Innovation: Is it a quality of positive thinking you need to develop, or a common thread in the fabric of all of life?
The evolution of every person, every business, and every living thing in nature, takes place “in relationship with” all of the rest of life. Here is a story to explain this concept. In the industrialized world, man has decimated grassy plains, in order to build cities and urban sprawl. A major decrease in grassy plains leads to a major decrease in horse populations, since they have less plains to roam over, and urban trails are better suited to cars than to horses.
As we decimate our natural surroundings to build our cities, people look to somehow bring “a bit of nature” back into their life. You can think of a suburban lawn to be the bonsai equivalent of the “grassy plains” that were stripped away to build the urban sprawl that you might live amongst.
When creating the grassy plain known as your lawn, you will of course want it to be firm enough to walk on. You will thus rent a roller that you fill with water in order to make it heavy. As you push the heavy roller around on your newly laid sod, the weight of the roller will press the grass and the earth below it, and make it firm. If instead, you took the water you used to fill the roller, and fed it to a thirsty horse, the horse would roam over your suburban grassy plain, and the horse’s hooves would press the earth and the grass until it was firm. This would save you a lot of work, plus the fee for renting the roller.
Next, in order to maintain your lawn, you will need to buy a lawn mower. Over the course of many Saturday afternoons you will spend many long hours walking the lawn mower around your yard as you cut your grass. If instead of buying a lawn mower you bought a horse, the horse’s teeth would cut the grass for you. And the horse, being more intelligent than a lawn mower, walks itself around your property, without needing you to push it and direct it as to where to go. The horse could be maintaining your grassy plain, while you are in the house relaxing. What the horse does at its leisure (trimming the grassy plain) you do only with a great deal of effort.
But not to worry, for you are very proud of your beautiful lawn and perhaps at times even happy to maintain it. And in order to do the best possible job of keeping your lawn healthy, you discover that you have to fulfill one more function that the horse naturally fulfills for the grassy plain. You need to substitute the lawn food that comes out of the rear end of the horse, by going out and buying a bag of fertilizer. What the horse gives freely and amply, you wind up having to pay for, and work to spread around.
The decimation of grassy plains and the concurrent sharp decline in horse populations, has forced man to co-evolve “in relationship with” grassy plains and horses. In the process, man has had to put in a lot of hard physical labor, and innovate many different tools and products, in order to make up for the horses.
Personally, I would prefer a lot less innovation in regard to horse replacement tools and products, and a lot more innovation in regard to how we can preserve nature and spread the workload around a bit. I am sure that grassy plains would prefer to grow naturally, with the horse as the caretaker, rather than man with his machines and chemicals.
*This story has been adapted from a Gregory Bateson story in his book “Sacred Unity: Further Steps to an Ecology of Mind“.