Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 55.djvu/723

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Editor's Table.


VOLTAIRE'S Candide is not a book that can be recommended for general reading; yet it contains perhaps as good a moral as could easily be found in a wide range of books aiming more distinctly at edification. The hero, after many vicissitudes and copious experience of the deceitfulness of riches and the miseries of an ill-regulated life, made the blessed discovery that peace and health and independence were to be obtained by the industrious cultivation of a small piece of ground. He had a friend called Martin who associated himself with him in his agricultural labors, but who had rather a fine talent for discussing abstract questions. Candide would listen to him for a while, but never allowed him to get very far without breaking in with the observation, "Mais surtout il faut cultiver notre jardin" ("But above everything else we must cultivate our garden"). Here was safety, here was balm for painful recollections, here was about the best that the world had it in its power to give; and Candide, chastised by misfortune, wanted to stick to that.

This is an age of copious and unending discussion of social and political problems. Discussion is well in its way; but perhaps the problems would not be so acute if there was less discussion and more cultivating of gardens. It may indeed be said, with no small degree of plausibility, that the greed to be rich, the unwillingness, so to speak, to cultivate a garden which only promises a moderate reward, is at the bottom of a large part of our troubles. Wisdom cries aloud and tells the world that happiness is not to be found in riches; but the cry is little heeded. The whole lesson of higher education is that happiness springs from within and not from without; but thousands take what they can of the higher education while declining the lesson. Science unlocks a world of beauty and wonder, and offers to the mind a constant succession of interesting subjects of contemplation; but thousands again ask nothing of science except to show them the way to wealth. Precisely similar in a multitude of cases is the demand made of art and literature. It is well-nigh a century since Wordsworth lamented the decay of "plain living and high thinking." Have the succeeding years brought any improvement in this respect? It is much to be feared they have not. Wealth is, if possible, more than ever the ideal of society, and plain living is terribly at a discount.

We believe, however, that in the deliberate choice of plain living by an influential portion of society there lies a greater potency of social reform than in all the schemes of socialistic reconstruction. The most hurtful thing in the world to-day is the false glamour of wealth. It is against this evil influence that we want an insurrection, not against capital as such. Weaken the fascination of wealth, and, in the same degree that you do so, you increase the moral responsibility of those who are its possessors. The luxury of the present age has run to a dangerous extreme. Advice in such a matter may seem idle, but the discovery that Candide made is one that the world at large must make some day. True happiness is-the natural accompaniment of honest industry and moderate living. Such conditions make high thinking possible, and give a savor