Marginalia, no.49

It is not enough a game, and too serious an amusement.

~ Montaigne, Essays, I, 50

He’s referring to chess.  The sentiment, I think, can be more broadly applied.  But Montaigne goes on to describe the special power of chess to excite the passions and overwhelm us with anger, impatience, even hatred, and the grinding ambition to win a contest which it might be more philosophically educational to lose. “For rare and extraordinary excellence in frivolous things,” he says, “is unbecoming a man of honor.”  One might conclude that he rarely played.  But Montaigne would admit he’s entirely consumed by frivolous things, and he’s too familiar with the pangs and trials of the game to be an unfazed or merely occasional player.  It’s a common condition, really: to be utterly devoted to something one feels honor-bound to disparage.


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