Sacred Text Reading Group
Date/Time
Date(s) - 09/19/2020
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Categories

Using a spiritual-practice approach, in each session we will explore a different brief scriptural text in depth. The aims of the sessions are educational (learning something about the texts and traditions), spiritual/moral (discovering what the texts ask of us), and community-building (getting to know each other better). We’ll have a version of the text available to share; “bring” your own if you like. All are welcome, as are your suggestions of future texts.

On Saturday, September 19, we’ll read an excerpt from the essay “Of Experience” by Michel de Montaigne. Perhaps only in a UU church would Montaigne’s writing be considered sacred, as he was a thoroughgoing skeptic in religious matters. But like us, he valued doubt while also passionately seeking truth, meaning, and a good life. Our discussion on that day will be facilitated by faithful attendee Clark Zhang.

From the translation by J M Cohen (1950s):

Xerxes was a fool when, lapped in all human delights, he offered a reward to anyone who would invent others. But hardly less of a fool is the man who curtail those pleasures which nature has found him. They should neither be pursued nor shunned; they should just be accepted. I accept them a little more liberally and let myself follow my natural inclination. We have no reason to exaggerate their emptiness; it makes itself sufficiently felt and seen, thanks to our sickly and kill-joy mind, which disgusts us with them and with itself as well. For it treats both itself and all that it receives, now well, now badly, according to its insati­able, unstable, and changeable nature.
I who boast of embracing the pleasures of life so eagerly and so deliberately, find in them, when I consider them so minutely, little more than wind. But what of that? We are all wind. And the wind itself, wiser than we, takes pleasure in blustering and veering round, and is content with its own functions. It does not desire stability or solidity, qualities that do not belong to it.

The man who knows how to enjoy his existence as he ought has attained to an absolute perfection, like that of the gods. We seek other conditions because we do not understand the proper use of our own, and go out of ourselves because we do not know what is within us. So it is no good our mounting on stilts, for even on stilts we have to walk with our own legs; and upon the most exalted throne in the world it is still our own bottom that we sit on.


The full text of his essay “Of experience” can be found here.

 

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