When I was a kid being raised in the Church, I was fascinated by the Garden of Eden. I could imagine how amazing it must have been to walk around and pull an apple from one tree, a banana from another, and then lay down and pluck strawberries from the bushes. But in the reality in which I grew up, we were all surrounded by desolate areas carpeted with grass.
As it turns out it wasn’t always this way. For most of our known history, humans have continued to practice the lessons of the Agrarian Revolution and grow food in the places where they lived. While the Agricultural Revolution expanded our practices of growing foods more collectively and devoting land specifically for the purpose of growing food, it did not immediately detract from the common sense practices of growing herbs and vegetables right outside of the home and close to the kitchens where they would be prepared.
However, starting in the Middle Ages and through the 16th century, wealthy landowners saw the great lawns around their ornate homes as a symbol of their status. While the lawns of the Commons were kept trimmed by sheep and cattle of the people who shared the land, the wealthy were the only people who could afford to pay humans to meticulously manicure their lawns, further separating themselves from the common folk.
In the early years of America, citizens grew gardens of flowers, herbs, and vegetables as they had for millennia in the old countries. They planted orchards, kept livestock, and lived off the land. However, as we cultivated the American Dream of luxurious splendor, we released our connection to the paradise we were actually born into.
With the dawn of the first suburbs, as wealthy people moved away from the cities in the 18th century, the practice of cultivating spacious, beautiful lawns became a symbol of status for the American elite. Just as it has become the mainstream dream for every person to have a home that they can call their castle with a white picket fence to unquestionably demarcate the ownership of their property, we have also foolishly yet unknowingly embraced this pompous symbol of social status rather than growing food and living more prosperously.
Fortunately, many people in America and throughout the rest of the world are reestablishing the common sense practices of growing food where they live. In addition to the convenience and joy of being able to eat food that you have grown yourself, they are finding that it also has a number of other benefits. Although it does require some physical labor, which many of us have been trained to dread, for those who have learned to appreciate truly being in their bodies and connecting with the Earth, it is remarkably stress relieving and therapeutic.
While several have given up on adherence to biblical folklore and traditions, both those who have left the religion and those who merely have embraced a more convenient interpretation of it, there is still much to be said about recognizing ourselves as caretakers of this planet. Not only does growing gardens help us to do that, but it also empowers us to take responsibility for ourselves again and not continue to fully rely on the industrial agricultural practices that continue to deplete the soil of the nutrients we require to grow food. While it may be quite a while before we are able to grow the entirety of our diet around our living spaces, it is not outside the realm of possibilities.
For those who are awaiting the new Earth after the Apocalypse at the end of the book, although the Bible offers many artistic visions of what Paradise might look like in the afterlife, we should start imagining what we will be doing there. For many, we will still be growing gardens and thanking the source of our existence for their continued abundance. For those who have the capacity to release themselves from the nonsensical traditions we’ve established and the practices of selfishness and status that we have cultivated, we do not have to wait to grow our gardens and start cultivating our own personal paradise. All we need are good soil and seeds.