Thursday, August 11, 2011

On Voltaire's Candide: soon, I shall cultivate a garden

Voltaire's novel, Candide, was surprisingly an easy read. I loved the fantastic plot and the humor I get in every chapter. Since my computer is not conspiring with my impulse to write, I'm gonna give a quick overview of the book. 

Basically, it's a battle between optimism and pessimism as a world view. Dr. Pangloss embodied optimism through his philosophy that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds" -- that is, everything that happens in the world, even mankind's suffering, is part of God's "grand" plan.

But with the events witnessed by Candide -- rape, murder, disease, earthquake, betrayal -- he came to conclude that optimism is simply "a mania for insisting that everything is right when everything is going wrong." 

On the other hand, pessimism is characterized in the person of Martin, an extremely cynical scholar who accompanied Candide is his travels. Martin believes that God has abandoned the world in his view that "man was born to live in either the convulsions of distress, or in the lethargy of idleness".

I admit, I am quite fond of this character, Martin, who was firmly convinced that "people are equally wretched everywhere so he bore everything with patience" summarizes how we are all bound to experience suffering. Though his views are extreme like Dr. Pangloss', I think his arguments hold a stronger sensibility in the novel's context.

In the end, the novel's message was simple -- so simple that I nearly cried how brilliant it was for Voltaire to suggest that "WE MUST CULTIVATE OUR GARDEN". This is how we should live life -- we must nurture something within our own capabilities and understanding. Candide insisted that we must work and Martin added, "let us work without theorizing... it's the only way to make life bearable".

I wish it's as simple as it sounds but that advice itself is very sound. A few days ago, I told someone how it was my dream to someday live in a small house in the middle of the forest, cultivating my own plants for cooking, as simple as that. But yes, perhaps soon, I shall cultivate my own little garden.

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