‘Round about,,,

Whether as a commiseration or as a congratulation I shall never know but I regularly spirit myself with Voltaire’s satirical rejection in Candide (1759) of Leibniz’s optimistic view of the world; viz., that this indeed is the best of all possible worlds. The mettle preserves my oomph through all circumstances. This morning for example I was not disappointed in this vital frame of mind. When bicycling along the alameda in the centre of town I encountered Stephen E. C. Brathwaite of local, national and international artistic fame. Dressed in his customary cotton clothing he at first resembled a gardener puttering in the weeds. He was in fact checking recent art installations of his doing. The first of three items he mentioned was a casting of two table tennis rackets and a ping-pong ball. The casting is inventively located aside one of the new park benches along the tree-lined promenade.

Leibniz’s argument for the doctrine of the best of all possible worlds, now commonly called Leibnizian optimism, is presented in its fullest form in his work Théodicée (1710; Theodicy), which was devoted to defending the justness of God (see theodicy). The argument thus constitutes Leibniz’s solution to the problem of evil, or the apparent contradiction between the assumption that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent (perfectly good) and the evident fact of evil (including sin and unmerited suffering) in the world. In rough outline, the argument proceeds as follows:

1. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent;
2. God created the existing world;
3. God could have created a different world or none at all (i.e., there are other possible worlds);
4. Because God is omnipotent and omniscient, he knew which possible world was the best and was able to create it, and, because he is omnibenevolent, he chose to create that world;
5. Therefore, the existing world, the one that God created, is the best of all possible worlds.
Against the claim that, because the number of possible worlds is infinite, there is no single possible world that is best (for any given good world, there will always be another world that is better), Leibniz argued that, if there were no best possible world, then God would not have had a sufficient reason to create one world rather than another, and so he would not have created any world at all. But he did create a world, the existing one, which therefore must be the best possible.

Against the claim that the existing world is not the best of all possible worlds because it is easy to imagine a world that has less evil in it, Leibniz argued that it is questionable whether a world with less evil really is imaginable. Because of the interconnectedness of events, it could be that any world that does not contain the evil of the existing world would necessarily contain other, greater forms of evil. Furthermore, it could be that the existing world, despite the evident evil in it, is actually the best possible according to a divine standard of goodness that differs from ordinary conceptions of that notion.

My recovery from the overwhelming philosophic thrust of the encounter was bolstered by two ingredients in particular.  One, the continuing evolution of art in town; and, two, the incomparable advantage we rustic locals enjoy by having such dynamic illustration. Remember, it was in nearby Ramsay Township that R. Tait McKenzie had his beginning.

McKenzie was born on May 26, 1867, in the township of Ramsay (now part of the Town of Mississippi Mills), in Ontario’s Lanark County. A childhood friend was James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, with whom he attended McGill University.

Stephen explained to me that the table tennis creation echoes the work of the late Norman Fraser (1929 – 2020) who was instrumental in defeating a corporate HR dilemma by ingeniously inviting the combatants to a game of table tennis.  Reportedly the game effectively dissolved the argument between the parties. Along a rail of the bicycle rack located adjacent the bench is inscribed, “Maybe now my daughter Rona will ride her bike“.

Stephen then introduced me to a another casting, a pair of shoes belonging to the late Frank Vetter. He further advised of an upcoming casting of an ancient typewriter belonging to the late Val Sears of newspaper notoriety.

Val Sears (December 5, 1927 – January 21, 2016) was a Canadian journalist. He was a reporter, editor, Ottawa Bureau Chief and foreign correspondent in London, England and Washington, D.C. for the Toronto Star. Sears won numerous awards for his reporting including a National Newspaper Award for feature writing and for news as well as a science writing Award. He is author of the book Hello Sweetheart: Get Me Rewrite, which is a lively account of the 1950s newspaper wars between the Toronto Telegram and the Toronto Star, both of which employed him. After retiring from the Toronto Star, Sears became a columnist for the Ottawa Sun from 1998 to 2005.

The passage of art and invention is overall a slow process. To feel the progression so closely at hand is what it should be – uplifting! It is a reminder of the value and imperative of art within our community.