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Under the Arbor Issue 38
April 20, 2023

In This Issue:

~ Artificial Intelligence vs. Natural Intelligence ~

How A Head without a Heart Imperils Nature

April is my favorite month. While it's still too early to plant much of anything out, the bulbs are starting to bring color back into the world, the birds have returned to fill the air with the music of their territorial stake-outs, and the redbuds have exploded into their unique pinkypurple joy.

This is all helping to lift me out of the winter blues, which this year have held me in a particularly foreboding grip. It's as though there has been a collective darkness swirling around like a tornado on the horizon, something that feels threatening but is not quite nameable.

It's starting to feel as though we are collectively losing our minds, or rather our hearts. It seems as though our world, the whole world, is losing a sense of the sacred in creation, as well as in ourselves.

Now of course I don't include everyone in this statement, but there seems to be a palpable clamor building in society - at least the one I live in - to "climb to the top of the heap", no matter what or who we step over to get there, including what's left of the biosphere, which has, up to this point, supported us all.

Do any of you happen to remember Julia Butterfly Hill, who lived for two full years, 180 feet up in a thousand-year-old redwood tree without once coming down? In the late 90s she coined the phrase "more, better, faster, now" to describe the mindset that was capable of mowing down entire redwood forests - some trees of which had been alive since the time of Christ - so people could build decks.

Twenty years on, artificial intelligence is now exponentially accelerating the "more, better, faster, now" mindset into an uncontrollable, heartless, soulless thing. And we'd better master it and get on board or we'll be left behind! Use it to do research (whose research?)! Use it to write poems to woo your "love" interest! Use it to write your Master's thesis for you! Use it to design 3D-printed food! Use it to rearrange genes to improve species!

Use it to target your customer (or your enemy). Use it to manipulate search so that people see and read what you want them to see and read. Use it for unspeakable military purposes. Let it use itself to engineer its own future without humans even being able to track what it's doing, because it is doing it too fast for humans to grok.

Even without AI, every lit screen everywhere is trying to sell me something I don't need, desperately trying to convince me why I do need it. Take a hard look at what consumerism has done to our planet, and is doing to humanity, especially on the other side of the world, where the suffering is conveniently out of sight/out of "mind" (heart).

Is artificial intelligence actually going to fix any of our problems, or just speed things up so radically that we are distracted right out of our own ability to think - slowly, carefully and with heart - for ourselves?

So What Does This Have to Do with Growing a Vegetable Garden?

People grow vegetable gardens for all kinds of reasons - financial, food security, nutritional, recreational and even artistic reasons, all of which bring great rewards.

But I wonder if perhaps we may also have gut-level, instinctive motivation that comes from some deeper place, a place of remembrance that life is sacred, mysterious, not of our making. A place where the heart of humanity, and the hearts of all the other living things that make up earth's intertwined ecosystems, connect.

When we are intimately involved, directly and hands-on, with the earth and living beings, we participate in a dance that has been going on since the beginning of humanity, and which has real, embodied meaning.

Perhaps our inner being craves a conscious connection with the Love that holds atoms together, that makes the redbud blossoms burst open in April, that connects earth to heaven, that transforms sunlight into food, and that recycles the dead back into life again in an eternal dance.

Growing a vegetable garden is a primal act of Love.

Love is a quality of heart. Even in darkness, grief, fear, pain, and all the other possible troubles of life, Love is always there when we get out of our heads and drop down into our hearts. As I quoted last April, a Sufi master once said "Love is not a feeling, it the greatest power in creation."

Let's not fool ourselves into believing that our "creations" can ever be an improvement upon those of the Divine Intelligence that expresses itself as galaxies, as elephants, as photosynthesis, as a growing child in a mother's womb.

Instead of trying to dominate nature, let's get back into our gardens and work together with nature to bring forth Love made manifest as food for ourselves and our loved ones. Instead of thinking only of what we can get out of the earth, let's learn to see what we are capable of giving back.


Vegetable Garden Guru is dedicated to the renewal of regenerative, sustainable, organic vegetable gardening around the world. May we become gardeners of healthful, nutrient-dense food, careful stewards of soil, and may the plants we tend remind us to always keep growing toward the Light.

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