Gardening, that Scottish play, my children and learning.
Turning the freshly-cleared soil over in a patch, readying for planting and then to watch them grow, which unless a beautifully made David Attenborough series, can seem painstakingly slow. The organic process can decelerate time for the onlooker and remind us of the four elements that sustain life: earth, wind, fire and water. If so inclined, we might feel closer to nature and the circle of life.
In that Scottish play, the tragic hero Macbeth is initially a loyal subject to his King. Shakespeare portrays King Duncan who has a vested interest in one of his most valiant soldiers and states: “I have begun to plant thee…”. Growth is seen as being part of the natural order and we see King Duncan rewarding one of his loyal subjects for his courageous allegiance to crown and country. Shakespeare uses the imagery of growth metaphorically to suggest good, moral citizens will grow, blossom and bear fruit, evoking the idea that someone fulfilling their predestined role in society is wholesome, fertile and worthy of cultivation. Later in the play, once Macbeth has succumbed to his hamartia, his ambition to become King, irrespective of whatever heinous and murderous acts he has to commit to acquire it, growth is no longer associated with Macbeth. Rather, before he is killed, Banquo says: “But that myself should be the root and father / Of many kings.”. Shakespeare disassociates Macbeth from growth due to his treacherous ways distorting the natural order and creating chaos and ‘wild’ animals in the natural world. Only when Macbeth is dead does growth return to its original form and we again see the ‘planting’ image: “which would be planted newly…”. Once the diseased crop, the tyrannical Macbeth, has been weeded out and new seeds, planted at the best time, will flourish and bloom.
We could read a didactic message in Shakespeare’s aforementioned play: if you go about your purpose without values and adopt corrupt, Machiavellian means to acquire power, you will not flourish and it will lead to your downfall. Although working in education is far from thirteenth century Scotland, I would like to believe that people with positions of authority have achieved their place through hard work and use of values rooted in kindness.
Another place in which I see growth is in my children: I see them grow everyday, both in height, stature, personality and intellect. They try my patience but they sure do grow. And in others’ children. In the classroom, where we plant and water, feed and nurture our sprouting shoots and watching them grow into flourishing trees, there is no other place quite like it.
Finally, that place of growth where learning happens is where our minds are open to new experiences, information and discussion… high challenge, low threat… a place where if we believe in ourselves and keep on asking questions and being open to varying answers, we can navigate the journey towards a rational, well-argued or thought-out response.
Growth. Let’s all plant those seeds and watch them grow into whatever you want them to be.
Today, mine will be sunflowers, beaming happily in the shining sun.