Tulips on Ebay

Candide means innocent. In the book by Voltaire, Candide is a very innocent young man living in the castle. I am not so innocent. I have not been kept in a castle removed from the world. When I started my journey though, everyone kept telling me how I needed to live within the protected confines of ramparts, to shelter myself from the bad people of the world. I was told that sleeping on the streets, in the woods, and next to rivers was a sure way to death, pain, and misery. In every town, the kind people warned me that next town down the road was filled with vipers, leeches, and nefarious characters with plans so sadistic and machiavellian that scarely could the tales of horror and woe be told. But, like Candide, I left the castle walls…to see for myself.

Like Candide, I had to find if a noble or evil nature was by birth, by action, or if in truth—it never existed in the first place.

Candide and I have had many adventures. Some of them funny, some are sad, and some were magical. The best advice I was given at the start of this trip was the advice from my friend Scaughdt when he said, “Open your eyes to reality, live in every moment, this IS your reality and you are only limited by your own expectations.

I have read a good deal of the writings of philosophers, prophets, apostles, monks, gurus, doctors, poets, playwrights, and metaphysicians. I have taken it upon myself to test and see if their counsel was true. As a lay scientist, I used my own life as a test, a litmus strip to see if one could lay any credence to the claims of the avatars of old. Having attempted and passed many a test in the process I can with confidence recommend you this: If your actions are aimed to do the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people including yourself, you actions will meet with happiness and success.

What then to say when one encounters misery? Candide did. For me, “Bad” things are only so if you deem them thus.

You will meet a great number of people in life, philosophers both extreme optimists and bleak pessimists. You will experience in life the love of complete strangers who selflessly give to you and your visions, and you will feel the crushing blows of the cruel and the selfish often coming from those you hold most dear. But something happens along the way, when you see and witness that there is more. More than exchanging tit for tat. And if by grace, you are allowed to meet one who although he/she has gone through tremendous suffering themselves, are still willing and always ready to help others despite their own afflictions? Consider yourself lucky…for you have met “god”.

You then are faced with a choice: Who do YOU want to be? Be “god”. Be Kind.

When Candide reaches Eldorado he feels peace. It is a truly peaceful and happy place full of contented people. It is an earthly paradise. We hear in the media, the pundits, and the extremists say, “I want my country back.” Many long for the idyllic Andy Griffith “Eldorado” of the past. The continue to wall themselves up in their modern day castles, gated communities, suburbs, and replete with every amenity, granite countertops, berber carpet, and a car elevators thinking all the while they have found Nirvana.

And yet, I will bet my life on it that you will not know peace.

The neighbors tree is over the property line! The dog next door barks all night! Your exquisite view is marred by a cell phone tower, a bright light, or the abodes of the poor and the unwashed. The amassed things with which you have hoped to insulate you from ever feeling pain again have left you all the more aware that the pain has not abated…rather it is all the more obvious—it is all the more acute.

Candide searches for his one true love, and when he finds her, he finds her ugly in the world’s eyes. But for him love now is not what is external, but what is internal. And surrounding himself with all those with whom he loves and those who love him regardless of class, nobility, wealth, or impecuniousness he realizes the folly and trivialness of our human greed. And yet, when you love freely and openly, you cannot lose.

Like Candide, I will live on the farm. This is what I have learned about life. There is no greater joy than to love all with whom you can, tend the earth, eat from your own sweat, and be satisfied. From my numerous experiences, Candide and I have realized that we must cultivate our garden. And give freely from it to all those who hunger. The way to happiness is through honesty and hard work and not vague philosophy and baseless illusions, not things or toys, wealth or castles. Love everyone in your path…cultivate your garden.