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Candide: The Westphalian Chapters “Philosophical Pondering at the End of a
There comes a time in every man's life when the need for excitement deserts him. When the cries of his aching joints outweigh the needs of the sunken ship his loins have become (not that this was my current situation). When the treasure found along the dusty road pales in comparison to the ample benefits of a cozy arm chair and some candied citron. When the screams of his beaten behind outweigh the calls of the tavern a thousand times! That, my friend, is when the need for adventure deserts him. Sitting back in my best arm chair, amidst the splendor of my lush green garden, so lovingly cultivated; I contemplated my current situation. I, Candide of Westphalia, who had traveled much of the known word, and had experienced a special drubbing in each and every country under the sun, had thus been reduced. Verbally assaulting my left ear with treacherous drivel stood the lovely Cunégonde, not quite so lovely anymore. Physically assaulting my chest with a quite sharp dagger stood the faithful Cacombo, who, as can be derived from my current situation, was not quite so faithful anymore.
It’s funny how impending doom at the end of a bit of sharp metal can bring about quite the radical change in a man's various outlooks on life, religion, philosophy and all the lot. In my eyes, the dagger delivered from Cacambo, and the drops of spittle from Cunegonde, both equally deadly, slowed down to a snail's crawl. Had I really become the impotent gentleman (not that I am actually impotent of course, no, not I) that I threw bits of rotten peach at in my youth! Is that what I really want the rest of my life to be? NO! NOT I! NOT CANDIDE OF WESTPHALIA! I am tired of living the life of a cuckold, weathered and beaten, doomed to retreat to a life of leisure. I am tired of the melancholy company of Martin, the Abbot; Paquette had long ago run away, and Pangloss' lectures had simply lost their splendor. My life, my company, they both suck! Screw you guys, I'm going home! Opening my mouth to deliver thus in quite a rich and hearty manner; I found myself lying flat on my back upon the dirt floor. A sad gurgle, like the last droplets of a defeated and dried out creek, escaped from my lips. Unfortunately, it seems that Cacambo's dagger did not desire to wait until I had finished my thoughts to deliver the mortal blow. It seems that time does not slow down as much as it seems in the head (A philosopher in Paris owes me 20 francs, still pending). The world around my person slowly began to fade to black (and towards my torso, crimson and rather goopy). The curtain call was upon me! Life had given me her last drubbing! The great author in the sky had to flee the country! In other words, Candide was through.
“Ten Gentlemen and a Disheveled Old Man”
My deep and silent slumber was suddenly disturbed by a dull, and quite persistent thunk. “Hey dumbkofts” I mumbled, “The RIP on the gravestone is there for a reason”. The thunking sound replied with (can you guess?) more thunking sounds. Rather perplexed, I opened my eyes and was faced with quite a curious sight. Hmm, I didn't think heaven would be quite this dark (thunk), and dank (thunk), and (creak)...what the hell is going on! Oddly, and at quite a rapid pace, the pitch black darkness transformed into a world of, well, slightly blue pitch black darkness and...whoa, that's a face. “Oi” the disembodied face grunted, “looks like they buried 'is one with his eyes open, looks like 'e wont be payin' the 'keeper...”. He went on like this for several moments while I tried to return feeling to my still slumbering limbs. Eventually, I got fed up with this nonsense and decided to interrupt his tirade, “Um, gentlemen, where the hell am I?” For some reason, this seemed to greatly agitate the face, which, with eyes wide with horror, quickly departed my line of sight.
“Very odd, very odd indeed” I grumbled as I rose out of the six feet deep hole that had served as my sleeping quarters. Emerging, I first perceived a well worn wooden shovel, then a weak lantern lying on its side. Out in the distance, rapidly departing, I perceived two faint human shapes; and around my own person, countless rows of gravestones. The midnight mist enveloped all sights around me, but behind me, I could clearly make out my own epitaph. “He's off to heaven, and God has a lot of explaining to do.” Farther out, I perceived a set of iron gates, a long corridor, and farther out still stood the walls of an ominous castle. Well shucks, it seems I lived that duel onslaught after all, and here I thought I had drowned from the spittle! I knew that nobody had the balls to kill a main protagonist! But, that castle, it seems so familiar. Well, nothing scares Candide (except for Venereal Diseases). It's time to man up! These people had the gall, the audacity, to try to bury CANDIDE OF WESTPHALIA ALIVE! THEY HAVE SOME EXPLAINING TO DO! Charging forward, I burst past the gates, lumbered down the corridor, and with a great yell, and a bit of super human strength, I burst through the front gate of the castle! Down the halls I swept, bowling over butlers, maids, and various servants unlucky enough to get in my way! Doors left, doors right, door ahead, it's time to deliver my calling card! Kicking open the door, I open my mandible as far as it could stretch and deliver a hearty... LEEROY JENKENS!!!! (German war-cry I swear) “Ok people, somebody tell me what's going on! Where am I? Um? Pangloss?!
For several moments, I stood in complete silence, hushed by shock. Judging from the oversized table in front of me (now dented from my tackle), it seemed that I had burst into some sort of banquet hall; in the middle of some sort of grand feast. Silver chandeliers shined brilliant beams of pure golden light down upon a great oaken table, brown and stained. Sitting around the table stood a posh looking collection of around 10 or so gentlemen and one disheveled old man (also slightly dented from my tackle). Directly in front of each gentlemen squat a set of fine azure china, perched upon by a set of dull metallic silverware. Each gentleman stood stock still, as if frozen in time, stock, perfectly still. Some appeared to be frozen in a state of drink, wine dribbling slightly down their chins. Some appeared to have petrified in the act of eating a forkful of beef, which now began to threaten to vacate their forks. Some stood frozen in the process of scratching their...well never mind, you get the idea. However, all shared one thing in common, all eyes were upon me. “Uh, er, could you chaps...” I began, only to be interrupted by a series of loud wheezes. Following me through the door huffed a quite rotund (like a large beach-ball) manservant. “Your Baronship and guests” he huffed, “it seems your Baronship has a visitor”. Pandemonium. Every gentleman seemed to gain animation at the same time. Several toppled backwards with muted yelps. Others rose to their feet in fear. Forks flew, wine spilled, beef splattered, men swore. Above all pierced a cry from a particularly rosy cheeked gentleman, “Good heavens! An undead! A Demon! Old Beelzebub himself! And with that, he fainted straight away. With that, eight of the remaining nine gentlemen hastily departed out the window closest to their person, down into a pond below. “Pangloss?” “Candide?” “Pangloss, where am I?” “At your funeral.” “I see.” And with that, I joined my rosy friend in a position upon the floor.
“Candide.” “murph.” “Candide!” “murgle.” “Candide, by the love of god and this best of all possible worlds, get yourself awake NOW!” And just like that, I was awake. Above my eyes peered a set of... er, a single eye with a rather concerned expression in its, well, eye. “Candide, you have been sleeping for three days straight after you burst into the Baron's supping hall. I thought you had returned back to the land of the dead.” “Land of the dead” I replied, sitting up, “I saw gravestones, but...where am I, what happened?” “Well my boy, several months ago, I returned home to our dwelling after a successful trip teaching chambermaids...skills...to find you on the floor covered in blood. I quickly rushed your body to the nearest physician, who began to treat you with the finest leaches our side of Constantinople. However, eventually he declared that it was too late, that you had fallen into a trance, and would soon die. Determined to give you a proper funeral, I decided to transport your body back to your homeland, Westphalia...” “Westphalia, so I did recognize the stench of sausages! I'm home!” “Don't interrupt child. Determined to give you a proper funeral, I loaded your body upon a manure wagon and paid the driver off to transport us out of the city. The months went by as we traveled from wagon to wagon. Finally, we arrived in Westphalia, where I was met by the Baron of...” “The Baron lives!?” I declared. “I swear boy, interrupt me one more time and the great author in the sky will have you drubbed once more!” “Sorry” “Anyway, I was met at the gates of our castle by none other than the Baron himself, who I believed you had “accidentally” lost in Constantinople!” “Yes, I was forced to depart.” A new voice growled, none other than the Baron himself standing behind Pangloss. “However, I made my way back to Spain, and was allowed by the king to return to Germany due to the greatness of my quarters. Seeing your old man Pangloss was like a sight from the dead, and I knew that I must help him, and you, no matter what the cost. However, my blood letters could do nothing to wake you, and only served to stop your pulse. Perceiving you to be dead, I arranged a funeral, and invited all the Barons of Germany to attend a feast in your honor. A feast that you ruined.” “That was the good news, now here is the bad.” Pangloss muttered. “Candide, your behavior brought a severe amount of dishonor to the Baron. According to the great book of Baronship (Over 9000 pages long), a Baron must respond to an act of dishonor with a call to a duel.” With that, the Baron slapped me across the face with his glove and quickly departed.
“The Head Went Up, the Crown Came Down”
The orange sun began to stretch her fiery limbs in wakefulness. The sky was ablaze with colors. Purples, yellows, blues, all mixed together into a hodgepodge of beautiful glowing hues. I was too deeply focused on the jagged rend in my left shoulder to notice any of this. The Baron stood about five paces away from me, shirtless, and dripping with sweat. His left arm braced a great iron shield. His right hand gripped a gigantic and well-bloodied longsword. Well, as you can probably tell, unlike the French and English, German duels don't mess around. Breaking through my thoughts came a strong shield bash, quickly followed by a strong pommel strike. Barely dodging the first, and blocking the second, realized I just might be screwed. He was stronger, and taller than I. His bruised ego, though quite humiliating, was not as physically debilitating as my bruised ribcage, and lacerated left shoulder. My shield hung defeated upon the ground, cowering in defeat. My sword, close to likewise. However, the Baron did not realize that I had one little trick left in my sleeve...one more potentially tide-turning tactic. It was time to run the f*** away! “See ya later, sucker!” I declared with great gusto; already leaving him in the dust. “Get back here you insolent coward!” He bellowed after me, already giving chase. “Well, I guess I should give the man what he wants”, I thought with a shrug, quickly spinning around. “Glurk”, it seems the Baron had not expected that., and consequently ran straight into my blade. “I won?” “I won!” “Ha Ha, Candide of Westphalia emerges triumphant once again!” “Glurk” “Pardon?” “Glurk” “Oh Shut up and die already, nobody cares about minor characters.” Thus he did. I withdrew my blade from his corpse, and with one swing of my blade, the head went up, and the crown came down (Metaphorically of course, that would be icky).
The Baron of Westaphalia, a pretty nice position of power if I do say so myself. Well it was for the three weeks or so that I occupied the position. I had just enough time to settle in, pick out a few new drapes, hire some scholars, and inform Pagloss that he was right all along, when it happened. Funny how a couple of revolutions, in some far off lands across the sea, can set the whole populace's rage ablaze. At Four o' clock in the morning (The Nerve!) a large mob of farmers presented themselves at my door, and with pitchforks and torches aplenty, decided to politely inquire if I would vacate my new home. Soon their skillful persuasive techniques (mostly involving ample usage of previously mention pitchfork) cajoled me into leaving my newly established castle. Soon, myself, and all my political dissidents (One, Pangloss) were left with only the faint cries of “Peasant Brigade Ahoy” and “Westphalia, f*** yeah!”, to remind ourselves of my home no longer, Westphalia. As the manure cart that Pangloss had procured slowly creaked away from the castle, I was left with only one thought left in my mind...what next?
“My God, It’s Full of Stars”
The gentle grace of dawn had finally shaken away the biting cold of the night breeze. I could feel on my skin that the blue and purple mystery of the sky was just giving way to the rich golden rays of warmth mother sol so graciously provides. I blinked my sleep encrusted eyes awake and waved adieu to the cart driver, already a muddy speck in the distance. My scholars were gone, my estate was gone, and I still had quite the sore behind. We were alone then, in the unforgiving wilderness, now left with only one task. Now we had to simply survive the perils of Mother Nature.
Gazing around our campsite, I began to take in all the sights and sounds I had been too busy to notice the night before. Our new home for eternity sat along the west bank of the wide Rhine River. Surrounding our clearing was an immense armada of green. The evergreens soared to impossible heights and almost seemed to stifle the air around me with silence. Across the broad Rhine, deep green with algae and teeming with life; stood the ominous Feldberg Mountains. These monstrous pinnacles of creation stood in jagged rows not unlike a senior mens' choir, some tall, some squat, and all rendered bald with snow near their crowns. Then there were the sounds, or rather, the lack of them. Although birds sang in the trees, and squirrels chattered nearby, there was otherwise nearly complete silence. “This is quite different from the clamor and clack of the household, maybe I can get used to this.” I pondered to myself. Snapping myself out of my stupor, I realized that there was still much to do.
While a person can go a month without food, and with luck, 3 to 4 days without water, exposure can kill in one night. So we realized we had to reinforce the shelter we had built the night before. Having learned a cold lesson from the midnight wind; we started our morning gathering moss from the surrounding trees. By now the fully risen sun lit the world with its fiery exuberance. Smiling at this cheerful thought, I joined Pangloss in peeling off the squishy stuff from the spines of the bark around us, then packing it into the spaces between the twigs of our lean to, helping to trap the heat from our fire.
With promise of a warm shelter to return to at night, our minds shifted to our next priority, food. Visions of delicious delectables began to worm their way into my vision as Pangloss and I began to search for tasty life. “The fact that we live in the best of all possible worlds does nothing to sooth my aching belly.” Pangloss grumbled. “And there isn’t anything but weeds and rocks in this river”. I chuckled at the thought, because it was true. Sure, silver gleaming fish swum by out in the dark azure deeps; but in the nearby shallows, was nothing but rocks and mud. But I noticed the muck hid treasures greater than any Pope’s-daughter raping pirate might clutch: little crabs. “Pangloss, it seems that mother nature has left us a present, maybe your theories still hold a tad bit of validity. Let’s try to catch these crabs, yeah, the little shapes in the mud.” And thus we did. For what seemed like around an hour, we tried, and missed, and missed, and missed. The little buggers were just too speedy!
Finally, as the afternoon egg frying rays of the relentless sun beat down upon our exposed backs, I snapped. “The state of Nature really is a state of despair!” I declared with heat-caused exasperation. Startled, Pangloss replied, “Candide my boy, we live in the best of all possible worlds! You are a man of learning, and a Baron in exile, Philosophers do not swear or curse their lot!” What I didn't know at the time was that his outburst had just won us some sweet, sweet, dinner at last. Suddenly, I thought back to the words of the philosophers and scholars of my diminutive court, their talks of the properties of light, refraction, reflection, and all the lot. I thought back to the trick of the stick and water; and it hit me! The tricks of light upon water were causing the fish to appear in a different place then they actually were! I quickly explained the situation to Pangloss, and we began to hunt. With net at the ready, once more we waded through the dark olive weeds, and plunged our bare feet into the yielding mud. Soon, we managed to tag and bag six of the feisty dark orange critters and began a slow, but satisfying hike back to our new home.
Food seems so mundane in the everyday world, but you really don't know what you got till it’s gone. And after the long, grueling, search for food, we were ready to eat and eat! I can't tell you how amazing it was to finally be able to relax and put my feet up for awhile. The crackle and sputter of the fire, casting light out into the darkness. With the savory aroma of the browning crab meat cooking in its shells, and the buzzing and chirping of the insects around us, this was truly a unique experience. When the meat finally was ready, trust me, it was one of the best meals I ever had. Sitting around the fire, trying to tune out the sound of Pangloss’ roaring snoring; I pondered that maybe Pangloss was right. The state of nature seemed pretty fine, and it did seem that I lived in the best of all possible worlds; when my belly was full, and I had a warm fire at my feet.
But alas, all good times must go, and as so often had occurred through ought my rather interesting life, just as the going got good, god came down and slapped me across the face. As the rich purples and oranges of dusk faded to the ocean depth blue of new night; and the great ivory Luna rose to attention and saluted the fiery stars, the rains began; with just a scent of freshness mixed with a slight metallic hue, then a drizzle, and as the young night grew old Neptune began to unleash a torrential downpour. Waves after waves of liquid assaulted our tiny fortress, and soon, our defenses began to crumble. First, the fire died with a hiss and a sputter. Then, our moss began to slump, and fall in between the cracks of our twig fortress. In the background, amidst the great boom and roar of thunder and slosh of rain, I heard mutterings of “best of all possible worlds” and whimpers of “Paquette”, but largely, for once, the old man was silent. The night went on, and I was afraid, very afraid.
To this day, I can think of few things that have frightened me more than having no power over that storm, but it stopped just as suddenly as it began. And the clouds cleared, and our frightened eyes peered upwards towards the heavens, and my God, it’s full of stars! Finally, blissfully, we fell asleep, protected by a blanket of shimmering, twinkling, lights. And the next day I awoke, and I saw the golden sun turn the heavens pink and orange aglow; and I knew whatever problems I thought I had in life, and would soon be to come, would all be ok. Then my eyes turn downwards, and I saw my ruined and collapsed campsite, and the soaking wet and slightly smelly old man shivering under a twig. And then I realized that no matter what philosophical or religious ideals you hold, in the end, God is still an asshole. Finally I had found my own philosophy, and upon explaining my findings to the not so wise Pangloss, I also received a rather large drubbing. “Well, what now my heretical minded boy?” “Well” I replied, picking up a well sodden and moss covered stick, “We must cultivate our garden.”