Cultivate Your Happiness
Reading can open your mind to the possibilities of other lives, other stories to be told. It removes you from the narrative, providing escape into the minds of other beings, with great problems, and even greater solutions. We are at the mercy of another steering the helm, through murky, uncharted waters that slowly become clearer as the story unfolds. We are at the mercy of the other.
Stories help us walk, for a time, in someone else’s shoes, and by doing so, gifts us the ability to view the human condition through a new lens. There are countless stories that have helped me gain perspective I never might have reached, had I not opened to the first page.
One, in particular, comes to mind. The book Candide by Voltaire, is a classic satire, and I am a sucker for satire. I remember reading it in high school, and being absolutely enthralled by it. It describes the story of a young man, Candide, who lives a pampered life, believing in the “best of all possible worlds”. The sort of optimism that is typically snuffed out of most, early on.
Eventually the protagonist experiences all manner of misfortune, including things that most definitely should have killed him. He loses friends, lovers, and all other wealth throughout the book, but miraculously gains it back, however battered and beaten they may be. The final thoughts being that one should “cultivate their garden”.
This book has stayed with me, and shaped much of how I think today. Optimism is an agreeable thing, if it’s contained in reality. Reality being that, not everyone achieves the goals that they once set out to accomplish. Not everyone experiences a whirlwind romance, riches beyond imagine, or perfect health throughout their days, and that’s okay.
Being realistic in expectations is healthy. The world doesn’t owe us anything, nor should we demand it too, especially when we consistently seek to destroy it for our own personal gain. If we truly want something from the world, it should be reciprocal. Cultivating our gardens not only ensures that we create our own happiness, but that we give back in some way. Tending to a garden entails working it, growing new life, that in turn will provide life’s succession.
In short, don’t wait for good things to happen, instead create an environment where only good things can thrive. Maybe if enough of us actually did that, we could truly live in “the best of all possible worlds”.