Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Voltaire And Earth Day

Like, I'm assuming, many of you, I've moved a few times in my life. And also like you, I've lost a few things along the way. I only miss two of them: my high school ring [larger, and with a higher gold content, than the ones my college offered], and a college textbook. Comparative Philosophy, I believe it was called. It was, without a doubt, the best sleep-inducing device ever created by mortal man. Five minutes alone with that book had me exchanging high fives with the Keeper of the Land of Nod. I don't know that I've slept as soundly since I lost it.
Of course, as many ex-college students have come to realize, the worst place to develop a love for any topic is in college. For some inexplicable reason, 98% of college instructors have a special talent for sucking the life out of any topic they choose to turn their hand to.It wasn't until I had picked up my sheepskin that I discovered a few lively philosophical tomes. Sir Thomas More's Utopia is one example. So is Voltaire's Candide.
It would be impossible to summarise Candide [well, there must be a Cliff's Notes version, but I just can't picture it]. Imagine a young loving couple facing, among other things, kidnapping, rape, torture at the hands of the Inquisition, and other hilarious moments! Yes, at times [usually during the worst of the mayhem], Candide is an outright hoot!
Anyway, after all the adventures, we spot our young couple joyously tending a farm in the middle of nowhere. Candide, the eternal optimist, tells his mentor, Dr. Pangloss, that he wishes nothing more than the chance to "cultivate his own garden". I think there may be a lesson for all of us, this Earth Day [my God, he finally got to the other half of the title! Alert the media!]
That lesson is, take responsibility for your corner of the world. Work to keep it as environmentally safe as you can. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Take the bus or train whenever you can. Find out what the candidates for office in your area really think about global warming. Vote for those who share your concerns. And while you're at it, cultivate a garden. Whether flowers or produce, it'll help put more oxygen in the air.
Let's face it: we, as individuals, can do little to help the big picture. But working on our own gardens, cleaning up our own part of the world, certainly helps where we are, and puts another piece in the solution to our on-going crisis.
One final thing: if you're heading to a used-book store [great way to get cheap reads, without chopping down more trees for paper], and you happen to see a copy of Comparative Philosophy, would you let me know? I'm so tired...
-Mike Riley


Deb said...

Online, you can read horrible essays by college students "writing" about Candide--equally snooze inducing.

But I thought 'plant your own garden' was about sex or weed. Maybe that's just me.

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