Saturday, July 07, 2007

Garden Story

Flower Power?

I love to ponder over the concept of power. It is one of those elusive terms which are loaded with so many intended and unintended meanings that any attempt to trap it proves futile. We use power all the time, in our dwellings, our cars and in our lives. Without power in our bodies we die, without power in the society we also soon die. Yet power is often viewed as evil, perhaps because it may be unfairly distributed and/or misused, and there are people who fear power not only in others but even in themselves and find an otherworldly glory in being powerless.

But all that power really does is to enable. It is like the water flowing from a garden hose. We can use it to save parched plantings or to drown the neighbor's marigolds. We can waste it by leaving the faucet dripping or by flooding the driveway and the street. Or we can decide not to use it at all.

The water in the garden hose is not good or evil, and neither is power. It is what we choose to do with them that determines the goodness or evilness of the act. The responsibility for this decision is ours, and can sometimes feel like a heavy burden. Perhaps this is the appeal of powerlessness: one can't be held responsible for the consequences of having been unable to act.

But it is a false appeal. Trying to give up power doesn't protect us from its consequences. It just makes us helpless victims in the larger power plays. It is also an insult to all those (whether people, animals or plants) who truly are disempowered, and whom we could have helped with the careful use or sharing of our power.

Gardens are wonderful places for learning to use power in a cooperative, creative way. Every gardener is powerful, a necessary part of the creative process. There is no garden without a gardener. But every gardener is also relatively powerless compared to the other creative partner: nature. There is no garden without nature either, but neither is there anything else, including gardeners.

I like to believe that gardeners graduate as Masters of Limited Power Use, ready to reach for world dominion. But even if this proves untrue, thinking about water hoses and their uses is not a bad way to address the concept of power.