As for On Solitude, applied to our current predicament, I’d roughly translate it thus: stop seeking approval from others. Don’t feel the need to communicate 24-7. Don’t fall into lazy habits. Get to know yourself. Or, more simply: get off Twitter. Get off Houseparty. Stop watching that shit series on Netflix. Go read Montaigne for a bit instead.
Speaking of whom, one passage in his “Of the Education of Children” caught me recently:
History is more my quarry, or poetry, which I love with particular affection. For as Cleanthes said, just as sound, when pent up in the narrow channel of a trumpet, comes out sharper and stronger, so it seems to me that a thought, when compressed into the numbered feet of poetry, springs forth much more violently and strikes me a much stiffer jolt.
I agree, and I’ve resolved to read more poetry henceforth. It’s strange, though, because while I would also claim to love poetry “with particular affection,” I seem to love a Platonic ideal of it more than most actual examples. I don’t just mean formless, navel-gazing contemporary poems. A lot of classic poems likewise fail to move me, even as I can appreciate their technical qualities. As Dom DeLuise’s Julius Caesar said in History of the World, Part. 1, “Nice. Nice. Not thrilling, but nice.” Maybe that’s the problem, though. The truly thrilling examples of poetry have made me insatiably hungry for more. No amount will ever be enough.