Respect the Creation

When September arrived, my heart was caught in flurry of garden must-do’s. It was perennial time and sweet pea planting time. We worked feverishly through Labor Day weekend. My excitement drove my energy forward despite the pregnancy. One of the most important tasks, in my mind, was to plant the sweet peas. Unable to bend, I dug the holes with a shovel and set my five-year-old to sow the seeds. “They’ll be your sweet peas,” I told her for motivation, “and when they bloom you can pick them and make a bouquet.”

But we were in too great a rush. I never installed the necessary trellis to support these vining plants. Spring came and with it the shoots of sweet peas who mangled other plants, housed pincher bugs and one black widow.

They were beautiful, albeit demanding.

This past weekend, at the beginning of June, it was time to take them out, half-dried, and allow the other plants to breathe. I set my girls to work.

I hauled the bushy bundles to the sidewalk, gave one daughter a pair of snips and other scissors, and said, “look for the dry, brown pods and put them in this basket.”

We talked about selling the seeds, about gifting the seeds and replanting the seeds.

“Why are we doing this?” Asked my nine-year-old, who has bigger things to do.

“Because we should,”

I answered, a jumble of other thoughts bouncing around my sleep-deprived mind.

We have the seeds. The seeds are easy to harvest. We should not waste them.

Creation demands a little respect.

But I can only hear its demands when I bow to the fact that I am a steward and not the creator.

We stop all other projects in September to plant.

We drop them again in spring to plant, weed, and ensure good watering practices before the heat comes.

And again in summer when the field needs irrigating, the vegetables need trellising and the flowers need picking.

We make this choice to submit. We could simply go to the grocery store, instead.

But in the labor, in the commitment, in the mistakes, we are reminded of the bigger thing. We did not make it, and so we have rules to follow that are not ours. I do not create the rules myself. I cannot plant the sun-loving plant in the shade and I cannot will the shade loving plant to flourish in full California sun. “I think therefore I am” has no place when faced with the reality of nature.

I must observe, listen, accept the reality of things and adapt my plans.

Like life, I cannot will this plant to thrive.

Like the garden, the quality of another is not dependent on my saying it is.

It is my life that is lacking if I fail to recognize the value, the uniqueness and the beauty that lies around me, outside of me, not made by me, not determined by me.

My life is better when I open myself up to discover, to be in awe. And I feel the value of my life recognized when others do the same for me. That value is easier to hold against the temptation to self-deprecation or despair when my weaknesses rear their ugly little heads.

But in a world where we are told we make our own reality, we define our terms, it is easier and easier to forget that there are rules, laws, and rights to be recognized, submitted to and upheld. The world is a grief-filled, gritty place, like this rocky soil I tend each week. It is filled with trouble, like the weeds I pull to protect the growth of something inexplicably beautiful. It takes work to make the world as it could be.

But when we do it, the result is something more true, more unifying and more beautiful than we could ever imagine. And that is worth the humility of moving a plant and tying a trellis in the allotted time.

Give Each His Due – Thoughts on Equality and Justice

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thus begins the second paragraph The Declaration of Independence, issued on July 4, 1776, illustrating the ideal before demonstrating the ways the British government failed to uphold it. American citizens have zealously defended the concept of ideals ever since.

An ideal is not a pie-in-the-sky idea

where people who lack real world experience live with their puppies and unicorns. Ideals speak to the longing inside us, the sense that there is more than this, there is a better way. When we encounter things in this world that open that ache inside us to a knowledge of something bigger than ourselves, these are the transcendental. They are the true, the good and the beautiful.

The sense is not a passing emotion, an illusion in smoke, but an inkling to the thing that is actually true. Reality exists, whether or not I acknowledge it.

Equality is part of that reality, that all persons are created equal. They are equal in some deep mysterious way, whether or not I choose to recognize it, and whether or not I act accordingly. The fact, just, is.

Equality is

“the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. ‘an organization aiming to promote racial equality.’”

The Oxford English Dictionary

This definition implies cooperation among members of society, which I would refer to as equal treatment under the law. However, we are equals, whether or not the law and its treatment would have it so.

Since this reality, justice, then, becomes the virtue which, according to Aristotle “man renders to each one his due” (Summa II.II.58.1).

He does not merely “render” it, that is “provide or give” but renders it “by a constant and perpetual will.” This justice, this act for receiving his due is willed and desired and brought about by choice. The equality exists, but it is the action of justice that seeks to make sure the equality that exists is manifest in society.

When one’s equality to others is not manifest, then the desire of justice and one’s focus will shift to the unequal treatment in order to bring justice about. A focus on one group does not mean equality it not supported, but that justice demands effort in the face of this inequality, and effort requires words and maybe slogans.

I cannot get there without some external set of ideals and beliefs that exist beyond my own making. I cannot get there if I decide what is right and wrong by my own mental effort. I cannot get there if “anything goes” so long as I harm no one.

I need a system of belief that make sense, that is in touch with the reality, that exists whether or not I recognize it or act accordingly, I need a system of belief that will help me understand and interpret the present action in our country.

Not everyone acts according to these ideas, and there is a reason for that.

“One of the greatest gifts we can give someone is to actively listen to their story and to try to understand their experience. It’s another way of saying, ‘You matter. You are loved.’”

Julia Hogan, LPLC

Their actions maybe incomprehensible to me, their position may be incomprehensible, but they have a story and an experience. The act of listening to it, to respecting it as equally as I would want my story and experience listened to, will take us to the next level in this ideal we are trying to reach, in which all persons are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights, right no one bestowed on them, they possess them simply because they, as persons, exist.