MY COMMONPLACE BOOK: (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)

By Dorothy Bryant
Tuesday August 14, 2012 - 10:57:00 AM

There is no man whom it would so little become to speak of memory, for I find scarcely a trace of it in myself.— “Of Liars”, Essays, Michel de Montaigne (1533—1592)

As my brain leaks more and more memories, I happily discover Montaigne’s list of the advantages of his poor memory. 

Among these advantages are that people can be assured of his speaking briefly, never being long-winded; he can’t remember enough to fill in more details. Even better are the benefits gained when injuries received from other people slip his mind—forgetting an insult leaves his mind free of bitter thoughts, and eases everyday social contacts. 

Best of all, faulty memory increases virtue, containing a built-in guard against telling lies; the would-be liar knows s/he can’t remember enough details to keep a false story straight and consistent. 

These disabilities converge to rescue us from the faults of being over-ambitious, seeking an advantage, a high position over others. It takes an excellent memory to keep all the flattering, false, self-aggrandizing claims straight. We forgetful ones could never get away with it. 

(My only regret is that I waited so long to discover that the “classic” Montaigne essays were not heavy or solemnly didactic, but the often amusing, even light-hearted reflections of a sensible old man.) 





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