Sep. 13th, 2013

dormant_dragon: Sleepy Stan from 'All Yesterdays' (Default)
It's been a little while since I last wrote anything about religion - or specifically my own lack of anything resembling supernatural belief - although I've hinted around it in several recent posts. It might look a bit bizarre to combine this with a post about gardening; but I promise it will all make sense in the end.

A couple of days ago I spent a satisfying hour or so ripping up ornamental vegetation from our back garden bed. This was not an act of wanton destruction but in fact part of the process of preparing the area to become a vegie patch. It already contains a tomato plant - which I'm very happy to say is now fruiting - and if the seeds I am currently attempting to germinate actually end up sprouting, it will soon be home to peas, carrots, celery, dill and stevia.

But in order for this to happen, a substantial amount of vegetation had to die and large numbers of worms, grubs, snails, spiders and sundry other small wildlife were disturbed. This is not a small amount of harm to be inflicting, when you think about it. So I have to say I have mixed feelings about my gardening project - the satisfaction of actually making progress is tinged with a certain sadness and self-questioning.

On the whole, though, I am inclined to consider it a positive experience and oddly enough, the reasons for that actually have something to do with my present approach to religion.

The opening chapter of The God Delusion is headed 'A deeply religious non-believer' and it aims to make clear that there is a vast difference between the God of Classical Theism and the god to which scientists such as Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan have been known to refer; the argument being that it is disingenuous to claim that such distinguished minds believe in God, when what they are actually demonstrating, when they use the word 'god', is their awe and wonder at the glory of the universe. This is the god in which I believe, if I might be said to believe in any god at all.

Clearly this isn't a god that requires worship or answers prayers - it's not the God in whom I was taught to believe as a child; it's not a god with a personality or feelings of any kind. Nature, my god, doesn't care about me or any other individual - it just is and we are all part of it. I've had arguments with theistic believers who either think it's ridiculous to glorify nature (mostly because, well, you can't pray to it) or who find the idea of a universe indifferent to our joys and pains, our achievements and failures, indifferent even to our very existence, deeply depressing. For myself, I must own that I find this idea exhilarating; the feeling of reverence for the universe in the face of our own insignificance, expressed in the likes of Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot speech, makes my heart sing.

It's in this context that I consider my actions with respect to gardening. In the grand scheme of things, what I do here and now makes not a jot of difference to the universe. It only makes a difference to me and to those with whom I interact, directly and indirectly; including the plants and animals that inhabit our garden. Yes, I am inflicting death and destruction - on a relatively small scale, to be sure, but let's not quibble over the fact of what I am doing, just because the victims happen to be small and insignificant from our perspective; from far enough away, we're all small and insignificant. The facts of our world are such that there can be no life without death, and we all play out this balance every day of our lives. The trade-off here is that by destroying some life, I am allowing other life to flourish. On the one hand, it's an easy decision to make; on the other hand, I don't take it lightly - it is what it is.

It may seem odd to consider gardening in such a philosophical, even religious way; but I can't deny that on top of the physical satisfaction (and it must be said, the resulting aches and pains from muscles that haven't seen enough use before now) of furthering my aim to grow my own food, there is the deeper, more comforting - though sometimes unsettling - consciousness of actually participating in the destructive and creative processes of nature. I suppose it could be said that the garden has become my place of worship.

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dormant_dragon: Sleepy Stan from 'All Yesterdays' (Default)
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