Voltaire’s Garden

Something amazing happened last night. After dinner, I spent the evening reading instead of surfing the net. 🙂 Came upon a fascinating article in the newest New Yorker magazine on ¡°VOLTAIRE¡¯S GARDEN¡±, by Adam Gopnik. The article gave a good mini-biography on Voltaire, and traced his development as a liberal advocate in the political scene.

A few excerpts that I liked.

“…after renting the villa, he started shopping like Martha Stewart newly freed from prison.”

“..Partly it must have been that he so much enjoyed vexing stupid powerful people that he kept forgetting that stupid people who had gained power were never stupid about threats to their power. Each time he poked the silly tiger and the tiger clawed back, he was genuinely shocked. …By inflating his ego to immense proportions, he made it a shelter for the helpless.”

“It is not so much the establishment of a garden but the ownership of a gate that moves people from liking a society based on favors to one based on rights.”

(¡°Enlightened times will only enlighten a small number of honest men,¡± he wrote. ¡°The common people will always be fanatical.¡±)

¡°All discord harmony not understood; / All partial evil, universal good.¡± –Leibniz

It seems hard only from the narrow point of view of the pig. ¡°Those who have suggested that everything is good have spoken obtusely,¡± Pangloss explains, in Raffel¡¯s rendering. ¡°What they should have said is that everything is for the best.¡±

“It is the flight from failed optimism into faith that he fears.”

¡°We must cultivate our garden,¡± is that our responsibility is local, and concentrated on immediate action.