Saturday, October 29, 2011

To mummy and papa

Dear Ma and Pa,

As I told you earlier, the house in which I'm currently staying used to be the house of Rene Descartes. I often ignore the little plaque on the side of the door because I come home either hungry or in desperate need of a toilet, leading me to burst into the house and to sprint up three flights of stairs. The plaque outside, thus goes unread.

Today, however, was different. I think that's largely because as I have things to do and hence, I was overcome with a dire need to procrastinate. I began reading interesting things on Wikipedia and as it often happens while reading stuff on wikipedia, one thing and thought (pun intended that will be understood later on) led to another. I realised that I knew very little about Rene Descartes. It thus seemed natural to wikipedia him.

Another reason for that the curiosity is that at times while I sleep I can hear scratching and humming that sounds like a philosopher embedded deeply in his work. Initially, I used to think that it was my Transylvanian (vampire) neighbour who jokes about his comfortable coffin but now I've come to believe that it might actually be the ghost of Descartes himself.

Anyway, returning to my findings: I discovered that Descartes is the guy who said 'I think therefore I am'- without doubt, a wise and philosophical statement, endowing him with the title of 'the father of modern philosophy'. Turns out that he was also the chap who laid the foundation for modern maths and developed the cartesian system- something that I'd studied and quite despised in school. So while these were all things I'd known, I'd forgotten them. But now, living in his house, I'd become suddenly interested and fond of the chap.

It's the plaque outside my door. It says that Rene Descartes (who lived most of his life in the Netherlands) lived in this house for three years during his visits/sojourns to Paris. The quote mentioned on the plaque is from a letter that he wrote to Elisabeth, the princess of Bohemia in 1648.
The quotation is this:
"Me tenant comme je suis, un pied dans un pays et l’autre en un autre, je trouve ma condition très heureuse, en ce qu’elle est libre."
Which translated means this, "Staying as I am, one foot in one country and the other in another, I find my condition very happy/ very fortunate, in that it is free."
Somehow, I find it interestingly apt.
much love,

No comments: