Michel de Montaigne - On The Art Of Conversation - Preface To Podcast
Updated: Sep 2, 2021
“To my taste, the most fruitful and most natural exercise of our minds is conversation. I find the practice of it the most delightful activity in our lives. In their academies, the Athenians, and even more the Romans, maintained this exercise in great honor”. In our own times, however, we’ve all but forgotten this delightful art—this melodious exchange of ideas, and interplay of opinions, in which classical tongues were so fluent. We no longer feel the spark by which it once tickled our nerves, nor the heat with which it once warmed our lagging spirits. It was, once, the activity from which our minds—ever inquisitive, daring, and new—derived their greatest pleasure. Now, sadly, conversation is held in but small esteem. We retain, at this point, not even its vestige. Perhaps, in this desperate state, Montaigne can restore conversation to its Grecian glory or, failing that, its Roman strength.
“I welcome truth, I fondle it, in whosesoever hand I find it; I surrender to it cheerfully, welcoming it with my vanquished arms as soon as I see it approaching from afar”. With the exception of love, and perhaps beauty, truth is the only power to which, once beaten, we can’t but gladly submit. We smile as we bow our heads in its royal presence, and cheer the conquest of its arrival. It’s the supreme force, greater than any other, before which we unhesitatingly genuflect, and to which we happily commit our lightsome fate. Truth, steady in its march toward us from the dusky haze of the horizon, is but one consequence of good, earnest, and lucid conversation. This, I think, is conversation’s art, and its end.