The last couple of days, both Bob and I have not been in the full writing mode, so I offer this story–an addendum to Voltaire’s Candide–I wrote and sold 10 Years ago. I think it holds up. –Em
Eight years had passed since Voltaire abandoned Candide, his wife Cunégonde and their companions on a small farm not too distant from Constantinople to “cultivate the garden.” Cunégonde had grown uglier both of countenance and temperament, and Dr. Pangloss, as hard as he tried, could not free himself of the philosophical pursuit of the nature of good and evil and the best of all possible worlds. Old Martin, the philosophical Mr. Hyde to Pangloss’ Dr. Jekyll, would tend the radishes, beets and the olive trees with care and pessimism, quite sure each harvest would be ruined by an unforeseen devastation.
The old woman, daughter of Pope Urban X, still served the household as Cunégonde’s lady in waiting and keeper of the linens, but her missing left buttock and the infirmaries of old age had slowed her considerably and added to her ill temper.
Cacambo, Candide’s steadfast, traveling companion and confidante had grown weary of hauling produce to the markets in Constantinople, and his lust for adventure was beginning to rise. He dreamt of red sheep and El Dorado.
Brother Girofleé, the ex-clergyman turned Turk and his on-again-off-again paramour, Pacquette, the winsome whore, remained at the farm and settled into roles as tempestuous lovers and garden tenders. Although they found delight at the bounty the earth offered up, the sordid and dangerous lives they once led would seductively call to them with regularity.
The noble Candide—a witness of horrors, a victim of church and state, a seeker of truth, and man of his word—had thrown himself headlong into the agricultural world, for it was there, in nature, he found the simple cause-and-effect that had eluded him in his illusionary search for understanding. “The truth is in the dirt,” he would often say to his companions. But, Candide had forgotten his nature; Voltaire had created him to be naïve, and naïve he was. Truth, he would soon find out, was not in the dirt.
Candide was naïve, but he was not stupid. His mind may have been in the vegetables and fruits that thrived on his farm, but his ears would rise above the stalks and stems and vines and he would hear the complaints and regrets floating on moist breezes that cooled the garden. He loved his dear companions; they, like he, had suffered greatly in the past, and he wished them the peace and comfort the dirt had brought him. Before the dissatisfaction of those around him grew too strong, Candide decided to seek advice from the famous dervish who lived in the neighborhood. Although the dervish had once rebuffed Dr. Pangloss for his questions about good and evil and pre-established harmony, Candide had come to realize the wisdom of his neighbor’s actions.
“Master,” said Candide, “the people on my farm grow restless. Weeds of disharmony are springing up in the good soil, and my companions are unsatisfied with the truth in dirt.”
The old dervish bade Candide enter his inner chamber and had his daughter bring them mint tea. Murriado the dervish stroked his long, white beard and stared reflectively at Candide. At last, he spoke. “There is no truth in dirt,” he said. “Dirt is dirt. Although I suppose asking people to believe in dirt makes more sense than asking them to believe in invisible people, dirt is still dirt, and it won’t speak any truths to you. In fact, there are no truths, only illusions.”
“But master, if there are no truths, how can one be truly happy, how can they be satisfied?”
“There are only two ways to accomplish that goal,” said the old man, with a smile. “First, believe in illusions.”
“And the second?” asked Candide.
“Get a puppy.”
As Candide walked back to his farm, he cradled an eight-week-old beagle in his arms