Thursday, July 26, 2007


At work in the garden A garden is an excellent metaphor for civilization. A garden is a thing of nature, and most of us gardeners are nature lovers. At the same time, a garden goes beyond nature; it is a harnessing of natural energy to dramatically enhance nature's fruitfulness and loveliness. In harmony with nature, the garden moves beyond mere nature.

In a similar way, let no one deny that man is a natural being, an animal with all the drives, instincts, and appetites thereof. But the basis of civilization is man moving beyond mere animal nature. In harmony with his animal nature and with his unique nature as a rational and spiritual being, civilized man seeks to harness his natural energy in a controlled and orderly manner.

Unfettered nature is not a garden. Unfettered nature is a random mixture of wild plants and animals. Left untended, a garden will easily revert to such a wild and unordered randomness, the weeds and vermin moving in and obliterating the order and fruitfulness. A garden takes hard work and constant vigilance; a weed patch requires no effort.

To be sure, there is beauty and life outside the garden fence, and the gardener might be tempted to wonder if his labor is worthwhile. Does it really make much difference? A casual observer might even accuse the gardener of being a control freak, of engaging in repression and manipulation. Indeed, from some plants' perspective, the gardener would be have to be regarded as a violent killer, spending much of his energy in uprooting or digging up the plants he doesn't like. So, it would seem that the more liberal and caring approach would be to cease such mean-spirited oppression, and instead allow full rein to the uninhibited forces of nature. Relax, let the forces of nature flow freely, and celebrate the increasing diversity and freedom that would result.

Nice beets from the garden But time is the proof. In April, the garden looks rather barren compared to the wild meadow. By mid-July, the superior fruitfulness of the garden is apparent. And later still, when the bitter winds of January howl outside the door, the gardener's well-stocked larder and root cellar remove all doubts about the garden's worth.

My point is, of course, that our culture's moral demise, its 'Slouching Towards Gomorrah', is a very effortless movement, and may even appear quite attractive, but will prove fruitless and barren in the end.

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