If you haven’t read Voltaire’s classic Candide (ou l’Optimisme), you really should. It is timeless and thought provoking. If that’s not your style though, I’ll summarize in order to explain the title of – and reason for – this blog.
Candide, an innocent young man, gets kicked out of his most perfect château for trying to make out with his most perfect half-sister (good start, eh?) and sets out on a journey where, for the first time, he encounters the evil in the world. He meets self-proclaimed wise men, he questions authority, religion, the underpinnings of power all over the (known) world. His teacher had told him that his little corner of the world was perfect, and ignorance was bliss. In the end, though, surrounded by the friends he has made along the way, he wonders what must be done in the face of all they have learned about the imperfect world. The answer he comes up with is, “Il faut cultiver notre jardin.” To steal from the translation used in Bernstein’s musical take on the story, Candide decides, “We must make our garden grow.”
Of course, in classic French style, that’s a pretty vague conclusion! Some think it extols an isolationist stance, focusing on one’s own individual garden, ignoring the outside world and its horrors. Possibly, but I prefer a more optimistic interpretation. If we each learn about the world through experience and come back changed, then apply that change to our own lives, we influence the people around us to engage in a little cultivation as well. Soon, it could become a movement of informed citizen-stewards and our gardens will extend beyond our own little châteaux. Nothing is perfect that is not questioned, experienced first hand, even if sometimes old beliefs must be burned to the ground and rebuilt from scratch.
That is why I’ve started this blog. I am a (metaphorical) gardener and I work in my little garden to hopefully give others an experience that will add to their world view in a meaningful way. I’m not trying to preach to anyone or provoke an argument. I am presenting my experiences as a vegetarian of 20+ years for readers to assimilate (or not!) into their lifestyles, hopefully enriching it and planting the seeds for future generations to be better stewards of our collective garden.
So, please browse, enjoy, try, slow down, taste, and read with an open mind.