There we find thorny and unpleasant precepts and empty and fleshless words that you cannot get a hold on, nothing that rouses your mind. Here the mind finds something to bite and feed on. The fruit of it is incomparably greater, and also it will be sooner ripe.
— Montaigne, “Of the Education of Children”
Several years ago, I stopped being dilettantish and got serious about diet and exercise. I remember how my mom made a batch of chocolate chip cookies at Christmas, which I didn’t really want, but decided to eat to honor the spirit of the gift. I hadn’t eaten any kind of sugary snacks since early that year, and I was surprised at how quickly I felt the ill effects. I felt lethargic and weak after the initial sugar rush, as well as ravenously hungry for more, a feeling to which I’d grown unaccustomed on a heavier protein diet.
It’s funny sometimes how small changes ripple outward and become surprising results. Work has been a lot busier as of late, which has left me with far less time for online reading (and writing). At the same time, it just so happened that I didn’t have any newly-published books that I wanted to read, so I decided to start slowly working my way through the essays of Montaigne and Samuel Johnson, with some supplementary Shakespeare. As a result, when I do have time for extended reading online, the effect is similar to the sickly post-sugar sensation. The frantic churn of current events, the overheated invective of people who take the immediate moment far too seriously — bleah. It rouses the gorge, not the mind. So far, I have much more of an appetite for re-reading this year. John N. Gray, Nietzsche, Alan Watts, Isaiah Berlin, and Eric Hoffer provide a lot more mental protein to chew on.