The Grass Is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence

I feel oppressed by an error of mind which offends me most as unjust and even more as annoying. I try to correct it, but I cannot root it out. It is that I attach too little value to things I possess, just because I possess them and overvalue anything strange, absent, and not mine. This frame of mind extends very far. As the prerogative of authority leads men to regard their wives with monstrous disdain, and sometimes their children, so too am I afflicted. Whatever I am responsible for can never, as I see things, meet the competition. To an even greater degree, any desire for advancement and improvement clouds my judgment and closes off the path to satisfaction, just as mastery in itself breeds scorn of whatever one holds in one’s power. Exotic societies, customs, and languages attract me, and I realize that the dignity of Latin impresses me more than it should, just as it does children and common folk.  My neighbor’s house, the way he runs his affairs, his horse, though no better than my own, are all worth more than mine precisely because they are not mine.

— Montaigne, “On Presumption”
Via Roger Shattuck, Proust’s Way


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