A Harmless Activity

“There are people who occasionally engage in thinking when they have nothing better to do. It is a harmless activity, much practiced in former times, but now unfortunately fallen into desuetude. There is so much else to do. Montaigne, the greatest master of latitudinal thinking, roamed widely, if not always profoundly: there was virtually nothing that could not serve him as a hook on which to hang his thought, his reminiscences and remarks. His Essays have been greatly admired for nearly four hundred years; whether they still are read widely I do not know. He wrote at a time when the languages of antiquity enjoyed a vigorous afterlife which now has surely come to a regrettable end; the many quotations from ancient authors with which his writings are adorned so richly, as with so many strings of pearls, can now hardly find a receptive ear.” (Chargaff, Serious Questions)