I’ve been feeling slightly abnormal and inadequate these days (most days, past days, surely future days too). I’ve also been reading Alain de Botton’s Consolations of Philosophy, and this past week he’s been consoling my Inadequacy with the aid of Michel de Montainge (last week’s lunch breaks bought me Seneca and a consolation for frustration, disappointment and anger, I do declare!).
I've read Monsieur de Montaigne in the past, On Solitude, and oh it was a beautiful little volume.
I read some beautiful thoughts of his on friendship earlier in the week, and as the rain pours down outside, and I get used to the presence of internet in my room, I’m offering them to you dear reader, and an ode of sorts to my dearest of readers. My wonder-brother, so, take it away Alain!
Another consolation for accusations of abnormality is friendship, a friend being, among other things, someone kind enough to consider more of us normal than most people do. We may share judgements with friends that would in ordinary company be censured for being too caustic, sexual, despairing, daft, clever or vulnerable – friendship a minor conspiracy against what other people think of as reasonable.
Montaigne on true friendship (and affirming how I often think of our first encounter, I feel that I fell in love with you as a friend, pretty well at first meet):
We found ourselves so taken with each other, so well acquainted, so bound together, that from that time on nothing was so close to us as each other.
Alain goes on to write and quote:
The friendship was of a kind, Montaigne believed, that only occurred once every 300 years: it had nothing in common with the tepid alliances frequently denoted by the term:
What we normally call friends and friendships are no more than acquaintances and familiar relationships bound by some chance or some suitability, by means of which our souls support each other. In the friendship which I am talking about, souls are mingled and confounded in so universal a blending that they efface the seam which joins them together so that it cannot be found.
The friendship would not have been so valuable if most people had not been so disappointing – if Montaigne had not had to hide so much of himself from them.
Last October, in the snowy night of a comfy Warsaw hostel, I couldn't quite sleep, and I had this vision of a tattoo, for my body, from nowhere. This is what I wrote then, Saturday the 27th of October 2012:
I had thought...
One white night, Warsaw, some worthy tattoo likeness.
My brother, arching, voyeur-caught, erstwhile.
Her distinct and longed-for profile, backlit in window box.
Such thigh, shapely calf, perfectly formed shin to boot.
Forty three degree angle, and fine graphic.
I think, of this I thought. Beauty.
I mean it S, I find myself in our lost seams...
Let's paint our portraits again soon brother, let's take our clothes off and howl at the moon wonder.