Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition

By Robert Pogue Harrison

Humans have lengthy became to gardens—both genuine and imaginary—for sanctuary from the rush and tumult that surrounds them. these gardens can be as far-off from daily truth as Gilgamesh’s backyard of the gods or as close to as our personal yard, yet of their very notion and the marks they undergo of human care and cultivation, gardens stand as restorative, nourishing, precious havens.

With Gardens, Robert Pogue Harrison graces readers with a considerate, wide-ranging exam of the various methods gardens evoke the human situation. relocating from from the gardens of old philosophers to the gardens of homeless humans in modern manhattan, he exhibits how, repeatedly, the backyard has served as a payment opposed to the destruction and losses of history.  The ancients, explains Harrison, seen gardens as either a version and a position for the hard self-cultivation and self-improvement which are necessary to serenity and enlightenment, an organization that has endured in the course of the a while. The Bible and Qur’an; Plato’s Academy and Epicurus’s backyard college; Zen rock and Islamic carpet gardens; Boccaccio, Rihaku, Capek, Cao Xueqin, Italo Calvino, Ariosto, Michel Tournier, and Hannah Arendt—all come into play as this paintings explores the ways that the idea that and truth of the backyard has educated human pondering mortality, order, and power.


Alive with the echoes and arguments of Western notion, Gardens is a becoming continuation of the highbrow trips of Harrison’s past classics, Forests and The Dominion of the Dead. Voltaire famously instructed us to domesticate our gardens; with this compelling quantity, Robert Pogue Harrison reminds us of the character of that responsibility—and its enduring significance to humanity.


"I locate myself thoroughly besotted via a brand new booklet titled Garden

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That such wisdom nearly always comes too overdue is a part of care’s curse. Care engages and commits us, but it additionally has a manner of blinding us. Achilles’ eyes are open for a second, yet even in demise they shut quick back while his passions are enflamed. very quickly in any respect, whereas chatting with Odysseus, he imagines himself again on the earth of the residing now not as a slave yet as his former ambitious and harmful self, killing his enemies and perpetuating the cycle of reciprocal violence: 12  2  c h a p t e r o n e “[I] am now not the fellow i was as soon as, whilst in huge Troad / I killed the easiest in their humans, battling for the Argives. If simply / for a short while i may come like that to the home of my father, / my strength and invincible palms might terrify such males / as use strength on him and maintain him clear of his rightful honors” (499–504). That our cares bind us so passionately to our dwelling international, that they're so tenacious as to proceed to torment us after dying, and they blind us to the typical advantages we so sorely omit when we lose them—this means that there's anything incorrigible in our nature which no quantity of self-cultivation will triumph over or transfigure. it's most unlikely to grasp evidently, for the tale of human care has now not but come to an finish. t h e v o c a t i o n o f c a r e   three  thirteen 3 2 2 Eve no longer adam yet eve is the progenitor of humanity. It’s because of her that there are progenitors in any respect; and if she needs to take the blame, she also needs to get the credits for the autumn, which grew to become husband into father and spouse into mom and gave the childlike couple a parental adulthood they can by no means have accomplished had they now not discovered their method out of the cradle of Eden. there has been no fecundity of generations in Eden, for the place there's no loss of life there isn't any delivery both. as a result the expulsion was once not just a fall into mortality but in addition into what Hannah Arendt calls natality (initiation of latest beginnings via human action). If Adam and Eve are in a few mythic manner Odysseus’s primal ancestors, the reason is, ancestry, or the succession of generations, first grew to become attainable via their exile. by means of selecting mortality over immortality, Odysseus repeats the fateful collection of Eve and thereby proves himself an grownup. via that selection he reaffirms his position within the genealogical line that makes of mortal lifestyles a hyperlink within the chain of generations. it's in “the land of his fathers” that Odysseus ultimately reclaims his human id because the son of Laertus and Antiklea, the husband of Penelope, and the daddy of Telemachus. Eve is the person who bought boys to develop into males and who became Adam into Odysseus. Eve used to be created as a Stepford spouse of varieties, with every thing supplied for her other than the possibility of self-fulfillment. an identical was once 14  2 true in a feeling for Adam, but, impressionistically talking, Adam turns out to were much less at odds with the senseless, finally feckless happiness the couple was once anticipated to get pleasure from of their backyard of ennui. this is often evidenced by means of the instinct of a number of artists who've depicted the expulsion, between them Menabuoi, Masaccio, Michelangelo, and Dürer.

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