Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cultivating More than Gardens

“[L]et us cultivate our garden.” (Candide, 87)

Quietism is exhibited perfectly by the final decision of Candide and his band of disillusioned acquaintances to settle on a small plot of ground and stay out of trouble.  The whole idea of quietism is basically an acceptance of what seems inevitable.  It motivated by pragmatism or political apathy or even rational ignorance; but, whatever the cause, it is frightfully common in most political societies.  Quietism is more complicated than mere fearfulness and disillusionment.  Sometimes political powerlessness can make it reasonable for individuals in less representative governments to avoid involvement with government affairs.  Even in the free United States, it can be more difficult to learn about the political workings than it is worth, a situation resulting in rational ignorance.

Quietism can have monstrous results in society.  It quietly saps the strength from any resistance to political or religious evil.  Or perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that the causes of quietism sap the society of its strength.  Lacking freedom and ability to participate in government are a great hindrance to the fight against earthly evil, but an even greater tragedy is that people often choose to neglect the freedom that is open to them by ignoring the knowledge it requires.

The only way to fight evil in this world is to know the good and to do the good, especially when evil is at hand.  We cannot allow difficulty, disappointment, or lack of knowledge to hold us back from the good.  Evil can only be conquered if we relentlessly pursue knowledge of the good and change ourselves and society to conform with that highest knowledge.

[Originally written to fulfill discussion board requirements for Dr. Filiatreau's Western Literature II online summer class through Patrick Henry College.]


  1. Alex Biermann wrote,

    I agree with you, Leticia, that Candide and his friends seem to have fallen into the trap of quietism. As Edmund Burke’s famous quote goes, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The group seems tired of the world and its ways and ready to escape into its own little community. While there are problems with this mentality, as you pointed out, I think that Candide and his friends have also learned an important Biblical lesson from the Garden of Eden.

    As Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Even before the fall, work was a God-ordained part of life. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 also says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.” Because the world’s pleasure and idleness had left them unfulfilled, Candide and his friends abandoned the world for something else that they hoped would bring some meaning to life. As Martin reflected, “Let us work without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable” (87). After years of seeking fulfillment in the world, Candide & co. finally learned to appreciate a quiet home life, where companions supported one another and worked for their own bread. As the story indicates, the friends did not arrive on “cloud nine” when they resorted to the countryside. But even without knowing Christ, they were able to gain a certain measure of contentment through the Biblical principle of hard, honest work.

    [Originally written to fulfill discussion board requirements for Dr. Filiatreau's Western Literature II online summer class through Patrick Henry College and reposted here with the author's permission.]

    1. Alex, you were able to bring out the good in the final situation of Candide that I had not noticed when reading the book. In fact, I was planning a second post on a young man in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein that "spent [the day] in repairing the cottage and cultivating the garden" to focus on strengthening family and community. Thanks for writing such an insightful comment!