Gardener – The garden where the Youth lived. That’s my beginning. I’ve spent my life looking for it.
Writer – Aren’t you already inside?
Gardener – It never feels that way.
Writer – I see the Youth’s garden out there where you work. You’re recreating it.
Gardener – Even if I could recreate that garden, I wouldn’t.
Writer – Why’s that?
Gardener – It’s not mine, not his either.
Writer – More like our mother’s.
Gardener – I run into folks here, who tell me how lovely the gardens look now. They’re standing in front of the Azaleas we planted two years ago, the two Renee Michelle and the Aphrodite, all in full bloom. The blue, sharp leafed Campanula portenschlagiana is bursting its seams nearby. They smile and tell me how much they enjoy the blue violas. They’ve survived the years of neglect. The azaleas are spectacular, but what they see are the blue violas growing in their mothers’ gardens. Or it might be the invasive lily of the valley at the other end of the bed, which I struggle to keep in check. I ask them what they think of the Azaleas. Oh, yes, they say, yes, they’re nice too.
Writer – Even if they don’t see all that’s in front of them now, they’ll see it in the future. We always draw on the past to help us through the present.
Gardener – Last autumn when we planted the Pleasant White Azaleas in the distance over there on the slope, I didn’t know they would bloom at the same time as the slow budding pink Renees here in the foreground. I didn’t know the white azaleas would bond with the white flowering Viburnum dentatum scattered through the Rhododendron? The Viburnum might have come in too late. And Aphrodite, brash red between them all, might have clashed with the Renees in front. I didn’t even think of the Campanulas! Gardeners have to be patient. In some cases we never see the final outcome. We’ll be dead before that elm reaches its glorious heights. Look, Renee’s pink blossoms are dropping already.
Writer – They’ll bloom again next year.
Gardener – A whole year.
Writer – Still the opportunity remains ahead of us. That’s exciting. Doesn’t that make you feel good?
Gardener – It should. It does. . . sometimes. I sometimes wonder if I don’t want to feel good.
Writer – Like Martha.
Gardener – Martha?
Writer – Of George and Martha in Edward Albee’s play, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. The Youth’s girlfriend wanted to see the Mike Nichols’ film, so she took him when it first came out.
Gardener – The wife?
Writer – No, this was a high school girlfriend. The film was stranger to him than anything he’d seen before. This couple and their violent games. It was a keyhole view of the adult world. He understood physical violence, but found the intellectual violence over his head.
Gardener – But he left us images, didn’t he?
Writer – Can you see Elizabeth Taylor at the screen door, world-weary, realizing her emptiness? The youthful George Segal can’t fill it with his virility. Remember her words? I do, as if the Youth is whispering them to me now, her incantation: “George, who can make me happy and I don’t wish to be happy. I do wish to be happy. George and Martha, sad, sad, sad.”
Gardener – Writer and Gardener, sad, sad, sad.
Writer – Do you remember Three Sisters?
Gardener – What three sisters?
Writer – The play by Anton Chekhov.
Gardener – Oh, those sisters.
Writer – The past and future swinging wildly around like the hands of a clock gone mad. There, the violence is latent, tightly compressed like the mainspring under the surface of things. The veneer of good manners begins to wear. We barely register the sound of a gun shot in the last act.
Gardener – I had a hard time staying awake the last time we all saw it in Brooklyn.
Writer – It’s the battery commander, Alexander Vershinin, who clings to the hope that one day several hundred years from now, the world will find peace and happiness. He puts it mathematically. Today there are three lovely, talented sisters; tomorrow, there’ll be six, the day after twelve, until one day in the future everyone will be like them.
Gardener – If I remember correctly, he and his optimism are in retreat at the end.
Writer – His wife is sick and his children depend on him for stability. He believes the sisters grew up in the kind of home he’s failed to provide his own children.
Gardener – Perhaps their home only seemed perfect.
Writer – The old colonel was his commander in Moscow and his home was open to all his officers. Vershinin knew the colonel’s wife and remembers the sisters as Colonel Prozorov’s three little girls. He’s surprised to hear Irina, the youngest, planning her return to Moscow which she remembers as a place of happiness.
Gardener – Considering the sisters don’t have any kids, his calculations are groundless.
Writer – He sleeps with Masha, the middle sister.
Gardener – There’s no future there since she’s married like him.
Writer – The sisters dote on Andrei Sergeevich, their younger brother as if he will save them from life’s tedium with his brilliant career.
Gardener – He’s the least talented of the bunch!
Writer – But he has children. And his wife, a local woman, is ambitious. She’s seems best prepared to meet the future.
Gardener – She gets her husband a government job by sleeping with the head of the county council. In the end she’s appropriated Colonel Prozorov’s house for her children.
Writer – And everyone is telling themselves that someday their suffering will be understood. Irina claims there will be no more secrets.
Gardener – What secrets?
Writer – Perhaps the same secrets that keep Martha and George from being happy.
Gardener – We don’t all have the same secrets.
Writer – Perhaps she means the secrets that undermine our efforts.
Gardener – Well, something undermines my efforts.
Writer –What are you looking at?
Gardener – The Galanthus are gone.
Writer – Give us the English.
Gardener – The snowdrops! Galanthus nivalis. I’m talking about the bulbs I dug up and divided last spring after they bloomed. I moved them around, so their white lanterns would nod cheerfully along the walkways when everything else was still dormant. I set them in clumps among the narrow black leaves of Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ and the golden Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ – I don’t know the common name!
Writer – Sorry.
Gardener – I do know the common name, creeping gold Jenny. They’ve disappeared.
Writer – The creeping what’s its name?
Gardener – The Galanthus, the snowdrops, went to seed while I was in here with you. I even missed the Crocus and Tulip species that remind me of Asia minor.
Writer – Where the writers of the ancient world placed the first garden!
Garden – Now it’s the late blooming Azaleas that are coming out. No matter. We can see them next year. Didn’t you just say that? Next year when our neighbors step out the door, they’ll see the difference a snowdrop makes?
Writer – The potential is there.
Gardener – For those that notice. But why isn’t that enough?
Writer – McMahon presents Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s views on the subject of perfection on pages 240 -1 of Happiness. We’ve never read Rousseau’s Second Discourse so we must take this as McMahon’s interpretation. May I read this section in full?
Gardener – Why are you asking me?
Writer – Just being polite.
Gardener – Please!
Writer – Just keep in mind what Aristotle and Aquinas said regarding desire and perfect happiness. . .
Gardener – Please!
Writer – Ok, to quote McMahon, “. . . what Rousseau calls ‘the faculty of self-perfection,’ or simply ‘perfectibility. . .’ is the fatal quality that lies in reserve in the depth of the soul, the very quality that is at the root of all progress. When called forth, it enables human beings to do extraordinary things: to strive constantly to improve their circumstances, to conquer nature, to organize themselves, to control, develop, and exploit. Yet at the same time, this faculty cultivates a ceaseless restlessness, breeding disaffection with our present state. It urges us to summon ever new desires and to place our reason in the service of their fulfillment. It urges us to compare ourselves invidiously to our fellow men, to strive to outdo them. It urges us constantly to outdo ourselves.”
Gardener – And where can this restlessness lead Adam, remaking his garden again and again!
Writer – Always lacking.
Gardener – This lacking – we can’t put our finger on it – causes all our unhappiness. On the other hand Adam keeps trying because he always feel this close to succeeding.
Writer – Doesn’t that mean he has the potential for happiness?
Gardener – If that’s so wouldn’t that also make him self-sufficient?
Writer – I’ve been rereading Ernest Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful. If you remember the Youth first read the book when it came out in1973.
Gardener – I know, I know, I see the ratty copy there, falling to pieces.
Writer – While their conclusions are different, there are a great many places where both Ernst Schumacher and Ayn Rand agree. For example both found reprehensible the idea that humans could be interpreted as nothing more than a corpus of atoms. Both valued the world of ideas and criticized those who claimed that ideas are relative. Both deplored our failure to solve problems that were once easily solved. Anyway there’s a reference to Burma in the chapter on Buddhist Economics. I wanted to see what had become of Burma. It seems it has been a completely failed economic system when viewed statistically. Not only that it has suffered years of military repression. But this is how I discovered the recent Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech of Burmese activist, Aung San Suu Kyi. Actually she was awarded the prize in 1991 when she was under house arrest in Burma.
Gardener – It’s been in the news. She spent 15 years under arrest.
Writer – In her speech she said, “absolute peace in our world is an unattainable goal. But it is one towards which we must continue to journey, our eyes fixed on it as a traveller in a desert fixes his eyes on the one guiding star that will lead him to salvation.” Earlier she had explained, “the Burmese concept of peace can be explained as the happiness arising from the cessation of factors that militate against the harmonious and the wholesome.” Here I was reading an old book that had paraphrased the hopes and dreams of a newly liberated nation. Like the Congo the dream for Burma goes off the tracks after a charismatic leader is killed. Now I find myself caught up in the on-going events. We have to keep trying.
Gardener – The Youth taught us that.
Writer – Do you remember, around puberty he began suffering from acute pain on the right side near the stomach? A doctor told his mother the attacks would eventually pass. But when they struck, he’d doubled over. If he was playing baseball he’d curl up on the ground wherever he was on the field. At home he’d lie on the nearest couch or bed, even the floor. He imagined an imperfection festering inside him. For relief he imagined taking a knife and cutting the evil sore from its place. As the doctor promised, the painful episodes disappeared. But he could still feel this imperfection growing inside of him. The Old Man seemed to confirm this whenever he sent him up to his room for an infraction. There he punched the soft, low inclined ceiling with his fist. These outbursts of anger never brought permanent relief. But at least he had tangible evidence of his suffering right there on the ceiling, proof that he had something to complain about. When he was older he had his little sister and her friend lock him in a small closet on the second floor until his legs went numb. In high school, after classes, he ran bare foot up and down a rock strewn hill behind the football field, hoping that would make him tougher. The summer before his senior year, he was required to read Tolstoy’s War And Peace, which he never finished, losing his way in the infinity of characters, and a depth of feelings he couldn’t understand. But he imagined he was like the one character he thought he understood, Dolokhov. He met him sitting on a window sill downing a bottle of rum, in Part I, Chapter 9. He thought that was cool. On Friday and Saturday nights he downed pints of vodka with friends. “Bold ass moves” they called it. He had learned in 9th grade that vodka didn’t leave a scent on his breath. Years later, when he finally finished the Russian epic, he found Pierre and Denisov far more appealing. But at the time he hadn’t found the ability to shape words into images. They baffled him and Dolokhov was a man of action. One day, eight or ten years before I appeared, and having by then embraced the counter culture in reaction to the Old Man’s views, he was typing on his grandmother’s Remington in the apartment he shared with his girl friend and their friends, when his lack of articulation unleashed a potent dose of violence. Like a flash flood his anger immersed everything around him. He threw his grandmother’s typewriter against the desk, smashing her cherished teapot which his mother had given him after she died. I can still see it, the cracked lid, the broken spout, which later he tried to glue together. Just then the Siamese cat, Thor, freaked out, and leaped on the desk. He grabbed Thor before his thoughts could catch up to him and threw him against the wall.
Gardener – The cat, he threw the cat?
Writer – Thor ran under the bed and wouldn’t come out until the Youth’s True Heart had returned from classes.
Gardener – It was her cat?
Writer – It was the first time she learned of this other side of him.
Gardener – Was the cat hurt?
Writer – Shaken. The Youth saw himself throwing Thor as he had thrown the typewriter. He saw the fear in the cat’s wild eyes. Almost immediately after he threw him against the wall, his fury receded, like water flowing down the drain, leaving him empty. He was ashamed. From that day on, whenever this anger burst from it’s place, it became an act of will not to hurt anyone else.
Gardener – For all we know the Good Samaritan was struggling just like him when he came up to the naked man.
Writer – Jesus never tells us. He says he had pity.
Gardener – The night before, he might have argued with his wife over the way she was raising the kids. Perhaps that morning he argued with his son about doing his share around the house, maybe it was his daughter he yelled at because she smiled at a boy.
Writer – Our Christian theologian is optimistic. Everything wants to be good. It can’t be helped since goodness is the source of all things. Evil is nothing more than the lack of good. He calls it a privation. Even if the Samaritan was angry at his son the night before, he still had the potential to get something right. I think that’s what Aung San means about never losing sight of peace. This potential that we spoke of earlier must have kept the Youth, in spite of his failings, from quitting.
Gardener – The Youth must have loved the cat.
Writer – Knowing who we are, we can assume so.
Gardener – But the moment he threw the cat, he must have lacked love for him.
Writer – I don’t think he was thinking of love or hate at that moment.
Gardener – But throwing the cat wasn’t good and if the lack of good is evil then the lack of love must be hate.
Writer – So you’re saying because he lacked goodness the moment he threw the cat, he therefore hated it.
Gardener – I’m saying that must have been the reason for his shame, the realization of what it means to hate something, even momentarily.
Writer –We already know the Christian believes his god is perfect and good. He also believes that god is love. In Summa Theologica, Part 1:Question 20, he quotes the evangelist, John from the New Testament, chapter 4: verse 16, where John says “God is love.”
Gardener – But he sensed something else, didn’t he? Hitting the wall was one thing. He could blame others for his anger. Everyone was against him. He hated the Old Man who sent him up to his room. And what about that Sister Mary Ursula? He hated her too.
Writer – She actually told the 3rd grade class that anyone living outside the true faith would not enter Heaven. Instead they would suffer the flames of hell. The boy was horrified. At the Old Man’s request our mother had raised us as Catholics, but she had remained an Episcopalian. Unable to reveal his sorrow, the Youth suffered quietly as if he himself had taken her place in the inferno.
Gardener – I mean this is something we can understand. He had a reason to hate her. And under ASS you had “reasons” to hate everyone who was impeding your efforts to accomplish something great.
Writer – Long Live Galt! Let the cities rot! Let the country go to hell! We’re taking our business to Shangri-La. Actually I just heard that Remington Arms Company is threatening to pull its business out of New York State if the government insists on microstamping gun casing to help law enforcement.
Gardener – But as soon as he threw the cat, he could only blame himself. He was no better than those he hated. Sister Mary Ursula always blamed him for things he didn’t do. She was stupid and lazy – that’s why he hated her. But when he threw the cat it was because he was inarticulate, because he was stupid, because he was weak. Thor was innocent. He had to assume responsibility. He was no different than she was.
Writer – You’re right. His lack of love left him with an incomplete view of himself. It was like looking into the mirror and being unable to see his nose. It’s there but he can’t see it. Instead there’s a hole. Most of us spend a lot of time and money trying to find our nose.
Gardener – The problem is we often want a nose that’s popular. The Youth wanted straight hair. He wanted ears that didn’t stick out. But even going out and buying stove pipe pants and cabana socks, and lathering his hair with cream couldn’t fill the hole in the center of his face.
Writer – That’s when he must have begun to empathize.
Gardener – But do you think he was ready to use the word, love? I mean there was a canker still growing inside of him. He could love his mother, even The Old Man, when he didn’t hate him, but love himself?
Writer – The Youth was fascinated by Shakespeare’s use of that word in the Sonnets.
Gardener – Love?
Writer – Canker. He rode his bicycle to work and on his way home he often visited the Shakespeare Garden beneath Belvedere Castle. I suspect his interest in the word was tied to his fascination of rosebuds which reminded him of medieval spires. But Sonnet 54 was different. The context was unusual and aided his understanding of his problem. The poet describes a canker rose, a rose without a scent. The Youth, who was even then learning to convert his views of the natural world into words, had come to think of a canker as a worm.
Gardener – I think of stem problems. . . rose stems.
Writer – But that didn’t seem to be the case here. I quote the bard: “The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye/as the perfumed tincture of the roses. . . But,” as the poet later adds, “for their virtue only is their show.” In my words, when they fade, that’s it; no one remembers them; while perfumes from the redolent roses are distilled in bottles and remembered. The poet is comparing his sonnet to perfume by which his lover or is it his youth, can be remembered after beauty has faded.
Gardener – Shakespeare is putting a value on scented roses. There are many exquisite roses that aren’t sweet scented.
Writer – It’s his metaphor for something intangible. The Youth realized he no longer needed a knife to remove his pain.
Gardener – Why does this never end?
Writer – In San Francisco, years before he discovered Shakespeare, the fog lifted sometime around noon and the sun found him in its glare. He began feeling the bright blue sky was weighing down on him. He had nowhere to hide from himself. It was as if the sun at noon was casting its searching rays straight into the center of his emptiness. At the time he was reading the Budge Translation of the Egyptian Book Of The Dead. He couldn’t wait for dark so he could fall into the cool night as into a pool of water.
Gardener – I feel that today, cooped up with you.
Writer – He was struggling out of this emptiness, this lack of success.
Gardener – The blue sky’s chiding me. Why am I inside? That’s why I garden.
Writer – That’s why I read Chekhov!
Gardener – Nothing is more lovely and perfect than a bright sky on a lovely day, and nothing more hideous!
Writer – Perhaps this hole in all of us is what the believers in gods call original sin.
Gardener – Is this the reason for their holy wars? Filling the privation with blood and gore?
Writer – It makes our emptiness a fault. Love they neighbor as thyself, but if we can’t love ourselves, how can we love our neighbors.
Gardener – We’re not as perfect as the congressman from Wisconsin.
Writer – I never expected to find this emptiness here in the middle of the rock pile.
Gardener – He never doubts himself.
Writer – We were going to build something solid.
Gardener – Never questions himself.
Writer – I mean these rocks are all we have.
Gardener – He has all the answers.
Writer – A place both wild and domesticated, like the mind.
Gardener – Does that mean he loves himself?
Writer – Instead we’ve uncovered a black hole in the center of our universe.
Gardener – I feel awful.
Writer – I’ve thrown more words than there are stars into this singularity without ever stopping up the pain. And all because we can’t “be.”
Gardener – What about our potential?
Writer – But we can do the right thing.
Gardener – When we succeed, we find happiness.
Writer – It’s short lived!
Gardener – What are you moaning about? You’re in your element, here in this world of all consuming illumination. They’re sending ships to the arctic circle to bring you light. They’re blowing tops off mountains to brighten your day. Your computer is saving paper but still burning on the carboniferous. It took every ounce of energy for the Youth to control his anger. Are we his reward?
Writer – You and I.
Gardener – Sad, sad Youth. Besides he doesn’t know us. And we don’t know him.
Writer – I remember when he disappeared. We were standing by the window on the second floor of Castalia, the Greek Restaurant where he worked. He was looking out onto Madison Avenue. He realized he was thirty. That something had changed. And then I was alone, myself. But anyway, you know him more than you know anyone else.
Gardener – I remember this vaguely. But I can’t take credit for his struggle.
Writer – Isn’t that why you’re here now?
Gardener – It never ends, converting this hatred into motion, into work.
Writer – As the Pagan said, we must exert ourselves!
Gardener – Why can’t we pat ourselves on the back now and then when we get it right? I mean the placement of those far off Pleasant Whites was perfect.
Writer – We always forget. We rush on.
Gardener – Tomorrow all this will start again.
Writer – Sad, sad Gardener.
Gardener – Do you think the Youth felt good every time he weathered a storm?
Writer – If relief is good, he must have felt good.
Gardener – How about self-sufficient?
Writer – If he felt good, then he needed nothing more.
Gardener – Still I’ve never thrown a cat!
Writer – Should we blame our Youth?
Gardener – I didn’t do it! I couldn’t live with that.
Writer –How about that kid in Florida? He sure looks like he threw the cat. Blame him!
Gardener – He’s dead.
Writer – Can we live with that?
Gardener – I’m ashamed of what we’re capable of.
Writer – Not me, blame the devil. The devil made us do it.
Gardener – Yeah, Hitler made us kill the Jews.
Writer – That’s easy.
Gardener – Charlie Manson made us shoot those people up Cielo Drive.
Writer – See how easy it is!
Gardener – Why do we always go back to his time? We can’t change anything back there.
Writer – That’s right. We can’t. But we’re going forward! I told you that.
Gardener – But why are we capable of such atrocities? I didn’t kill the Jews. And it was the Youth who threw a cat against the wall. So why am I ashamed?
Writer – It’s the hole in us, our privation.
Gardener – We need to move on, like the seasons.
Writer – There are people working in food factories who treat animals as if they were nothing more than bags of cement and pallets of brick. They kick chickens. They punch pigs.
Gardener – But we don’t. We threw a cat, once!
Writer – That’s right we did!
Gardener – If I could only get outside.
Writer – You always start moping when you stand by the window.
Gardener – I see the weeds growing. If plants acted like people, consciously refining the Pooh Principle we’d be gone by now, the human species, smothered in weeds.
Writer – Remember Little Shop Of Horrors by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.
Gardener – I know I’d feel good again, pulling weeds. It’s as simple as that.
Writer – I work with my hand too!
Gardener – On that infernal keyboard, pounding rock.
Writer – When I was suffering from ASS I was too important to stop by the naked man.
Gardener – The silent pulling of weeds.
Writer – I wouldn’t help the stranger.
Gardener – Before too long a patch of bare earth, waiting for new ideas, a hardy gardenia perhaps, against the brick wall, the pale white flowers, the sweet scent nurturing our memories.
Writer – Why didn’t he come to me earlier, why did he go on believing in big government.
Gardener – That’s all it takes, bending down, pulling green dross. That leaves room for dreaming.
Writer – As John Galt warned, by helping this man I was helping a dysfunctional government and its corporate cronies survive.
Gardener – Piling dross on the compost.
Writer – I realized people must die until they see clearly.
Gardener –Editing what isn’t valued at that moment, in that place. That’s gardening.
Writer – When I was suffering from ASS I called myself objective.
Gardener –Like the congressman from Wisconsin, what’s his name. . .
Writer – Paul Lie’en?
Gardener – Yeah, Paul Lie’en, with a lion’s halo, another victim of ASS.
Writer – Not any more. Haven’t you heard? In his words “like millions of young people in America,” he attributes his ASS to his youth.
Gardener – In other words, he was a Galt groupie like you but not any more.
Writer – Yep, he came of age and went public. He’s disowned his hero like St Peter denying Jesus before the cock crowed.
Gardener – Why do we never hear about Daggy Taggert? Wasn’t she struggling against the same torpid system as the congressman.
Writer – It’s never been about Taggert, even if she was the vehicle of change.
Gardener – Didn’t she feed the beggar on the train and give him a job?
Writer – I think the hobo had news of her mysterious inventor.
Gardener – She’d still have done it. The way you’ve described her she’s the most real.
Writer – Oddly enough, the author believed she was egocentric, because she believed she could fight entropy all by herself. Anyway, the hero from Wisconsin now claims to be a follower of Thomas Aquinas!
Gardener – Then the congressman from Wisconsin, like you and I, agrees with Aquinas, that none of us can ever be good.
Writer – According to his advocates in our congressional brain trust his budget is based on moral principles. Through sacrifice we all, in the future, will become self-sufficient, like the congressman. And as you and I know being self sufficient makes us good.
Gardener – Too bad the Youth isn’t around to see this ASS. He might have understood why he was doomed from the beginning.
Writer –In St Mary’s the good kids got good marks and gold stars. They seemed endowed with grace. He felt he lacked something.
Gardener – Earlier we said the Good Samaritan had to help the stranger. Right? Had to!
Writer – He took pity on the man.
Gardener – His pity compelled him.
Writer – Right.
Gardener – When he helped the stranger it was an act of goodness.
Writer – Everyone agrees.
Gardener – But who can see the Youth’s act of goodness?
Writer – I see your point. Not throwing the cat is equal to the Samaritan’s well applauded act.
Gardener – The Youth is angry and violent, but of his own free accord he wills himself to not act. He restrains himself. He does not throw his true heart’s cat against the wall any more.
Writer – It’s a turbulence I still feel.
Gardener – Does everyone struggle this way?
Writer – In The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt said we’re all different genetically, metabolically.
Gardener – When we see the Samaritan, we say, “he’s one of the good guys.” But when we see the Youth, hood on his head, walking aimlessly around, hanging out on the corner, when we see him, we say “that kid’s up to no good.”
Writer – But we know differently.
Gardener – Only because we know our Youth.
Writer – Of course, it helps to have a moral code in place.
Gardener – But it means nothing unless we wrestle with ourselves.
Writer – A moral code is passed down through millenniums because it makes sense, because it’s practical.
Gardener – Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal.
Writer – Still we must earn them.
Gardener – Aren’t we ridding the high horse again?
Writer – It’s not about retribution. It’s knowing the difference between right and wrong.
Gardener – What are you talking about? Of course it’s about retribution!
Writer – We don’t believe in heaven!
Gardener – Sometimes we do the right thing because we do fear getting caught. Sometimes we do the right thing because we’re afraid someone is watching! Like that time you accidentally backed the pickup into the car behind you and cracked the front fender.
Writer – What do you mean, me, that was you, you were tired after that long drive down the Taconic.
Gardener – I wasn’t driving.
Writer – You had plenty of room to park. You admitted that yourself. You thought you were in first gear but you were in reverse.
Gardener – It was your idea to go upstate with the wife.
Writer – I don’t drive! I never leave this room.
Gardener – Oh, I guess all these stories come from inside your head, no influence from the outside.
Writer – The internet, newspapers, books, music.
Gardener – I remember one evening, after working late, trying to squeeze into the only parking space I could find, me. The dam hitch plate rode up on top of the fender of the car in back. I told myself if someone parks on the street, shit happens. It’s expected. Still, after all that work I decided to find another spot. I didn’t want the owner of the car to do something to my truck in revenge. . . Having admitted this, will you agree “we” were driving this time?
Writer – Well alright, but I can’t see how I could have been there. If it eases things, yes.
Gardener – No sooner “we” hit the car behind us we realized we had a problem.
Writer – We were parking right in front of the building where we lived. We cracked the fender.
Gardener – I said, damn, we live here. I figured for sure someone saw us from the window.
Writer – I said, damn we live here. What if somebody smashed our car? Wouldn’t we appreciate knowing?
Gardener – No one told us who stole our cargo bay cover. Nobody confessed to messing up the door lock on the passenger’s side or cracking the side view mirror, I mean. . .
Writer – Stuff like that helped us turn a corner.
Gardener – I’ve worked hard for a living. I looked at that cracked fender and knew this was going to be costly.
Writer – Old habits die hard.
Gardener – We left a note on the windshield with our phone number. Shit.
Writer – A few days later a parole officer who lived down the block called us. He said he and the fellas down at the office had talked about us around the water cooler. They couldn’t believe we’d left a note admitting fault!
Gardener – They thought we were crazy.
Writer – He praised our honesty. It was his daughter’s car.
Gardener – Well I told him to save his compliments. I told him it took everything I had to not walk away. Cost us $800. I wrote the check myself.
Writer – But we did it, the right thing. In spite of all those feelings, we still did it. We could see ourselves doing it. And we felt good about it.
Gardener – Not completely. It hurt writing that check.
Writer – I was relieved.
Gardener – I don’t know. 800 bucks.
Writer – No one forced us to leave the note under the windshield wiper. . . Look we both agreed with the theologian that all things strive to be good. We wanted to do the right thing. But we must, as the philosopher said, exert ourselves. We both know it’s not easy.
Gardener – It’s not easy.
Writer – We smashed the bumper. To make good we admitted out fault.
Gardener – When I think of the money it hurts. When I think of right and wrong it feels good.
Writer – In Small Is Beautiful, Economics As If People Mattered, Ernst Schumacher emphasized two point views, one was economical, the other metaphysical. In our global culture, the economical view takes precedence over the metaphysical view. In Part I, Chapter 3 he writes “it would be ‘uneconomic’ for a buyer to give preference to home-produced goods if imported goods are cheaper. He does not, and is not expected to, accept responsibility for the country’s balance of payments.” Today we can add unemployment as well as a castrated national identity. When the metaphysical view supersedes the economical, we acknowledge some things standing outside of monetary value. It would be immoral to rip families apart with the economic strains caused by foreclosures, deportations, and the unregulated investment policies of Kings who bring on these economic hardships. Wherever we can, we should decide what is best for people and not for the Kings who knowingly gamble with the national security since economic downturns create national insecurity. Schumacher argued that when meta-economics are applied, anything people-made can be treated economically, but anything people can’t make must be treated reverently. He uses the word, “sacred.” In Part II, Chapter 2, he gives the example of someone deciding it will be more economical running the car into the ground than spending X dollars keeping it going. With the money saved the consumer can buy a new car. But one shouldn’t demand the same economic calculus for the earth where we grow our food and raise our animals, and from the animals themselves. Pigs and chickens aren’t TVs and toasters.
Gardener – That was written a long time ago. No one remembers Schumacher. They remember Galt because we all want a hero!
Writer – But we aren’t any further away from success. We’re just as close today to being good stewards of the real world than we were 40 years a ago.
Gardener – That’s almost a half century.
Writer – The potential for success is still in our hands. We have the capability of producing goods and preserving the home planet as a self sustaining unit for everyone.
Gardener – What about the Kings and their vassals? These masters of deception are thinking only of what they can make for themselves in their own life times. They don’t give a hoot about the life time of the planet.
Writer – Schumacher laments in Part I, Chapter 2, that “a man driven by greed or envy loses the power of seeing things as they really are, of seeing things in their roundness and wholeness, and his success become failures. If whole societies become infected by these vices, they become increasingly incapable of solving the most elementary problems of everyday existence. . .”
Gardener – Is this supposed to make me feel better. He’s not simply describing Kings but all of us. That could be a description of you and me!”
Writer – It is. He continues, “The Gross National Product may rise rapidly: as measured by statisticians but not as experienced by actual people, who find themselves oppressed by increasing frustration, alienation, insecurity, and so forth. After awhile, even the Gross National Product refuses to rise any further, not because of scientific or technological failure, but because” and the emphasis is mine, “of a creeping paralysis of non-cooperation, as expressed in various types of escapism on the part, not only of the oppressed and the exploited, but even of the highly privileged groups.” I would add the non-cooperation caused by the adherence to dogma. Now he said this 40 years ago and if ever there was a prophesy made that’s come true, this is one of them!
Gardener – I’m not consoled. We’re all in the same boat, the Kings, their vassals and the rest of us.
Writer – I was just reading an article this morning in the New York Times. . .
Gardener – I was here! I saw you reading it.
Writer – A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private by David Segal which describes a suburban community near Atlanta, Georgia.
Gardener – Sandy Springs.
Writer – That’s right. When I was reading it I thought there are some good points here. For one the brief description of the 19th century tax code. Taxpayers paid taxes for specific services needed by the taxpayers. Nothing new here, even the Roman emperor Hadrian said the only purpose of government was to clean the streets and pick up the trash. I think I read that in Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar.
Gardener – There’s a lot to be said for that!
Writer – I can easily image a governing body hiring a local company to do something for them. But most of the companies mentioned in the article are national with home offices in other states. That means tax dollars are leaving the state. On top of that the manager in another state is telling his manager in Sandy Springs what to do with local workers. Naturally the local manager. . .
Gardener – Was he born there?
Writer – Not sure but I assume he has the responsibility of making the right decisions, the right decisions being the most profitable for the company. But all this aside, where I feel the idealism goes off the tracks is when the author paraphrases Mr. McDonough the Sandy Springs city manager, by telling us “The privatized approach saves money because corporations hire superior workers and give them better training.” The emphasis is mine. That’s a dangerous statement. It borders on an act of faith. The author continues paraphrasing the city manager: “Work handled by 15 public employees can be done by 12 privately employed workers, he says” that is Mr. McDonough according to David Segal who then actually quotes the Manager: “It’s all about the caliber of employee and the customer focus that comes out of the private sector.’”
Gardener – That’s scary.
Writer- Exactly what I thought. Not scary because of the actual process which is worthy of experimentation but because of the evangelical tone of its believers.
Gardeners – Pureliners. One size fits all.
Writer – Near the end of the article the author describes an encounter between , Mr. McDonough and Kevin Walter, the deputy director of public works, who works under contract for URS. “Mr. Walker has good news. Currently, Sandy Springs pays for two people to operate two road maintenance trucks five days a week — in effect, 10 days of work every two weeks. Well, Mr. Walker has just figured out a way to reduce the number to nine days every two weeks, saving $50,000 a year.” Mr. McDonough is happy and Mr. Walter is happy.
Gardener – Yeah, it’s not coming out of their pockets.
Writer – Exactly. It’s obvious it’s coming out of the pocket of one of the drivers. That’s a demotion. Not because of work done badly but because the Kingdom wants to save $50,000. Now we can rest assured that this demoted worker wasn’t making $50,000 for 52 days of work, nor was his truck consuming that much fuel and need that many repairs for 52 days of use.
Gardener – Let’s hope not.
Writer – What would running a tuck and paying a worker cost the home office of URS in San Francisco? $200 tops? $300?
Gardener – On the ground floor that’s a good estimate, even if we consider a union contract with the teamsters, which is unlikely considering the tenor of these evangelical managers.
Writer – Let’s round it off, $500 for one worker and his truck a day. That’s $26,000. So who’s making the remaining $24,000?
Gardener – Maybe it is coming out of Mr. Walker’s pocket.
Writer – Maybe. We could tally up salaries for secretaries at the home office as well as the cost of upkeep of the buildings and the possible mortgages pending on operations and real estate at the home office in San Francisco. It’s more likely that by demoting a worker, Walker is insuring that his salary stays the same or is raised.
Gardener – Maybe we should ask the experts at Bane Capital?
Writer – Yeah, I’m sure they could tell us. But Schumacher is clear on the goals of Sandy Marsh. . .
Gardener – Springs, Sandy Springs.
Writer – In Part 1 Chap 3, he claims that “the judgment of economics. . . is an extremely fragmentary judgment; out of the large number of aspects which in real life have to be seen and judged together before a decision can be taken, economics supplies only one – whether a thing yields a money profit to those who undertake it or not.” The emphasis is his. The King keeps the Miller’s daughter locked inside his sweat shop spinning gold for him because it’s in his best interests. The King rationalizes doing this for the good of the Kingdom. The consumers of the Kingdom are happy as long as they have enough gold to buy goods as basement prices. But the bottom line is, the King’s getting his desired return for locking her up.
Gardener – One could argue that it’s in her best interest to marry the King.
Writer – But we’ve discussed her liability since she was using an outside source. The King holds all the cards. When he marries her, he monopolizes what he believes to be her skill. If she can’t make gold, she can still put out.
Gardener – What about the critics? Isn’t there always a revolution around the corner?
Writer – According to the King, his critics are just envious.
Gardener – There’s truth in that. We all want to live like the King.
Writer – Think of Cinderella and her shoe.
Gardener – Yes we’re all willing to squeeze in if only to marry the prince.
Writer – The Kings have caste their spell over us using the gold we’ve made for them. We fall asleep dreaming of the Dogmateers who sally forth from their castle ideology with sword and shield to fight the windmills of differing views. Oh yes they tell us, we’ll put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Gardener – Wolves in sheep’s’ clothing or should I say grandma’s dress and shawl.
Writer – We carry this too far! We’ve heard what Rousseau had to say about why we can’t be happy. Our striving’s to blame; but I suspect that for most of us the Marquis de Sade is closer to the truth. Do you remember what he said Act One, Scene 22, in Peter Weiss’ play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed By The Inmates Of The Asylum Of Charenton Under The Direction Of The Marquis De Sade?
Gardener – I thought the analogy fit, using wolves and you know Little Red Ridding Hood
Writer – “That’s how it is Marat/That’s how she sees your revolution/they have toothache/and their teeth should be pulled/Their soup’s burnt/They shout for better soup/A woman finds her husband too short/she wants a taller one/A man finds his wife too skinny/he wants a plumper one/A man’s shoes pinch/but his neighbor’s shoes fit comfortably/A poet runs out of poetry/and desperately gropes for new images/For hours an angler casts his line/Why aren’t the fish biting/And so they join the revolution/thinking the revolution will give them everything. . .”
Gardener – Anything to make me happy. Like a new nose I can stick into everyone’s business.
Writer – Is it a wonder we want to believe them, these master of deception. Even when we like them they can come up short. On page 432 in Happiness, in McMahon’s discussion of Friedrich Nietzsche, we discovered a passage the Christian wrote in the Supplement to the Third Part of Summa Theologica, which we’ve never read because of its references to heaven.
Gardener – And you don’t mean Sandy Springs.
Writer – It would seem that the long promised eternal happiness we can’t find permanently on Earth, is made more exquisite, if that’s possible, in heaven when the blessed watch the suffering of the eternally dammed! How in this eternal world of perfect good is their room for, yes, still more good? The Christian explains: “Now everything is known the more for being compared with its contrary, because when contraries are placed beside one another they become more conspicuous. Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.”
Gardener – Are the taxpayers of Sandy Springs enjoying the privation out beyond the castle walls?
Writer – This is troubling.
Gardener – Not to the congressman from Wisconsin. He’s pushes back that devilish debt caused by those of us who’ve been improvident, squandering our assets on pleasures’ imitation. . .
Writer – Don’t bring in the Prodigal Son
Gardener – I’m just getting the hang of this.
Writer – Don’t.
Gardener – While the congressman and those of us who’ve nurtured our resources, sit back in our hard earned leisure enjoying the revelers suffering privation!
Writer – I don’t think his congressional benefits add relish to his congressional happiness. I think he’s blind to the suffering of others.
Gardener – According to Sister Mary Ursula when the Youth died he could sit on his heavenly perch watching his poor mother burn in hell for all eternity.
Writer – Fortunately a more exacting teacher, the stern Sister Mary Estelle, sensed his crisis. She took the boy aside and asked him what was wrong. When she learned what it was, she told him that was nonsense, that anyone who believed in the goodness of Jesus would enter heaven no matter what their church.
Gardener – Was Sister Mary Estelle a heretic in the eyes of contemporary church teachings?
Writer – A heretic? Because of her wider christian views? This Sister of Mercy brought solace and comfort to the Youth, just as the Samaritan had to the wayfarer lying on the road. She stepped outside dogma and saved the boy from torment. Had she been a Jew or a Muslim she would have done the same.
Gardener – We don’t need to be Christians to follow Jesus.
Writer – Nor Buddhists to follow Buddha? Buddha was a Hindu.
Gardener – Jesus was a Jew. There were no Christians in his day.
Writer – When Mohammed heard his angel, Gabriel, he could have been a Jew or a Christian or a Hanif. It doesn’t matter, does it? He stepped outside and became something new.
Gardener – Maybe he was a descendent of the Good Samaritan?
Writer – It doesn’t matter. Like other great people he steps outside of his time, becomes the outsider.
Gardener – Still, after these great people die, humans will be humans and the great efforts of unification crumble.
Writer – Shiites and Sunnis appeared just the way Lutherans and Calvinists did in Europe. Just the way Theravada and Mahayana appeared after Buddha.
Gardener – If prophets unite, their followers always lead to disunification. Have we come all this way only to find ourselves still searching for John Galt?
Writer – Remember those two apprentices working for the baker?
Gardener – Are we back on Main Street again?
Writer – Every town has a Main Street, even in Syria where towns are blown to bits. In this town, on this Main Street, the baker had a shop where he lived with his family and the two apprentices before it was destroyed by government artillery. . .
Gardener – Is this another fairy tale or a news bulletin?
Writer – The day after the government destroyed the town, the militia of the ruling minority, the Alawite, entered the shattered village and killed the baker and his wife and children. Our two young apprentices, hiding in the rubble, waited until dark to escape on the road north. We find them each carrying a loaf of bread. Each prays to Allah to help him evade the marauding gangs of the Alawite. At dawn one apprentice tells the other they should share the bread in common. The other agrees and offers his loaf. When they’ve satisfied their hunger and finished the man’s bread they continue on.
Gardener – I smell something rotten.
Writer –Naturally the other apprentice who offered up his bread first doesn’t think of himself as generous because he was acting for the common good. But they have walked all day and now evening is coming. He’s hungry and he sees his associate nibbling on the remaining loaf of bread. So he asks him for his share.
Gardener – King Lear again.
Writer – The apprentice who suggested dividing the bread between them in the first place continues walking. The hungry apprentice asks him again for his share. Now the apprentice with the bread quickens his pace. It’s almost dark now and the other man is well ahead of his comrade. So the hungry apprentice runs after him. The well-fed apprentice starts running too, until he is even farther ahead.
Gardener – I would have beat the shit out of him.
Writer – Soon it’s dark. The hungry apprentice is tired and can’t keep up. The other apprentice disappears into the night with the remaining loaf. It’s getting cold, winter is setting in. The hungry apprentice staggers off the road and up a hill to avoid an army convoy. On the hill he discovers an orchard of fig trees. Although it’s nearly winter they are heavy with fruit, so he eats to his stomach’s content.
Gardener – Figs can produce fruit twice in a single year, but generally the first crop is in late winter or early spring and the second crop in summer.
Writer – He hears the sound of running water. In the middle of the orchard there’s a well overflowing with sweet water, so the apprentice drinks his fill. He’s no longer cold and hungry. He lays down in the dark and dozes off beneath one of the trees. He’s not sure he’s dreaming but he overhears doves talking on the branches above. They’re talking about a poor, blind cobbler who could be rich if only he knew about the three pots of gold buried beneath his shop floor. They gossip how the people in Damascus pay great sums to their leader to import their water when there’s water for all just a few feet beneath the city’s main gates. And then there’s a king living in a far off land, who could save his dying daughter if he killed his precious dog and fed her the meat.
Gardener – Blah, blah and just the way the King got the miller’s daughter, the apprentice goes out and finds his fortune and a princess too.
Writer – Remember, that King was thinking only of himself when he locked the miller’s daughter in a room full of straw. Yes, the generous apprentice finds the pots of gold where the doves said they’d be but he takes only enough of the gold to get him to Damascus, leaving the rest for the poor cobbler, his wife and his many ill-fed children. In Damascus he discovers water under the gates just where the doves said it would be; the people want to make him President but he takes only enough money from the grateful people to get him to the land of the dying princess. And there he saves the King’s daughter. Naturally the King gives him his daughter in marriage. But feeling his son-in-law will leave his services if he doesn’t offer him a bonus, he asks what more he can do for him in gratitude. The apprentice tells him he’s a baker and would like to open a bakery. The King thinks this venture would be a good investment. Bread has been something his people have made at home. Opening such a business would lock up his monopoly of the food industry. But on one condition, continues the apprentice. And what is that, asks the King, not used to beneficiaries giving conditions. That the bread we make will be free to those too poor to buy it. The King looks over at his daughter. Without a moment’s hesitation he consents. And here is where the apprentice and his new wife, the princess, can be found, their aprons dusty with flour, their hands sticky with dough, distributing good bread and sweet water to anyone who have fallen prey to bad times.
Gardener – How about the other apprentice who left his friend behind?
Writer – Oh, he doesn’t matter any more.


1 – Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf.

2 – Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters

3 – what Aristotle and Aquinas said regarding desire and perfect happiness. . .
The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Nine A

4 – self-sufficient?
The Gardener Returns, Part Nine A

5 – Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel Peace Prize recipient for 1991 Acceptance Speech

6 – Summa Theologica, Part 1:Question 20: God is Love

7 – Method to Track Firearm Use Is Stalled by Foes/ By Erica Goode Published: June 12, 2012

8 – Budge Translation of the Egyptian Book Of The Dead.

9 – Charlie Manson

10 – Little Shop Of Horrors by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.

11 – St Peter denying Jesus

12 – the hero from Wisconsin claims to be a follower of Thomas Aquinas

13 – Good Samaritan
The Gardener Returns, Part Eight

14 – A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private by David Segal

15 – Pureliners.

15 – the Miller’s daughter

16 – Humpty Dumpty

17 – Peter Weiss’ play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed By The Inmates Of The Asylum Of Charenton Under The Direction Of The Marquis De Sade

18 – The Christian explains in Supplement (xp): to the third part of the Summa Theologica
Treatise On The Last Things (qq[86]-99)
Of the relations of the saints towards the damned (three articles)

19 – Main Street/Apprentices
The Gardener Returns, Part Four

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