Amazon.com Widgets The Good Place (Michael L. Umphrey on gardening, teaching, and writing)

"Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. - Benedict Spinoza."

Gardeners understand small solutions to big problems
     A Gardener's Duty

People are funny, often going to great lengths and enormous trouble to do the wrong things, when doing the right thing would be easier and more enjoyable. The school I work at has tried several things to boost student reading scores. Simply allowing people enough time to read doesn’t seem complex and substantive enough, so instead of reading we plan more meetings.

For lunch today I read a few blogs while enjoying a bowl of raw tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and carrots that I sliced up before going to bed last night. It was delicious, inexpensive and healthy. Not many years ago I would have filled up my limited lunch “hour” with a rush to a fast food place, spending most of my time in traffic so that I could pay too much money for food high in carbs and fat.


Lily in my secret garden.

I think of people on a hectic thousand-mile weekend, packing and driving and spending to enjoy their free time, when a few quiet hours in a nearby park might have done the trick better, if they could but relax and pay attention to what is at hand. Gardeners know better than many others that it isn’t necessary to travel to the Amazon to view the wonders of nature, that a lily near at hand is as wondrous as those the king keeps at his estate.

I doubt we will solve the world’s most serious problems until we accept the wonderful news that real solutions require free people making good decisions for themselves. Those who understand this readily see that the the best way forward has more to do with education than with control. It’s easy to fall for the delusion that widespread problems requite large-scale solutions. Such a way of thinking comes naturally to kings and others who dream of being in charge.

Wild Flora points out in a “gardener’s duty” that many of our environmental challenges are best dealt with by individuals who have a refined sense of duty and self-interest:

Well, not to let the big corporate types off the hook--but the choices made by millions of individuals have emerged as one of the major causes of planetary degradation. Choices made in the way we manage landeven if itגs a half-acre back yardaffect the quality of our air and water, species diversity, and a host of other matters of more-than-passing interest to a lot of creatures for a lot of reasons.

And it’s not just environmental problems that require millions of people making better choices. Though it would wreck the economy in the short-term, the worldwide consequences of people just keeping the Sabbath would be enormous. Not only would people find it a joy to step aside from so many concerns that seem so awfully urgent until they are put aside and one learns that they can be put aside, but fuel consumption would decrease as people stayed home more and stores closed, lonely old people would get more company, and a few people here and there would be tempted to read the great old poetry, finding themselves contemplating their own character and how they ought to live.


Posted by Michael L Umphrey
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2007 Michael L. Umphrey

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