Have you ever wondered, how Adam and Eve could have had the most perfect brains in history, in an environment with zero modern distractions—no facebook, smartphones, news about trouble in the economy, trouble in the middle east, and trouble in Ferguson—and what YHVH most wants them to do is raise people in his Image and tend a garden?
Someone might say, well they didn’t need scientists, or doctors, or lawyers, because it was a perfect world. But even that perfect world needed filling, subduing, tending—and naming—for that matter. Man’s work was part of that perfection. For the newest adults I repeat: Work was part of perfection.
And to tend anything, don’t you have to understand it? If you want to keep a flock of chickens, you have to learn what they eat, where they like to roost, what they do with their spare time, what a properly cared for animal looks like. So Adam would have to be a scientist, and being a scientist (in the paradigm of faith) would be an integral part of man’s work. And why wouldn’t that apply to the human body? Wouldn’t you study the body in a perfect world just as much as in an imperfect world? I mean even in my world, I like to study my wife’s body as much as possible. Without the possibility of running into some gross disease, I think it would be even easier to be curious. You could be a doctor, but instead of studying why someone is wilting, you would be studying how to really make them blossom. And you’d have to have a sense of justice too, because how do you decide when one species has enough of a habitat and to encourage the growth of another?
There’s no reason to suppose that ‘tending’ the garden only implied manual labor. Yet, one could argue that being a godly warrior is an extension of a man or woman with a sense of justice. And a sense of justice would be important to that gardener and not just because of the garden, but because he’s also in the Image of YHVH, and justice is important to God (who is also a warrior by the way). And that’s my point, one could say that inside of a good gardener is also a good warrior, but YHVH did not call Adam and Eve to be warriors, but to be gardeners.
When I take this academic discussion into the real world, I find that with my mind I think of my law enforcement work as ‘important’. Like I’m really doing something. Or for the four grueling years I spent running a restaurant with my woman, ‘that was really something.’ Even my writing seems like ‘something.’ Meanwhile, all my life I’ve disliked the idea of farming as unimportant. Necessary, but someone less capable should do it. The idea of living an Amish lifestyle is asthetically abhorrent to me.
But then, I’m out in the woods, chainsawing a tree into 6.5 ft posts to enclose a pasture for goats. I’m wearing more clothes than are comfortable because bugs always eat me alive, I’m sweating about half a liter per hour, sweat makes my clothes stick to me along with the woodchips that the chainsaw is ripping out of the trees, and I know that at the end of the day I will be exhausted and I won’t have recovered after one night’s sleep, and if I’m not careful to take in enough calories I will end up below 140, again.
Yet there I am. Staring into this woods, seeing a tree come down and the light come in. Branches that once went everywhere, slowly become a pile that will either be a home for woodland natives or be burned, the ashes (full of nitrogen and carbon) will feed the soil that grows more plants for food or for beauty or even better, to put off a citronella smell that keeps the feast on Jesse down to a light luncheon. And I’m satisfied.
Here, this detestable, menial labor provides as deep perhaps deeper sense of accomplishment than any of my books, or walking up to a vehicle at night wondering what kind of person is on the other side of that tinted window, or having a business that’s ‘mine.’
That’s not to say menial labor is the only labor of value. The scientist is in the gardener, and so is the writer. I hope someday, soon, to be past the idea of looking down on anyone because their work is not like mine. But it seems as though, that some part of everyone’s life, it seems even the core, ought to be something that puts us in touch with the land and animals. After all, the prophets tell us that we’ll each have a fig tree and vineyard of our own, not a desk and a company car.
Perhaps, not a core, but an anchor? A compass? We’ve all heard stories method actors. It seems some of them forget who they are, they can become creepy, unknowable, perhaps even in-human. Perhaps that’s why self-destruction is so repetitive among the ‘brightest.’ I’ve often wondered if it’s not because they got ‘too deep’ in character, but because they had no heavier center to pull them back (did you know the word for glory in Hebrew is related to weight?). It’s as if they had no deeper roots that pulled them back at the end of the day.
The same thing can happen to a man or woman in their office, they become obsessed with it and become ‘workaholics.’ Or even in the family. Did you notice that part of the curse involved the woman’s desire for her husband. After ‘the fall’ the two seem to become entangled in each other in ways that weren’t part of the original design. Not that we should be aloof, but there became a degree of personal interdependence, or rather need for control, that is clearly not paradise. The point in all of these is that people become myopic. I don’t like cops or military people when they become this way either.
But what about working in a garden? Working the land? In the land, if you pay attention to only one plant then others will fall into chaos. If you destroy all the others and replace them with the one you prefer, then eventually you will be ravaged by the predator that also prefers that one thing. If you merely focus on the plants you’re working with and not the shape of the ground, the direction of the light, the sources of water, your plants may not thrive and you will always be fighting uphill.
Working with nature forces you to diversify. Forces you to come back to the most basic truths. What do I really need? What really satisfies? And most importantly, who really provides it? If you spend just a little time working and choosing to enjoy the work that God originally gave us, then it won’t be long before you find simple goodness all around. A little shade, a cool breeze, the sunlight, the smell of living things. The feel of the elements on you.
Maybe it’s not that gardening is better than work away from a garden, but because something in that particular work is meditative, is centering.
But there’s probably other ways to look at all this. It’s just a thought for consideration, a reminder that the smartest two people in history were a pair of gardeners.
What do you think? Should we all have some kind of garden tending? Do you feel more satisfied when you have are shaping something natural with your hands, or avoiding nature? If we should all have a bit of gardener in us, how much? How do you know if you’ve had enough or when you need more?
And maybe we shouldn’t be in such a hurry to preach to our kids that they need to work hard at getting into an office job.
Well, I gotta go mow the lawn, which I will then collect up the clippings. Soak it for 1-2 weeks, get fertilizer tea out of the retted water, then boil the clippings, shred then into a tangled mess, and drain and dry them into paper.