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The Physician's Back Garden

E. P. Scarlett, MD
JAMA. 1965;192(2):111-113. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03080150041009.
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Rather more than two centuries ago a book was written by a Frenchman of virtuosity, great wit, and piercing clarity of speech. The book was Candide and the author was Voltaire. Europe at the time was in turmoil, and the writer advised the wise man, if he were to avoid skepticism and despair, to look to his own allotment and cultivate that. The advice is contained in the closing words of the book. The hero and his tutor are eating candied citrons and pistachio nuts and looking back on the past. Theirs had been a rough time. After some discussion Candide sums up: "The point is good, but we must cultivate our garden." He is in effect saying that if we ourselves are passive, it is no use relying upon artists, poets, and philosophers to improve the waste places of our souls.

The ending of Candide is the beginning of my


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