to be candid must
earned, given along with trust,
a light in the dark.
Last week, members of my writing group talked about candid conversations late at night. A character in a book of fiction I’m reading also found it easier to speak frankly in the dark. In the shadorma above, I’m deliberately vague about what needs to be earned, liberty or candidness, but either way, it’s clear that trust is involved. Being in a dark place with someone late at night implies trust, which is what gives us the freedom to speak openly. Honesty can act as a candle in a relationship, illuminating the unseen.
The word candid comes from the Latin “candidus,” meaning “shining” “white” (like a candle) or “unclouded”. As a French major, I was required to read Voltaire’s satire Candide. The title character, as his name implies, is a blank slate, simple and naïve, tutored in extreme optimism. No matter what happened, his tutor Pangloss would dismiss any negative news by saying, “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.” Throughout the book, the author batters Candide with evidence of the world’s evils, causing him to reject his tutor’s teachings. To me, the ending shows that, once we have all the facts, we have the liberty to choose our own life philosophy. Candide could have become a cynic. He could have given up any attempt at action in a hopeless world. Instead, he found a simple purpose, saying “Let us cultivate our garden.”
Speaking of gardens, although the word candid is no longer associated with the color white, “candidus” remains in the name of many white plants. One of my favorites is a fungus I found growing in the Virginia woods. Monotropa uniflora is also called “ghost plant” or “ghost pipe.” Having no chlorophyll, it relies on a host fungus for nourishment, which in turn obtains its energy from trees. Even the most dedicated pessimist would have to admire this lovely example of interdependency in nature.