If it's not one of ten million authorities emphasizing the need for efficiency and planned action, or modern evolutionists of all sorts in business, in fitness, in the arts convincing us that if what we're doing isn't in the name of advancement and improvement then it's not worth doing, or just us telling ourselves that we must keep up with everything and everyone else and so have no time to swim around in our own selves; revery has become the Revery seems to have fallen out of favor nowadays.
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If it's not one of ten million authorities emphasizing the need for efficiency and planned action, or modern evolutionists of all sorts in business, in fitness, in the arts convincing us that if what we're doing isn't in the name of advancement and improvement then it's not worth doing, or just us telling ourselves that we must keep up with everything and everyone else and so have no time to swim around in our own selves; revery has become the stepsister of onanism.
I suspect that first cable television and now the internet on top of it have become our objects of revery and often even do the reverying for us. Or rather TRY to do it, for these are surely only false reveries. But what does revery even mean?
I have an immediate vague notion of pointless daydreaming or being "lost in thought", and I think that's pretty close; but the old style revery involved even more, it was more akin to out of body travel, soul travel, living in a waking dream. One would gaze at something and enter that something and begin to travel through one's mind. Or one would walk and through the rhythm of the walking memories and thoughts would be dislodged and multiple chains of associative reactions would occur and one would truly be lost in thought in an effectively infinite cosmos of the mind, or walk off the edge of a cliff And revery is like walking off that cliff, becoming untethered from the daily grind and habitual patterns, like a vast unbuckling of thought moving every whichaway in a world gone loosy goosy.
Rousseau opposes revery to thought, saying that he has never been a great thinker; and by this I think he's saying that thought is the active manipulation of our mind and soul activity into intentional patterns, a directed activity with often preconceived ideas; while revery is passive, unintentional, non-conceptual.
There's a lot of self-pitying in this book, but more than that it's a book of almost heroic honesty and self-revelation and it's a thrill to read his thoughts move back and forth between rancor and venom spat out at his contemporaries while at the same time saying he hates no one, and some very moving expressions of universal good will and union with nature. It's full of stimulating contradictions which makes it just seem all the more real. And of course there are also a lot of fruitful reveries, or rather the book is the fruit of the reveries, and it's definitely an apple worth chomping into.
View all 3 comments. Aug 23, Jimmy rated it it was ok Shelves: years , male , walking , non-fiction , switzerland. Well, this sounded really good from the description: slightly crazy Rousseau at the end of his life, walking, thinking, bitterness, misanthropy, etc. However, in practice, it was like listening to that drunk guy at the bar telling you how everybody is against him, and how he really deserves better, and how he's really a great guy and that he's not really mad at these people he calls them his 'persecuters' But he emphasizes those last points a little too pointedl Well, this sounded really good from the description: slightly crazy Rousseau at the end of his life, walking, thinking, bitterness, misanthropy, etc.
But he emphasizes those last points a little too pointedly, so that you start to think he doesn't really believe it. Like he's just saying it to convince himself that it's true. Because, really, he's not over the fact that certain people don't like him. And you end up not caring if he's really a good guy or not, you just want him to stop talking so you can enjoy your beer. While there are some good ideas and thoughts in here, none of them really blew me away, they all seemed like stuff I would write down in my own diary, only to look back on them and feel a slight twinge of shame.
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And there's not the meandering quality I would associate normally with a walking narrative. These are ten well-formed essays, with forceful agendas. He didn't stop to tell you about his walk, or about something he observed at the corner of Rue Such-and-such and Avenue de So-and-So. No, none of that, it's all Rousseau all the time. He is so much in his own mind that I felt like I was reading a case-study in how not to drive yourself crazy.
I see these tendencies in myself sometimes and I hope I don't ever become like him. Reduced to my own self, it is true that I feed on my own substance. And while the writing is not bad, he repeats his points to the point of tedium, and takes so long in saying it, that I fell asleep reading a few of them. PS - the Introduction, written by the translator Peter France, is pretty good though, and gives a good context of how these writings fit into Rousseau's larger body of work. I do want to read more of Rousseau, he was probably a great thinker before he turned sour and inward.
View all 8 comments. Nov 10, Veronica rated it liked it. These hours of solitude and meditation are the only time of the day when I am completely myself, without distraction or hindrance, and when I can truly say that I am what nature intended me to be. Second Walk For, although I am perhaps the only person in the world to whom destiny has decreed that he should live in this way, I cannot believe that I am the only person to have such a natural inclination for it, although I have so far not come across it in anyone else.
Seventh Walk I am a hundred times happier on my own than I could ever be living with them. Then they quickly vanish away because, then and there, I have nothing to jot them down on; it happens when I am on my horse or at table or in bed—especially on my horse, the seat of my widest musings.
Like Montaigne before him, Rousseau forges has identity through a process of spontaneous mental combustion, through the accumulation of thoughts and memories: like the Essays, the Reveries paint the portrait of a thinking man as he thinks. Although, tying into the sense of isolation bred by the distaste for society and love of solitude a topic with which, as I did with Leopardi, I found a strong resonance , Rousseau does point out a divergence between the two: My task is the same as that of Montaigne, but my aim is the exact opposite of his: for he wrote his essays entirely for others, whearas I am writing my reveries entirely for myself.
An excellent, if unfortunately concise, work by Rousseau; for me, the Reveries did indeed recall Montaigne, as well as Leopardi with Rousseau's musings on the vanities of society. Lots to take away from such a short work. Highly recommended. Thrown as a child into the maelstrom of the world, I learned from an early age that I was not made to live in it and that in it I would never reach the state for which my heart longed. It is from this time that I can date my complete renunciation of the wold and that great fondness for solitude that has never left me since.
The work that I was undertaking could only be accomplished in absolute isolation; it called for the kind of long and undisturbed meditations that the tumult of society does not allow. That forced me for a time to adopt a different way of life, which I was subsequently so glad to have done that, having since then interrupted it only against my will and for short periods of time; I returned to it most readily and limited myself to it quite easily as soon as I could. The conclusion I can draw from all these reflections is that I have never really been suited to civil society, where there is nothing but irritation, obligation, and duty, and that my independent nature always made me incapable of the constraints required of anyone who wants to live with them.
I became a solitary or, as they call it, unsociable and misanthropic, because the fiercest solitude seems to me preferable to the society of the wicked, which thrives only on treachery and hatred.
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I have seen many men who philosophised much more learnedly than I, but their philosophy was, as it were, external to them. Wanting to be more learned than anyone else, they studied the universe to find out how it was to be arranged, in the same way as they might have studied some machine the they happened to see, that is, out of pure curiosity. They studied human nature in order to be able to speak learnedly about it, but not in order to know themselves; they worked in order to instruct others, but not in pursuit of their own inner enlightenment.
I have always believed that before instructing others, one has to first know enough for oneself. Their philosophy is for others; I need one for myself. But what I feared most in the world, given the state of mind in which I felt myself to be, was endangering the eternal fate of my should for the sake of enjoying worldly riches, the value of which has never seemed to me to be very great.
I need to remind myself of my former decisions; the care, the attention, and the sincerity of heart with which I took them them come back to mind and restore my complete confidence. Thus I reject all new ideas as if they were harmful errors which have only a false appearance of truth and which are the only fit to disturb my peace of mind. Among the small number of books that I still sometimes read, Plutarch is the author whom I enjoy most and find most useful.
Very often what does good to one person does harm to another, and private interest is almost always ion conflict with with public interest. I have noticed, however, in the ups and downs of a long life, that it is not the memory of the periods of the sweetest joys and keenest pleasures that draws me and touches me the most.
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These brief moments of madness and passion, however intense they may be, are, precisely because of their very intensity, only ever scattered points along the line of our life. They are too rare and too fleeting to constitute a proper state of being, and the happiness that my heart longs for is not made up of short-lived moments, but of a simple and lasting state, which has nothing intense about it in itself, but which is all the more charming because it lasts, so much so that it finally offers the height of happiness.
But most men, being constantly stirred by passion, know little of this state, and, having only ever experienced it imperfectly and briefly, they have only a vague and confused idea of it, which gives them no sense of its charm.
Oct 03, Debbie Robson rated it it was amazing. Some may dismiss him as mad but for me I really think he was overly sensitive and suffered for a good part of his life from a persecution complex.
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He was also melodramatic, i. In some instances it seems to fuel his writing. His contemporaries may have made his life hell by his accounts - they are forgotten and Rousseau lives on for his interesting philosophy and his clear readable and expressive style of writing. Yes, he might be considered by many to be vain and self obsessed but his words still ring true.
Nothing keeps the same unchanging shape, and our affections, being attached to things outside us, necessarily change and pass away as they do.
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Always out ahead of us or lagging behind, they recall a past which is gone or anticipate a future which may never come into being; there is nothing solid there for the heart to attach itself to. I can go on and on. This is a challenging book but well worth being a It is also an eloquent note on perception.
I should be wrong then to be upset by the image they have of me; I ought to take no real interest in it, since it is not me that they are seeing. Jun 28, Nick rated it liked it. You can see this book as the man looking at his life and seeking a peace with himself.
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