Black Sea Urchins have Poisonous Spines – so, too, good deeds at times

Our World

Judge Judy Scheindlin often quips “No good deed goes unpunished!”


Rings true, doesn’t it?  Good deeds involve risk taking: people go out on a limb to do them – were this not the case, we’d not need good Samaritan laws! 

People invite someone down on their luck to stay for a while only to be sued for “wrongful eviction” when it doesn’t work out. Or people lend money and ask for the smallest of payments only to be stiffed, declared an ogre, and sued for harassment.

People trying to help often get burned by those whom they attempt to help; the hand that feeds is bitten and hated.

But what about those times when so-called friends and other folks standing by in polite society pose the risk and create the problem, people like me. I’ve got a confession to make …

Confession

I have said and done harmful things to people doing their best to help someone.  We all do this to some extent, you know, we gossip, we speculate that this or that won’t turn out well, we resist the good intentions because we worry about what may happen, appearances, or maybe we have genuine concern for the other party. We even have that little phrase, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

We fear disappointment, we cling to our comfort zones. We pass by the wounded man on the road using all of reasons folks used in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).

What’s worse than that, when things go badly, we have a fascination with finding blame and attaching it to the people who tried to help, as we attempt to validate our own unhelpful choices.

Now let’s get real.

Mom, Suki, and I in the kitchen in the early 1990’s

There came a time when I heard of a “private” adoption being arranged by people whom I knew. The good deed was to help a mother with many children find a loving adoptive home for her two fraternal-twin toddlers. This lady suffered from drug addiction and lived the life to fund it, the father was not involved, and this left these twins, a little boy and a little girl, in a very bad situation. Someone who knew the family, and whom I knew, stood up and helped at the lady’s request. These good and helpful people I shall call Samaritans.

My reaction was to review the laws regarding adoption, to criticize, to urge caution and restraint (through gossip and not to the Samaritans), and to think of everything except the children and the woman being helped. I did not directly approach the people working for the benefit of the children and offer advice and help, I did not provide financial support, I did nothing to serve the good. I was an agent of those passing by the man on the road whom the Samaritan saved. “Don’t touch him, he’s unclean.” Was I jealous? Perhaps. Was I wrong? Most certainly, I was wrong.

Suitable adoptive parents were found and vetted. The adoption proceeded and was concluded.

Then, the unthinkable happened. The adoptive father punched and kicked the toddler boy to death. This evil man was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The judge added “and I hope you rot in hell” to the sentence. The other child was removed and the adoption terminated, the wife divorced the evil man.

And the people who attempted the good deed – devastated, held in derision, talked about, looked down upon, by me and others.

In the aftermath, I doubled down on conventional wisdom and arrogance. I couldn’t live with such evil in the world and sought blame and fault: There must have been signs! There must have been some early warning that was missed. The entire adventure should never have been undertaken. I should have done more to stop it, or someone should have. My tongue wagged before the murder and after.

But, allegiance to the truth is a humbling thing. With the internet, lots of information is available, and I looked into this matter in great detail. My motive was to find the mistake and affix blame among the these Samaritans. What I found did the opposite, I found that they didn’t miss anything that I would not also have missed – there wasn’t really anything to miss taken in context.

I found that forensic evidence and reviews after a tragic event show all sorts of things, but none that would have prevented the tragedy. The only prevention would have been forsake the man (these two kids) on the side of the road and leave him to his fate. Then, years on, I grew ashamed of myself.

I was completely wrong. I was aiding and abetting the Satanic evil that came into our midst by perpetuating, even inventing rational sounding lies and laying on absurd ex post facto pronouncements.

Many people were hurt by this situation, albeit none were charged except for this evil beast, thanks be to God. Indeed, and in honest retrospect, the effort of the Samaritans was laudable. You see, for these Samaritans, there was no fault. There was evil that no one could have foreseen. And if the slight brush with this evil impacted me as severely as it has, how must those other people, the ones that tried to help, feel? Where was my comfort, where was my empathy? Where was my support? It is here now.


A More Beautiful View

Dallas Blooms 1999 – Dallas Arboretum

Some years ago, I was monitoring a facilities crew “wrecking out” stainless steel piping with a plasma torch. We removed the combustibles from the area, except we missed a small trash can. Some slag fell in, and the trash caught fire. Spencer was running the torch and was afraid to use the fire extinguisher because he might get written up for a safety incident, so he proceeded to jam his foot into the trash can to stomp out the fire. You know, the kind of short metal can that is round and wide at the top and more narrow at the bottom.

In a comic scene, Spencer’s foot got caught in the trash can. As he stomped up and down, trash can stuck to his leg, his jeans caught fire. I popped the tab on the fire extinguisher, even though I shouldn’t have done so by the rules, and put it out. Site safety did not write it up, and I didn’t care – I wasn’t about to let Spencer get burned while I waited for a trained fire extinguisher operator. I acted as a good Samaritan and took the risk. We had a nice laugh, and went back to work. This is how we all hope these things work out.

But when they don’t, we needn’t stop trying.

The Jump

Mittens lights the room

Why do we do this? Resist the good, value rules more than obvious good outcomes such as the our parable in Luke? Let’s jump in. After all, that’s what I do.

WHY

We live in a self-made paradox. Our self confidence and aspirations require us to put faith that good triumphs over evil yet the evidence is not on our side. In our world today, I believe that it our job to make this paradox come true as best we can.

Our society is fed by its ancient roots collectively believing that bad things happen to bad people (and not to good people). Why? Because it’s often true, and it always makes us feel safe. If we’re following the rules all will be well, for the reasonably well to do anyway. There are a lot of important rules – cautions and warnings, learning what is safe to eat and so forth. Failure to abide by those rules leads to bad consequences, always. Being afraid to use a fire extinguisher is not on that list, and when the warnings on a bottle of over the counter Ibuprofen make the dosage instructions impossible to find, we may have gone a bit too far.

Obsessed with Tradition

Our most ancient ancestors held to tried and true ancient traditions firmly. Scholars, priests, augurs, and others sought guidance from the divine by reading of the stars, the auspices, organs of animals, by consulting oracles, drawing lots, ecstatic prophecy (including sibylline verses), scripture, and odd phenomena such as malformed livestock, and human, births.

Most religious efforts sought to avoid making the Gods angry rather than getting them to do something, albeit quite a few Roman battles in Livy’s narrative included promises for temples and the like, if victory was given, cp. Jacob’s conditional promise to God at Bethel (aka Luz) (Genesis 29:19-22).

Note: This is of extreme import because failure to participate in the religious rites of a given locality (city, community) could, they thought, bring the wrath of the local gods down upon the citizenry. That’s why Jews and Christians alike were often accused of atheism – they would not worship the local gods making them a risk to the community and rendering them pariahs. One cannot help but note that this theology is still on display worldwide, quite often right here in the United States, and I’m talking about Christians.

The age of rules, how old they are, is also important to society. For instance, the most ancient of medical cures, spells, and amulets, dating from before 3,000 BCE tout efficacy due to the age of the treatment or the incantation. And we all know of the many warnings in the Torah about failure to abide by the rules. Indeed, beyond scripture itself, the Babylonian Talmud ( Talmud Bavli ca 400 CE) states that the prohibition on moving ancestral boundary markers (Deuteronomy 19:14) means that tradition must be unchanged and intact in order to know the rules that lead to a good life.

Anything that challenges these norms creates problems, and no one wanted, or wants, that. Indeed, and most often, the nature of ancient – divine interaction was one of timing, not the actual thing to be done. In other words, the auspices were taken over and over again until it was “safe” to go forward.

Oracles, being question and answer, however cryptic and poetic the answers were, are of course different, and often worked both ways. Croesus asked the Sybil at Delphi (ca. 560 BCE) about his intentions to attack Persia. She answered “If you make war on the Persians, a mighty empire will fall.” Croesus attacked the Persians. Croesus’ mighty empire fell.

All of that to say that people spent a great deal of time and effort to make sure that no rule was broken and believe that this led to success. This matter of form was extreme, a Roman Consul could be, and some were, recalled for taking up posts without the auspices having been properly taken.

In a round about way, that’s how we got where we are. Shortly put, our paradox requires us to develop coping mechanisms that give us the illusion of control.


Osborne’s Biblical Tables – Timeline

The Bible

A student of Scripture will know that the relationship between sin and earthly fate creates tension throughout the text. The notion that sins are the cause of all bad things that happen to people – and if not their sins then the sins of their fathers or mothers – continues to be questioned throughout scripture even in the New Testament. We’ll look at other views, notably Darwin and Voltaire later in this post, but for now, the Bible and its history is our topic.

Living life showed that bad people often prospered. And ancient writings record this, very notably the dissatisfaction of interpreters with the ending of the book of Job (written ca. 500 BCE). God allows Satan to torment Job to prove that Job is righteous even when things go badly for Job, almost as a bet between Satan to God. Job did nothing wrong, and that torment including Satan killing his children.

In the end, Job’s children were not restored, they were replaced. People didn’t believe that this was satisfactory, which lead to legends – see Louis Ginzberg’s Legends of the Jews for in depth study. That lore has Job seeing his children living in paradise – the world to come, or having magic properties helping others – a good outcome for the dead. The notion that people living righteous charitable lives could end up snuffed out for no sin was not tenable, yet it happens every day in the world – now as much or even more than then.

Beyond Job, the fact that people living evil lives did well and prospered led to a lot of writing and thought. How could this be? Given that a solution during life was not always evident, the next solution was that the manner of death and the pain thereof took care of justice. An example of this is Josephus‘ detailed account of the long and painful death of Herod the Great.

Then again, maybe suffering is part of our role in life. Isaiah leads us into the suffering servant songs (Isaiah 42, 49, 50, and 52/53), that somehow it is the suffering of the human for the good that brings about the ultimate reconciliation of the universe through the agency of the Lord God. We should note that these latter portions of Isaiah may be from his disciples and may date to ca 500 BCE vs the first chapters which date to ca 700 BCE.

Likewise, the dependence on the Temple and its sacrifices to maintain the relationship with God gradually comes into question. It is said, in places (e.g., Psalm 50, Isaiah 1:11, Jeremiah 6:17 et al.), to be uncalled for, even disliked by the Lord God. The prophets declare that it is the heart of the people, their good intent, their love of each other, of the poor, of the widow, of the orphan and of their God that is important. More important than rules. Hosea comes right out and says it, and Jesus quotes him – the Lord desires mercy, not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6, cp. Matthew 9:13 and 12:7). Put together, the Lord desires self sacrifice, “pick up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 10:38, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, and finally Luke 14:27 (NRS) Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.)

Still, all of this is about resolution after death, and Jewish thought was divided on the fate of the soul after death. Most thought, like the Greeks, that the soul descended into a shadow world known as Sheol, quite like the Greek Underworld “Chthnoic” regions from which none but Gods could return. What we read of in scripture is usually the resurrection – that is, restored life after some sort of life after death. We have only glimpses of life after death, for instance, Samuel being brought back by the witch of Endor for Saul (1 Samuel 28:15-19).

Of the three primary schools of Second Temple Period Jewish thought (Sadducees, Essenes, and Pharisees), the Sadducees and Essenes did not believe in the resurrection; what you got you got in life. They were Messianic Jews, and that’s a fact, but the agency of the Messiah was to be in the here and now with war and Jewish domination of the world.

For the Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection, when the messianic age came, those worthy would be raised from the dead, which is now modern basic Rabbinical Jewish eschatology. Mind you, the Pharisees of Jesus’ time were all for triumph over the nations in the here and now; the tapestry of Judiasms from about 200 BCE forward is rich, varied, conflicting, and interlocking.

Christians believe, generally, that Christ descended into Sheol (hell) and rescued the faithful Jews (and others) from Sheol and their wait in the Bosom of Abraham (Luke 16:19-31), leading them into paradise to await the general resurrection of the dead.

And, yes, yes, there’s that intermediate state – not bad enough for eternal damnation and not good enough for paradise. Christians formalized the doctrine of purgatory to deal with this at the council of Lyon in 1274 CE (protestants reject this notion as a Roman Catholic invention). Sorry, folks, the Jews formalized this notion before 400 CE in the Babylonian Talmud with perhaps a year in Gehenna to purge those with such issues; this is Jewish thought.

So what we have is an evolution from life and death and that’s it, to life and death and an immortal soul and the resurrection of the dead on the great day of the Lord when a new act of creation will restore balance and the presence of God and his people together. And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5 NRS) Note the tense – am making. Thus, the birthing pangs described by St. Paul. The world is being reborn according to Christian Theology with it’s King on the way when the time is right.

And, you know, it’s not just the Bible. From at least as far back as 2,300 BCE forward, the most important scene in the Egyptian book of the Dead is the weighing of the the heart against the feather of Ma’at – one could only hope for the afterlife if the sins of one’s heart were balanced with truth, justice, charity, the good. And the little angel on one shoulder writing down the good and the other writing down the bad we see – that’s a direct lift from the Qur’an (7th century CE).

The common thread is that good wins in the world to come.

Lasers shine on a Mirror ball during Queen’s Rhapsody Tour in Dallas, Brian May on Stage

Theological Resolution

The broken state of the world is generally left, by Christians anyway, at the feet of Adam and Eve as the result of original sin which caused death to be visited on mankind (Genesis 2:17) and introduced human free-will caused disorder into the divine plan. This then led to all of the bad things that happened to creation. That’s a simple solution that took over a thousand years to brew. It became fully fledged in the late second temple period most notably in St. Paul’s First letter to the Corinthians 15:21-22 “For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.” In other words, the scales are balanced on the other side, after the restoration of the world for the living, and after the general resurrection for the dead.

What problem does the doctrine of original sin seek to solve? It solves the paradox of a loving, just God who created a wonderful world that has turned against Him and His ways leaving a wasteland of murder, mayhem, evil, and misery. The better question is why did this doctrine evolve?

The doctrine of original sin lays in the path for a new act of creation and restoration by the Lord God in order to save his creation from the evil unleashed by the disobedience of our prototypes, Adam and Eve. This is where the page turns – our righteousness will never save us, our love and humility will, but only by the grace of the Living God and our struggle to be bearers of his image. We don’t see original sin evolve in scripture, what we see evolve is Messianic Rescue.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8 NRS) leads me to think that original sin is too simple a solution to this problem. I think that, perhaps, we’re not quite cooked yet.

Theological Evolution: Messianic Rescue

In the great biblical narrative of the Torah, after the flood, we hear no more about this sins of Adam and Eve. We hear no conditions on the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and others except obedience to the law. What we see is a people struggling with their identity, their traditions, and suffering in many ways – most of which are attributed to divine wrath but which I at least attribute to fortune, and lots of mistakes, with God taking the blame for bad outcomes. We see hints of a future state, starting in the Psalms, in Ezekiel, in Isaiah, and indeed in Hosea and all of the prophets – hope for mankind. But what we do not find is an explanation for why God doesn’t just reach out and fix us. Again, maybe we’re not cooked yet.

Yet the promise that Israel (Jacob’s children, not the northern kingdom) will be the light to the world including the Gentile nations all of whom will bless themselves by Abraham (Genesis 12:2) remains present yet distant. Time goes forward through Judges and Chronicles, and the Prophets speak. It becomes clear, to me, that the role of Israel is to be the suffering servant of God – to suffer the torments of the world gone wrong in a way that shows good manifest in the world.

But things do go horribly wrong. The northern kingdom of Israel, also called Samaria, was captured by Assyria in stages from 732 to 720 BCE. The people were led away and exiled, however, some remained and some returned to help the Assyrians work the kingdom. By the way, there are still Samaritans in Samaria as I write this, about 700 strong.

The southern kingdom, Judah, escaped this, but not the Babylonians.

In about 589 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar lays siege to Jerusalem and captures Judah (aka Judea). Upon a revolt from this vassal state, Nebuchadnezzar does the unthinkable – the temple is destroyed (586 BCE). People never thought that God would permit this, but it really happened. They were lost.

Of course, the prophets warned that both of these disasters were coming, and Jeremiah predicted the duration of the Babylonian captivity would be seventy years ( Jeremiah 25:11-12).

Persia, and others, found the Babylonian empire to be problematic, leading Cyrus the Great to defeat Nebuchadnezzar (ca 540 BCE), free the Judean (Jewish) people from captivity and permit – even fund – the rebuilding of the temple (ca 521-516 BCE). Isaiah calls Cyrus “the Lord’s Anointed” (Hebrew: Mashiyack, English: Messiah, Greek: Christos) (Isaiah 45:1). Note that 586 BCE – 516 BCE = 70 years, as given in Jeremiah 25:11-12.

But things were never quite right after the people’s return to the land. Glory did not return with the temple, and the rebuilders imposed all sorts of rules to make sure that people in the new nation were pure, were not married to people of the land (Ezra Chapter 10, Nehemiah 10:28 ff.), even people that they were permitted to marry outside of Judaism. More and more stringent rules were imposed. All to no avail – why? Why didn’t the Lord raise Israel back up to the shining city of the temple mount, why wasn’t Zion restored?

Moving boundary markers, that’s why, so it was thought. The vigorous encroachment of Greek traditions “Hellenism” began even before the conquests of Alexander the Great (King 336-323 BCE) and reached a fever pitch when Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Hellenistic King of the Seleucid empire (one of the successor kingdoms to Alexander the Great) banned all Jewish religious practice on penalty of death (ca 168 BCE). Gymnasiums abounded in the land (Gym means naked in Greek – naked male exercise, often with homoerotic overtones) – there was even one on Jerusalem.

Note: Male same sex relationships were prohibited in Ancient Israel based on Leviticus 18:22, and those worldviews are important to history. My personal beliefs, stated at length in my post Jesus and White Waters, are that people must be free to love and marry whom they choose and to be who they truly are, regardless gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, and all the myriad things that set us apart.

Many Jewish people became Hellenized. This involved eating ritually unclean foods, failure to perform required rituals and prayers, intermarriage, prohibition of the circumcision of male children, eating food sacrificed to other gods, and so forth. But it was also more active.

It was considered extremely rude for a man to expose the glans of his (uncircumcised) penis in public, especially in the Gymnasium leading some Greeks wear a “leash on the dog” restricting the foreskin to prevent this. Jewish people, being circumcised, could not help but expose the glans when naked, so they sought to hide the mark of Abraham by stretching skin and so forth. It was much more than simply going to a gym for a workout in the nude, it was a rejection of culture, a rejection of the covenant of Abraham.

The Jewish Maccabean revolt violently rejected these changes, starting in 167 BCE. With the revolt came a purge, that is, extermination, of Hellenizing Jews within Judea and Samaria (and beyond), ensuring strict compliance to the rules as imposed by the new Hasmonean rulers: Maccabee is an acronym; the family was the Hasmonean dynasty.

The temple, desecrated by the Seleucids, was cleansed and rededicated – we remember this as Hanukkah or the festival of lights, ca. 165 BCE. Rome recognized the Jewish state in 139 BCE, however, war with the Seleucids and Syrians continued and, when those were settled, a civil war between Hasmonean factions began in 63 BCE leading to Pompey’s intervention that same year. The Roman Senate later declared Herod the Great king of Judea in 37 BCE.

Note: depending on your Bible, the first and second books of Maccabees may not be included; they are considered “apocryphal” by many. These are essential reading because they close the gap between the old and new testament periods including this uprising. Among other things, we learn of prayers for the dead who had sinned becoming customary. These books should be read by the student of Scripture.

In the meantime, ca 137 BCE, the “Yahad” – the community at Qumran who wrote and kept the dead sea scrolls was formed. They rejected Hasmonean rule because the priestly and kingly lines were not as prescribed in the Bible (King from the Davidic line, High Priest descended from Zadok), and the Yahad discontinued participation in the temple cult. This community was extremely strict and required long apprenticeships to enter. For more on this, see Outside the Bible: Ancient Jewish writings related to Scripture. You’ll want to pay heed to scroll 1QS “Community Rule“.

It should be noted that the Yahad write of a “Teacher of Righteousness” who has been betrayed by a “Liar”, which some have taken to be Jesus and St. Paul respectively, thinking that Paul’s insistence on changes to Jewish tradition in the early church was not from Christ. However, the dating of these texts is clearly before the Christian era – they are talking about other people, most likely the founder of the group “Teacher of Righteousness” and persecuting Hasmonean leaders “Liars” in Judea.

The book of Daniel, ca 150-100 BCE also brought a clue – it’s not seventy years of exile, no, it’s seventy weeks of years (Daniel 9:24), 490 years. The temple fell in 586 BCE. 586-490 = 96 BCE. The book of Daniel is saying that the time for the Messiah to save Israel is 97 BCE – for its readers, NOW!

So, there you have it. While obedience is required, humans cannot fix this problem. God will, in due time, send help to the faithful who remain. But what people expected, they did not get.

They expected a mighty king who would lead Israel to dominate the world under the rule of God. What they got was several false messiahs – Herod Agrippa, Simon ben Kosevah aka Simon Bar Kokhba, and others all of whom lead to more misery and downfall. Before those was a man named Jesus. But his message was and still is to radical to hear.

Turtles sun on Whiterock Lake in Dallas

Secular Voices

Darwin

If one read’s Darwin’s letters and listens to scholars talk about his journey, one understands how much Darwin regretted the differences between the theory of Evolution and the scriptural accounts in Genesis and elsewhere. The hypothesis of evolution had been around since his Grandfather; Darwin was able to piece together supporting material in Galapagos et al. to make it a working theory. For the most part, by the way, I agree that Evolution did occur and that the world is extremely old, billions of years. Ancients such as Philo of Alexandria (contemporary of Christ Jesus) wrote of how old the earth must be given ravines and so forth and how earthquakes and so forth must have renewed the landscape – how close he was. But I digress.

Darwin did consider the possibility of intelligent design, and given how complex the genome is and how it is dynamically modified by proteins and so forth, one can certainly say that however we came to be, it’s a lot more complicated than anyone, including Darwin, ever thought. That notwithstanding, Darwin discarded this notion largely because of the suffering in the world.

How could a loving God create a world filled with such suffering, suffering like Darwin’s daughter Annie who died a lingering death from the after effects of Scarlet fever and perhaps tuberculosis. Darwin was there with her and did everything possible. After that, he stopped attending church.

Voltaire

The world is indeed filled with suffering. Voltaire’s Candide famously lampoons Professor Pangloss for always saying “this is the best of all possible worlds” in the midst of horrible tragedies (and Pangloss getting Syphilis). This is a rejection of his contemporary Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz “optimistic” philosophy which holds that God has made the best possible universe with what he had. That actually echos Platonism inasmuch as Plato sees God as the demiurge, the supreme craftsman who made the universe from what He had. That, of course, is quite different from the Ex Nihilo (from nothing) creation we have in Genesis, but Philosophers seem to get that mixed up quite a lot.

Candide is a wild ride and a fun read. We of course know that Voltaire was an atheist. After all, if you only study things that you think you’ll agree with, you never learn anything much. His take is a bit different, however – the world is hopelessly out of control for our heroes and heroines while Pangloss keeps telling them that it’s all for the best, somehow ordained by God in this best of all possible worlds. What a farce it all is, yet we can each hear ourselves saying some of the same things.

In the very end, however, Voltaire comes to the same conclusion that I’ve already given. We must work together.

Let’s have a read (italics mine). This is how the book ends.


Candide, on his way home, made profound reflections on the old man’s conversation.

“This honest Turk,” said he to Pangloss and Martin, “seems to be in a situation far preferable to that of the six kings with whom we had the honour of supping.”

“Grandeur,” said Pangloss, “is extremely dangerous according to the testimony of philosophers. For, in short, Eglon, King of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud; Absalom was hung by his hair, and pierced with three darts; King Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, was killed by Baasa; King Ela by Zimri; Ahaziah by Jehu; Athaliah by Jehoiada; the Kings Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, were led into captivity. You know how perished Crœsus, Astyages, Darius, Dionysius of Syracuse, Pyrrhus, Perseus, Hannibal, Jugurtha, Ariovistus, Cæsar, Pompey, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Domitian, Richard II. of England, Edward II., Henry VI., Richard III., Mary Stuart, Charles I., the three Henrys of France, the Emperor Henry IV.! You know——”

I know also,” said Candide, “that we must cultivate our garden.

“You are right,” said Pangloss, “for when man was first placed in the Garden of Eden, he was put there ut operaretur eum, that he might cultivate it; which shows that man was not born to be idle.”

“Let us work,” said Martin, “without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable.”

The whole little society entered into this laudable design, according to their different abilities. Their little plot of land produced plentiful crops. Cunegonde was, indeed, very ugly, but she became an excellent pastry cook; Paquette worked at embroidery; the old woman looked after the linen. They were all, not excepting Friar Giroflée, of some service or other; for he made a good joiner, and became a very honest man.

Pangloss sometimes said to Candide:

“There is a concatenation of events in this best of all possible worlds: for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of Miss Cunegonde: if you had not been put into the Inquisition: if you had not walked over America: if you had not stabbed the Baron: if you had not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado: you would not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts.”

All that is very well,” answered Candide, “but let us cultivate our garden.”


A Magnolia blooms in a well cultivated garden

Conclusion

Bad things happen to good people for no reason whatsoever, and that’s a fact.

The question is what shall we do about it, you and I? Shall we cultivate our garden and improve the world for ourselves and others, or shall we use our might to take what we want and leave desolation?

You see, this is the part of evolution that Darwin did not discuss, the ability of the species to make things better, not simply to survive as the fittest and reproduce endlessly until starvation limits the herd or some disease wipes most of us out. That, too, is evolution although not biological – it’s the evolution of thought. It also happens to be the evolutionary step that Jesus points us to – universal love and seeking the good even with self sacrifice. Maybe when we get there, we’ll be fully cooked.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s