Robert K. Greenleaf offered me a powerful organic metaphor; a metaphor that helps me move away from our dominant inorganic cultural metaphors: Mechanical and Banking. These two dominant inorganic metaphors dehumanize us and allow us to guilt free marginalize and harm the other(s).
This morning, Gentle Reader, I invite you to consider Greenleaf’s ‘Garden Metaphor’ and perhaps you will find that it might also serve you well. In order to aid you in your consideration I will offer you the words of several other folks who have embraced a ‘Garden Metaphor.’
The first is a poem by the great Spanish poet, Antonio Machado. Machado wrote this poem in the early 1900s. I was introduced to his poems in 1990 and I have carried this poem with me since then. Here is Machado’s ‘garden poem.’
The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.
“In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.”
“I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.”
“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”
The wind left. And I wept. And I said to soul:
“What have you done with the garden entrusted to you?” –Antonio Machado
In 1996 I was guiding a two day ‘work-treat’ for leaders who were interested in learning more about Greenleaf’s concept. During the lunch break on the second day a participant approached me and handed me a poem. We had, that morning, been exploring the garden metaphor. The participant, Sandy Shugart, told me that a poem had emerged into his consciousness during one of the periods of reflection. He had written out the poem and he handed me a copy – the original he said. Here is Sandy Shugart’s poem (which, by the by, he put in his book about leadership).
The formal landscape stands
an ordered monument to mastermind and hands
Each subservient row
disciplined by shear and hoe
In organic symmetry, sculpted sphere and line.
Not for love of life, but devotion to design,
Was this infertile illusion crafted
every uniform blade and clump to one will drafted
Bearing no largesse toward riotous leaf or unruly root
the master gardener’s tyrannous vision absolute.
Yet there are other gardens
whose verdant chaos is infested with creative possibility
borderless communities of bright souls, they
blend, compete, complement, propagate.
Fertile diversity caresses eye and cheek and olfactory
embracing with equal passion prima donna poppy,
dusky humus, sultry fern, honest grass
Each sworn only to Mendel’s oath of self-expression.
There is a caretaker here, as well
inconspicuous in quiet devotion to serve, not control,
to nurture with extravagant love
each unplanned form and unconscious, self-absorbed delight
for love of the sheer surprise of life. –Sandy Shugart
The third poem – an excerpt from a longer poem – is a gift to me/us from Longfellow. I came upon this fragment five years ago.
Kind hearts are the gardens,
Kind thoughts are the roots,
Kind words are the flowers,
Kind deeds are the fruits, Take care of your garden And keep out the weeds,
Fill it with sunshine, Kind words, and Kind deeds. –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Gentle Reader, perhaps there are other garden poems that speak to you. Or, if you do a little research you might find a garden poem or two or three or more that speak to you. I leave us this morning with the words of Alice Walker:
In search of my mother’s garden, I found