O'Brien Dan - Gardening Philosophy for everyone

Author : O'Brien Dan
Title : Gardening Philosophy for everyone Cultivating wisdom
Year : 2010

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Foreword. “From my point of view, as a gardener, I consider the garden fundamentally as a spiritual and cognitive experience.” So writes the distinguished Spanish garden designer - and philosophy graduate of Madrid University - Fernando Caruncho. Appreciation of the garden, he explains, requires a maturity of emotion and understanding alike. The implied contrast is with the experience of the garden simply as a hobby, as a smallholding, or as a source of pleasing sights, sounds, and smells. The contributors to Gardening - Philosophy for Everyone write from a viewpoint similar to Caruncho’s and, like him, they are as much concerned with gardening, an activity, as with the products of this activity, gardens. Of the many aspects of the “spiritual and cognitive experience” of gardening and gardens discussed in their contributions, three are especially salient: the moral, symbolic, and temporal. The idea of the garden as a theatre for the cultivation of moral sensibility goes back at least to Pliny the Younger, whose own gardens afforded him the promise of “a good life and a serious one,” of “cultivating himself” through cultivating them. As several essays in this book demonstrate, it is an idea that, albeit with many permutations, has persisted. It is attested to, for example, in General Lafayette’s estate near Paris, with its celebration of liberty and republican virtues, and in the humbler kitchen gardens or allotments that express an ideal of self-sufficiency. This ethical tradition, for several contributors, is one that, moreover, deserves to persist, for the garden - as a place that invites the exercise of care and humility, a regard for the good of plants and creatures, and an appreciation of nature’s workings - is indeed a source of moral education. There are gardens - like Lafayette’s, Stowe, or those in the Sacro Monte tradition - which deliberately aim at moral effects through what they symbolize. But the symbolic roles of gardens extend well beyond that of moral edification, and those historians have a point who encourage us to examine the gardens of past cultures in order to identify how they envisaged their world, themselves, and the connections between nature and culture. Among the many diverse messages or meanings of gardening and gardens - whether selfconsciously intended or not - to which contributors draw our attention are the political ones of power and prestige and the sense of home that people living very far from home seek to protect through their gardens. At their most ambitious, gardens or parks like Shanglin in ancient China, Versailles in Enlightenment Europe, or Charles Jencks’s in southwest Scotland even attempt to symbolize the order of the cosmos. ...

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