“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
- Matthew 7:15-23
“In his essay ‘On Solitude’ (from the first volume of his Essays), [Michel de] Montaigne takes up a theme that has been popular since ancient times: the intellectual and moral dangers of living among others, and the value of solitude. Montaigne is not stressing the importance of physical solitude, but rather of developing the ability to resist the temptation to mindlessly fall in with the opinion and actions of the mob. He compares our desire for the approval of our fellow humans to being overly attached to material wealth and possessions. Both passions diminish us, Montaigne claims, but he does not conclude that we should relinquish either only that we should cultivate a detachment from them. By doing so, we may enjoy them – and even benefit from them – but we will not become emotionally enslaved to them, or devastated if we lose them.”
- Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained
The title above is a quote from Michel de Montaigne. In reading The Philosophy Book the quote caught my eye while I was social distancing and wearing a mask, having just bought the book and reading it while waiting for a table at a restaurant. Oddly, we went to a different restaurant as that one was over COVID limits capacity, and we had about an hour wait. We went next door, and we were seated almost immediately. We ended up in a room by ourselves. There could only be four at a table, another COVID restriction. There were seven of us, all arriving at the restaurant in a single vehicle, without wearing masks – but no, we had to split up to dine. Thus, having a room to ourselves allowed us to sit at tables near each other and converse, although at different tables, even sharing appetizers when the wait staff was not looking. Were the rules crazy? Yes, but we followed them and then all piled into the one vehicle to go home.
To put the quote in context, for much of Montaigne’s life, there were no massive plagues in Europe, but about ten years before his death, there was a second outbreak of the bubonic plague in the Canary Islands. Could Montaigne have been warning France against contamination or was he simply speaking in general? The original black death was in the 1300s. So many people died that the news of a new strain would raise alarm. This second strain did spread, very deadly, but not as widespread as the first, basically ending in London when the London Fire consumed the city in 1666, both London and the plague – gone. Thus, nearly one hundred years of the second version of the plague spreading.
Yet, to complete Montaigne’s quote…
“Contagion is very dangerous in crowds. You must either imitate the vicious or hate them.”
- Michel de Montaigne
If we are honest, we have probably both imitated the vicious and hated them at one point or another. Let us pray that we can return to be a civil society at some point.
Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) is a very interesting fellow. He was born into a wealthy family, thus his philosophy of not giving up your wealth. He was wealthy, “stinking rich” about the time he wrote the essay, easily able to buy his own solitude. But Montaigne was given away at birth, raised by a peasant family until he was three-years old. This was to teach him how others lived. It boggles my mind to think that at three- years-old, he could retain the thoughts of that time for the rest of his life. And there is more. He was only taught Latin until he was six-years-old, thus his “native” language of French was a second language. Early in his adult life, he was a member of the local parliament, but resigned when he inherited his parent’s estates and began writing, like the essay discussed in the quote above. He would eventually write three volumes of Essays, 1580, 1588, and posthumously published 1595. Yet, even with his zeal for solitude, he later returned to public life, serving as mayor of Bordeaux for about four years.
Thus, with his history you can understand the apparent incongruities in his philosophy. He preached solitude, but only after inheriting the family estate. He said that you need not seek solitude or give up wealth, because he was the rich young ruler of his day (Matthew 19:16-22).
Yet, his philosophy regarding solitude is something that needs discussing, but can we? In some places, according to Rev. David Robertson, it is not lawful, possibly hate speech, to question the modern secular ideas regarding gender identity and LGBTQ. If not hate speech now, the laws are being put into place for that interpretation in the near future. Of course, to support their views which are idiotic beyond measure, ignoring science, they must silence common sense. All for inclusivity and a lack of recognizing sin as being sin. We are not forgiving the sin here; we are not recognizing it as sin, calling God wrong. And then the secular world wins, since a God that is in error is not God at all. They will eliminate all the tenets of common law based on Scripture. They may stop at “thou shalt not murder”… But oh, wait! We have abortion killing by the hundreds for each COVID death, and seemingly no one notices, no one with a loud voice. Many countries in the world have aggressive euthanasia laws, allowing people to be exterminated, especially the elderly, and for little more reason than the convenience of others.
The old saying that many a mother said – “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump with them?” – comes to mind. Too bad we thought that to be literal and we only avoid cliffs. Mother meant any fool thing, not just jumping off a cliff, but those other fool things seem to have mainstream acceptability.
I had not intended on discussing this next topic, but when my wife asked what I had just written, her mind went to the recent attack on the capitol. It fits the topic of discussion perfectly. I do not know the details, for I do not attend such political rallies. Yet, in a speech that apparently said nothing about acting illegally but may have contained Trump’s usually emotion filled rhetoric (only called hate speech by those who disagree with him), there were at least three types of people who stormed the capitol building. There were those who cared little about whether it was legal. There were those who were law-abiding citizens who were caught up in the emotional fervor, doing something that they would have never done if not spurred on by the mob mentality. And there were those who simply went to the capitol building to express their views that they thought that there were people in America who were not being heard. It may be up to the court system to decide which group each of those identified was in, and whether mercy should be applied. I pray for mercy and healing. Yet, the televised rhetoric is all about retribution, anger, and opening of wounds.
Maybe Montaigne was not talking about viral or plague contagion at all, but the latest fad idea that leads to the destruction of our moral foundation and civilized society as a whole. And that does not even reach the level of Christian society. May we never forget God, for the Bible illustrates how that turns out.
If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.