Thanking the best of all possible worlds

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Oppenheimer quote

Today, on a sunny Thanksgiving, I surprised myself by spontaneously deciding to thank this world, and go as far as to call it the best of all possible worlds. I’m still not entirely sure what I mean by that, but somehow, I “believe” it; more precisely, it’s an attitude I now have that I have never really had in my life up till now. Even a year ago, I would have thought it silly to adopt such an attitude.

A friend of mine asked, “Dr. Pangloss?”

In other words, am I being a fool?

Being Dr. Pangloss?

Dr. Pangloss is a fictional character from Voltaire’s satirical novella “Candide” that was required reading in high school French. I remember reading that novella in high school, of course: it was a profound influence on me at the time, instilling a certain cynicism in me that lasted years. Voltaire wrote this novella as a direct attempt to refute Leibniz’s philosophy of the “best of all possible worlds”: Pangloss is a buffoonish character who spouts parodies of Leibniz’s reasoning.

No question about it, Candide is a wickedly entertaining satire, and Voltaire is a towering figure from the French Enlightenment, one who exposed a lot of hypocrisy and was an advocate of many social reforms.

Philosophy vs. attitude

However, I have over the years come to believe that the Enlightenment emphasis on Reason is not by itself the panacea to the mysteries and problems of life. In particular, I perceive that often, this emphasis leads to arrogance, anger, and selective blindness. There doesn’t seem any logical reason that Reason should lead to this, but it really happens. It happened to me.

So, I have not by any means abandoned reason, but I have long since abandoned Reason.

Also, I’m going to confess that Leibniz’s philosophical work does not make a whole lot of sense to me. So my adopting an attitude of “this is the best of all possible worlds” is in no way an endorsement of any belief in Leibniz’s philosophical/theological system. And I certainly have also observed that there are people who do accept Leibniz’s purported solution to the problem of evil, who seem to use it as a way to turn a blind eye to the injustices that still occur in our world.

In short, I am taking an attitude that I find helps me function in a positive way in the world, without tying myself to a fully worked out philosophy about it.

A related idea is amor fati (“love of fate”), popularized by Nietzsche but coming from Stoicism.

Steve Pavlina wrote today about “heaven”.


That I have adopted the optimistic attitude toward life, after having a mostly pessimistic one during most of my years, has practical applications. Being grateful every single day for every positive thing that happens enables me to more easily overcome the negative. My attitude is a choice I have made, and nurtured through various techniques, as mentioned last Thanksgiving.

Being optimistic does not mean ignoring the negative. It means maintaining the energy to do things, to set things right.


I have embrace this world as my world. This is my choice, my attitude. May it be yours as well.

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