Why Voltaire Said: You Must Cultivate Your Own Garden

“Pangloss, who was as inquisitive as he was argumentative, asked the old man what the name of the strangled Mufti was. ‘I don’t know,’ answered the worthy man, ‘and I have never known the name of any Mufti, nor of any Vizier. I have no idea what you’re talking about; my general view is that people who meddle with politics usually meet a miserable end, and indeed they deserve to. I never bother with what is going on in Constantinople; I only worry about sending the fruits of the garden which I cultivate off to be sold there.’ Having said these words, he invited the strangers into his house; his two sons and two daughters presented them with several sorts of sherbet, which they had made themselves, with kaimak enriched with the candied-peel of citrons, with oranges, lemons, pine-apples, pistachio-nuts, and Mocha coffee… – after which the two daughters of the honest Muslim perfumed the strangers’ beards. ‘You must have a vast and magnificent estate,’ said Candide to the turk. ‘I have only twenty acres,’ replied the old man; ‘I and my children cultivate them; and our labour preserves us from three great evils: weariness, vice, and want.’ Candide, on his way home, reflected deeply on what the old man had said. ‘This honest Turk,’ he said to Pangloss and Martin, ‘seems to be in a far better place than kings…. I also know,” said Candide, “that we must cultivate our garden.’”