Lisbon Redux

News of a great catastrophe, brought on by an oceanic earthquake and tsunami. The same magnitude as the one that hit Lisbon in the late 18th century and prompted the famous exchange between Voltaire and Rousseau about pessimism, optimism, God, meaning, etc. [Read J.J.’s letter here.]

From Voltaire’s poem about the destruction of Lisbon:

But how conceive a God supremely good,
Who heaps his favours on the sons he loves,
Yet scatters evil with as large a hand?

And this from today’s newspaper:

…the underlying story of this tragedy is the overpowering, amoral mechanics of the earth’s surface, the movement of plates that grind and shift and slide against each other with profound indifference to anything but the pressures that drive them….. [These forces] demonstrate, geologically speaking, how ephemeral our presence is.

Bravo! That’s what I call secularism with a capital ‘S’! Three cheers for the Enlightenment! Up with Voltaire. And as for you Mr. J.J. Rousseau, keep your pollyanna fantasies!

Well…, he wasn’t so bad in his letter to Mr. V. He just felt that Voltaire was too, er…negative. Didn’t give one reason to hope. As he said:

If it is not always a misfortune to die, it is only very rarely one to have lived.

Does anyone write that way anymore?! Alas, no.


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