We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.
– “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell
We all have paradigms by which we understand the world around us. The ruling paradigm from the Newtonian age of science has been the world as a machine- the clockwork universe. We reflect this world view when we talk about being a “cog in a machine” or say we’re “running on all cylinders.”
Within the larger context, our personal, cultural and political values lead us to view the world in certain ways.
Some people tend to view the world as a jungle – filled with many scary things like terrorists, socialists and “feminazis.” Unless it concerns sex, drugs or other people they disagree with, these folks believe nothing is controllable and everything should be left to its own devices. To them, attempting to meddle and fix social, economic or environmental problems is both foolhardy and doomed to failure. They would also strongly argue that it would be an intrusion on individual freedom.
Other people tend to view the world like mechanics – if there is a problem with something, you fix it by tinkering with this, twiddling with that, and somehow or other gaining control over the situation so it can be corrected. To them, every problem is controllable if you have enough information and resources.
As I have previously argued, we need to learn to look at the world as a garden. Unlike a jungle, a garden can be managed, given sufficient expertise by the gardner and sufficient resources like water, nutrients, etc. However, unlike a mechanic, a gardener does not have direct control over the outcomes of his or her efforts. A gardener can’t precisely determine how many seeds will sprout, how many flowers will appear on a shrub or how quickly a tree will grow. In addition, a gardener can’t succeed when his or her efforts conflict with the garden’s environment: it’s not possible to grow bananas in Minnesota or weeping willows in Death Valley.
Instead, a good gardener focuses on creating the optimal conditions for a garden to flourish…then leaves it up to the plants to respond to those conditions.