Z is for Zadig
You might think that a fairy tale set in Persia would hold no relevance to the challenges of modern life but there you’d be wrong. Because its the title of a work by the famous French philosopher, Voltaire, otherwise known as François Arouet. It reminds me somewhat of that other fantastical tale, “Gulliver’s Travels” by Johnathan Swift, because although both are set in fantastical worlds where the innocent hero has impossible adventures, they are both underpinned by strong morality and social satire.
I never looked ar horses in quite the same way after reading Gullivers Travels. In one of the worlds Gulliver visits, horses are superior to humans who are still primitives and daub themselves with woad, using grunts for speech (the Yahoos) The horses or Houyhnhnms communicate telepathically with each other and are deeply spiritual beings. I can see that whenever I look into the eyes of a horse.
But back to Zadig because its the last letter of the AtoZ challenge.
Zadig moves from one disaster to another in life, frequently caused by the fickleness of women-Voltaire was no feminist- until he meets a wise hermit who shows him that nothing in life is straightforward; good things can come from evil deeds, those who seem innocent may in fact be guilty, those who seem generous may in fact be profligate, etc. In other words he reveals the shadow of the light and in doing so helps Zadig to become enlightened and no longer tied to the wheel of fate. It’s what is needed in many areas of life today, a more mature appreciation of the light and shadow in us all rather than the ‘I am right/you are wrong’ dichotomy so evident in political life. “Zadig” shares a similar theme to Voltaire’s other great work ‘Candide’ where the honest yet naive hero, Candide gains wisdom through life and loss and ends by stating that we must cultivate our own garden. In other words, go inwards to find peace, security and wisdom.
From the sublime to the ridiculous. “Zadig & Voltaire” is the name of a Parisian clothing company. Why? I ask myself… Its a deep philosophical question with no easy answer.