Source: World Network of Religious Futurists

Dr. Richard Kirby
The Gardens of Tomorrow
By Rev. Richard S. Kirby, Ph.D., July 7, 1999

This address was originally presented to the Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater and Family Park, Snoqualmie, Wa., on Sunday June 27th 1999


Those of us who are employed as inquirers into the near and far future are in the habit of thinking about what tomorrow might, could, and even, what it should hold. For example: In The Temples of Tomorrow I wrote with the late Earl D.C. Brewer of tomorrow's religions and their possibilities.

I have also been lecturing on the churches of tomorrow, the youth and seniors, the saints, the sciences and technologies and even the banks and financial ethics of tomorrow. The work of inquiring into the near and far future is a creative work. It must be so, as the future is not yet; we must imagine it. Even extrapolation of trends requires some creativity.

To study the future of science, religion, art, society, politics, economics and so on is to study the future of culture and civilization. To study the future of science and technologies is, [especially when the study of future government becomes involved, as it must,] sooner or later, to inquire into the future of the earth and its fruits. It is to study the agriculture, the horticulture, and even the [humble but deep subject of] the gardens of tomorrow.

This is a subject, the gardens of tomorrow, which carries us to surprising depths and unguessed at heights. In fact, when we express an interest in science as culture [as the best humanist philosophers and ‘scientific humanists’ have], we are quickly led to horticulture — and out to our gardens! Not just to tend them, but to design them, to ‘publish them’, to share them and to communicate, perhaps even to trade, their Fruits. For what sane person wants to hoard a good thing?

But — What is a Good Garden? This is a question that on the surface is easily answered. It is one which is beautiful – we might say. One with a touch of elegance. Or perhaps one which is cost-effective. Or one that has a message of hope….what begins as a simple question begins to lead us to limitless depths and heights.

The Bible sees the human story as beginning in a garden – Eden. It was a picture and a part of paradise. Gardens are associated with paradise, with heaven. The 23rd Psalm tells us of water, and rest, by green pastures. Gardens are for rest, and beauty, and calm. Country Living Gardener [a magazine] announces a book, The Tranquil Garden, with the advertisement, "See your dream garden come alive in The Tranquil Garden…find a peaceful haven in nature. We are asked to ‘Discover your own special garden,’ to ‘choose your private vision of peace and pleasure,’ for in The Tranquil Garden we are ‘creating peaceful spaces.’"

Some, like Evelyn Underhill, also see the Bible story of Christ ending in a garden – not the garden of Gethsemane, but the Garden of Resurrection.

Part One: The Theory of Good Gardens

A garden is therefore a symbol of heaven, and of paradise, of resurrection, of life triumphant, and of ideal growth. It is an image not of Nature alone, but of Nature working with Grace to produce Culture. For these reasons a garden is not only a place to rest and imbibe beauty, but to relax, to rest and recreate, enjoy, to play. It is a place for contemplation and communion with higher Self, with spirit, with God.

But a garden is not only reality; it is metaphor. Ernest Wood, writing in his small book Character Building around 1923, invites us to see our own lives as a house of character, with a garden for play, a verandah to represent the hospitableness of our personality, and an orchard to symbolize the fruits of our lives. A garden therefore represents success --the success of order over chaos, of intelligence over entropy, of love over hate, of culture over crudity.

A Good Garden must, by definition, be an ethical garden. Though this seems an odd phrase at first sight, it is one, which open up new avenues of civic energy and political creativity, and help with the design of the cities of the future, I believe.

An ethical garden, whatever else it might be, could be one that expresses excellence. What kind of excellence, we shall see.

A garden, as an Archetype of heavenly culture, like Arcadia, is also an image of a noble city, a city fit for universal habitation and happiness.

What is a Good City? Many are asking this question, studying cities for their healthfulness, their quality, their productivity, their openness to artistic and entrepreneurial creativity and so on.

What is a Good City? One answer: A Healthy City!

Also, a City of Beauty.

What is a Garden of Genius? Of Geniuses? A place to find one’s ‘genius’, that is one’s True Self, one’s excellence.

Let us look together at images of ‘the gardens of the Good City’. In doing so we are looking for gardens of genius, and for the soul of civilization, i.e. of cities and their cultures.

Gardens of Tomorrow and their Cities:
Garden-Cities of Peace and Healing

Cities of peace require gardens of peace.

Cities of healing, that is healthy cities, require centers of civic healing and rest and tranquility and peace.

A hospital represents a center of negative healing: that is, it is a place where citizens try to escape from dis-ease, that is illness, to relative health.

But the health they are seeking is individual, not civic. We do not have places where people go to recover from ill social health, e.g. bad citizenship. I do not mean here prisons or correctional centers but something more subtle. Places that awaken civic conscience in all its beauty and power. Gardens of a certain kind can accomplish this piece of political awakening!

A garden is an archetypal image, which in some ways is a mirror image of the hospital. We go to the hospital to achieve negative health, that is the banishment or the amelioration of disease. We construct a garden, also a place of healing, for the cultivation of positive health.

Positive health is not simply diminishment of pain, but is the cultivation of transcendental virtues, such as goodness, beauty, truth, and love.

One of the reasons why we need gardens of peace is as centers of healing of social disorder.

The subject of social disorder is a vast one, but for today I will mention in particular social rage. Some examples of social rage are: Road Rage, School Rage (as in Littleton, CO), Air Rage (as for example when passengers go berserk mid-air and assault each other or the airline staff), Black Rage at discrimination and deprivation, and so on.

The extreme opposite of a social emotion such as Social Rage is joy: joy in society. Social joy could be defined as a delight in the present and prospective state of society. It implies trust, community, cohesiveness, and collaboration.

This delight is experienced in moments of patriotism, such as Fourth of July parades, in international sports competitions and festivals of the arts, and on other occasions where people feel caught upon a larger identity than that of separate "individual". In fact that larger identity, the social identity, is the identity of the citizen. So social joy is a moment of fulfilled citizenship-identity.

This joy is the sociological counterpart of what Abraham Maslow called the Peak Experience.

So one function of a garden of healing is to celebrate society's capacity to grow - as the flowers grow.

Gardens are sources of social inspiration — and that inspiration can be refined, potentiated, beautified.

In speaking of gardens of healing and hope, as well as gardens of beauty, we are offering a new foundation for the philosophy of culture, in this case horticulture.

Put in an other way, I am presenting here a new paradigm for horticulture, a new theory of gardens and gardening, a new opportunity for all those who work in the cultivation and culture of gardens.

At its simplest, a garden is simply a place where things are grown deliberately, either for food or for beauty or both. But there are many types of gardens just of the floral kind. Some examples would be monumental gardens associated with stately homes or mansions; theme gardens such as rose gardens; gardens designed to represent issues such as international relations (flowers representing different countries), gardens which are designed to make a particular point to a neighborhood (flowers arranged to form letters and words for example), gardens designed to serve the animal kingdom (such as birds) in particular ways; mazes; and so on.

There are even cities named as gardens, such as Welwyn Garden City in England.

And of course, hospitals and hospices will have in a very general sense "flowers of healing" for the patients to enjoy, but that is not the same as designing gardens of healing.

Herbalists and cultivators of herb gardens are close to the idea of a garden of healing; but my subject is broader than theirs. In one way I want to present the idea of the garden as a metaphor for "the good city".

The good city is a place of healing, hope and beauty - - that is a definition. To speak of gardens of healing is to be a bridge builder and a transdisciplinary thinker.

I want today to start to stretch our minds to think up some truly fresh and original hybrids: musical gardens, gardens of music. What would singing flowers have for their songs for example? What about the songs of bushes, hedges, and trees?

It is always been a part of aboriginal wisdom to believe in the voices of nature, so this should not be too difficult a step for us.

We can also reverse this question and ask: What flowers and trees are expressing themselves through particular melodies and songs. Gustav Mahler wrote that symphony should be like the whole world singing. Sibelius in his tone poem Tapiola wrote of the forest god, Tapio. Can we hear the song of the forest?

One approach to the idea of gardens of healing is to ask what would be magic gardens, gardens of magic. For healing is in a sense magical!

There is a strong connection between magic and mysticism, and mysticism and gardens are also close allies. Here is the proof! Gardens are often the places where ‘magic beings’ such as the Little People, Elves, Leprechauns, and Fairies are seen. Well, that word [‘seen’] is maybe too strong a verb; where they are ‘glimpsed’!

From mysticism and magic it is a short step to miracles and saints. Gardens of healing can include gardens of saints. We will announce our ‘gardens of saints’ program results and intentions in more detail on All Saints Day 1999, 2000 and 2001.

From to miracles and saints it is a short step again to the subject of genius. Saints [and prophets] are religious geniuses. Geniuses, in one way, are simply people who have found their soul, their essence - their genius is their true spirit. Saints and geniuses are fully authentic people. So we need gardens of genius, which express this sequence: genius to saint to mystic and miracle.

Gardens of Miracles can be dreamed about, drawn, designed…and dug! But it would be nice to have some Miracle Gardeners for this task. Maybe 1000 such Gardeners of the Future, for the Gardens of Genius. Perhaps this would help bridge the generation gap too. Perhaps 500 oldsters and 500 youngsters. Or maybe 450 or each and 100 in mid-life to coordinate them. And a few of these need to be architects. Some designers, some cooks, some beauticians, some carpenters…

Gardeners of the Future, for the Gardens of Genius, will help society find its way out of the maze of its own making, the riddles of the rage-filled society in an angry world. A Maze is an image of a garden with a sequence, a garden with a built in journey. What of a different kind of garden-journey-sequence, a garden-journey of healing love?

A Maze is a puzzle, a riddle, and a conundrum. A garden-journey of healing love is a gift, an expression of grace, a give-away, and an open secret. The image suitable to such a journey is not a maze but a map. The map is the map of the soul of the city, and the garden is interactive. This is a way of saying it is place of welcome. It welcomes and received from all visitors. It takes their impressions in the soil, it gives back. The animals play and sing there, the flowers rejoice.

We have reached the point in psychotherapy East and West [As Alan Watts put it] where we are getting a good understanding of an authentic human being, a person, a self-actualized and non-fake person. What we do not have so well developed yet is the sociological counterpart: the ways of thinking about communities of authenticity. In making such a step in our thoughts we are echoing the journey of Aristotle from his Ethics to his Politics. The former was a preparation for the latter; the Ethics could only be fulfilled in the Politics; the person cannot be self-actualized except as a citizen.

Communities of authenticity — a challenging image. We have some ideas about inauthentic communities [see Anne Wilson Schaeff, The Addictive Organization]; we understand authoritarian organizations and their problems. We have some pictures of healthy organizations [Toffler, Naisbitt, Drucker, and et al.] But this tends to point towards corporations rather than civic communities. On the other hand we do have folks pursuing the definition of the Good City. [Existential ethics points to authenticity, virtues towards virtuousness.]

I think as we look back over history ancient and modern, we can see attempts by cities or their prophets to become Cities of Authenticity. I believe New York was such a place in the 40s and 50s. Then it was the turn of San Francisco in the 60s. In the 90s, in a certain sense I believe Seattle is such a place, though its authenticity is an authenticity of capitalism: the world’s richest man [by a mile, $60 bn ahead of the #2] lives here.

I believe authenticity touches time as well as place. The 60s were an attempt to change the world towards love. The 70s were an attempt to change the world towards spirit. The 80s, the 90s, …the zeros.

So the garden of tomorrow should be helping us design tomorrow. A decade of love. The Zeros.

Cities of genius. This is where designing gardens of genius can help us.

Part Two: Growing Good Gardens in the City-states of Tomorrow

Designing, planning, building, enjoying, and rewarding the gardens of healing, peace and love — this is what our strategy must cover.

Our strategy is a story, a story in three parts. Past, present and future.

The story so far:

Student projects @ UW

The present story:

Some civic initiatives, educational initiatives. Gardening programs. e.g. Delaine Eastin, California’s Superintendent of Schools, has launched a "garden in every school" initiative and is working with the State’s 8,000 public schools to encourage gardening, "even if it is on a roof.

The story to come

This is the story, so to speak, of what I like to call "The Gardens of the Future."

The vision of "a garden in every school of California State’s 8,000 public schools" has its counterpart in my vision, which I am sure would be shared by Dr. Thomas Daffern of the University of London’s Peace Institute, of a garden of civic healing in each of a thousand cities. [Tom Daffern wants temples of peacemaking in many places.]

Such a garden would take a thousand different forms, and each one would itself vary; but we could easily guess that the theme of racial integration [in design, contents and building] would appear, as we understand civic healing more

The Gardens of the Future." Who will be building them? The Gardeners of Tomorrow!

We can imagine and convene a community of the builders of the Gardens of the Future. I propose we announce today that 1,000 creative gardeners are wanted for an urgent task of social compassion

Also, we will want to form a committee in each city. The committee’s charge will be to contact the Mayoral offices and begin to work with the town planners and managers to plan the Garden of the Soul of the City. Here in Seattle, we might invite such folks as the town arborist [tree steward] to serve. Also, such journalists as Valerie Easton, who writs on horticulture for the Pacific NW Magazine supplement within the Sunday Seattle Times.

The Youth Futurist Academy [YFA], which I have been building out of the World Future Society, will offer much by way of youthful energy, imagination, innocence and availability, to support the committee. In fact, I propose a YFA presence or youth sub-committee within each city committee.

Competitions! These are the vehicles for unleashing the creative energy of the Gardeners of Tomorrow

Competitions! In a number of categories:

--For designers [here is a role for the American Society of Landscape Architects!]
--For gardeners
--For their clubs and associations
For sponsors
--Gardening associations
--Gardening media professionals
--Government e.g. departments of Agriculture
For Horticultural supplies vendors, e.g. gardening stores
--For advertisers
--For strategists:

Their rallying cry: ‘A garden of healing in each of a thousand cities’

An obvious place for gardens of peacemaking is in the yards of churches. They can be very reflective places, as we see from Thomas Gray's Elegy in a Country Churchyard.

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,

The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

Poetry [past and future, written and as-yet-unborn] will have much to offer, as artistic visionaries begin to discern the possible apparel in form and function of the Gardens of the Peace of Tomorrow. Poets and gardeners are natural allies! Poets-for-peace as planned by Tom Daffern and others will work with Gardeners-for-Healing.

The role of the Internet will also be considerable as we post our vision — or should I say ‘plant’ it on the Internet.

So we begin to build the garden of healing in each of a thousand cities with this Internet article.

I call for the best ‘Gardener’s Prayers to be sent to me.

For, they also serve who only kneel and dig! John Milton, wrote, concerning his blindness,
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask; But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

There is much in common between prayer and gardening. Not only is prayer like digging, and meditation like farming, but digging and planting are forms of piety and ways to practice the presence of God. The time is ripe for the collection of contemporary and future [21st century, Third Millennium] prayers for gardeners, just as older agrarian cultures had liturgies for harvest and planting. A prayer, like a Vow, is a crystallization of ethical energy. This is why it is valuable: it nourishes and stimulates ethical and moral growth for individuals and families and societies. The group that prays together, grows.

We will support the building of the garden of healing and peace in each of a thousand cities, by supporting these future gardens’ nourishment with prayer and meditation.

We will also publish the best liturgy [order of worship] for the design and building of a Garden of Healing.

We ask all religions to declare their vision of the Garden of … [their religion" Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism etc.] We ask each religion to send us a blueprint for its vision of a Garden of Soul, a Garden of the Spirit, a Garden of Heaven.

World religions can, through, thus publish visions of their ideal gardens of civic healing.

We will publish the responses on All Saints Day [Nov. 1, 1999].

To conclude in summary: I publish here a vision:

1. A thousand churches or other religious congregations adopting a city apiece and planting or design a garden of peace and healing to help the city find its soul.

2. A community, crossing the Generation Gap, of Gardeners of Tomorrow who trace their own spiritual Path of the development of Gardens of Healing and Peace.

Happy harvests, happy planting to us all…let us dig for the soul of our cities!

Augustine of Hippo, St.
The City of God
Marie Jahoda,
Current Conceptions of Positive Mental Health
Abraham Maslow,
The Father Reaches of Human Nature
Alan Watts,
Psychotherapy East and West
Daniel Kemmis, The Good City and the Good Life Houghton Mifflin 1995
Spady, R.J. And Bell, C.H., Jr. The Search for Enlightened Leadership [vols. 1 and 2]. Seattle: Pan Press, 1997-8

© 1998-2008 by World Network of Religious Futurists.

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