No one, as far as I know, is attacking the art of gardening. Still, I though it would be interesting to write a defense or explanation of why I think gardening is important. First of all, gardening, for me, fills a need. Most of what I do in academia is head work. I read books and write papers, all dealing with rather abstract ideas. It is valuable, or else I wouldn’t be doing it, but I seldom produce anything tangible beside a stack of papers. Gardening allows me to work with my hands, to touch dirt and seed. The result is visible and sometimes edible. Gardening is a means of keeping me rooted in the midst of heady academic stuff.
Second, gardening trains me in the art of growing. While it may look simple, growing stuff is difficult. In a world that is becoming more and more based on metaphors drawn from business and computers, we need to know how to make things grow. Growing things takes nurturing, attention, and patience. There are tricks and techniques to make things grow, but it ultimately comes down to learned intuition. This intuition comes in handy in others areas of life. People are organic beings rather than complex machines. Personal or community growth draws on the same nurturing, attention, and patience that go into gardening. Garden then, for me, is an exercise in wisdom or learning about the world from a different angle.
Lastly, gardening is about beauty. I think humans need beauty. (This is an excellent video on the subject). Obviously, we can argue about what is beautiful or whether absolute standards of beauty exists. Still, the more we seek and surround ourselves with beauty, however we define it, the more whole we are as human beings. Not surprisingly, I associate beauty with green and growing things, but also human sculpted nature. Gardening, even if it be in tiny pots, is a way of surrounding myself with a touch of Edenic beauty.