There are certainly many advantages to agriculture. At an early stage of our development… prehistory… we discovered how to raise certain grains and vegetables in order to provide sustenance for our lives… in order to provide a steady and reliable source of food without having to go out in the wilds, searching for roots and grains and hunting animals in order to maintain our existence.
It was better that way, on a whole lot of levels. We had time to develop our intellect, to help our wives raise the children… and to help the children with their homework. It gave us more free time to draw images on the cave walls. Skeptics will comment, more time to plan wars and watch TV. But on the whole, we could all agree that there were benefits that came with agriculture.
But it is characteristic of human nature, that the very same talents that enable us a taste of the sublime can also be used to undermine all that we value. In that context, our sages said that the same characteristics that lead us to monotheism, the belief in one god, also lead us to false gods and paganism. In the case of agriculture, at some point we started abusing the very land whose cultivation provided us sustenance, causing famine. In the past, we have poisoned our crops in order to make them inedible for pests, birds, and other competitors. And now, in this time in which we live, we are experimenting with the use of anti-biotics, and genetic engineering, and may do still greater damage to ourselves. It makes us wonder just how smart and stupid we can be at the same time. But from a religious point of view, one could say that no matter how clever we may be, we always find ourselves face to face with choice. And that choice is the most noble characteristic of man.
There is a flower that I love dearly. It is called cyclamen in English. In Hebrew we call the flower, rakefet. It is native to the middle east and Europe, and grows wild here. But it is also popular as a cultured flower, and sold in pots. The English call it ‘sowbread’, seemingly because pigs eat them. It is classified as a tuber, and has a root somewhat like a potato. Its petals are pink and white, and it is commonly eaten by caterpillars. The wildflower is frost hardy, and some can survive in -14 degrees centigrade. But the flowers sold in flower shops are unable to resist the frost. The cultured flowers can last quite a long time. But they’re not as delicate, nor as beautiful as the wild flower. Horticulture has managed to turn this wildflower into a domestic plant for our enjoyment. But the uncultured flower is a great pleasure to behold, though it appears for only a few days in the wild.
This week, Janne and I took a trip to visit the ocean. On our way we stopped at a nature reserve, and saw many of the flowers scattered among the trees, sensitive and fragile, but growing freely. Their green lean leaves were a pleasure to behold… so much more delicate than those found in flower shops. Along the way, the valleys were often covered with fresh green grasses. Though we’re in the middle of winter, the recent rains, followed by bright sunny days, encouraged the plant life to surge, covering the terrain. As we descended the mountain, it grew warmer… turned into a beautiful spring day.