tag : bright yellow-green apples: weeds II

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

weeds II

figure 51.2. we are weeds, vegetation

Right, here’s another attempt to have a muse on the quote I was asked about by our Anderson a week or so ago:

"Unless we know the difference between flowers and weeds, we are not fit to take care of a garden. It is not enough to have truth planted in our minds. We must learn and labour to keep the ground clear of thorns and briars, follies and perversities, which have a wicked propensity to choke the word of life." (Clyde Francis Lytle)

Lytle has clearly based his thoughts on a parable of the weeds. To the original audience of the parable, it would make a great deal of sense. They were very close to agriculture in a direct way, and could see how their everyday lives depended on good harvests – the imagery he used to describe the gospel, as wheat, was perfectly tailored to connect. But what of us, here and now?

The quote has apparently worked on the basis that it’ll speak to us in the same way, with a little tweaking to apply to the genteel times (gardening was becoming seriously popular in the 1800s). This thinking essentially starts with the assumption that a garden has clearly demarked cultivated plants, the gospel of Christ that he’s planted in us, we are to care for. And that it has identifiable weeds, the heresies, fears, and hates of what runs counter to Christ, that must be checked. And in a way, it’s helpful - for here we have a dynamic vision of the truth, as a growing thing that develops and flowers as we’re involved with it. Andy has some fantastic thoughts on this view, if I could but find them (it’s best to ask him yourself).

Perhaps I see this differently than those for whom the imagery was first meant to speak to. From my perspective as a horticulturist, I’d like to be able to play around with these two images a bit more. Especially when we live in an age of naturalistic gardening and conservation, when there’s an effort to care for plants that another age would cast off as weeds. Demarkation isn't so easy now, with farmland purposefully set-aside for native flora, and cornflowers like poppies grown in our gardens. What if the very weeds themselves were actually the gospel of Christ, a sign of new life in God? Imagine that the divine is actually found in the wild and exuberant fecundity of the native invaders. Imagine that they’re actually bringing some unpredictable life into the ordered rigidity of human control. Imagine that they're actually sweeping in with purposeless colour, to upset the utilitarianism of a starkly managed field. Different times, perhaps.

About a year ago, I wrote a poem that tried to communicate some of this. I can’t remember if I’ve flagged it up before, but here you go anyway:

weeds or what is the kingdom of God like? what shall I compare it to? or a tale of the spirit and the system

"Under the weeds Act 1959 the Secretary of State may serve an enforcement notice on the occupier of land on which the injurious weeds are growing, requiring the occupier to take action to prevent the spread of injurious weeds."

They’re so variable, irregular outlines and
asymmetrical roughness of touch.
Yielding attractive multi-branched splendour,
they just keep on going, sending up shoots.
Common and perennial in breadth, an
abundant feature that spreads with vigour.
It’s on the frequent waste ground that one commonly
finds they’re most troublesome
[doorsteps and street corners their home]
Variability, defying uniform standards,
a nuisance because they’re designed to grow.

"weeds in general are characterised by a capacity for prolific seed production, remarkable in relation to their size, which enables them, rapidly, to colonise the open situations they mostly frequent."

Fertility is good, they are numerous spreading;
fecundity at the margins opens one by one.
They quickly become agencies for dispersal,
copiously strewn over long distances by the wind,
carried well from the rapid distribution to colonise
bare ground or areas sparsely occupied by
consistent formality and cultivation.
Divided from the main part, but separate. And unique.
Longer distance carried which gains rapid expansion,
those that’ve been distributed by one
agency may be further carried by others.
A great green fire, the viability of the prolific
split-apart seeds appears to be marked.


Blogger Barnabas said...

Hey Laurence,

Hope you had a good holiday!

Totally agree with all you said. Part of a Retreat I went on a couple of weeks ago, one of the things that came out of it was, a weed is only something we don't like because of the way it looks, it does not fit in with our concept of a nice garden, or whatever the reason may be.

Is this not like community living, some people for whatever reason we don't like, they don't fit in, we just don't like them.

God calls us to love each other as he does, it's not easy but with God's help we can try!

Anais Nin says this:- We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous andy goodliff said...


the only thing I have is a post called: Garden of Theology

8:35 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Thanks Andy - that was indeed the entry I was looking for.

And ta also to Anderson, for them comments. I've long held to the maxim that a weed is just a plant in the wrong place. And in this instance I suppose we should actually be encouraging an entry into the 'wrong places' - though this works on my assummption, rightly or wrongly, that the gospel of Christ challenges conformity and social norms.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Donna said...

Scientists explain people's tendency to find Jesus' face on a piece of toast or on a hawthorn tree as a natural inclination to find pattern in the world. It's no different than staring at the clouds and finding elephants and dinosaurs.

1:58 AM  

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