As James Mill might say: the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else

New person joined the group tonight, and since my prep two (mistake in call out so only one man showed) and four (lock down kept me out) weeks ago (of the same chapter) had once again gotten rusty (no, could not bring myself to read it for the third time) I decided to begin by asking the eight regulars to tell the new person about the Bakewell Montaigne book. Off they went with a bracing level of detail and enthusiasm and side stories and observations, with a long excursus on Boétie’s “On Voluntary Servitude” about which they were especially rapt, not least because we read the original source material and not Bakewell’s take on Montaigne’s take on it.

They continue to think about his argument, and talk about it, and it got new life tonight in the recent launch of Michelle Alexander’s first op-ed piece in the New York Times in which she argues that she is not part of the resistance but is part of the “revolutionary river.” Was Boétie only arguing for a deficient way to overcome a tyrant? One man closed that segment with “Boétie would have some interesting things to say to Alexander about the power of resistance.”

Early on I  wrote in these pages about the men’s attention to authenticity, ownership, originality, and adamance about giving credit to forebears and influences when it is due. I’ll add to that family of values that their desire to read the original works reflects more than a distrust of the secondary source — though that’s certainly part of it — but even more so a newfound trust, and delight, in themselves as interpreters.

This week’s subtitle: Keep a private room behind the shop. What might that mean in prison? Is it possible, and if so in what sense? More on the answers anon.



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