Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Voluntary Confinement

Pascal, Pensées 136 (tr. Stanley Appelbaum):
I've often said that all of man's unhappiness comes from one thing: not knowing how to remain calmly in one room.
But the gentleman mentioned by Montaigne, Essais 2.8 (writing about his children; tr. Donald M. Frame), seems to have taken this to an extreme:
And for this purpose I would not avoid their company; I would observe them close up, and enjoy their fun and festivities within the limitations of my age. If I did not live among them (as I could not without spoiling their gatherings by being fretful as old men are and a slave to my infirmities, and without also doing violence to the rules and ways of living that I should then have), I should at least want to live near them in a part of my house, not the most showy but the most comfortable. Not like a dean of the church of Saint Hilary at Poitiers whom I saw, some years ago, so cut off by his gloomy disagreeableness that when I entered his room it had been twenty-two years since he had gone one step out of it; and yet he was free and easy in all his functions, except for a cold that was going down into his stomach. Hardly once a week would he permit anyone to come in to see him; he kept himself always locked up in his chamber alone, except that a servant, who only came in and went out, brought him something to eat once a day. His occupation was to walk around and read some book (for he had a certain knowledge of letters); moreover, he was obstinately set on dying in this routine, as he did soon after.

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