Sitting in her forest green long velvet dress storyteller and word magician Orunamamu perused the small book of poetry looking for the poem our host had read just before her arrival at the neighbourhood friendship potluck gathering. I had told her about it because I knew she would like it. Something about the combination of courage, gaiety and the quiet mind.
On my hands and knees in my ridiculous but practical hort outfit I spend hours tending to dozens, maybe even, hundreds of plants, perennials, heritage, gifts, volunteers, seeds, flowering, vegetables, herbs, invasives (too enthusiastic at the wrong place and time).
The garden is one place where some of us find courage as we see the tiny new growth on a plant that has looked forlorn for months, barely alive in the fall many of them transplanted perhaps too late in the season surviving somehow the trauma of roots being wrenched apart, moved far from the others in a cold place that will only get colder. Death would have been a logical conclusion but somehow they survived protected by layers of mulch and snow and God’s grace.
I never use the old word gaiety but it does describe the “sweet moment” of gardening when you see a clump of early blue violets flourishing in an urban garden in Calgary, a reminder of my older sister’s uncanny ability to speedily find and make a wild blue violet bouquet; single shooting star plant chosen for the garden because of the Garry Woods fields on Vancouver Island; a single brilliant orange poppy opening in May; and too many to describe because the garden and the robins are waiting.
A quiet mind in an anxious world where even one’s own home and garden is temporary and insecure.
Two years ago the 1950s bungalow across the street with its very old heritage garden was demolished, the fertile ancient river bed soil was scraped away and a duplex quickly filled the entire lot. The front landscaping is as polite as that in any new development.
Last year a neighbour sold and moved back east. The new owner tore out the old garden that had been tended for 15 years replacing it with more practical grass which requires less work in their busy schedule.
On the corner one of our oldest neighbours has finally agreed to his family’s desire to sell. The house was built in 1945 and moved in the 1950’s and is surrounded by a horticultural heritage garden, sun rooms, inviting comfortable sitting areas in every corner, sheds overflowing with tools . . . It too will be sold, demolished, the garden uprooted, the topsoil scoured and replaced by other built forms like the one next door, and the one next to that and the next one: walls of sensible stucco with ubiquitous earth colours coordinating with other homes, designs and forms. Perhaps its what postmodernism has become in the booming housing market, picking up on details from Tudor, Victorian, Queen Ann, etc from here and there and tacking them on superficially. Their height is maximized to the zoning limits and the walls extend to the edge of the property. The intelligent pragmatic architecture and materials of these buildings will be easily recognized in the future as D1 of the 21st century many surviving only as photos since the actual buildings are not made to the same standards as pre-1980s. Fortunately the set back gives room for some old trees and tasteful, smart urban landscapes spaces.
This is not “my” garden. I for a short period of time am simply the worker for the robins, plants and the worms. It is a gift to the street. I work outside the fence. I have to be realistic.
As I dig up ancient river stones I write on them, words that I then reread when I am taking out the braids in the rhizome of roots.
But for today I will compost, mulch, feed, plant, transplant, water, tidy, admire, get tired, feel courage, gaiety and enjoy fleeting moments of a quiet mind.
"We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell; for the love that unites us; for the peace accorded us this day; for the hope with which we expect the morrow; for the health, the work, the food, and the bright skies, that make our lives delightful; for our friends in all parts of the earth, and our friendly helpers in this foreign isle. Let peace abound in our small company. Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge. Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere. Offenders, give us the grace to accept and to forgive offenders. Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully the forgetfulness of others. Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind. Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies. Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavours. If it may not, give us the strength to encounter that which is to come, that we be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath, and in all changes of fortune, and, down to the gates of death, loyal and loving one to another. As the clay to the potter, as the windmill to the wind, as children of their sire, we beseech of Thee." Robert Louis Stevenson
Stevenson wrote the Valima Letters after he and his wife Fanny settled In the village of Valima on Upolu island, Samoa. He also became an much-appreciated activist highly critical of European colonial administrators worked very hard on land he had purchased in Vailima. He published A Footnote to History. He died in 1894.
1785 German philosopher Immanuel Kant () in his publication entitled “Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals” translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott
1839 According to Rifkin (EC 2009:346) it was the German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer , (1788 – 1860) who was the first to clearly define the empathic process. In his paper entitled On the Basis of Morality (Über die Grundlage der Moral) submitted to the Royal Danish Society of Scientific Studies, Schopenhauer argued against Kant’s purely rational-based, prescriptive ethics and offered an opposing description of the source and foundation of morals. Schopenhauer made the controversial claim that compassion animated by feelings and emotions formed the basis of morality.
February 14, 2011
The Romantics argued that at the core of being there is an authentic self that is pure in nature, although corruptible by society. What made the Romantic era unique within the context of the evolutionary history of empathic consciousness is the great stress placed on what Rousseau, and later Wordsworth and Whitman, called the “Sentiment of Being.”
1755 In “Discourse on the Origins and Foundations of Inequality among Men” Rousseau argued that the noble savage man, alienated from others was more authentic than the hypocritical, servile social man who tells people what they want to hear. Kant developed the concept of the “enlarged mentality” – the ability to exercise empathy, to “stand up in the mind of others”.
“the savage lives within himself; the social man lives always outside himself; he knows how to live only in the opinion of others, it is, so to speak from their judgment along that he derives the sense of his own existence.”
The social man is someone who cares only about appearances. Rousseau abandoned Paris (and the modern age) for rural isolation claiming that even the politeness of the city promoted corruption. He concluded that,
“We have only a deceptive and frivolous outward appearance, honour without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without happiness. It suffices for me to to have proved that this is not the original state of man, and that it is only the spirit of society and the inequality it engenders which thus transform and corrupt all our natural inclinations.”
Rousseau sees human history as beginning with the struggle for mutual recognition that Hegel analyzed as the master-slave dialectic. Rousseau’s Sentiment of Being.”
1762 Rousseau’s self-help book on proper parenting entitled Emile was published.
1790s Rousseau’s self-help book on proper parenting entitled Emile rose in popularity at the dawn of the Romantic period. Romantics were attracted to Rousseau’s emphasis on nurturing the child’s natural instincts in direct opposition to John Locke’s assertion that children are born a tabula rasa, a blank slate. Rousseau argued that children who are naturally inclined towards the good and that childhood is a time for parents to honour and nurture their children so their naturally good instincts will develop (See Rifkin EC:354).
1790s Jane Austin introduced the two sisters Elinor and Marianne in her satire of dominant currents of the later 18th century entitled Sense and Sensibility (published in 1811). The reliable, predictable Elinor, who is the voice of reason, has a deep sense of responsibility, keeps her emotions in check, fulfills her social responsibilities but ultimately finds happiness when she discovers her inner sensibility and finally marries her true love. The overly emotional, romantic, Marianne is spontaneous to the point of being irresponsible represents the bleeding heart liberal governed entirely by passions and desires. She finds happiness when she balances her exercises more sense and reason in her decision-making and actions. keywords: ideological thinking. See Rifkin (EC:320).
1805 In The Prelude begun in his twenties by Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850)’s semi-autobiographical poem of his lifelong spiritual journey. early years spiritual autobiography, he associated the experience of beauty as transcending rational thought: Wordsworth’s “Sentiment of Being.” See Trilling 1972 Sincerity and Authenticity.
The song would speak Of that interminable building reared By observation of affinities In objects where no brotherhood exists To passive minds. My seventeenth year was come And, whether from this habit rooted now So deeply in my mind, or from excess In the great social principle of life Coercing all things into sympathy, 390 To unorganic natures were transferred My own enjoyments; or the power of truth Coming in revelation, did converse With things that really are; I, at this time, Saw blessings spread around me like a sea. Thus while the days flew by, and years passed on, From Nature and her overflowing soul, I had received so much, that all my thoughts Were steeped in feeling; I was only then Contented, when with bliss ineffable 400 I felt the sentiment of Being spread O'er all that moves and all that seemeth still; O'er all that, lost beyond the reach of thought And human knowledge, to the human eye Invisible, yet liveth to the heart; O'er all that leaps and runs, and shouts and sings, Or beats the gladsome air; o'er all that glides Beneath the wave, yea, in the wave itself, And mighty depth of waters. Wonder not If high the transport, great the joy I felt, 410 Communing in this sort through earth and heaven With every form of creature, as it looked Towards the Uncreated with a countenance Of adoration, with an eye of love. One song they sang, and it was audible, Most audible, then, when the fleshly ear, O'ercome by humblest prelude of that strain Forgot her functions, and slept undisturbed.
Whitman “Sentiment of Being.”
1807 G.W.F. Hegel major philosophical work entitled Phänomenologie des Geistes [Phenomenology of Mind, Phenomenology of Spirit] was published. Hegel traced the evolution of consciousness distinguishing between lower and higher levels of consciousness. In the section entitled “Self Consciousness > A: Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness > Lordship and Bondage” Hegel developed the Master-slave dialectic.
1870 In “St. Paul and Protestantism” Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) wrote,
Below the surface stream, shallow and light, Of what we say and feel — below the stream, As light, of what we think we feel, there flows With noiseless current, strong, obscure and deep, The central stream of what we feel indeed.
Trilling cited this in Sincerity and Authenticity (1972).
1968 Student uprisings at Columbia University, Trilling’s academic intellectuals community. The adversary culture, the cruder form of liberalism, asserted itself. Complex arena of mental struggles were forced into the arena of simple political struggles. Moral, psychological, social selves that we imagined ourselves possessing were split and fragmented and a “dissociation of sensibility” took over. Wordsworth and Rousseau are crucial to Trlling in Sincerity and Authenticity.
1972 Trilling, Lionel. 1969-70. Sincerity and Authenticity. Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard published in 1972. “It comprises a history of the elaborate development of mind and self since Shakespeare, a brief consideration of certain literary texts he sees as central, a polemical refutation of some prophets of our time, and an authorial credo that conceals hope about literature while it counsels stoic resignation about life. And as his last argument with the forceful reality of death, it is also Trilling’s attempt to discover a means by which estrangement of self from self might at last be resolved. Trilling’s authentic authenticity is perhaps best embodied in Conrad of Heart of Darkness. Lesser authenticities Chace, William M. Lionel Trilling, criticism and politics. Lionel Trilling makes the point that authenticity is not to be confused with sincerity, which is being true to one’s social self. Authenticity runs deeper-it is, in the words of Trilling, a “primitive” strength that is continually compromised by society. Maintaining one’s core authenticity, for Rousseau and the Romantics, required a life of personal suffering and constant attention and sympathy to the plight of others. Only the alientated could enter into this world (Rifkin EC:350).
Sartre, the French existential philosopher of the mid-twentieth century, defined the sentiment of being as the place where
“each of us finds himself as well as the others. The common place belongs to me; in me, it
1990 Kenneth D. Bailey defined social entropy as “a measure of social system structure, having both theoretical and statistical interpretations, i.e. society (macrosocietal variables) measured in terms of how the individual functions in society (microsocietal variables); also related to social equilibrium” in his publication entitled Social Entropy Theory. (State University of New York Press).
1999 In their publication entitled A Primer of Jungian Psychology , (New York: Meridian), Calvin S. Hall and J. Vernon described “psychological entropy as the distribution of energy in the psyche, which tends to seek equilibrium or balance among all the structures of the psyche.”
Robinson, Jeffrey Cane. The current of romantic passion.