Astonishment and Fluidity

"Life is what happens while you’re making other plans, they said; so philosophy must guide your attention repeatedly back to the place where it belongs— here. It plays a role like that of the mynah birds in Aldous Huxley’s novel Island, which are trained to fly around all day calling “Attention! Attention!” and “Here and now!” As Seneca put it, life does not pause to remind you that it is running out. The only one who can keep you mindful of this is you:

"It will cause no commotion to remind you of its swiftness, but glide on quietly … What will be the outcome? You have been preoccupied while life hastens on. Meanwhile death will arrive, and you have no choice in making yourself available for that.

"If you fail to grasp life, it will elude you. If you do grasp it, it will elude you anyway. So you must follow it— and “you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow.” The trick is to maintain a kind of naive amazement at each instant of experience— but, as Montaigne learned, one of the best techniques for doing this is to write about everything. Simply describing an object on your table, or the view from your window, opens your eyes to how marvelous such ordinary things are. To look inside yourself is to open up an even more fantastical realm. The philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty called Montaigne a writer who put “a consciousness astonished at itself at the core of human existence.” More recently, the critic Colin Burrow has remarked that astonishment, together with Montaigne’s other key quality, fluidity, are what philosophy should be, but rarely has been, in the Western tradition."

Sarah Bakewell

How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

Francis Bacon

“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion without substitution or imposture is, in its self, a nobler thing than a whole harvest of inventions.” 

- Francis Bacon

Instrument of that voice

“The long lonely effort and the self-discipline are the poet’s prayer that he may be the instrument of that voice [the voice of the race or the unconscious in all of us]. And thereby to speak words and wisdom beyond his own scope and clairvoyance.” 

-- John Hall Wheelock