by Nita Hill

A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, and infinite game is played for the purpose of continuing the play.

This concept was well expressed in my favorite book, Tales of the Dalai Lama:

He (the child Dalai Lama) and the Swedish professor of philosophy were watching a game of ball, and the professor was confused since nobody seemed to be playing against anyone else. Everybody wore the same color uniform as the ball was batted back and forth over a net. ‘In our country,’ he tried to explain…, ‘we divide the into opposing sides and then we try to make the others miss the ball.’

The Dalai Lama found this quite distressing. ‘But then the ball must hit the ground all the time!’

‘Your Highness! Why are you weeping?’

‘Such a way to play with the Human Spirit.’

As Finite and Infinite Games continues to make the point, somewhat strained to be sure at times, how this mindset affects every aspect of our lives. Why I chose this for a gardening blog is that he makes the distinction between a “machine” and a “garden.” I will reduce his far-reaching ideas into some bullet points:

*The alternative attitudes toward nature can be characterized in a rough way by saying that the result of approaching nature as the hostile Other whose designs are inimical to our interests is the machine, while the result of learning to discipline ourselves to consist with the deepest discernable patterns of natural order is the garden.

*Machine and garden are not opposed to each other (I own quite a number of tools).

*The most elemental difference between the machine and garden is that one is driven by a force which must be introduced from without (my back and arms), the other grown by an energy which originates from within itself.

*Our freedom in relation to nature is not the freedom to change nature; it is not the possession of power over natural phenomena. It is the freedom to change ourselves.

*The paradox in our relation to nature is that the more deeply a culture respects the indifference of nature, the more creatively it will call upon its own spontaneity in response.

*The contradiction in our relation to nature is that the more vigorously we attempt to force its agreement with our own designs the more subject we are to its indifference, the more vulnerable we are to its unseen forces.

*Gardening is not outcome-oriented. As any gardener knows, the vitality of a garden does not end with the harvest.

*Inasmuch as gardens do not conclude with a harvest and are not played for a certain outcome, one never arrives anywhere with a garden.

*A garden is a place where growth is found. It has its own source of change. One does not bring change to a garden, but comes to a garden prepared for change, and therefore prepared to change.

When the spring finally comes and I can begin with a new garden. I sincerely wish that I will have grown wise enough not to want to control nature any longer but to use this garden to affirm that I am still capable of change, and to change myself.

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