Imposing her will…

… on the garden, is how my mother once described the attraction of gardening. I’m not at all sure that doesn’t say more about my mother than about gardening.

Today I have been imposing my will on my environment by attacking large piles of old videotapes and books in my lounge, while listening to that great compilation album ‘Gutbucket’, which you have to be a certain age to remember. Lots of raw and dirty blues/rock numbers including Captain Beefheart’s classic ‘Gimme Dat Harp Boy’ and a wonderful finger-pickin’ instrumental called ‘Dismal Swamp’ by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, possibly my favourite track ever and one that it’s impossible not to dance to.

I managed to clear out an impressive number of books, largely by the expedient of getting rid of anything I thought I ought to have rather than really wanted (several Henry James’ when I don’t even much like Henry James, for instance); and just about all of my home-recorded videos of films I once thought I wanted to watch but now know I will probably never get round to watching.

Rarely as I get round to it, this kind of activity is remarkably satisfying and somehow feels like what humans were made for – to create order out of a disorderly world, to classify and arrange, to select and direct. I know it is supposed to be God’s will we do, rather than imposing ours, but are the two really mutually exclusive? God too creates order out of chaos, not only in creation but in our disordered lives and souls, and our stumbling attempts at doing likewise are perhaps an expression of God’s image in us, a feeble imitation of what God is, ultimately, doing with the world.

Although there is always the story of the visitor who admires an old man’s garden with the words, ‘Isn’t it wonderful what you and God have created together?’ ‘Ah,’ replies the old man, ‘but you should have seen the state of it when God had it to himself…’