Friday, August 5, 2016

The Wild Garden of Benign Domination

I find "proof" valuable when making an argument simply because it appeals to one side of our brain, and some folks have thinking dominated by that side. Obviously, when we can double up -- make an argument stronger by appealing to both the analytical and the emotional / philosophical -- it's a bit easier to get people rethinking their assumptions and to switch gears. But too often the emotional / philosophical is muted or removed in favor for hard core proof (i.e. the human world is given yet more preference over the non human). 

I can tell you this: without wonder, without dreams, without the not knowing, any proof loses much of its excitement and deep revolution in my existence or perception of my or other's existence. Without the wandering and the doubt, proof becomes limp. Many times proof destroys an unwritten connection between our nature and the nature of other species and places -- if we have to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt and placed on a spreadsheet that we harm the world, that we cause extinctions, that we have eroded natural evolution -- then the efficacy we hope to spur in others, to me, seems unlikely. Reading a study on the benefits of native plants to pollinator larvae is one thing; knowing or believing that those plants and larvae don't need me in their lives -- that they have their own intelligence separate from mine -- frees me of my didactic human culture.

Restored prairie? Wild prairie? Garden? Whose culture?
Every time I plant a milkweed I both interrupt and intercede in the world -- I hinder and help in the same action. My act of making a sustainable urban garden is a remaking of nature, a way to connect myself through proof and belief that I have the power to heal us all, to move deeper into the cycles of life even as I disrupt or alter them in the garden and in every aspect of my modern western life. And that's where life gets problematic. The myth of a garden is that it rights systemic cultural wrongs like human supremacy or capitalism or deforestation. And sometimes, I think another myth of the garden is that it engenders an over-inflated sense of wild compassion -- that any garden, any composition of plants, is better than no garden at all.

Too much of our human political and cultural beliefs are in our gardens -- plants and bees are not people, and their culture is radically different than ours; yet like every other minority -- from prairie dogs to Native American tribes -- we impose our culture on them in myriad ways. A garden is not just a way to bridge our seemingly disparate cultures -- a garden is, paradoxically, a way to exercise an idyllically / idealistically benign domination over others in the name of one's own joy, happiness, and personal liberty. If this control is primarily what a garden is, then perhaps gardens will, in the end, always fail to move us into a more right relation with other species and ecosystems.

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