The Gardener in a War

Call me uncultured or behind the times in Eastern philosophy. Go ahead. Someone called me both earlier so I’ve already cried as much as I’m going to. Regardless, today was the first time I heard the expression “I’d rather be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.”

The reasoning seemed intuitive, but I didn’t agree. So, I sat down to give it further thought while my co-worker sent me the full quote. In essence, and unsurprisingly, the explanation is the it’s better to be ready for war and not fighting than unprepared when war comes.

That’s the intention. I will tell you now, intention is shit. That’s why manslaughter is a crime.

Truly I think it’s better to be a gardener in a war than a warrior in a garden.

In this metaphor, war is not only representative of conflict and mortality, it’s consequence. So what a person is saying is “I’d rather be prepared to face the consequence of my actions than not.” But the person who says that is ignoring the fact that they are the victims of their own machinations.

A person may argue, they’re prepared for the inevitable. But what a terrible mindset to see that as the inevitable. A gardener is no less prepared for the future than a warrior, simply a different future. While the warrior has invested in war, the gardener has invested in life, the earth and beauty. And, yes, in art.

So, you may be saying, “Well, that gardener is cutting to get cut down on the battlefield” and you may be right.

I’ll tell you. I entered anger management as a boy. I spent my life moving from one fight to the next, destroying one thing after another, burning bridges, feeding on the fear I could inspire in others. I have spent all my life trying not to be that person. So I tell you with some authority, it is better to live your life in beauty and be cut down than to be of the sword and die by it.

It is a sad and dismal day when the only choice we have is to prepare ourselves for machinations of war and conflict. It is a day populated by those that are willing to die because they have failed to invest in themselves. And were each of us to say, “I’d sooner be the gardener, unprepared for war,” who would be left to fight the battles? The world palette of gardens giving life and beauty.

This may all sound like a dumb thing to have an opinion on but it’s not. Honestly, this philosophy, or perhaps this interpretation of the classic philosophy calls us to see the good we can achieve in our work, rather than the destruction we can be prepare for.

And if I’m the only person to think so, I’m glad that my experience with anger has brought to this place where I choose to be vulnerable than always ready to fight.


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