In my American Literature and the Environment class a few weeks ago, I was arguing that an answer to the dark, cynical questions (or just statements) Cormac McCarthy poses in No Country for Old Men is found in Candide by Voltaire, a story about friends who go out trying to find meaning and end up abused by the world, turning to their own little garden in the end. I proposed this as an answer, and another student argued that those characters needed that awful journey to get to the garden. They couldn’t have arrived at a home concept without the long search.
I take these lessons very literally. I dream of tending a garden someday. But I don’t think this idea justifies being a hermit and not knowing about the world around you. I think the opposite actually. Whatever comes into your realm is your responsibility. Whoever is suffering in your path, you should help them. This is different from going out in the world and trying to force your will on it. That’s backwards. Completely backwards.
So I take this lesson to mean that my community comes first. My neighborhood is important. As a democratic citizen, by willingness to take part in this governing system, I live with a sense of duty to my fellow Americans as I expect them to live up to their duties. (haha. duty.)
Small acts of kindness can trump the worst of all evils. This is cliche and said everywhere and redundant and sappy. But only until it actually happens–then it’s reality.