You must be the change you wish to see in the world -Mahatma Gandhi
I had been thinking of a very different topic to write this week but, the tragedy in Orlando has channeled all thoughts to what we can do to heal our hearts and become whole again. This being a space for garden related matters, I don’t usually speak on other topics but this horrific event affects us all. It must affect us. I refuse to believe that mass shootings and other expressions of hate and intolerance have become the new normal.
And yes, gardens do indeed have a positive role to play.
We appear to have lost our way in this busy world. Somewhere along the line, we have become disconnected with each other. As much as we have more ways than ever to stay in contact, we are actually more distant than ever before. Is it really more satisfying to communicate via texts and tweets than taking the time to talk in person? Is FaceTime preferable to face-to-face time? Admittedly, these digital, electronic modes of communications are marvels and they certainly have a place in the big scheme. However, in no way do they replace the effectiveness of personal contact.
One could very well derive satisfaction from having a vast numbers of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’. But what does that really mean? Being a friend or a follower has responsibilities in both the real and digital world. What we say or do has impact. Does one not need to actually get to know people well before calling them friends? How do we become followers so readily and easily when we know nothing much about those we choose to follow? I seriously believe we have permitted ourselves to dull our innate instincts and social cues by the virtual ‘community’ that we have created.
Think about this hypothetical situation – you send a text or email to a friend asking how she is doing. She replies she is fine. And your day goes on its course. Later you hear that said friend has moved and you, while surprised, think nothing much of it. Weeks or more go by before you learn that your friend now resides in a halfway house and has lost custody of her kids. What? But her texts sounded fine! You feel terrible but how could you have known! We’re all guilty of similar lapses on our part – when we failed to do better.
So I ask, would it have been different if you had actually met? Looking into her eyes, reading her face might have indicated something was amiss. Her physical appearance could have said all was not well. Her tone of voice, her slowness to smile, the state of her hair or nails might have alerted you. Noting such details is only possible when we actually see the person. If we cannot make the effort to know the true state of our real friends, how then can we possibly gauge the state of the world around us?
It’s kind of like checking the health of the garden from the kitchen window. Until you go out into the garden and walk the paths around beds and borders, you cannot see the weeds, the pest damage, the growing buds, the emerging fruit or smell the roses. All might look well from afar but only on close examination can the ‘dis-ease‘ be observed.
I am convinced that while it can be daunting for any one of us to solve a crisis, if each of us just did our small part in tending to our neighbors, neighborhoods and participating as a community on a daily basis, we’d be making a real difference in the big picture. If we talk to our neighbors regularly, gather with family and friends often, volunteer weekly in community events, then we’d have a finger on the pulse of our surroundings. Any type of change will not only be noted but appropriate action can be taken as soon as possible. In the same token, we can share in each others good fortune. To celebrate the joys of those we care about enriches everybody.
While we cannot presume to remove or solve all the problems plaguing the world, there is a great deal to be achieved by our own small endeavors to make the world more beautiful and peaceful. If we want kindness, love, harmony and laughter in the world, then lets start by living more deliberately as kind, loving people. Live and let live.
While you’re at it, grow gardens of peace. An organically cultivated space free of toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, rich in flora and fauna, brimming with beauty and life affirming bounty can only improve the world. These gardens should not be restricted to our own private retreats. Imagine such thriving loveliness in our parks, playgrounds, traffic islands, median strips on highways, once abandoned land, anywhere that could use a dose of plant power. Gardens draw people to itself. They are meeting grounds. Just as it has been proven that by addressing the ‘broken window’ syndrome to decrease the crime in a neighborhood, making gardens in otherwise neglected areas serve to uplift a community. As communities get healthier and happier, the world gets healthier and happier. But, it must start with you and me.
Note: I’ve included images of the five flowers that are symbols of peace. My garden grows four of them. I’m now looking for white poppies to plant …
(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar