‘I have gathered a posy of other men’s flowers – and nothing but the thread that binds them is mine own’.
I often think of reading not as the acquisition of static knowledge but as the active springboard for thinking and dynamic contemplation — hence the combinatorial – LEGO-like nature of creativity – wherein we assemble building blocks of existing knowledge into new formations of understanding that we consider our original ideas. But long before our contemporary conceptions of how creativity works, French Renaissance polymath and proto-blogger Michel de Montaigne (February 28, 1533–September 13, 1592) articulated this magpielike quality of the mind – so very central to ideation.
A competent reader often discovers in other men’s writings other perfections than the author himself either intended or perceived – a richer sense and more quaint expression.
Half a millennium before Mark Twain proclaimed that “substantially all ideas are second-hand” and long before we drained the term ‘curation’ of meaning by compulsive and indiscriminate application – Montaigne observed:
I have gathered a posy of other men’s flowers – and nothing but the thread that binds them is mine own.