The Inevitability of Human Suffering?
Human suffering is a problem that haunted Voltaire. Not only did he have tremendous sympathy for those who suffered, but he also experienced many misfortunes throughout his life. Voltaire recognized different types and causes of suffering and how it affected humans all over the world. In the novel Candide, Voltaire writes about the painful life of a man named Candide. Throughout his travels across the globe, Candide experienced and witnessed human suffering everywhere. He sees many different types of people affected by this problem. Only through education, experience and reflection does Candide realize that human life will always have suffering, and people should work to their best abilities to acquire happiness. Voltaire explored the different sufferings in his novel Candide. Although Voltaire thinks human suffering is inevitable, he also believed there are certain things that can increase or decrease the amount of suffering one must endure throughout their lifetime.
Voltaire had a several opinions about where suffering came from. He thought suffering was inevitable and undiscriminating. Voltaire rejects the idea that evil can be eliminated (Gordon-5). Because evil cannot ever be banished from the world, Voltaire thought that human suffering would never come to an end. Man cannot escape suffering because of the idea that man is the only creature that understands that he will eventually die. This knowledge of one s destiny is the cause of much suffering for man. In one of Voltaire s works, he also wrote the earth is a vast theater where the same tragedy is playing with different titles (Gordon-15). When humans embark on voyages that are in search of pure bliss, suffering will also are inevitable. He also wrote what a sad chance is the game of human life. This shows how to an extent, human suffering is unavoidable, but there are many factors that contribute. In Voltaire s opinion, human suffering can and will never end.
Another possible factor that was the source of suffering was the Catholic Church. Because Voltaire lived during the Enlightenment, and questioning of religion was normal, Voltaire had different religious beliefs about human suffering. Voltaire believed in Deism. Although he agreed with Catholics that God created the world, Voltaire was not convinced that God had as much power as other people thought. God was not strong enough to prevent evil (Gordon-21). Voltaire did not think everything happened for a specific reason. Voltaire gave many examples of how the church brought on suffering for the people. In his youth, while attending school, Voltaire was sexually abused by members of the clergy(Gordon-10). Also, during the Enlightenment, heretics were not given proper Christian burials. Voltaire was considered a heretic because of his beliefs and therefore lived a life of fear and personal anguish knowing he would eventually be thrown into a dumpster (Gordon-11). That also would have caused eternal suffering, because the soul would not be at rest in a dumpster. Another way the church brought on suffering was financially. The church charged a tithe, which was a form of taxation of the poverty stricken farmers (Gordon-11). The Catholic Church was the cause of suffering for many people during Voltaire s life.
Humans sympathizing for others will also bring suffering upon that person. For example, every year Voltaire was unable to get out of bed on August 24. His sympathy for the St. Bartholomew s Day Massacre made him too physically ill (Gorgon-17). In the novel Candide, the main character, Candide, felt sorry for a prostitute and a member of the clergy. He gives them both money and both characters end up worse off than before. I was right, that your gifts would soon be squandered and would only make them more miserable than before
(Voltaire-116). Candide feels responsible for the suffering of the two people and in return he suffered more. Candide also rescued the Baron from suffering, and ultimately his death. In return, the Baron still was disapproving of Candide marrying his sister due to his inferior social status. I would never allow myself to be disgraced in this way. No, never will my sister marry anyone but a Baron of this country (Voltiare-115). Humans can in some ways bring suffering upon themselves.
Humans can do several things to reduce their suffering throughout a lifetime. Education is one of the most important methods. Voltaire s whole purpose with writing Candide was to inform the reader about human suffering and the possible causes. In the end of the novel, Voltaire ends with a phrase about the importance of cultivating ones garden (Voltaire-119). This is to show the importance of hard work. In life things do not all happen for reasons, and instead of wasting time talking about philosophies, people should be working. People should also be in search of being content and not only looking for pure bliss. In Candide the only time the characters are truly happy is at the end when they are meager farmers. The land of El Dorado is another a good example. The people of El Dorado are happy with their lives and do not put emphasis on wealth or power. While in El Dorado, Candide is happier there than any other place. This is because of the lack of greed in the nation. The key to a happy life is hard work and dedication according to Voltaire. Although people can attempt to reduce their susceptibility for human suffering, it cannot be avoided completely however and Voltaire does recognize this point.
Human suffering is inevitable to an extent. There is no way for humans to avoid it, and there are no guarantees concerning the degree of suffering one will have to endure during a lifetime. People can however make several changes in their lives to possibly lower their suffering. Education is the key. When people learn that hard work and dedication are the two best ways to be content in life, they will not suffer as much. Voltaire explains this method for self- improvement in Candide. Voltaire shows the importance on one s whole attitude concerning their life. An attitude that is either too optimistic or too pessimistic will always result in that person s misery. The optimist is always disappointed with reality and the pessimist never has hope or faith in the future. A healthy medium is the best attitude to have when attempting to improve one s future. Man is responsible for his own destiny to large degree.