The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Eight

Writer – Where am I?
Gardener – In your room.
Writer – I’m in a cold sweat.
Gardener – You thought you were the Fisherman’s Wife.
Writer – What’s this? Ah, my Trustee Of The Toolroom.
Gardener – Reminding you of Keith Stewart calmed you down.
Writer – I can’t understand what comes over me. Suddenly I believe I have all the answers.
Gardener – Clearly you’ve had another ASS attack. You had all the symptoms. I’m afraid your strain is virulent.
Writer – Whew, I’m exhausted, but I can see again. I owe you an apology. I must admit it was exhilarating, being almighty, feeling my universe expanding outward, encompassing all things. My influence filled every niche and void of the expanse. If the question why entered my thoughts, I plunged forward, regardless. I never looked back. . . Then it was too late to turn back. I was helpless. The desire for more was that intense. As the kingdom grew, everything around me grew smaller and smaller. Everything and everyone was racing away from me. Even though I, the universe, was expanding outward, I remained in the center, unmoved. By the time I realized it, all my minions, even those close to me, had become points of cold light in the darkness. It was frightening. My power was immense, but it was in the hands of strangers. If they hadn’t been wearing name tags with the corporate logo of the flounder, I wouldn’t have known who they were. Even though they smiled at me as if we were friends, I sensed and feared their own desires. They were like me. They wanted to get ahead. Here I was believing I was the center of the universe, wanting the sun and moon to rise and fall at my command and all the while these millions of people, filling countless positions out to the farthest ends of my kingdom, believed they were the centers of their own universes. Naturally, that’s where it all begins.
Gardener – With each of us.
Writer – They were working for me because they needed a job. That was their central concern. As Richard III said in Shakespeare’s play, “Richard loves Richard, that is, I am I.” As long as every hungry I believed my rules were just, they stayed in line. But sooner or later, somewhere farther out from me. . .
Gardener – Or further down.
Writer – Someone wasn’t just. It’s obvious to those working under this individual, that management didn’t care.
Gardener – Care? What is care? What about competence, don’t you mean competence?
Writer – Being competent helps you control others. They see you know what you’re doing, they trust your decisions. But care puts everyone at ease.
Gardener – I can tell you this, and it can’t be helped, there are those I dislike, and caring for them is a chore.
Writer – But the manager must never show sides, never have favorites. It might be a pretense, a relationship limited to the workplace, but it’s crucial, almost as crucial as being just, which is another way of saying you treat everyone as equals, encouraging those who can do better and rewarding those who have done their best.
Gardener – Don’t get high and mighty with me. All this you learned from me. You never managed anyone.
Writer – No, I’m the creative one.
Gardener – With words maybe but not with plants, and certainly not with people if your ASS is any indication.
Writer – That’s the Syndrome; you can’t blame me.
Gardener – Why are you so susceptible? It’s as if you have no immunity to it.
Writer – I’m an idealist. I’m always looking for a solution that will solve everyone’s problems. That’s why I detest these managers who fail in their duties. They should be discarded!
Gardener – Like the scrap pile of Murkydoc, full of personnel.
Writer – He employs an impressive 51,000 employees.
Gardener – And I’m sure he knows them all. That would explain why the Kingdom’s riddled with scandal.
Writer – Once the staff realizes they count for nothing in the eyes of those above them, they begin pressing their own advantage and the kingdom starts unraveling. Without justice it’s everyone for him or herself.
Gardener – Still Murkydoc insists he is the best judge over the King’s troubles.
Writer – He’s no different than the Fisherman’s Wife. Like her he didn’t want government meddling in his affairs. And we saw what happened to her when a higher power intervened.
Gardener – Murkydoc’s standard of right and wrong is particular to his kingdom. His moral standard is not mine. He created the environment that permitted the invasion of privacy. Murkydoc should look to himself.
Writer – The last I heard he was eliminating all the bad apples!
Gardener – Bad apples?
Writer – Managers and staff alike who’ve tarnished the name of the King.
Gardener – Didn’t he know these bad apples?
Writer – You said yourself he knows all the King’s employees.
Gardener – Well then, why didn’t he deal with the bad apples before it became a crisis?
Writer – Bad apples don’t tell you they’re bad apples! They’re rogues. They keep their rottenness to themselves. Take those people over there.
Gardener – In that line up?
Writer – We don’t call it “a line up!”
Gardener – Then what is it?
Writer –It’s just a line.
Gardener – Are they rogues?
Writer – I wouldn’t know? I don’t know any of them.
Gardener – I’m sorry, they look like criminals under the glaring lights.
Writer – There’s nothing to be sorry about.
Gardener – Then why did you want me to look at them?
Writer – Because they’re numbers.
Gardener – They look like people to me, lots of them. Are they all rotten apples?
Writer – They’re on the dole. They’re waiting for a government handout.
Gardener – Wait! See that one, don’t you recognize him?
Writer – Stand back!
Gardener – We know him! That’s one of our neighbors.
Writer – You don’t want to know them.
Gardener – So they are criminals?
Writer – Well, they do want our money since the Kings’ people are required to pay Unemployment Tax.
Gardener – The last I heard he had a job.
Writer – I warned you about getting too close to them.
Gardener – Some say his wife was important, I mean really important.
Writer – I thought you knew him.
Gardener – Of course I know him. That’s # 112.
Writer – That’s the fisherman who brought about the collapse of his wife’s Kingdom.
Gardener – The Wife’s Fisherman?
Writer – I wouldn’t admit knowing him or any of them. Some of them have caught Bolshevikitis!
Gardener – Who told you that?
Writer – Our vassals in Intelligence.
Gardener – Last I heard he was a healthcare assistant, cleaning bedpans for old veterans in a nursing home. The State paid him well. He was doing fine. Paying his bills.
Writer – Then you haven’t heard. On our advise, the Kings’ vassals fired him. He was making too much money.
Gardener – So that’s why he’s on that line.
Writer – Don’t feel sorry for him. The King bought Outsource, and Outsource took over the operation of the nursing facility for the state. In other words we rehired him, that is after he pledged allegiance to the King and swore off unions.
Gardener – You’re under the ASS again, aren’t you?
Writer – He said the same thing to her. “You’re under the ASS again.”
Gardener – He was simply trying to get her to come to her senses.
Writer – I see you’ve spoken with him.
Gardener – I read this! In your own copy of The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales published by Pantheon.
Writer – Fairy Tales are not to be trusted! And after all she did for him.
Gardener – She used him.
Writer – She lost everything. He was too stupid to realize he was up to his neck in mortgages like everybody else.
Gardener – You can’t blame him for her failure. She wouldn’t listen to reason. Merging Church and State under her corporate logo was an outrage!
Writer – As Matthew puts it in chapter 18, verse 18 of The New English Bible published by Oxford in 1970: “whatever you forbid on earth shall be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you allow on earth shall be allowed in heaven.” How else could she have capitalized on the infinite market potential of heaven?
Gardener – I prefer Mathew 6:10: “Our Father in heaven, thy name be hallowed; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven.” Narrows the interpretation.
Writer – I see you’ve been boning up on your scripture. Then you know Mark 12:17: “Pay Caesar what is due to Caesar, and pay God what is due to God.”
Gardener – Yeah, that separates the earthly kingdom from the heavenly one for sure.
Writer – But if you combine them, what better way to eliminate both tithe and tax at the same time! It was a stroke of genius to unite the two. Simplifies things, I’d say. Once a shopper always a shopper on earth as in heaven. It’s the holy power of the market.
Gardener – And when the earthly market came tumbling down, the fisherman ended up right back where he started, eking out his living by the sea. Only the flounder was gone. She had assumed she could use the sea for personal gain without repercussions.
Writer – Don’t be a fool. There’s plenty of fish in the sea! The federal quota on fishing stopped him. Big government is what put him out of business.
Gardener – I thought she was the government.
Writer – Her kingdom was entrepreneurial, real estate, marketing and media, which you might call the spiritual end of it. But she understood that the genius of the market works for everything, including the sea. Why shouldn’t the sea provide her the means of building her real estate empire? That’s why she eliminated regulations.
Gardener – Which put on board every vessel self-interest above the common interest. It was only a matter of time before the fishing beds were depleted. It’s interesting that she did regulate wolves to preserve elk for hunters. Seems to be a conflict of means inside her so called philosophy of de-regulation.
Writer – Oh, I wouldn’t expect you to understand. It’s much too complicated. Even though she was the government she was actually against the government. Her principles of rule were based on the ideal that the state is run like a non–profit corporation following the time tested vagaries of the market. That way it never interferes with the money making enterprises of all the Kings’ people. The elk hunters take precedence over wolves because wolves don’t shop!
Gardener – A government run like a corporation. Not exactly what Plato had in mind.
Writer – We’ve been through all this, haven’t we? Imagine the state run by philosophers! Almost as bad as waiting for John Galt. No, the market belongs to the people. It is the people. Their desires create the Kings’ wealth. When the market fails, the people are to blame. It means they’re not shopping. Plato was not very practical.
Gardener – If the fisherman had been practical he would have asked the flounder to ease his days by increasing the bounty of the sea.
Writer – Water under the bridge. Let bygones be bygones. At least we were able to provide him with a good job.
Gardener – The Wife’s fisherman cleaning bed pans!
Writer – A man possessing that attribute will go places.
Gardener – What attribute?
Writer – An indifference to strong odors. You know, being a fisherman There’s no telling to what heights such a man could go. A man with that attribute, of all people, shouldn’t be on that line.
Gardener – Well, why is he on that line if he has a good job. Maybe he’s not making enough to live on.
Writer – We pay the market rate for bed pan cleaners. We don’t run a charity. It’s not in our best interest.
Gardener – Nor his, I suspect.
Writer – If he can’t pay his bills, he should be out looking for more work. Instead he expects me to support him.
Gardener – Maybe his eight hour shift doesn’t leave much time to look for work.
Writer – What eight hour shift? Our professionals are hired strictly on a part time basis. This eliminates the need for health insurance.
Gardener – You mean people working part time are healthier?
Writer – You can’t expect the taxpayers to provide health care on top of the market wages for part time workers! Big government says only full times workers deserve that. They’ve put in the time. My lord I hope you haven’t caught Bolshevikitis!
Gardener – Why not make him full time?
Writer – We don’t employ anyone full time. Besides all this is irrelevant.
Gardener – What do you mean?
Writer – We’re selling the company.
Gardener – You mean disappear like John Galt.
Writer – No, that requires an ideal. Nothing ideal about business. You saw what happened to 112’s wife. She didn’t get out in time. Ka boom!
Gardener – But sell? You’re providing a service. Think of all the old veterans needing your help since the state forfeited responsibility to the King’s subsidiary.
Writer – There are underling problems.
Gardener – You mean like 112, our neighbor.
Writer – Look, the King wants to unload a subsidiary. Don’t worry, another King will buy it. It happens all the time. It’s the American way.
Gardener – It already happened once when the vassals abandoned their responsibility to old veterans by handing them over to the King. Now the King is going to abandon them again by selling Outsource!
Writer – No one abandons anyone. The market dictates our course. Private enterprise is the American way. It doesn’t make any difference to our senior veterans whether the state provides the service or a private company.
Gardener – As long as good people are involved, I agree. A good person is going to do a good job for the vets no matter who employs him or her. That being the case why did the Kings’ vassals eliminate the government jobs in the first place, if not for the sake of Kings?
Writer – Because Kings can do the job for less. After all we pay what the market dictates, not what unions demand.
Gardener – I suppose the market dictates the bonuses of the Kings’ people. Why must we, the people, pay the spiraling costs for the upward mobility of these people?
Writer – It’s the heavenly nature of the market. Especially in this land of opportunity on earth as it is in heaven. God bless America.
Gardener – Not for those who just lost their jobs. Not for 112. Why should his American dream be a nightmare?
Writer – We’ve done what we can. Like Uncle Sam with his All American campaign, the King wanted Outsource to do its all American best to help both the old soldiers and the unemployed! We hired anyone, including those recently cut from the work force, like applicant #112. All they had to do was swear allegiance to the King and sign an affidavit swearing never to join this union or any union advocating higher wages and better benefits so help them god! What could be better?
Gardener – Get two birds with one stone.
Writer – Exactly. We helped the old veterans and hired the unemployed.
Gardener – So why is the King selling Outsource to the highest bidder, if the King is serving such a patriotic purpose?
Writer – We’ve done our job. It’s in the King’s best interest that we pass on our humanitarian torch to the next King. After all there’s plenty to go around. Our investors, who provided the money to buy Outsource, and fund its operation at a profit, think it’s time to recoup the investment at the promised return. Our efficiency experts analyzed our success. They don’t need an understanding of the day to day mechanisms of the production line. They’re purpose is to “rectify” errors on paper. . .
Gardener – You mean the “underlying problems.”
Writer – Precisely. As you yourself said, the company serves a purpose.
Gardener – Help the vets and hire the unemployed.
Writer – Rehiring 112 to clean bed pans at market rate was the least we could do at the time.
Gardener – I’m sure he was relieved.
Writer – As I said earlier his previous line of work had prepared him well. His acclimation to strong odors was noted on his application; on top of that he had previous experience cleaning bed pans.
Gardener – At the same facility.
Writer – Precisely.
Gardener – So why sell?
Writer – Once our investors had helped Accounting reach the necessary figures we were seeking, the King could, to avoid a conflict of interest, recuse itself in good faith, from any further interest in Veteran affairs.
Gardener – By reaching “the necessary figures” you mean through the money the investors pumped into the system?
Writer – That’s right..
Gardener – Sounds fishy, like a ponzi.
Writer – We prefer calling our economic model the pyramid since the investors – and they’re from all walks of life, pensioners and bankers alike – are all the King’s people, or should I call the King Pharaoh, you know, because of the pyramid. Anyway it’s in everyone’s best interests to have faith. . . You keep fiddling around in that pile of books.
Gardener – Just looking for. . . So why sell the company?
Writer – And you keep asking me that.
Gardener – I mean now, why sell the company now. . , and not tomorrow or next year.
Writer – Time is right. We’ve done what we can.
Gardener – Will there be anything left after you leave?
Writer – What a question. The company, naturally.
Gardener – But doesn’t the company need capital to pay its employees?
Writer – The company has a product. It derives its income from that. You yourself said the company served . . .
Gardener – Yes, yes, but in the meantime. . .
Writer – You didn’t expect our money to work for nothing.
Gardener – The money wasn’t yours to begin with.
Writer – The life of an investor isn’t easy. We, I mean, they take chances. There are no unemployment checks for them!
Gardener – You saw an opportunity.
Writer – That’s the name of the game. We pumped investor money into the system, submitted the system to an austerity program – look we do this with governments too! -the books look good, especially since, as you observed, the product has promise which is why we also amortized the intellectual property.
Gardener – Cleaning bedpans!
Writer – Somebody had to design the bedpan.
Gardener – You’re taking the principle and running.
Writer – We are paid for our work. Do you work for nothing?
Gardener – No one can work for nothing!
Writer – Welcome to the natural world. Back in the time of the Robber Barrons the Kings had the good sense to agree with science. They translated “survival of the fittest” into economic growth!
Gardener – So what becomes of 112?
Writer – He has nothing to worry about. He’s already lost his job. Resources recommended 112 for the first cut.
Gardener – And that’s why he’s here!
Writer – Maybe a pre-existing condition.
Gardener – Like the need for food and clothing! I can’t believe I’m arguing with your ASS!
Writer – Maybe he has an aptitude for failure.
Gardener – Why, because he’s been thrown out of work three times?
Writer – Maybe he wanted to improve things. We got complaints.
Gardener – How does one improve cleaning bed pans?
Writer – Exactly. What are you doing?
Gardener – Where did you put the Trustee?
Writer – I hid the book.
Gardener – Why?
Writer – I don’t believe in placebos. And I rather enjoy solving problems of society.
Gardener – Adolf Hitler felt the same.
Writer – There’s something to be said about simple solutions.
Gardener – I could say the same for a simple declarative sentence.
Writer – That’s different. Literature should open its doors to complexity. But Kings should follow the simplest path laid down by the market. The market is made up of people. Our desires are time tested, and easily tracked using algorithms. We are part of the great cosmic plan. Physicists believe that somewhere in our midst a comprehensive theory unites all the disparate laws under one simple equation. Simple is best.
Gardener – They haven’t succeeded in solving the theory for everything. The data gets more and more confusing.
Writer – You’re just stirring things up the way 112 did.
Gardener – But why make him a ward of the state?
Writer –You said yourself 112 couldn’t make ends meet even while cleaning bedpans.
Gardener – That’s no reason to fire him.
Writer – He was overqualified.
Gardener – I thought his sense of smell was an asset.
Writer – It was. Until it bumped him up to a higher wage bracket.
Gardener – I thought the market dictated his salary.
Writer – Actually the market dictates what we’re willing to pay. But we gave him a break. We asked him if he would take a higher title in lieu of a salary.
Gardener – Like Vice President of Bed Pan Divisions.
Writer – Exactly. When he later complained of hunger, we encouraged him to take his new and improved CV and seek a still higher plane of employment with one of the other Kings.
Gardener – You mean you showed him the door.
Writer – On the contrary we showed him the ladder of upward mobility. Remember, his indifference to strong odors was an asset. But he said he was dizzy and afraid of heights and complained of stomach pains. He said he was a fisherman. In other words he belly ached. 112 was a whiner.
Gardener – That’s why Humpty Dumpty landed on him when your men dropped him!
Writer – He had three chances at bat. But as you know, three strikes and you’re out.
Gardener – So what becomes of our neighbor, of all our neighbors?
Writer – They’d have lost their jobs anyway. Remember, the company was about to go belly up when we stepped in, you know, underlying problems.
Gardener – Like 112 and his living wage.
Writer – For a time we spared them the inevitable. It was a swell opportunity.
Gardener – I don’t think the Good Samaritan was looking for a swell opportunity.
Writer – Ah yes, I was wondering if you’d ever get around to him. You know socialists try keeping religion out of government, where it belongs, while insisting government interfere with the Kings’ business, where it doesn’t belong. Kings prefer our spiritual leaders use The Old Testament when referring to the good book, but The New Testament with all its socialist ideas is like junk science. Looking after one’s neighbor without a return is an untested ideal. On the other hand, as we’ve seen in the story of Pharaoh,
The Old Testament shows life as it is, everyone out for himself, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, real exchanges. Think of the improvements in the human condition, Abraham putting an end to human sacrifice with only a slight setback in the story of Jephthah. But The New Testament, especially this Gospel According to Luke, Chapter 10, Verses 25-37, well then, where does profit motive enter into it? It’s not relevant to real life which is the story of the human condition which can’t be separated from self-interest. What’s this?
Gardener – Just look at it.
Writer – Oh my god. Not again. The Trustee.
Gardener –You’re having another relapse of ASS. Think! Keith Stewart!
Writer – Ok. Keith Stewart.
Gardener – That’s better. Say it again.
Writer – Keith Stewart.
Gardener – I’m just the gardener. You of all people know the story of the Good Samaritan. You told it to me.
Writer – I don’t know why I keep losing my way. But as you probably know, it’s been in the news lately, the carpenter’s son, some call him everyman – he and his ragged followers have been preaching economic parity and nonviolence, annoying those with power, especially the money changers out in front of the temples and churches. More and more people clamor for change. Jesus, that’s his name, and all these unemployed people, whom you insist on calling your neighbors, have been occupying the public square where Humpty Dumpty once sat before he was abducted. Beating on drums, singing at the top of their voices, they’re getting on people’s nerves. What do you want, cries out an exasperated man, a lawyer, who has spent his whole life defending Kings and whose apartment overlooks the park where Jesus is preaching. He confronts Jesus near the medical tent, where Jesus is healing a man possessed of fear, and starts cross-examining him. He wants to catch the itinerate preacher in a contradiction, you know, embarrass him. He asks Jesus how he, who has worked so hard in this life, can have eternal life. Jesus in turn asks the lawyer how he interprets the law. The lawyer knows what is required and answers, love God without question and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus tells him if he follows these simple rules, he’ll have eternal life. Not satisfied, the lawyer seeks confirmation. Who is my neighbor, he asks. Jesus understands. The lawyer is wondering how an unemployed, homeless man like Jesus can possibly understand the word, neighbor. After all a neighbor is someone who lives next door or in the house down the street. He is a member of the community, often seen praying in the temple or giving to a favorite charity. It’s easier to love someone you see daily than the outsider who passes through without paying taxes, someone who must feel entitled to the welfare of the community. Jesus tells the lawyer about a man who was on his way down to Jericho from Jerusalem. Highwaymen robbed him of his clothes and his money and beat him unconscious, leaving him for dead on the side of the road. Jesus doesn’t say the man is a Jew because it doesn’t matter. To us he is a stranger, lying naked, bleeding to death. Perhaps he’s a penniless drunk, who has come to no good, like one of our neighbors in the line back there. The first man to see him is a high priest. But he’s too important to get involved, so he crosses over to the other side of the road to avoid him. If later someone in the congregation mentions the plight of the stranger, he will recommend a committee to investigate the homeless. They will no doubt hire one of his friends to help these people off the streets for a nominal fee. A Levite is the next man to see him. He’s a prosperous man, has important business in Jericho. Like the high priest he looks the other way. He will no doubt be the right man to deal with these homeless when the committee contracts the services of his company. The next man to come along is a man from Samaria, an outsider from another culture, a pagan. Jesus says the outsider pities the man bleeding by the roadside. That’s why he stops to see if he’s alive. Since the unconscious man is still breathing, the Samaritan washes his wounds with the wine and oil he carries with him. He wraps the wounds with strips of cloth he tears from his own clothes. Then he lifts the man up and carries him to a roadside inn where he cares for the stranger. Did he have a choice? He too is a busy man like the high priest and the Levite. He too, like them, has business in Jericho. He can’t call 911. There’s no government sponsored health net to catch this man stripped of his clothes and left for dead. No insurance card to cover the costs. No profit to be made. Not even the lawyer’s favorite charity was there to help him. No, but this man from Samaria, who is an outsider, has no choice. Something inside of him tells him he must care for this man. Is this compassion for others instilled in him by his parents? Did he learn to respect all life in his place of worship? Possibly. But like you I think it’s what he’s made of. He’s compelled by his nature. He is compelled by the need to help a stranger, no matter who he is. There are people like this who stand outside their culture, outside the conflicts incited by their culture, who will help a stranger. There are Jews who will help a Palestinian, and Palestinians who will help a Jew. These special people are the neighbors Jesus praises.

FOOTNOTES:

Gardener – Like the scrap pile of Murkydoc, full of personnel.
Writer – He employs an impressive 51,000 employees.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_Corporation

Gardener – Of course I know him. That’s # 112.
The Gardener Returns, Part Five

Gardener – A government run like a corporation. Not exactly what Plato had in mind.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosopher-kings

Writer – We’ve been through all this, haven’t we?
The Gardener Returns, Part Four

Gardener – Well, why is he on that line if he has a good job. Maybe he’s not making enough to live on.

Writer – We are paid for our work. Do you work for nothing?

Gardener – That’s why Humpty Dumpty landed on him when your men dropped him!
The Gardener Returns, Part Five

On the other hand, as we’ve seen in the story of Pharaoh,
The Gardener Returns, Part Five

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