Monday, 25 January 2010

Profound thought No. 4

 "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" - Muriel Barbery
"... There´s a cleaning woman who comes to our house three hoursa day, but it´s Maman who looks after the plants. And it´s an unbelievable rigmarole. She has two watering cans, one for water with fertilizer, one for special soft water, and a spray gun with several sttings for "targeted" squirts, either "shower" or "mist". Every morning she inspects the twenty houseplats in the apartment and administers the appropriate treatment to each one. She murmurs all sorts of stuff to them, oblivious to the outside world. You can say whatever you want to Maman while she´s looking after her plants, she´ll completely ignore it. For example: "I am going to buy some drugs today and maybe go for an overdose", will get you the following answer: "The kentia´s going yellow at the tips of the leaves, too much water, not good at all."

With this we grasp the opening tenets of the paradigm: if you want to ruin your life by not listening to what other people are saying to you, look after houseplants. But that´s not all. When Maman is squirting water onto her plants, I can plainly see the hope that fills her. She thinks it´s a kind of balm that is going to penetrate the plant and bring it what it needs to prosper. It´s the same thing with the fertilizer, which she gives them by means of little sticks in the soil (in the mixture of potting soil, compost sand, and turf that she has made up idividually for each individual plant at the nursery over at the Porte d´Auteuil). So, Maman, feeds her plants the way she feeds her children: water and fertilizer for the kentia, green beans and vitamin C for us. That´s the heart of the paradigm: concentrate on the object, convey all the nutritional elements from the outside to the inside and, as they make their way inside, they will cause the object to grow and prosper. A little "pschtt" on its leaves and there´s the plant ready to go out into the world. You look at it with a mixture of anxiety and hope, you know how fragile life can be, you worry about accidents but, at the same time, you are satisfied with the knowledge that you have done what you were supposed to do, you´ve played your nurturing role: you feel reassured and, for a time, things feel safe. That´s how Maman views life: a succession of conjuring acts, as useless as a "pschtt" with the spray gun, which provide a fleeting illusion of security.
It would be so much better if we could share our insecurity, if we could all venture inside ourselves and realize that green beans and vitamin C, however much they nurture us, cannot save lives, nor sustainour souls."

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