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Life Out of Darkness

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

The mystery of a sprouting seed is one of those things you can ponder forever.

And ponder is really about all you can do. Sure, you can create the conditions for a seed to sprout. And in some cases you might even prune and shape the resulting plant. But plants grow on their own. You’re mostly just guiding and supporting a process.

For best results you must keep your attention on the plant but direct your force elsewhere. Pull directly on the leaves and you will rip them off. Bend the stem and you will kill it. A growing plant does not enlarge by outside material being added from without. It grows from within. Let it do its thing. If you must do something, spend your energy fetching it water (but don’t overdo that either).

The stereotypical man likes to build things like towers and walls. He stacks up stones and bricks one by one. He gathers far flung pieces and jams them together one on top of another. But plants and living organisms grow and multiply from within. Their genesis occurs in the secret interior where man can’t touch (though we try).

When growing plants and raising animals we must respect this. Instead of trying to force the growth, we must be content to redirect our energy to the environment that surrounds the growth. We must watch the growth and listen to its signals, but humbly apply all our power to simply altering the environment around the growth. We must submit ourselves to the requests of the plant.

When we begin to believe we understand all things and proceed with our own ideas without regard for the communications coming from the plant we quickly go off track. If we begin to love our gardening theories or tools or greenhouses or schedules more then the plants, we go off track. We forget that all those things are for the service of the plant--not our ego.

And when we plant a seed with nothing but harvest dreams or a financial return in our mind we also go off track.

Seeds must be planted out of love. Love both for the seed and what it contains, but also for the receiving soil. Nothing else will allow it to unfold properly.

There is a moment in the seed starting process that I resist. It occurs just after you have pressed the seed into the warm moist soil, slid the seed tray into the germination chamber and pulled away. In this moment nothing happens. Its just you, standing in the sunlight. There is nothing left except regular life. The project you initiated isn’t “done” but there is nothing else to do except wait. It’s in this moment when you must release control. Its a kind of submission--your power cannot go any further to produce the magic that now is needed.

It is the same helpless feeling that countless men experience when they are ushered out of the delivery room where their wife is laboring. For some men that recognition of uselessness is utterly unbearable. If they could at least let her squeeze their hand to a pulp they wouldn’t have to come face to face with the realization that they are in that moment useless.

I’ve heard from an old farmer that the best thing you can do during lambing, is walk out of the barn. Men can rarely sit still in the face of the mystery of birth and will often launch into solving all kinds of problems that don’t exist in an effort to quell their own anxiety. Some men are capable of making more problems than they solve.

If I am honest, I will admit that while I do enjoy working in the greenhouse, I often resist it. And I think this resistance stems from the fact that the work feels so incomplete. The seeds disappear into the soil and then disappear again into the germination chamber. Layers and layers of covering. There's nothing to see. Of course I can try to release a few measly endorphins by crossing the job off my list or tidying the greenhouse back up. But it doesn’t make up for the fact that all your work is just sitting there in the dark with no noticeable change. Its almost like you didn’t do anything. (Because you didn’t.) You just moved some things around. The glory of the seed doesn’t come from you--it comes from the mysterious darkness.

And so I just stand there in the sunlight and blink. And I try at least for a few moments to resist the urge to go off and build something impressive and conquer the chaos and solve the problems. Hopefully someday I will be able to stand calmly in the face of the immaculate conception, but for now I am an young man and a few moments of pondering my uselessness is about all I can handle. Thankfully I have a farm so I can very conveniently plunge off into the chaos and nurse my wounded ego with a generous helping of “productive” work.

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