Great Books is a great way to keep things in perspective. Just when you thought you had an original thought -- well, let's just say it's probably been thunk before, and even more likely by somebody far better at thinking and writing than you or me. Further, that thought has probably also been discounted and shown to be completely false by yet another person far more worthy of the mass in his or her head and the ink in her hand.
In many ways, it is a shame so many of them had to come before us. I think they missed out by being born too soon. Case in point: Michel de Montaigne.
I daresay Michel de Montaigne would've been right at home in today's technological society. In fact, I would argue further that he was the first blogger. And his blog would have probably been called "Of Michel's Mind." And it would've been a pretty active blog.
de Montaigne pioneered the "essay" as a form of writing. Doubtless, he also pioneered the style of titling all of his essays as "Of" something. And true to form of any blogger, there was no subject deemed unworthy:
That the taste of good and evil depends in large part on the opinion we have of them
Of prompt or slow speech
Various outcomes of the same plan
Whether the governor of a besieged place should go out to parley
We should meddle soberly with judging divine ordinances
Of husbanding your will
How our mind hinders itself
Let business wait until tomorrow
Of honorary awards
Of not communicating one's glory
Of vain subtleties
And, like any good blogger, he provided links to his other favorite thinkers. Horace makes regular appearances, such as the following in the essay Of friendship:
-- A lovely woman tapers off into a fish.
Indeed, de Montaigne describes himself in that same essay as fully prepared for the form of thought-word-publishing: "And what are these things of mine, in truth, but grotesques and monstrous bodies, pieced together of divers members, without defnite shape, having no order, sequence, or proportion other than accidental?"
Which he follows with the above mentioned Horace quote.
Sadly, had the blog form existed in the day of de Montaigne, I fear that his insightful ramblings would've resulted in yet one more pile of mish-mash written in bad need of editing forever lost in the blogosphere and eventually zapped out by the next passing solar flare.
Maybe it's time to go back to stone tablets.