Where I live, there’s this plant. It’s inside the house. It looks more like a small tree than your garden-variety house plant. But instead of a tree, I’m calling it a plant. Because it’s potted. And it doesn’t really have branches. So it’s more of a tree-wannabe. It “looks” out the window all day long at all the tall trees out there. And it’s envious. Or is it grateful? Whichever, this much is clear: The flora on the flip side of that window has yard-cred. And we all want cred of some kind, don’t we? ‘Cause if we’re not cred, we’re crud.
But this tree-wannabe’s always been right there, where it is, all of my life. Right there, in that pot, in that room. “The library,” Pop calls it. It’s got two shelves of books, so I guess it qualifies. Said tree-wannabe hasn’t gotten any taller; hasn’t gotten any shorter, either. Nobody ever mentions it. Pop walks into the “library” only when he’s looking for a stamp or a paperclip. He’s a paper reader. Newspapers and magazines. Books are too much of a commitment.
When that tree-wannabe starts to droop, I pour some water on. A droopy plant is a sad sight and I have plenty of sad sights to look at every time I look in the mirror. I keep it alive because it is alive. Not because I like plants. I don’t dislike plants, but I don’t think plants should be kept inside. Pretty much, everything a plant needs can be found outside, right?
These folks who pepper or crowd their homes with plants, I guess looking out the window isn’t good enough for them. What, they don’t have the time, they’re too much in a hurry to notice all the horticulture and arboriculture that exists a foot or two beyond their respective doorsteps?
Why do we need to keep living things? Plants, fish, and birds, in particular? Dogs and cats make sense; you’ve got the potential for sincere mutual affection. But a fish? A fish doesn’t want to live in a bowl any more than you want to live in your bathtub. I’ve already stated my case against house plants. And birds? A bird likes a cage as much as you like handcuffs. Even if you find handcuffs kinky, nothing with wings gets a kick out of being confined. But we feel inclined to rule over “lesser” living things—we feel this need to play God to them. What if we provide for pets and plants to “prove” to ourselves that God exists? Has it ever occurred to you that, to the Almighty, we are all His/Her/Its pets? That life is merely a never ending game of fetch? That’s right, life is fetch and then you die. Unless you’re a plant. That you’re planted, maybe that’s the worst thing about being a plant.
As for the rest of us, all we ever really do is chase after the “bones” that God keeps tossing out until our hearts quit and we keel over. Or, Earth is a fish bowl; indeed, for aquatic life, that’s exactly what it is. And when God forgets to feed us, we call it a “drought,” or a “famine.” And when the Lord decides to wash out the Bowl, we call it a “hurricane,” a “tsunami,” or a “tornado.” Unfortunately, a tornado is more like a leaf blower than a vacuum cleaner. Or maybe God’s still working the kinks out of His heavenly Hoover. (Maybe try attaching the bag, huh, God?) Who doesn’t understand the necessity of cleaning house every now and then? The thing is, as bad as we are, we humans don’t normally scatter our trash over several square miles. We bag it up. We have a service. (Maybe that’s what You need to do, God: Outsource to Waste Management. I dunno, maybe use the moon as Your personal landfill. If You don’t, someday, we will.)
So maybe none of us are any better than fish in a bowl. Still, I’d like to think we’re a little smarter (or a little dumber) than fish, given that we’ve got the nukes. Fish? The best they can do is Jaws.
17 April 2005