What a beneficial practice called gardening is to one person is a burden called unceasing yardwork to another, so of course the garden overgrew to dismaying heights after my year abroad and its understory filled with poison ivy. When I returned home and set off to restore this gardenless garden, wondering how I ever could, I had a thought: if there is a path, there is a garden. In my dreams the weeds I pulled would speak to me in their own defense, but in their pulling, a path was marked, the garden was found.
A garden is perhaps the only human art that can be made for the pleasure of the other animals. Neither my poetry nor my prose has ever satisfied a finch or monarch, yet even the messiest patches of echinacea do. The motto of this garden, if it were to have one, would be Adorno's there is tenderness only in the coarsest demand that, of course, no one should go hungry anymore. A secondary motto: to call a flower garden ornamental is to neglect the appetites of bees.
I like even the most disorderly garden, but I am against the sense-vacated world of the screen. In screen life, a certain kind of visuality (straight-ahead looking) has been distorted into a primary means of knowing: our eyes to see clearly should see with distance and peripherality, and every other sense, too, given the richest possibility to develop, rather than atrophying for profit, fed only the addictive, dulling, input of the marketplace. I hate, too, information mapped onto a schema of personalities. My social media feeds before I left them were a flood of names (celebrities, politicians, subcultural figures, strangers) or images, mostly of disasters or consumer goods. I hated all these things: the intaking and acquiescing, the paltriness of our century's circuses and the magnitude of the staleness of its bread. I hated, also that we had let the tech billionaires profit from such manipulation, loss, and misery, that so much human good (the desires to be social, to create, to converse) was made into the data to be used against us and for the profits of so much human bad.
The garden requires all senses, but that doesn't make me good at gardening. My plants walk five feet the wrong direction and I can't deliver a neat design in normative human terms -- it doesn't matter that I am not the best gardener. A garden is a system of vital souls, every creature in it pushing and pulling, growing and receding, taking and contributing, beginning and ending, and myself, in that system, is both important and not, doing all the same things, respirating as the cats and the cardinals and soil microbes do. Even at its peak reckless chaos, or perhaps even most at its peak reckless chaos, the garden instructs through a series of multi-sensory inputs all of the living souls inside of it and in its way, harmonizes them, whispering into our glandular aspects instructions soon transmitted to our cells. The potatoes and barberry and the slugs and the gardener bask in the same, all-coordinating light.
A better part of being a gardener, too, is that plants don't care who you are. A more disappointing part of being a person is a world that does, rather than allowing each to exist loved and cared for as a generally existing being generally existing. I am against brittle, needy forms of selfhood, and really over "anne boyer" as a concept I am supposed to be attached to, which is not the same as not appreciating the life which gathers inside my memories and senses. But what we have handed to us as selves at the moment are often desperate, burdensome subjectivities mauled into competition and produced by this frantic, sputtering phase of capitalism and information-damaged life. It's like these people we are told we are have nothing to do with us at all. It's so exhausting, what they did to us in elementary school, and then every day after, filling out the paperwork again and again, getting notifications, everything saying "this is you" when we all suspect that there is really something else.
There is no volunteering out of this situation, but there is a dialectical relationship to it and with this, opportunities for resistance. You can at least began to make a path by which your atrophied senses return to shape. There is a lesson in attempting (carefully) the flourishing of your sensitivity even among the brutality. There is a lesson also in observing the current social construction of yourself with the same productive inquiry in which you observe a passing Tesla or a passing cloud.