Saturday, February 13, 2021

1,001 Nights of Reading: Night 30


"On Solitude" by Michel de Montaigne

Montaigne takes the stoics' line on solitude. The stoics believed that the best way to lead a good life is to temper your wants, and in the end give up on most wants altogether. Since, the stoics argued, you can only control what goes on in your mind and what you put your mind to, you will always be disappointed expecting the world to change to the kind of world you'd like it to be. So the stoics believed if you can't change the world, change your mind.

This is relevant to Montaigne's topic solitude because Montaigne wants to say that learning to get along well with and by ourselves teaches us how to be content when there is no one else around. This advice seems especially pertinent during this time of Covid. The basic idea is that if we can learn to be happy with who we are and become the kind of people we want to be in solitude, then of course this will carry on when we're talking about the ordinary business of life.

There is much more to be said. I'd advise anyone to read the essay.

The Arabian Nights, Night 30

A young man wants to go to the house of his beloved for his wedding ceremony, but a talkative barber who is preparing his hair for the ceremony is literally taking all day to cut his hair. He won't stop talking and he won't stop trying to invite himself to the party. Eventually, the young men gets away from the barber. It is evening. He rushes into the home. The master of the house, the young woman's father, gets angry with a servant and hits her. The barber, it turns out, has tailed the young man and, thinking that it is the young man who is being beaten and not the servant, makes an uproar outside the home, calling out to everyone in the streets that the young man whose hair he had been cutting is being killed. This draws a crowd. The night tale ends.

"The Ottawa Valley" by Alice Munro

A young woman struggles to recall her aunts and her mother who died of Parkinson's. The story contains several slices of life, showing the relationship between the woman's aunts and mother and the relationship between the mother and herself. The narrator seems to think by the conclusion of the story that she has failed to capture the kind of person who mother was, saying that in her recounting her mother remains a mere sketch.

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