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When I Am Playing With My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing With Me?: Montaigne and Being in Touch With Life by Saul Frampton

When I Am Playing With My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing With Me?: Montaigne and Being in Touch With Life by Saul Frampton

Author:Saul Frampton
Language: eng
Format: mobi, epub
Tags: Philosophy
ISBN: 9780375424717
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Published: 2011-03-15T06:09:51+00:00


8

The Philosopher’s Stone

(illustrations credit 8.1)

A few months later Montaigne found himself in slightly less formal surroundings, relaxing trouserlessly in the warm mineral baths at Bagni di Lucca. The final goal of his travels was to sample the thermal baths of Italy – drinking and bathing in them – as a treatment for the kidney stones that had plagued him over the past few years, and in April 1581 Montaigne set off from Rome for the baths in high spirits. Upon arriving, he inspected the rooms on offer before splashing out on the finest one available:

especially for the view, which commands … the whole of the little valley and the River Lima, and the mountains which shelter the same valley, all well-cultivated and green to the summit, filled with chestnut and olive trees and elsewhere with vines, that they plant all over the mountains and arrange in circles and terraces … From my room all night I listen to the gentle sound of the river.

He has a dining room, three bedrooms and a kitchen, and a fresh napkin every day, which he uses to clean his teeth. And he sets about taking the waters, bathing in a dark vaulted pool about half the size of his dining room at Montaigne, and recording in his journal the quantities of fluids in and fluids out. He even has a go with something called a doccia, from which ‘you receive hot water upon different parts of the body, and especially the head … in a continual spray’.

Spread around the mountainside are other baths, all having their own therapeutic powers: ‘One cools, another warms, this one for one illness, that one for another, and thereabouts a thousand miracles; in short, there is no kind of illness that does not find its cure there.’

Montaigne’s kidney stones had a profound effect upon his life. Seeing his father being ‘grievously tormented’ and fainting with pain in the seven years before his death contributed to his initial pessimism. He began to suffer in his kidneys about the time he was forty, not long after his retirement, but the stone’s full force struck him at forty-five, two years before he published his first edition of the Essays, plaguing him with its capricious misery. Of the surprises that life held in store, he wished that fate had allocated him something different: ‘For he could not have chosen one of which I have had a greater horror since childhood … it is the one I dreaded most.’ So when Montaigne first published the Essays in 1580, he could be forgiven for thinking that he had only five years left to live – another reason to travel to see the world: to literally see Rome and die.

Kidney stones (renal calculi) are most commonly formed from calcium oxalate crystals that occur in the urine and are deposited in the kidney in too great a quantity to disperse. Diet may be a cause, but a key factor is genetic predisposition, and Montaigne wonders why he had been bequeathed this hereditary time-bomb.



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