In the world of gardening the growth of new plants is in starts and stops and multigenerational. A new seedling germinates and may get just the right combination of sun, nutrients, and water AND stress to develop into a strong plant. The plant next to it may either be deprived of those factors by proximity or relative orientation and not thrive and die or underperform and be culled. As we can not create or destroy matter that plant will re-enter the matter soup from which we all emerge and be reborn as something else or in service to many something elses.
Sometimes a plant seems destined by situations for culling but we intervene or refuse to cull. Usually nature culls it anyway but sometimes nature instead seemingly ‘supercharges’ it and makes it a prolific producer, a bent, ugly but scrappy and amazing, almost super plant. I have seen sickly cucumber seedlings that I neglected to transplant because I did not think they could justify the space, instead survive in a solo cup and bloom and start a cucumber. Then upon being transplanted they became among the best producers.
It seems that our sentimentality in refusing to do the logical, the practical and sacrifice the weaker plant for the stronger must be contrary to the natural order. Yet sometimes our folly produces a greater line of yield. Maybe our sentimentality isn’t weakness or unnatural after all. Maybe, if there is indeed macro purpose in life, it is instead a previously planted aid to evolving life, every bit as valuable as sun, rain and air.
It is tempting to draw parallels between the world of plants and the world of humans. It can be a dangerous parallel if we start to think of humans as just a means to an end, as disposable and utilitarian. If we applied the same yield logic to our world as we do to the world of plants or even livestock then many of us, myself included, might not be here as we are not considered currently optimal to our purposes.
Thankfully and perhaps by design, we carry the seeds of great human variety and diversity in our DNA. Even when we go crazy and wreck havoc horror upon ourselves and our fellow man we can start again through the power of our genetic code. As long as DNA contains recessive traits we can restore most, if not all, that we lost or tried to destroy. However, if we were able to alter our genetic makeup to yield the kind of human needed for a specific, given, period in time then the other human traits, cut from the genetics, might be lost forever more. Another given time where other traits, some intangible, might be urgently needed would in fact suffer from the loss of the seemingly lesser removed trait. Some folks are constantly seeking the ability to do just that in our human species and may have done so already in many plant varieties. Who knows what awful consequence that may have in the future.
Maybe that is why empathy and sentiment, seemingly illogical factors, can prove invaluable in the plant world as they can in the human world. Sparing a seedling that is taking up resources just because it strikes us as beautiful, tragic or inspiring is probably never going to be considered good farming practicum but maybe it is in fact higher purpose gardening. Sometimes optimizing yield in a season isn’t as important as yielding to the heart.