Tank. The Love of the Word. Lewis’ OHEL. Montaigne on Custom.

January 10, 2008

The first residents of our new tank have moved in: five zebra danios which will kick off the first round of tank cycling. On deck: a small shoal of neon tetras, a pair each of dwarf flame gouramis and dwarf coryadoras. Once the tank matures a little, we’ll add a handful of ghost shrimp. We affixed a piece of black posterboard behind the tank to serve as a backdrop and hide the wires and tubes. It finished things off quite nicely (in the picture above, the lights in the room are off to cut down on reflections).

On an unrelated note, here’s a short post (with some open-ended questions) by Prof. Anthony Esolen, a teacher at Providence College and frequent contributor to Touchstone. I can’t recommend his translation of Dante highly enough, and his two other works, translations of Lucretius and Tasso, have perennial spots on my Amazon wish list. As for his questions, I confess I am no closer to answers than he is, though I suspect that the first step is to kill off the television at home, buy a ton of (good) books and set an example by actually starting to read them.

We have a TV, but it’s upstairs in a guest room and used exclusively for movies. It’s not connected to a cable or satellite box. The aquarium is in the logical location for a TV in our living room. It’s bow-front design actually recalls a TV screen, and at least one of the children has already pointed it out. I’ll take the fish any day.

Familywise, everyone seems to have gotten over their respective holiday colds and stubborn coughs, so we’re in the clear. Or at least for now. We should probably post one of those workplace injury signs in the kitchen. 10 Sneeze/Hack-Free Days, or somesuch.

I’m still working through Lewis’ OHEL, and finding some parts of it pretty easy and others somewhat difficult. In particular, his references to the works under discussion – many of them are unfamiliar to me, and I suspect that only a very well-stocked library would afford the opportunities to find them. Still, it’s a joy to read and I’ll probably come back to it frequently if continue to loiter in the 16th century. His discussion of (St.) Thomas More was particularly interesting – I’ve only just read Utopia recently, and it’s probably just as well that this was the only book of his to make the list from which I’m working. Apparently the rest of his stuff is…well, not so good. Or worse, almost great but not quite as compared to, say, Montaigne.

He seems to have had a right and true apprehension of the power of custom, who first invented the story of a countrywoman who, having accustomed herself to play with and carry, a young calf in her arms, and daily continuing to do so as it grew up, obtained this by custom, that, when grown to be a great ox, she was still able to bear it. For, in truth, custom is a violent and treacherous schoolmistress. She, by little and little, slily and unperceived, slips in the foot of her authority, but having by this gentle and humble beginning, with the benefit of time, fixed and established it, she then unmasks a furious and tyrannic countenance, against which we have no more the courage or the power so much as to lift up our eyes.

– Montaigne, Essay 1, Of Custom, and that we should not easily change a law received

But really, who wants to go toe-to-toe with Montaigne?

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