I made comment recently about “Order & Mess” pointing to Solomon’s wisdom from Proverbs 14:4. The point is that we need order, especially in productive systems and processes. Order is very powerful. Yet productive processes create mess, which interferes with the order and presents us with management challenges – the workload of dealing with the mess.
Solomon’s allegorical reference point is the beast of burden, the ox. He notes that you can have a squeaky clean barn and work area if you don’t have an ox in there. There’s no need to hose the barn, or shovel sticky brown stuff. Life is so much simpler when the ox is dead and it stops producing its natural biological output. However, Solomon points out, that an ox gets a lot of work done.
The down-side is the mess, but the up-side is the productivity. The mess-making ox has strength that far surpasses ours and there is much productive output from the labours of an ox. The point, therefore, is that order, without mess is simply sterile. There is no output. And that leads me to the Japanese garden.
I have visited elaborate rock gardens and seen some delightful geometric features composed of raked stones, carefully placed boulders, and so on. But I recall my surprise on my first visit to a Japanese garden – that it was not a ‘garden’ at all. Compared with my grandmother’s vibrant back-yard jungle, with its diversity of plants, fruits and pungent blooms, the Japanese garden was sterile and uninviting.
I am sure that there is great artistic merit in the painstakingly constructed rock features and the seas of swept stone. Just like a painting on the wall, the Japanese garden speaks of serenity, turbulence, loneliness, or whatever the designer planned to convey. But I can’t pick vegetables from a painted garden, even if painted by Constable or Monet. Mood may be evoked, visual delight stimulated and heart-warming memories stirred, but there is no productivity from the order.
A garden that will feed your family needs to have more than delicately placed stones. It must have more than the image of vibrancy. It must have life that produces fruit. But, alas, in so doing it will also gender weeds, dead leaves, spent plants, insect infestations, litter, odour and similar “mess”.
“Lord, bless this mess!” Learn how to celebrate the mess. Celebrate the signs of life and fruitfulness. Celebrate the productivity that the mess represents. Then, of course, control the mess. Grab your shovel and deal with the dirt. In fact, create an ordered system for dealing with the mess that productive order and systems produce. It’s the cost of doing business – or, more accurately, the cost of productivity.