Gardens, architecture, the movement of small animals in gardens, poetry in gardens: I don't truly understand how the interests and preoccupations of adulthood emerge out of the explorations of childhood. I cannot remember from my childhood as [a?] single person who "gardened," in contrast, say , to planting flowers. I don't think that I ever visited a garden with my parents, or friends, and I can't remember a flower garden anywhere in my home town. Undoubtedly they were there--but they were not in my consciousness.
But isn't this unfair? My mother loved flowers and had fresh cut flowers and indoor flower pots in our homes. My father worked outdoors as a lumberjack all my childhood and I frequently--on school vacations--went with him to work in the woods.
How can I reject the possibility of influence, simply because there was no obvious and literal transfer of interests from my parents to me? I--no one--has the self-consciousness to deny subtlety in formation of character. Perhaps my interest in gardening is a transformed wish to cultivate my parents, care for them? Or a symbollic means of carrying into adulthood the reassuring presence of my parents from my childhood? Isn't my desire to feel comfort and pleasure by sitting in my garden beneath the shade of tall trees a transformed desire to restore the comforting childhood perspective of the child beneath the towering parent? If a pleasure in something is elemental and profound, as surely is my pleasure in gardens, the psychological-emotional source must be elemental and profound, as surely my childhood relation to my parents was.
Riverside's Press-Enterprise (Saturday, September 29, 2007, B10) published the following jaw-dropper of a letter to the editor. The newspaper titled the letter, "Delusional Bush".
After watching President Bush speak at the United Nations, I could not stop thinking how delusional and dangerous this fool has become ("Bush denounces ''brutal regimes,' " Sept. 26). Bush lives in a bizarro world of complete ignorance and contradiction.
He referred to a group of governments (Belarus, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe) as brutal regimes' that should be confronted for their abuses. To add insult to injury, Bush admonished the U.N. Human Rights Council for having taken to task the racist, terrorist and apartheid regime of Israel for its immoral treatment of the Palestinians.
Imagine, one of the most vicious war criminals of modern times (Bush) condemning leaders of other countries and speaking of human rights.
Mike Squarrel Perris
I re-read this letter several times to try to find evidence of high sarcasm; but, alas, could not. The writer is unfortunately mistaken where the delusion in the world lies. I'm afraid Mike Squarrel has been standing too long without a hat out in the sun in Perris.
I don't know whether actual thinking about myself, in the worst moments of my adult life, took place in my gardens, but certainly my effort to collect myself, which was associated with that thinking, often occurred in them. Self-preoccupied, and morose, thinking about myself--as in the week S_ said she wanted a divorce--took place anywhere and any time my efforts to get outside myself broke down. As the bus ride I recall that, though only five miles from house to campus, required years, and on which I felt microscopically small. Later, I sat for hours in the garden, or in the morning when it was too cool to be outside, on the floor at the glass wall looking to the garden.
What happened in these garden moments of contemplation, and collection, was a mental and emotional settling down. As if the bits of my mind were jigsaw puzzle pieces swishing in a barrel of water, and by sitting in the garden quite still the pieces would settle in their interlocking pattern. And what is unexpected--given this analogy and the unlikelihood of it--is that the pieces would settle into their pattern, if I did not study them and if I did not force them.
This puzzling-together of the bits of my mind could occur anywhere, of course, the garden itself is not in itself responsible. But the garden, if not unique, nevertheless does induce the pattern by symbolizing the the fact that in any order the many forces and factors producing that order are too numerous to be consciously controlled. They must be allowed to produce the order themselves.
According to a New York Times article, reprinted in Riverside's Press-Enterprise (Julia Preston, the New York Times, "New citizenship test downplays trivia," The Press-Enterprise [Riverside], Friday, September 28, 2007, A1), the new citizenship test for naturalization includes the following question. "Why did the colonists fight the British?" Answers: "Taxation without representation; because the British army stayed in their houses; because they didn't have self-government." Hmmm. About taxation without representation and the lack of self-government ... All the colonies had self-government. Each colony had a colonial governor who commanded the local militia and had many duties. Each had a representative assembly with powers to make laws, levy taxes, and regulate commerce, among other powers--powers they exercised. Each had local government with counties and/or townships (in New England), with courts, sheriffs, and other local administrative and legal officials. In New England, the townships had local assemblies. Counties and towns could tax themselves. These institutions, and most of their powers, were transferred to the colonies, nearly unchanged, from England itself in the settlement process in the seventeenth century and were guaranteed by colonial charters.
If this is the case, then what was the colonial beef with England? It was because, in an effort to pay the considerable debt of the French and Indian Wars, in which English armies protected the colonies, with the colonies' help, the Crown levied taxes and tried to limit the self-government the colonies had. The independence movement began as an effort to retain the defacto independence and autonomy and considerable self-government the colonies already had. That is a very different lesson from the lesson the revolutionary slogans would lead one to believe. We should expect our new citizens to learn real history, not slogans.
In Southern California, sharp distinctions between indoors and outdoors and rural and urban have broken down. Our front and back gardens are intended to be rooms to function together with the rooms in the house. I frequently sit in the front garden and listen to radio music front [from?] the living room, and we frequently eat in the patio, using it like the dining area. Because of the large window doors, whenever we sit in the house, our vision is to the out-of-doors. So, too, the distinction between rural and urban is blurred. In the east, an urban area has little vegetation, except in set aside parks. Here in Southern California, the city and "Suburbs" are frequently as heavily vegetated as the rural areas in the East.
Perhaps the distinction between natural and artificial breaks down as well. In our garden, the "wild life" behaves as if it were domesticated. A bluejay flies into our garden, naturalizing our potted plants by perching on them, and dropping down to the dog's dish and taking away dog food. Somewhere, a bluejay family is eating dog food.
In Southern California, we have created a new ecology--an irrigation-nature, which by being totally man-made, as [is?] much as if we were a colony on the moon. Animals do not so much seek out analogues with "nature," as they simply, in a darwinian way, try out the new reality, within the limits of their sensory and breeding range, and survived. Adapted.
I think it is probable that the Democrats will pick up more congressional seats and take the presidency in 2008. Why? Not because of opposition to the Iraq War, though this certainly exists. Not because of the electorate's annoyance with Republican Party mismanagement of the government in critical events, such as the New Orleans disaster, thought it is annoyed. Not because Americans are upset with surveillance programs in the war on terror, though they are. It is the context of these discontents that will produce the election victories. That context is a vast, profound upswell of wishful thinking and self-delusion in the nation.
The nation's wishful thinking and self-delusion is fed by the Democratic Party, whose ideology provides vocabulary and energy for it. People believe wishfully that the world and institutions in it can be better than they can be, better than any evidence from history and human nature would prove they could be. They believe wishfully that large governments could quickly jump into disasters and save people when people are not prepared to save themselves. They believe wishfully that wars can be brief and bloodless. They believe wishfully there can be something called free medical care. They believe wishfully there is no organized fifth column in America of people eager to harm Americans in a serious way, and they believe wishfully that America is safe from attack with WMD; whereas the historical evidence, as recently as 9/11, is that both dangers are near and large.
Wishful thinking is a symptom of childish retreat from reality. It is the obligation of leadership to resist that impulse in the people they serve. The Dimocratic Party does not accept that obligation. It has successfully crippled President Bush's effort to create realistic appreciation of the world in which we live. We shall, I regret to say, all pay in terrible suffering for the collapse of the fantasy world, if the Dimocratic Party wins control of the government in 2008.
What is objectionable about Hillary Clinton's statement, in answer to a question in the debate at Hanover, NH, last night, is not that it contradicts earlier statements. It is objectionable because it is a lie. She knows, and this knowledge is the source of her multiple contradictions, that as president she would quickly authorize torture in the "ticking bomb" scenario. Moreover, she knows that there is a very high probability that this scenario will come in the next president's term. Her lie is just as objectionable as McCain's similar lies about the torture law he pushed through the Senate, for he admitted that in the ticking bomb scenario anyone in command would do what they have to do. All this phony posturing about torture has a long term effect of undermining any understanding about the nature of the threat we face, the nature of the war in which we are engaged, and the nature of the political consensus that must be built if we are to prevail. Democratic presidential candidates are unable to face reality and are not ready to lead Americans to face reality. We have, alas, much suffering as a nation ahead of us before the Dimocratic Party abandons the illusions under which it operates. If they win the presidency in 2008, as they likely will, that suffering will be the fruits of their lack of leadership and they will bear responsibility for it.
Gardens have been settings of temptation and fulfillment. For some--whatever--reason, I have always been powerfully aroused by the warm, summer, outdoor evening gardens. I remember a date I had [one] summer evening, I believe a summer of my last high school year, with a girl from outside town. We spent most of the night on a blanket beside a shrub in the Pemigewasset Hotel front garden. I remember the clearness of the night, the presence of the sky and stars, and reciting poetry for hours on end, while I tried unsuccessfully, to feel her pussy and breasts. Heavy breathing--but no passion leading to abandonment. I had then a considerable repertoire of poems for recitation; I thought my future lay as a writer, even if my vocation was other, a teacher, I thought. And there was the garden behind the S_ E_'s house, also from high school years--the summer after my junior year. S_'s garden has faded in imagery from my memory, and remains only a heavy perfumes--as heavy as S_ E_ herself, perfumes, whose scents, I now recognize changed subtly to become her strong sexual odor. At the time, the odor was unnamed to me. But I knew--or sensed--that its essence was passion. Passion I had not previously experienced and which she did not fully give me. Giving me, instead, hints of her seductiveness, as by bringing my hands to her breasts or climbing on me and pressing her sex from beneath her clothes against my hard masculinity. She was a naturalist, who--even if she did not know Latin names of flowers--knew her way around the garden.
That the garden is a multi-fold reality, a plurality of perceptual realities to the plurality of its inhabiting species does not mean that the garden has no whole, single reality. To the contrary. That whole, unified reality is provided by the asethetic perception of man as observer-participant. That whole is, indeed, created by the educated vision of man as the culmination of a cultural tradition. But this cultural tradition cannot be passive; it must be imposed on the garden as an act of judging. Wholeness is not achieved passively or even inwardly as a Kantian perceptual field. It must be imposed as an act in which as much of the unconscious as possible is brought to the conscious where its artificial--in the sense of "cultural"--quality can be recognized. Recognized and corrected, in accordance with cultural standards. Our ability to do this separates our vision from that of the other animal species in the garden. For them, interaction of their perceived reality of the garden with the perceived realities of other species is guided by darwinian struggle and by this struggle they are prevented form obtaining an asethetic vision of their own.
For humans, an asethetic perception, especially the more it is contrived and self-conscious, lacking spontaneity, is a creation of nature. No romanticism here, no life gushing through us out of control. The asethetic life is the deliberate life.