So last week I essentially glossed over my ideas about how and why I’ve been distanced from my food source. There’s a lot in those few sentences that can be unraveled.
First of all, I believe that through our specialization — particularly the kind of ultra-specialization that we have in our society in present time — each of us as individuals can easily lose sight of the whole and our place in it. I live in an urban setting, Chicago, and I do not have to see where any of my essentials come from, be it food, clothing, shelter, even toiletries or entertainment goods — unless I go out of my way to research, which let’s face it, would probably be online. As a result, I can get further and further into my own rabbit hole, focusing on manufactured problems and topics, like sports, celebrities, fashion, online personalities. You’re online right now reading a blog, so I’m sure you know exactly what I mean. However, when I stop to think about the underlying, root cause of all this, the main thing that I come back to over and over is money, and particularly creating false desires.
Think about it: from the day you were born, you’ve been getting messages on who to be, what to have, and how to get there. Some of those messages are from your usual trusted sources, like family members who are invested in your health and well-being. But a huge amount of those messages are coming from marketers whose job is to sell you something — even if you’re not old enough to have a job and use your own money — you’re being sold a thing, an idea, a solution to your problems. But I don’t have problems, you say. Sure, but the way that so many products are sold is through implying that you can be more than what you are right now, and don’t you want more? Isn’t it a problem that you aren’t now what you could be, if you just had a little more? Be happier, healthier, stronger, fitter, cooler, richer, more than whoever you are and whatever you have right now. Our brains are inclined to problem solve, and marketing messages tap into that.
Once that level of desire is set in motion, and it’s not examined from time to time, it’s a cycle that carries on and on, maybe with no end. And to satisfy these desires, to solve these problems, to become better, we need money. To get money, we need to work. As workers, most of us are in industrialized, specialized work. And I know the word industrialized usually brings up images of factory lines, heavy machinery, all that. But it doesn’t have to. Most of us have jobs that do not see a task through from start to finish. Doctors are specialized to an organ of the body or a type of cancer. Mechanics are specialized to the type of car or car part. Engineers are specialized to the type of materials or scale of project. I’m not saying that your family doctor should perform your root canal or a civil engineer should design a NASA rocket, but there’s something to be said for seeing a task through from start to finish — how it all works, from small to big and from big to small.
What does all this have to do with having a garden? Well, the way I see it, when I’m pulled away from what I believe to be my more essential state — a living thing who inhabits a living body on a living planet — it’s easy to become lost in wanting stupid shit that I’d never want or care about in the first place. When I’m in what I believe is a more essential state for me — a humbled human who tries to live in communion with her planet, who tries to respect other living things, who strives only to take what is needed and leave the rest, who works to harmonize information about her past with her present experiences and future wishes, who wants to live joyfully and timelessly — there’s nothing that can be sold to me. All the shit in the sale bin seems unnecessary, a useless and distracting trifle that keeps me from living and being.
So the garden reminds me of that. It keeps me accountable and grounded to my experience on this planet. The plants remind me that everything takes time, patience will be rewarded. The plants’ signals teach me to be reliable and to be present everyday, to be observant of changes, no matter how small. The little critters that surround the plants, crawling, flying, hopping, burrowing, teach me tolerance up to a certain point, and then how to take decisive action. The air and light touching the plants remind me to appreciate fleeting moments and to meet all types of days, sunny, rainy, cloudy, with openness to possibility and surprise. And the garden shows me, very directly, where my food comes from, how long it takes to grow to maturity, and the distances it may need to travel before reaching my plate — that wanting more is not necessary. I have more than enough.
And the revolution comes with knowing these lessons. Because being alert and cognizant of where things come from may change our outlooks on life, on consuming, on having more and being more, on buying and working for the money to get more. The revolution is personal — and can seem small — but it can grow big. The revolution is in having the awareness of the whole, having the awareness of the external demands for us to feel less than whole and to buy something to fix it. The revolution starts when those feelings and tendencies are recognized and instead of falling prey to blind buying or unconscious consuming we pull back, see the game, gently put it to the side, and step out into our gardens to marvel at the powerful earth and our place in it.