Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I read a book about a ranch called Rest and Be Thankful, which was also the name of the book. It was a guest ranch. City people came and found bits of themselves they'd lost track of by being around nature, living slowly, doing things they hadn't done before, and resting.

I can't remember specifically what happened in the plot of that book, which was probably a romance. But if I think of the title, I go to that place, the place of resting and being thankful. So for me that book is a major work of art.

I was thinking of it because I heard a man say on his phone in downtown San Francisco, "I just order my thank you stationary in bulk." Good idea. Accurate.

Voltaire's book "Candide" is over-the-top cynical, which is not to say it's wrong. Voltaire lived around comfortable people who seriously said that everything is good in this, the best of all possible worlds.

So Voltaire sends Candide, who was taught that idea by his tutor, on a world tour of human cruelty and natural disasters. Candide suspects maybe his tutor was missing something.

But even as Candide goes from one horrible thing to another, human made or naturally occuring, Voltaire, of all people, gets, like a Oscar Hammerstein II character, "caught like a dope by a thing called hope." Candide finds a good society in South America. They aren't mean to each other. Someone asks if they believe in God and what is clearly the voice of Voltaire says, "Of course, they believe in God. They aren't so insensitve to gratitude that they don't believe in God."

So in mid-list of what's bad about the world, Voltaire says that gratitude is a natural condition. I love days when I know that. I get saner and breathe bigger.