five, he woke to drowsily say that the tuneful Almayne by Robert Johnson I was playing on the lute was the same tune that a bear was dancing to in his dream.

Researching the source material by Montaigne, one is easily distracted by an abundance of bon mots and apt observations in his essays that relate directly to the disquieting events of the past few weeks.  The political environment in the US has become nothing less than toxic, with economic results of global consequence, and the President himself has described our political system as dysfunctional.

Blatantly cynical and incredibly juvenile behavior exhibited by political leaders is not exclusive to our day and age, but perhaps we can learn a thing or two from a wise person who cared enough to memorialize his observations via the antique medium of ink and paper, pixelated here for you to read on your screen.

For a man to vacillate and stand aside, to keep his affections unmoved and impartial, while his country is racked and torn, is neither handsome nor honest.  It is a kind of treason; for, in our domestic affairs, everyone must necessarily take sides.

Those who carry their hatred and wrath beyond the limits of the dispute, as most men do, show they are not concerned in the cause for the common good, but for their own private advantage.

If a part of our government becomes rotten, it is well to repair it.  But to try to change the foundations is to reform particular defects by a universal confusion, to open the way to injustice and tyranny, and to cure the disease by killing the patient.

Obviously, a part of our government has become rotten.  The systematic erosion of a clear-thinking electorate through the deliberate de-funding of the education system is at least partially to blame, accelerated by rot disguised as news broadcast by certain media outlets.

Is it too much to ask that the rot in our system of government be repaired by leaders who study philosophy, read history, comport themselves with dignity, and learn empathetic expression through training in the science and practice of music?

  1. Dan Winheld permalink

    Waking the children with lute music- out of the question in my family! No one in his right mind would ever attempt to negotiate the minefield that has been my kid’s rooms with lute in hand; from the time they were four until now- (in their late 20’s & 30’s). And to actually awaken them? HIGHLAND BAGPIPES!

    Michel & Ron- More sensitive & courageous fathers than I could be…

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Saturday morning quotes 2.5: Context « Unquiet Thoughts
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