Once, in a far off kingdom there lived a man who, unlike other men of his town, did not plow the field but instead tended a garden. Every year there was a bounty of all manner of herbs and vegetables in this large garden. Around the edges of the garden, acting as a sort of boundary marker to his land, he planted and raised trees that flowered and bore fruit each in its own season.
There was one part of the garden that appeared, to the casual observer to be barren. It was a patch roughly a quarter the size of the rest of the garden. Instead of being bordered by fruit trees it was enclosed by means of a thick and high fence with a gate. Every day this man went in the gate with a watering can and poured the contents onto the corner farthest from the rest of the garden. If you or I had watched him do this day after day we would assume that he was a fool or “touched in the head”, as some say. He was surely a foolish man, but not as one normally reckons foolishness.
Few people ever saw anything grow in that well-fenced patch, but a few times a year a flower grew there; a bloom most pleasing to the eye. It certainly was pleasing to the gardener, so lovely that he used all of his finest fertilizer there.
It was a broad flower not unlike an oriental lily, and the color of it was most intriguing; shades of indigo, with dark red along the petals with an occasional flash of dark orange. Most appealing of all is that the colors seemed to shift day to day providing a fresh delight each time the gardener beheld it.
When the first tender green shoot pierced through the well-watered ground, the man would smile broadly and run to his shed to retrieve a special set of gardening tools. These tools were only used for this one plant. Why? Because this particular flower had one peculiarity; it was as much a virus as a flower.
The man had learned in earlier years that this particular plant could easily get out of control if allowed to go to seed. It was reckless and would quickly infect any growing thing causing it to turn the same shade, and soon wither and die. It was like fire, he told himself; beautiful in and of itself, but it needed to be controlled. As long as he kept it separate and indulged in its beauty up to a particular point then there was no need to get rid of it entirely.
The aforementioned point always came thirty days, or so, after the first bloom of the plant. It was a rhythm that he felt more than understood as a function of logic. As the plant continued to flourish the bloom would put on ever more lovely displays of dark yet pleasant color and release an intoxicating scent into the air. The gardener would breathe it in deeply, but he knew that it was soon time after that. Each time the plant began to show signs of going to seed he would have to dig it out down to the roots.
What it took him a long time to see, dear reader, was that each time he had to dig just a bit deeper to remove it entirely. Once removed from the soil and no longer a danger to the rest of the garden he would take the remains to his shed, carefully remove one fledgling seed, and then burn the rest entirely. The very same day he would take the single seed, plant it, water it, and the whole cycle would start anew.
I’m sure by now you have seen the fatal flaw in this, but the deeper the man had to dig to pull the plant out the more he assured himself that it was so beautiful as to be worth the increasing amounts of effort. As he dug he could smell the flower’s scent. He knew it to be dangerous to all the other fruit of the garden upon which he depended. But if he was careful, and he knew how to be careful, then there wouldn’t be a problem.
Gardeners who are not foolish know that the health of the entire garden comes before the beauty of one single flower. If blight comes upon any single plant it must be destroyed before the blight can spread. Not so this particular gardener.
Though he would never admit it to anyone, including himself, there were times as he gazed at the shifting beauty of color and filled his lungs with its perfume he would have let the rest of his garden wither and die from neglect rather than entirely give up that one flower.
Foolishness, all foolishness, I know. It doesn’t make a single bit of sense to the sensible. You and I would never equate things in such a way.
One night as he slept, knowing with a slight pain in his heart that the following morning he would have to begin again the long, exhausting work of digging out his precious flower, the plant did something it hadn’t before; it grew up and out. The stalk thickened and pushed the flower up above the fence line. The flower went to fruit and seed and its feathery little seeds took flight on an obliging breeze. The seeds went to work quickly placing themselves among the other fruits and vegetables in the garden.
When the gardener rose the next morning he looked out onto his well tended patch with pride, not having yet seen the barren and fenced in area. There before him lay the surety of the coming year, food for himself and some to help others. Oh, but the dread seized his heart as he turned and saw the changed and exploded fruit of his precious flower; the withered stalk and the few feathery seeds dangling from lip of the ruptured pod.
It would be days before he would be able to see the immediate effects that were already invisibly changing the rest of his garden. He was ruined. The trees and vines each would turn the same shades that looked lovely on the flower. Even now each fruit that hung was beginning to turn to a flavor that no man could stomach; a rank bitterness that had no resemblance to the sweet perfume of the flower.
The man would do as he had done before in younger years when he had first been so foolish; he took a spade in hand. Though it brought blisters, strained muscles, and days of sweat and effort not to mention a lean time through the coming winter, he uprooted everything. Every vegetable, every berry, every gourd, every fruit tree would be destroyed so that the influence of the beautiful flower’s terrible seed would not spread beyond his own garden. There were some moments where one would not have been able to tell if it was tears or sweat pouring down his face as he uprooted all his work. Every stalk and branch he gave to the fire, and knew he would face a troubled time ahead as all that was planted to nourish him through cold dark times was fed to flames.
I would like to be able to tell you that he learned his lesson and tended the flower no more. This was not the first time, as I have mentioned, that the flower’s seed had gotten beyond his control.
So often we hold precious and dear the things that will harm us. It is a pleasure to behold in the moment. We pretend that we can control it, that it hurts no one, when truly it will burst out of control like fire the moment we rest. The question is not so much whether the man planted the seed again, but do you?