this miracle

The other morning, there were about two dozen swifts making the space between these low-cut buildings a playground; shrieking almost all day long, and the more they played, the more I thought about what a discipline play sometimes is.
I know we are told, with good reason, to be wary of becoming idle, but the other extreme is just as bad; all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And as I write that, I am thinking about what kind of activities make for good idling, though I agree that part of the fun is in the spontaneous uncertainty of the unstructured, idle moment.
That other morning, I went to the market, and had at least five different conversations. The effect is akin to listening to 1001 Nights, because through those stories, and the intermittent wandering through the aisles of market stalls, some draped over with blue tarp like tents, or Aladdin's caves, to keep the cool-and the sun away, one drifts so far away from thoughts of work, or problems.
And when I asked one woman why her cucumbers were so expensive, she said, "These are my work, this is my product, I made it." And my thoughts drifted to how beautiful and monumentally important it is to have proud farmers. For let us think about it: would you ever bark orders at your houseplant? No, but you might sneak in a few whispered words, when no one is looking, to encourage it to grow. And when you watch it grow, you know that plants are alive, and take into their roots the care that they are given. Even if you never saw that experiment when they attached a plant to shrimp that were boiled alive (the plant responded).
I often think back to how in Xianggang, it was not uncommon for a person to live in government housing, but wear a Rolex: instead of investing the money into nicer living quarters, one would buy something to "increase face" - which doesn't go without reason, because it is just possible that such image upgrades might bring more work.
But here is where I wonder: is it precisely such hopes which are making of our age one that is so superficial? I can tell you why I am saying this. Because, if you spend time with simple people, who have been protected from such upward mobility through circumstance, you will notice that they have a certain groundedness to their character, and ability to think clearly even about subjects foreign to them. They will have no qualms laughing about the poser (in the way one laughs at any exaggeration, even one's own), they are particularly good at doing their jobs, and going home for a nice weekend with family.
Which brings me back to play. Work is not life. Work is a means to life, play is where we find other aspects of ourselves: the elementary aspects: so without play, there is no good work.
What we see in farming is some kind of middle ground, because it is work, but "literally metaphorical": one is exposed to the elements, one has seeds and watches them grow, one enjoys the fruits of one's labours. It is no accident that one of the greatest inventors of the last century saw for his country a long term future in agriculture, not technology.
We see life in the garden. We play in the garden. The garden lets us see the miracle that is this little life we live.

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