Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The First and Natural Station

There is often a long way and a short way to the same destination.  Sometimes you're in the mood for the scenic route, with many diversions and frequent stops to admire the view, sometimes you just want to get there as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Compare and contrast:
A man may say with some colour of truth that there is an Abecedarian ignorance that precedes knowledge, and a doctoral ignorance that comes after it: an ignorance that knowledge creates and begets, at the same time that it despatches and destroys the first. Of mean understandings, little inquisitive, and little instructed, are made good Christians, who by reverence and obedience simply believe and are constant in their belief. In the average understandings and the middle sort of capacities, the error of opinion is begotten; they follow the appearance of the first impression, and have some colour of reason on their side to impute our walking on in the old beaten path to simplicity and stupidity, meaning us who have not informed ourselves by study. The higher and nobler souls, more solid and clear-sighted, make up another sort of true believers, who by a long and religious investigation of truth, have obtained a clearer and more penetrating light into the Scriptures, and have discovered the mysterious and divine secret of our ecclesiastical polity; and yet we see some, who by the middle step, have arrived at that supreme degree with marvellous fruit and confirmation, as to the utmost limit of Christian intelligence, and enjoy their victory with great spiritual consolation, humble acknowledgment of the divine favour, reformation of manners, and singular modesty. I do not intend with these to rank those others, who to clear themselves from all suspicion of their former errors and to satisfy us that they are sound and firm, render themselves extremely indiscreet and unjust, in the carrying on our cause, and blemish it with infinite reproaches of violence and oppression. The simple peasants are good people, and so are the philosophers, or whatever the present age calls them, men of strong and clear reason, and whose souls are enriched with an ample instruction of profitable sciences. The mongrels who have disdained the first form of the ignorance of letters, and have not been able to attain to the other (sitting betwixt two stools, as I and a great many more of us do), are dangerous, foolish, and importunate; these are they that trouble the world. And therefore it is that I, for my own part, retreat as much as I can towards the first and natural station, whence I so vainly attempted to advance.
Michel de Montaigne, Of Vain Subtleties (Essays, tr. Charles Cotton)
Sell your cleverness, and buy bewilderment.
Jalaluddin Rumi, The Masnavi

 Both sages, I think, are trying to persuade us of the wisdom of rediscovering idiocy.  They'll get no argument from me.


Kent Wiley said...

Those cages don't appear to have functioned very well: the sheet metal is still battered from when kind souls abused it. But I like the pic.

Martin said...

I've always kept idiocy close at hand. I'm not ambitious enough to attempt rediscovery.

Mike C. said...


They're some kind of cooling device conveniently (and idiotically) placed at kicking height -- I can never decide whether the cages were an afterthought...


As someone once said, be not afraid of idiocy: some are born idiots, some achieve idiocy and some have idiots thrust upon them... I like to think I've managed all three.


Tony_C said...

But is idiocy the same as ignorance? F****d if I know.

Mike C. said...


True, returning to a blissful state of natural ignorance is probably impossible, but a bit of constructive idiocy is within everyone's grasp.

Everyone need to stop trying so hard, especially when it's so hot.