Bookish

I am about halfway through Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, which is currently on the New York Times Bestseller List ranked #13 in the Nonfiction Hardcover category. (Isn’t having separate lists for hardcover and paperback, literally, judging books by their covers?) She makes a compelling case for women to value and pursue their careers with usable advice on navigating the corporate “jungle gym” when you’re a woman. I’m slowly warming up to the book, although for me, the possibility of leaving the corporate craziness is increasingly attractive. I’d much rather garden.

My idea of a fulfilling life is to live in harmony with the earth, grow as much as possible of my own food, raise animals, and respect and enjoy the beauty and bounty of nature. I try to create a microcosm of my ideal life by growing a few vegetables and practicing organic gardening techniques. I’m still making a case for having a couple chickens and a rooster in the backyard, which the city allows. However, this proposal was met with violent opposition from the rest of the family. So, no fresh eggs in the mornings. For now.

Self-sowed seedling of African daisy
Self-sowed seedling of African daisy

I strongly recommend gardening, obviously. A seed sprouting, the botanical equivalent of a baby being born is magical, more so if you consider the science of it all. In his fascinating book Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, physicist Richard Feynman argues how knowing the science behind a beautiful thing such as a flower does not detract from it’s beauty; it makes it more beautiful and awe-inspiring. The detailed quote is below:

“I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

So, when I’m out in the garden, mentally designing fabulous borders and focal points in my mind while digging a hole to plant my latest acquisition, I’ll sometimes pause, look around and let myself be astounded by the magic happening all around me. I highly recommend it.

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