The philosophy that distils from botany

Malus (Apples)A great deal of life’s most positive philosophy can be gleaned from a healthy obsession with plants. Let me elaborate.

Everywhere a plant lover goes, there are green things to appreciate. Plants are everywhere. Phytoplankton abounds in the open ocean. In the Death Valley, one of the driest places on earth, seeds are lying in wait for the next rain. Even in the Arctic and the Antarctica, there are plants. But the bulk of plant lovers are not going to be in those harsh habitats, which means that where they are, they are usually SURROUNDED by plants. Imagine being around that which gives you joy on a constant basis. Not to mention the diversity of that the vegetable world adds to our choice of food, whether in the kitchen or in the bush. There is indeed so much to appreciate that there is no time for thoughts on loss.

Wollemia nobilis (Wollemi Pine)2. LIFE IS FOR DESIRING…AND SEEING
The plant lover hears of or sees a photo or illustration of a plant he/she has never seen before. The desire to know and see this new plant duly becomes another reason to live another day. I have accumulated a long too-see-list. A plant lover thus is a philosopher of sorts, a lover of knowledge! Perhaps more accurately, a plant lover is a philovoyant (a made-up word of philos and voir, meaning ‘lover of’ and ‘to see’ respectively) – a plant lover loves to SEE!

There is nothing more a plant lover desire to do more than something plant-related. This may involve studying or planting them which ultimately results in some form of writing about them, talking about them, displaying them in photographs or illustrations etc. All these activities are forms of giving. In the heart of every plant lover is the desire to share of the magic in what he/she sees!

Calocedrus decurrens (Incense Cedar)4. LIFE IS ONE (it is co-evolutionary)
It is true that plants and other animals would continue to exist if humans were taken out of the picture. But really, that statement doesn’t make any philosophical sense. It arises from a one-sided and unenlightened perspective. Consider for a moment that plants and man are partners in co-evolution. Consider that we (the humans) present one of the most powerful evolutionary forces for our plant counterparts, just as they (the plants) have shaped the course of our history and will shape the course of our future. We are the impetus for their change! And the plant world is changing, and not necessarily for the worst. New and wondrous forms will continue to arise, even while we let the old depart gracefully. Rarity becomes treasured and cherished. There is nothing to save. There is only that to embrace and as always, there is joy in the process.

Narcissus bulbocodium5. THE JOY OF LIFE IS IN THE JOURNEY
There is no end to the seeking of a plant lover. In fact, there is no end to anything. Plant lovers are in a privileged position to understand this. Lifetimes can come and go, and they would just only have scratched the surface with regards to the things they want to see or do. So we must give up. We must surrender and accept that life is just a journey. There is no sin and no end to desiring and experiencing more, more, MORE. There is only this moment of joy, the interim moment, and then next beautiful thing comes along. Yes. It is that hedonistic. The joy is in the journey.

What can I say. The best of botany distils to this: BE A PLANT LOVER, or rather find things to love, and plants will almost inevitably become one of them!

About David Tng

I am David Tng, a hedonistic botanizer who pursues plants with a fervour. I chase the opportunity to delve into various aspects of the study of plants. I have spent untold hours staring at mosses and allied plants, taking picture of pollen, culturing orchids in clean cabinets, counting tree rings, monitoring plant flowering times, etc. I am currently engrossed in the study of plant ecology (a grand excuse to see 'anything I can). Sometimes I think of myself as a shadow taxonomist, a sentimental ecologist, and a spiritual environmentalist - but at the very root of it all, a "plant whisperer"!
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2 Responses to The philosophy that distils from botany

  1. Florian says:

    Hey I’m in highschool and writing a paper for my college application class titled “Botany and Life” about how people can learn and apply the behavior of plants to living a richer more well rounded life. I think you might have something to say that I could use a quote in my paper, since you are studying botany it fits nicely with the scope of the class and the subject of the paper. Its just a 2/3 page assignment so I won’t be asking for some crazy essay. let me know


    • David says:

      Hi Florian,

      Do feel free to quote what I said. I’d love to be of help. I must say though that what I wrote for the post you commented on was more a philosophical rampage than a botanical. In any case, if you are looking for something more scientific/economic, I do believe that we (as humans) are utilizing (for food, medicine, raw material) only a miniscule small fraction of what the botanical world has to offer. By taking greater responsibility to use more of nature’s bounty (eg herbal medicine) to help or enhance our lives or the lives of those we touch, we are on the way to leading more empowered lives.

      In terms of something we can learn, I think plants are a symbol of stillness. There are few things as soothing (deending on one’s preferences of course) as being in a mossy forest, or a ferny glade or even just a rose garden. Plants are silent companions of human kind. I think of the entire plant world as a counterbalance to human’s penchant for ‘excessive activity. Plants can help us develop a sense of stillness and a sense of presence. I’ll disclaim though that anything focused on with a single mind could help achieve that. Various religions use various tools (rosaries, mandalas, candles, meditation etc etc)

      One of the key points for me perhaps is the importance of cultivating appreciation. To me that ties everything together. And this I have expounded aplenty in my post.

      There is probably more to say and I might probably go severely off the point if I rambled on by myself. It might be more effective if you ask me specific questions through email that I could answer in points. I’d be glad to be of assistance that way.

      All the best!

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