I think what I like best about Jane Austen’s romances is the lack of physical contact. By the time you get to the end of the book and Lizzy and Mr. Darcy are violently in love not one kiss has been given, received, or even thought about. They have taken walks. They have talked endlessly through their disagreements, emotions, and desires and have walked back into the happy and messy Bennet house. But they haven’t held hands and Ms. Austen hasn’t shed a single drop of ink on their physical interest in each other.
One of my dear friends once told me she thought women were more rational than men. She couldn’t have been more serious and determined in her claim and I couldn’t have been more quietly skeptical. This, my skepticism, I am now skeptical about. Jane Austen has written some of the greatest romances we know, or at least some of the most culture shaping, and she did it strictly through the emotional and largely intellectual connection of her main characters. That’s an achievement and it seems to point in the direction of my friend’s conclusion: Jane Austen was intensely rational. For her a romance was a connection of minds and souls, hearts and desires, personalities and temperaments, but not bodies.
Or perhaps she was simply living in early-Victorian England where such talk was not allowed.
I don’t know. I do think I’m likely in love with Mr. Darcy though. And Elizabeth would make an inspiring and heart-felt friend. Jane Austen never got married and she wrote, I believe, primarily about love. I think I’m a bit sad about that. She died at 41. I am now not too many years from her death year. I still hope to be married. I still hope to have children. Somehow I am to be lucky while Ms. Austen was not. Dear Ms. Austen, I hope for a love as you describe. Not ultimately lacking physicality, but certainly a deep emotional and intellectual connection. Perhaps I ask too much. It appears Jane Austen did.
‘I study myself more than any other subject. That is my metaphysics; that is my physics.’
Free books can be the best books. This morning my train station stop provided “Michel De Montaigne | The Essays: A collection”. I knew his name once, in undergrad, most likely in a creative writing course or possibly a history course.
Now I’ll move beyond knowing nothing but his name!
Naturally I skipped to his section titled “To philosophize is to learn how to die”. My attraction to philosophy is undying, pun intended, so there I was, my melancholy self attracted to another melancholy self.
“Cicero says that philosophizing is nothing other than getting ready to die. That is because study and contemplation draw our souls somewhat outside ourselves, keeping them occupied away from the body, a state which both resembles death and which forms a kind of apprenticeship for it; or perhaps it is because all the wisdom and argument in the world eventually come down to one conclusion; which is to teach us not to be afraid of dying.”
I can’t say I agree with his conclusion, but his initial thoughts are brand new to my mind. Abstract thought is a form of death. Tell that to your professors! I love it. I really love it. There is truth to this thought. I’ve viewed abstract thought for a while as quite problematic. Aren’t there other kinds of truth? A friend of mine, a philosophy professor, tells me that rationality is only one way of knowing the world. I appreciate that thought. It helps right the ship of my own thoughts which tends to lean heavily towards abstract thought, analysis, “charting”, basically the form in which modern western man thinks. Data, graphs, that which can be empirically verified, ultimately that which is simple, reducible, because that’s all our minds can handle.
If/when I read more of Montaigne, I will post it here.
I found a thought on politics, which I’ll record, since that’s taken much of my thought recently: “The most desirable laws are those which are fewest, simplest and most general.” Perhaps why I’ll be voting for Gary Johnson? But that’s a post for another day.
I can take no credit for the catchiness of that title. It’s the name of a chapter in “The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought“. It’s written by Marilynne Robinson published in 1998, and I enjoyed it immensely, at least this chapter (as that’s all I’ve read). This is no post on the things I’ve learned but instead a list of words this author employed that I had to look up. She has quite a vocabulary! (Although I can’t say I’m always a fan of the at least semi-academic style of writing she uses. Any writing that feels academic feels that way because it’s poorly written. And I promise I don’t have strong opinions.)
- hypertrophy – 1) abnormal enlargement of a part or organ; excessive growth. 2) excessive growth or accumulation of any kind.
- ersatz – (of a product) made or used as a substitute, typically an inferior one, for something else; not real or genuine.
- inveigle – persuade (someone) to do something by means of deception or flattery.
- palmy – 1) (especially of a previous period of time) flourishing or successful. 2) covered with palms.
- lapidary – (of language) engraved on or suitable for engraving on stone and therefore elegant and concise.
- solipsism – the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist.
- steppe – a large area of flat unforested grassland in southeastern Europe or Siberia.
- anomie – lack of the usual social or ethical standards in an individual or group.
- frisson – a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill.
I can’t imagine how long this list would be if I actually read her whole book, as opposed to one chapter. I hope to read more about her/by her – she felt delightfully curmudgeonly.
I have an addiction and it’s to rhythm. The rhythm of words. I love to read a well-written sentence, series of sentences, essay, post. You can feel your way through it. It’s like a dance. Up. Down. Over. Through. Surprise! And back. Flow. It’s a story in and of itself, but it’s one you feel. Exist in. A milieu. The milieu of your ideas.
I haven’t thought about it enough yet, to say anything more substantive. My thoughts are in early stage form. But when they are! I shall post again.