Last month I finished reading Bonds That Make Us Free by Terry Warner. Though I found it repetitive in some spots, overall I liked it. My favorite concept from the book was that you are currently in the “Best of All Possible Situations.”
This idea might be traced to Søren Kierkegaard’s parable of The Two Artists:
Suppose there were two artists, and the one said, “I have travelled much and seen much in the world, but I have sought in vain to find a man worth painting. I have found no face with such perfection of beauty that I could make up my mind to paint it. In every face I have seen one or another little fault. Therefore I seek in vain.”
On the other hand, the second one said, “Well, I do not pretend to be a real artist; neither have I travelled in foreign lands. But remaining in the little circle of men who are closest to me, I have not found a face so insignificant or so full of faults that I still could not discern in it a more beautiful side and discover something glorious. Therefore I am happy in the art I practice. It satisfies me without my making any claim to being an artist.”
…the second of the two was the artist.
Referring to our forgiving the offenses we sometimes take from friends, family, and coworkers, Mr. Warner puts it this way:
Unless we change in our hearts toward the people we struggle with here and now, we are condemned to struggle with whomever we may find ourselves associating with.
It doesn’t say that our situation could not be better. Many of us have serious needs, like too little to eat or broken health; even those of us who are fairly comfortable could benefit from positive changes in our circumstances. What the principle says is, in matters that affect our happiness, we are in the best of all possible situations.
We cannot be liberated from our burdensome feelings toward certain people unless we forgive these very people; without this, we leave unfinished the task by which we ourselves can be transformed. For wherever we go, we will remain accusing, self-excusing individuals who, fantasizing, think a change of circumstance will make a fundamental difference. Instead of leaving our problems behind, we will take them with us.
When happiness is the issue, the best possible situation for us is the one we’re in now, and the people around us are the best we could be with. (pp. 307-9)
You’re an artist if you realize that you’re already in the best of all possible situations.