“Cela est bien, repondit Candide, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin”
– Monsieur de Voltaire

Above is the final line of Voltaire’s Candide, a book I read just before coming to Princeton at the start of this academic year. Responding to the book’s optimistic philosopher Pangloss as he raves about how “this world is indeed the best of all possible worlds,” Candide responds that “this is well put, but we must cultivate our garden.” Although its meaning may well be nothing more than its literal meaning per se, I believe that by the end of the book Candide comes to the insight that the world does not progress just the way it is meant, nor that it is the best of all possible worlds. In this realization I believe that Candide refers to the garden as an analogue for his own life and destiny, meaning we are the harbingers of our own destiny. We must tend to ourselves and our life in order to flourish like a well kept garden.

Continue reading