It takes a day like today to put all of that into focus. Cultivate your garden?! I've seen the photos of where she and Meade live. C'mon. Many of us would love to live surrounded by all those expensive toys and have the summer off to order a pile of books for the Kindle and take a few leisurely vacations.I'd said "cultivate your garden" in a comment in that thread. It's a reference to Voltaire's advice in "Candide" — damn, I typo'd "candidate"! — where it's not just advice for the comfortably affluent. Here, you can put it in your Kindle — in English — for $0.00 — absolutely free. You can read the greatest books ever written and never run out of reading material — all free.
The class (and income) issue rarely comes up here. I think it's about time we hashed this out.
As others have pointed out above, Ann's cavalier, gather-ye-rosebuds response is predicated on being financially stable for the rest of her life. She has the good life NOW and will have it till the day she dies (or almost).
Let me repeat, though. I generally enjoy Ann's blog, but today seems like a good time for people to discuss this issue.
And I have the summer off because I choose not to teach during the summer. I choose not to make more money. As for Meade's economic choices, you don't know what they are, and I choose not to invade our privacy by explaining the structure of the economic unit that is our household. But we do, in many ways, choose noncommercial activities over moneymaking things, and we take advantage of the wealth that we have built up in our lives by enjoying our home and the natural beauty of our state and our country. We buy a state park sticker for our car every year and county ski and bike trail passes, and we never run out of incredibly cheap things to do.
If Meade and I were starting our lives together and in our 20s — a topic we've discussed many times — we would put a premium on love and beauty and on maximizing our free time... and our freedom generally. But that isn't where we happened to meet. You may be somewhere else, and if you are, use your brain. Figure out what your values really are and what you should be doing with your life. You are not your job. You are not a slave. Think! Pay attention! Do something with what you have. Don't pester your mind with envy. It's perfectly idiotic to wait for the world to change into a form you like.
That's what Voltaire was talking about when he had his long-suffering character Candide say:
"I know... 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."