Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving thoughts

To take us into the Thanksgiving holiday, in this, one of those Novembers when the ever-parlous state of the world seems more juddery than usual, some thoughts from Stefan Zweig's book on Montaigne, written in the middle of World War II:
It is vital to understand that ample proof exists to show man can always be free, whatever the epoch. When Calvin encourages the witch trials and has an adversary slowly burnt alive, when Torquemada condemns hundreds of men to the stake, their eulogizers put forward the plea that they could not have acted otherwise, being yoked to the held opinions of their epoch. But the human being is resolute. Even in those times of fanaticism, in the period of the Malleus Maleficarum, of the Chambre Ardente of the Inquisition, it was always possible for humane people to persist; not a single moment of all that horror could muddy the clarity of spirit and the humanity of an Erasmus, a Montaigne, a Castellio. And while the rest, the Sorbonne professors, the counsellors, the legates, the Zwinglis, the Calvins proclaim: "We know the truth," the response of Montaigne is: "What do I know?" While, through the Catherine wheel and banishment, they want to impose their "This is how you must live!" his counsel is: "Think your own thoughts, not mine! Live your life! Do not follow me blindly, but remain free!"

He who thinks freely for himself, honours all freedom.
Go hug your families, folks, and tell and re-tell all your stories. Happy Thanksgiving.

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