I have recently been attempting to re-acquaint myself with the gentle art of reading. I looked along the shelf – so much choice, where do I start? I remember I couldn’t complete ‘Crime and Punishment’ last attempt, so steered clear of the Russian section.
Romance didn’t appeal so I turned down Jane Eyre. Then I saw ‘The Social Contract’. Thought I would try it. Imagined ploughing through dry pages, necessary for the betterment of my mind. Well, Rousseau rocks. So much so, that I have found myself taking notes! Here’s my favourite at the moment –
‘Virtue is the strength and activity of the mind. The honest man (there is a tiny need to consider the honest woman as well – oh well) is an athlete, who loves to wrestle (bear in mind when this was written. I prefer to think of wrestling with problems in the mind). He scorns trappings – invented to conceal some deformity.
There prevails in modern manners, a servile and deceptive conformity so that one would think every mind had been cast in the same mould. We no longer dare seem what we are but lie under a perpetual restraint …. in the meantime, the herd of men acts exactly alike unless very particular motives prevent them ….’
His discourse won the prize at The Academy of Dijon in 1750. The question was – ‘Has the restoration of the arts and sciences had a purifying effect on morals?’