chewing ideas down to stubble, then moving on…

Contradictions, Hypocrisy, Layers of Me

Posted by Jason on November 10, 2008

My passion for native plants stems (no pun intended) from my belief in God and evolution. I believe that God created this universe, and that this Creation is governed by laws and principles that come directly from the Almighty. While humans cannot fathom everything that God has to offer, we have been able to decipher some of the laws and principles evident in Creation. Among these knowables are things like gravity, evolution, and Dr. Pepper. 

That being said, I strongly believe that using native plants in landscaping and gardens has a very spiritual element to it. Each and every plant has adapted to its particular surroundings through the systems set forth in the dawn of Creation. When we strip a plot down to the dirt and plant a grass yard because that’s the American dream, we deny the inherent coolness of the very world around us.

Wherever I end up living, I intend to use the vegetation that God, vis-a-vis the systems of evolution and adaptation, has destined for that area. Trying to keep green grass alive in the desert is just as silly and counter-Creation to me as trying to keep tropical plants alive in the arctic circle just because they’re pretty. The beauty of all plants is evident in how they came to live and thrive in any one region. I say the beauty of the system always trumps the beauty of any artificial or imported product. Cut down plants in the way of your property’s functionality, but don’t add non-native stuff just for “prettiness” sake.

SO, how do I go from being a die-hard native plant buff that wants everyone to plant their yards with only plants that are endemic to that region, to a student/enthusiast of bonsai, perhaps the most non-natural horticultural practice out there? Part of it is that I wanted to branch out (again, no pun intended) from music and literature to some sort of visual art–which is not my cup of tea–and working with plants to make art interested me the most. But once I made that choice to try bonsai, I really fell in love with it. Do all of these live miniature trees make me feel like a god who controls their every destiny? Not really…

Bonsai, especially with native species, allows me to study the natural processes in a somewhat controlled environment. Sure I can drive around the mountains and hills every week or so and see what the blooming and growing trends are in all the plants in my world. This gives me a macro view which helps me see the interaction between different populations as hillsides hand off the seasons within their plant communities. In contrast, bonsai provides a micro view that allows me to see things in a single plant that would normally be overwhelmed by the sheer number and/or size of plants in a native setting. To see how one plant heals itself after losing a branch or leaves would be nearly impossible while walking or driving though a native landscape. In bonsai, one can see the natural processes happen day by day, over a period of years and years.

In my very short time studying bonsai, I’ve enjoyed an increased connection with all plants, large and small, native or introduced. I find myself really looking at every single tree I pass, even if it’s in a silly row of young, expensive landscape plants. So, can I make a case for bonsai to fit neatly into my Enviro-Judeo-Christian viewpoint like this guy did? I don’t think I want to make that stretch. I don’t feel the need to smush everything into a neatly-packed Jesus box, especially since a large part of the world has nothing to do with Jesus. I think it’s offensive to an art or tradition to Christianize it just for the sake of making Christians feel that they’re not “straying from the path.”

For me, bonsai allows a deeper communion with nature by caring for these little trees. Yes, nature comes from God, and bonsai is leading me to a greater understanding of nature and God. However, I refuse to think that Christians cannot enjoy non-Christian art forms without first making some Biblical link between them. All Art points to God, as does all Nature. What does it matter if something isn’t mentioned in the Bible?


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