Friday, July 12, 2013

The Best of All Possible Worlds Revisited

Why do we like what we do? Sometimes it's serendipity. And also propinquity. Then there's obstinate choice. Maybe we just like what we like. Open-mindedness might add in something a little extra. Plus travel. Friends. Networks. And whatever century it is, I suppose. Where we're born, how much we've got to work with for starters.

Yesterday I mentioned Clarence Darrow and Voltaire, among other authors. I like them both probably for several of the above reasons mixed together. Here, a blend of both -- three samples from Clarence Darrow's observations about Voltaire, from a lecture he gave in 1918 (See Clarence Darrow, Voltaire / Voltaire and His Times, Chicago: Workers' University Society, ca. 1918). 

It was while in prison that he changed his name from the one his father gave him -- Arouet -- to the one he has made famous throughout all time -- Voltaire. He said, "I was very unlucky under my first name. I want to see if this one will succeed any better."

Like most other philosophers, poets and dreamers, [Voltaire] at least said that he thought agriculture was the one thing worthwhile. Probably like others, he did not mean it. "I have only done one sensible thing in my life," said Voltaire, "to cultivate the ground. He who tills a field, renders a better service to [humankind] than all the scribblers in Europe. . . "You have done a great work for posterity," said a friend one day. "Yes, Madame, I have planted four thousand feet of trees in my park."

And, quite enthusiastically, Darrow quips: "Voltaire . . . wrote eternally and unceasingly, more than any other man in the history of the world."

The whole lecture and booklet is entertaining, if not, one suspects, entirely accurate. You can track it down online. Via this link, for example. 

Today's Rune: Signals. 

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Thanks for the link. I'll have a look see.