Wrote Michel de Montaigne, evincing one of 2 personality types perceived and examined by David Brooks.
Montaigne was more laid back, and our culture is more comfortable with his brand of genial self-acceptance and restraint.The other "brand" of which Brooks speaks has Samuel Johnson as its mascot.
We can each pick what sort of person we would prefer to be. But I’d say Johnson achieved a larger greatness. He was harder on himself. He drove himself to improve more strenuously. He held up more demanding standards for the sort of life we should be trying to live, and constantly rebutted smugness and self-approval.Brooks wants us to be harder on ourselves, more rigorous and self-critical, less self-accepting and easy going. He'd like the japing, flying Montaignes of modern-day commentary to subordinate themselves — ourselves! — to the brooding, snooty analysts who delve into history and sort people into 2 categories and chide us to improve ourselves.
Montaigne was a calming presence in a country filled with strife, but Johnson was a witty but relentless moral teacher in a culture where people were likely to grade themselves on a generous curve, and among people who spent more time thinking about the commercial climb than ultimate things.
And what got him off on that mental jag? I bet it was all the guff he got last month when he soberly advised us against using marijuana:
[My friends and I, having smoked marijuana, reached a] stage, which I guess all of us are still in, of trying to become more integrated, coherent and responsible people. This process usually involves using the powers of reason, temperance and self-control — not qualities one associates with being high.So marijuana makes you more like Montaigne, less like Samuel Johnson. How annoying to the Johnsons of this world to have the Montaignes enjoying the fragmentation. How annoying to the Brookses of this world to have the whole crazy internet mocking his call to sobriety.
I think we had a sense, which all people have, or should have, that the actions you take change you inside, making you a little more or a little less coherent. Not smoking, or only smoking sporadically, gave you a better shot at becoming a little more integrated and interesting. Smoking all the time seemed likely to cumulatively fragment a person’s deep center, or at least not do much to enhance it.