Voltaire’s Candide: or Optimism is a novel meant to snub noses at the idea of philosophical optimism, or the idea that this is the best of all possible worlds. After all, in this world, bad things happen to good people. The book is about a good, optimistic young man, to whom terrible things happen. He never loses his optimism. Or maybe he does, I don’t know. I’ve never actually read it.*
This is relevant because when I came in to open Petsmart this morning, the entire tank of large feeder fish was infested with some kind of scale disease, and about 60% of the fish were already dead. I spent an hour today pulling dead fish out from the feeder fish tanks. It was disgusting, it was depressing, and it got me behind on my opening tasks.
And yet this is the best of all possible worlds, is it not? If there were a worst world, those fish would still be alive, festering in pain with their scale disease. If this were a worst world, there would be no hamsters.
*Candide sits on my shelf, waiting for me to decide, on a whim, that I am a smart person who does smart person things like reading philosophical 19th-century literature for fun. Last time I did that, I only got about two-thirds of the way through The Scarlet Letter, which turned out to be a thoroughly dull book not worth reading. I don’t know why Scarlet Letter is so dull: it’s meant to imitate works from the turn of the 19th century. But I’ve read books from the turn of the 19th century, and, like, things happened and the plot moved forward and the writers didn’t try to hide what was happening behind terrible, terrible writing. I HATE SCARLET LETTER.