Tuesday, August 1, 2023

We Must Cultivate our Gardens - Nature with Makeup

I'm pretty good at fixing things, and sometimes at supervising the work of other fixers when a particular job is beyond me. I'm not so good at pushing for a bargain or dickering price. I want to be on the same side as whoever I'm working with.

But I draw the line at gardening. I just simply don't know anything about it and, well, I have to draw the line somewhere. So, thanks the god, I have permission to hire a gardener. Funny that I end up working alongside him, regardless of my pleasure.

I remember my august professor of Chinese musing that while we want our nature wild, Chinese tend to want, well, to tend to nature. They improve it, as a gardener might. Erecting pavilions, enshrining permanent text in the form of poetic steles at famous beauty spots (we sometimes erect machine constructed signs). Their poetry doesn't strive for meaning by the extension of metaphor, but rather associates unfamiliar beauty with what is better known by the couplet figure of speech. Those steles are not apart from, but a part of what you see. Mediated by those before you with better vision. And not just a placement in history.

Part of my reticence to garden is and has been a kind of anticipatory pain in the doing of it. That slows me down in a lot of ways. But I have also always had trouble with taxonomic ordering of words. As a boy scout, for instance, I could never name the trees or the stars, or the birds or etcetera. I thought I should be able to, but nope, never could. I don't know an invasive from a native species, and would eradicate the wrong one if the task were handed over to me.

And of course, my deficit left me in trouble as an academic. Attributions? Forget about it. 

Both my parents have been ascribed with Alzheimer's, which leaves me with a vague dread - not unlike my vague certainty that the world - meaning humanity - is melting down. Now when I leave the burner on all day, or forget to check the one thing on the boat that will prevent the engine firing, my daughter frets as well that I'm losing it. 

But when she confesses similar issues, I fire back that it may not be our minds. It may be the way that we're living. I attack all the news which I allow to be thrust at me now as a chore to be gotten through before I can begin my proper day. The articles are so damned interesting, and I always feel as though I'm learning something new. And I never have an attribution when I vaguely recall something I've read.

The drill - the mantra, really - to heal this is "remember it's all click-bait now." No writer is interested in the art of it apart from that. That's our system of monetization. There is no word more gross than that one.

I take vague comfort - atop the obvious distress - that my daughters each share something of my memory issues and deficits. This may be perverse pleasure, but I don't think so. Quite. 

The Alzheimer's attribution is just lazy medicine. Dad had suffered a series of undiagnosed mini-strokes of the kind that I had. We don't know, but he probably had the same genetic clotting disorder I have and manage. Mom's decline was sudden and quickly plateaued into a pretty happy holding pattern. Which has held for a decade or so now. Nope, not Alzheimer's. It might have been self-defense against constant worry. The really happy thing is that the reason for all those worries is gone now. Withal, she seems happier than ever. All the pathologist had to say in Dad's autopsy was some variation on "consistent with Alzheimer's."

As a bike mechanic, I know the pitfalls of trying to be too thorough and complete and meticulous with your diagnosis. Alzheimer's is a handy term in the vocabulary of the day, so use it and move on. Everyone is happier. 

Anyhow, gardens change but change slowly, and they require work. Some Chinese gardening has persisted for millennia, right along with the pavilions which experience renewal each calendrical 60 year cycle. 

We are caught in a peculiarly Western and Christian trap in the opposition between nature and artifice. Just as Artificial Intelligence is nothing new - it's as old as the corporation as legal person - nature is already long gone.

What we lack is cultivation, in all its meanings. The Earth requires cultivating, which leaves far more room for optimism than the restoration of extinct species, or a return to ancient ways (says I in the midst of restoring one of Buffalo's older houses whose first recorded deed is something like 1832). 

Our belief system, corrupted as it has been by the very successes and excesses of the way we practice capitalism, prevents us from identifying the need for cultivation. Capitalism is an imitation of the state of nature (what human really wants to live there? Unless he happens to be king of the forest.).

I mean, don't get me wrong. Capitalism works. Like pornography works. But in and of themselves, both are really gross. If you lack the genetically inborn lust which projects beauty onto whatever contours or landscape, all that you will see is deadly sturm und drang and distasteful throbbing spittle.

We have choices to make, and whether it be haute couture or architecture or parkland, we are abdicating. We abdicate by excuse of mistrust in ourselves. By misplaced trust in a God of our invention. The West is, once again, in decline. Some hope that it is terminal.

We have choices.

I used to think it might be my job to bring religion up to date, the way that lots of people now want to. To rationalize it.

Now I want full-on primitivism. There is god. Not a God. Not a named God. Most certainly not a personal god. God is fact, beyond that is purest fiction, mostly meant to empower men. Stories are good and helpful and sometimes true (in the verbal sense of the word), but they should never replace god as a fact of any world we might imagine. 

We must cultivate our gardens, or hire someone to do it for us. 

Wildness is itself an object of cultivation now. As I've asked so many times, which is really sexier -  a woman wearing a bikini or a naked woman? (Apologies for the CIS bigotry implied here, but I hope you get the idea) History is made up. People make themselves up. We now must make up an entire landscape. 

Anyhow, it all depends, right? On age, on perspective, on your feelings about that particular objectified identity, on your hormonal state and on the surrounding happenings, and on your history, naturally.

No comments: