Tuesday, September 29, 2009

'Monk' In Tights

Michel de Montaigne
My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes -- most of which never happened. ~ Michel de Montaigne

Montaigne was a 17th century writer with 21st century angst -- and delivery. His massive volume of essays (the equivalent of the blog in his time) culminates with one entitled, On Experience, in which he talks about how he knows his body better than any physician. It's hard to say, but he may have been just a tad OCD --sort of like Monk in tights. But you have to give him credit, he could see the irony in his thinking and make a joke of his own fears.

Still in all, he must have been very good at sensing the slightest unusual feeling and associating it with illness, if not impending disaster. Medicine being what it was in Renaissance Europe, there were no doubt limitations on what he could find (he probably found enough anyway). But turn him loose with Harrison's Textbook of Internal Medicine and I can imagine him associating a simple headache with a cerebral aneurysm, a blister signaling melanoma, and a swollen gouty big toe the onset of gangrene.

If things are fine, you'd best be careful, if things are bad, they'll get worse. Fate is lurking round the next corner, lying in wait with doom at its heels. Always on the lookout, never quite able to let down his guard, another hundred years and he'd have been like the Minutemen, ready to fight or flight at a moment's notice. Chicken Little seems tame in comparison.

Fortunately for him, he was wrong more often than not and the catastrophes of which he was certain, avoided him like the plague. His watchfulness may have helped, but life bit less than it barked and it may have barked far less than it wagged its tail (tip of the hat to dogs everywhere). As with most of us, the worst thing he had to survive was his own doubt that he would.



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