Thursday, July 23, 2009

The private parts of plants

Everywhere you look in the universe, they're a whole lot of creativity going on every single moment.

Take this week. Physical changes, like the earth-size hole punched in Jupiter by a comet or the tsunami that cried wolf off New Zealand. Chemical interactions, like the explosions that rocked and rearranged the dining rooms of two Indonesian hotels. Or the oxidation of thousands of tonnes of gasoline in the engines of 400 million cars that spewed even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Or today. Biological, like the 358,500 babies conceived and the gadzillions of flowers of the 290,000 different kinds of plants pollinated by bees and other insects. Neuronal, like the billions of new/novel ideas or experiences the 6,000 million of us collectively experienced/generated.

What is strange, is how some of us try to defy this natural creative order and draw a line in the sand that neither we nor others in our communities are allowed to cross, for fear of punishment, ostracism, prison or death.

I'm co-writing a tongue-in-cheek novel at the moment about this new schism in the affairs of humankind, a new divide between play/creativity and fundamentalism of any kind.

It's the administration of regulations that make little sense. It's those who want to preserve jobs that disappeared with the horse and buggy. Business people who want to be paid obscene salaries and bonuses to raise the share price in the short term irregardless of the long term peril of their short-term decisions. Religious leaders who impose their strict views about lifestyles that many believers regard as just plain silly or out of touch with day-to-day living. Leaders of countries who rig elections to maintain a power base or exclude women or minorities from sharing power.

What is interesting is the old division between socialism and capitalism is slowly vanishing, as new combinations of the two are trialled all over the world. In many places, we have seen the growth of a universal middle class, like in my own country, Australia, where fewer and fewer people identify as lower class or upper class. The emerging post-racialism evident in many parts of the world, including my own family, where genetic lines are blurring as never before. My grandson to be born in October will have Scottish, Irish, German, Spanish and Filipino forebears.

Why then, in the midst of all this creativity, do some of us resist change at all costs, and stick to old ideas that have passed their use-by date? Is it because we simply accept the status quo? That we have not questioned the underlying assumptions? Or are terrified of contaminating our lives with anything that's different? Where strict adherence to a particular view is non-negotiable. Where we, who are in control, "know" what is right and impose that view on everyone else around us, in order to maintain our power.

In this new book called Imaginary Friends, that combines the playfulness of Dr. Seuss with the sauciness of Aretino's Dialogues, we explore the emerging conflict between creativity/play and fundamentalism via some novel hypothetical situations.

What if the law required us to cover up the sexual parts of plants, in the same way we expect humans to dress modestly?

Imagine for a moment how gray our world would become. The job of the florist would go underground. St. Valentine's day would become a furtive hunt for a floral equivalent of a speakeasy. Flowers as tokens of our appreciation for retiring or departing friends would make way for a more puritanical gesture. Manicured gardens around our homes would be replaced by concrete. Embracing nature, like strolling through national parks and rain forests would be prohibited. Botanical gardens would be uprooted. Displays of flowers to brighten up a home or office would be regarded as obscenities. Pumpkin and courgette flowers would be off the menu at flash restaurants. Kids would be banned from making daisy chains.

It's a bit like Alice In Wonderland, where the painters were required to paint white roses red.

So here's a workshop you can offer to explore whether the cultural taboos, norms and practices you accept as normal make sense any more:

1. Make a list of all things taboo or prohibited - that you are NOT ALLOWED to do in your culture, family, workplace, religion etc..
2. Make a list of all the things you MUST DO that do not make sense to you any more, seems unreasonable, out of touch with the times.
3. What are the assumptions behind some of the regulations, prohibitions, customs, taboos that no longer make sense?
4. Choose one of these taboos, prohibitions, requirements, regulations and explain why you believe it is out of date, what you would now do differently and why.
5. What would be the consequences of making the changes you propose/suggest?
5. What limits should we set, so that human's behave decently and appropriately towards each other? Where do we draw the line?

Photo: Hamish Findlay. Eucalyptus leucoxylon rosea. Pink flowering gum.

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